Plant species may go off endangered list

Plant species may go off endangered list

Posted: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 8:02 pm

NASHVILLE (AP) — The Tennessee purple coneflower has been proposed for removal from the nation’s endangered species list after a three-decades-long rebound.
The success of the Middle Tennessee native, the first plant in the state ever listed as federally endangered, is the result of a cooperative effort spanning those many years, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The agency proposed the change on Thursday.
“This is a huge victory,” said Gina Hancock, with the Nature Conservancy of Tennessee in Nashville.
“We spent years buying cedar glade habitat to protect the species and so has the state. We all worked hard for that plant to make a comeback.
“They’re part of our natural beauty and heritage.”
Cedar glades, globally unique, are areas with limestone outcroppings and shallow soil found mainly in Wilson, Davidson and Rutherford counties.
Gnarled cedar trees and drought- and heat-resistant plants like leafy prairie clover mark the rare coneflowers’ habitat. Several of the plants are found nowhere else in the world.
The Tennessee purple coneflower, believed to be extinct at one point, was rediscovered by cedar glade expert Elsie Quarterman, now age 99, and one of her students at Vanderbilt University in the late 1960s.
The unusual plant with its showy pink-purple blossom proceeded to capture the interest of scientists, garden clubs, state officials and others wanting to save it.
When listed in 1979, it was in the first group of plants to be considered for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. The law was enacted to give faltering animal and plant populations in an increasingly developed world a chance for survival.
Once the Tennessee purple coneflower was protected, research uncovered more about it, new colonies were discovered and others were established from seed or nursery-propagated plants.
Prescribed burns provided needed habitat, and fences were built to shield the species from recreational vehicle damage, letting it thrive and spread.
The purple bloom became an emblem of Middle Tennessee, appearing on the cover of the telephone book one year, and the plant, in a hybrid version, grew popular for landscaping.
Couchville, Flatrock and Sunnybell are among the larger cedar glades that today are state natural areas, where the species exists in the wild in its native genetic form.
Published in The Messenger 8.17.10

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