CREW scientists in the Plant Research Division have been working to propagate and preserve endangered plants from across the United States.
Learn more about CREW's Exceptional Plant Signature Project
Autumn Buttercup (Ranunculus aestivalis)
Methods for propagating Autumn Buttercup, known from only one area in Utah, have been developed, using tissue cultures started from seedlings. Plants produced in this project have been used to augment a declining population of this species in Utah.
Cumberland Sandwort (Arenaria cumberlandensis)
Cumberland Sandwort plants have been propagated using tissue culture, and these methods have been used to produce plants that have been outplanted in the Daniel Boone National Forest. This experimental population has demonstrated that Cumberland Sandwort plants produced through tissue culture can be used to produce a viable population in the wild. Tissues have also been banked in CREW’s Frozen Garden.
Northern Wild Monkshood (Aconitum noveboracense)
Shoot tips collected from wild plants in Akron, OH, were used to initiate plant tissue culture lines of Northern Wild Monkshood. This population has been particularly vulnerable to salt run-off from a nearby road and an invasive species. Tissue culture-propagated plants were produced in the Plant Research Division of CREW and were given to collaborators at Gorge Metro Parks to augment their population at risk.
Four-petal Pawpaw (Asimina tetramera)
The Four-petal Pawpaw is found only in southeastern Florida, in Martin and Palm Beach Counties. It is threatened by loss of habitat to the growing population of the region. Its conservation is further complicated by the fact that the seeds cannot be stored using traditional seed banking procedures. CREW researchers in the Plant Research Division have developed methods for propagating this species through tissue culture and for cryopreserving shoot tips from the cultures in liquid nitrogen. They have used the method of in vitro collecting to initiate cultures from a wide variety of genotypes and these are being banked for long-term germplasm storage. Plants are also being prepared for outplanting.
Avon Park Harebells (Crotalaria avonensis)
Avon Park harebells is a small legume (Fabaceae family) that is known from only three populations in south central Florida. It is specifically adapted to the sandy scrub habitat of the Lake Wales Ridge, an area that is home to a variety of unique plants and animals. Because this land is desirable for development and agriculture, much of the original habitat has been lost. Of the three known populations of the Avon Park harebells, two are protected and one is not.
The unprotected population is in the city of Avon Park, in undeveloped housing lots. CREW has collaborated with researchers at Archbold Biological Station (ABS), located near Lake Placid, FL, who have studied and monitored this species for a number of years. CREW’s Plant Division has developed in vitro (tissue culture) propagation methods for this species and has used those methods to propagate plants from the unprotected population. Young, partially acclimatized plants were sent to collaborators at Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, FL, for further acclimatization to the Florida climate.
In August, 2012, 84 plants propagated by CREW and Bok Tower Gardens were planted by ABS researchers at a protected site. All of the plants died back, but as of March, 2013, a number of the plants were starting to regrow.
This is encouraging, indicating that the methods used for propagation, including in vitro methods, produced plants that are adapting to the new location, and that these methods could be used to produce further plants for restoration. CREW researchers are also working to cryopreserve tissues of this species, for long-term storage in CREW’s CryoBioBank.
This collaboration in restoration, between the CREW Plant Division, Bok Tower Gardens, and Archbold Biological Station, with funding from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, is helping to bring the unprotected genotypes of the Avon Park harebells into a secure future.
The original work in developing in vitro propagation and cryopreservation protocols for this species was supported in part by grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Florida Rare Species
Roughly one-quarter of all the species targeted in the Endangered Plant Propagation Program are from Florida. Collaborators at Historic Bok Sanctuary, Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, and the Marie Selby Botanical Garden work with CREW to identify species for which propagation at CREW could make a difference in the long-range conservation of the species. Targeted species focus on endangered species from scrub and pine rockland/hardwood hammock habitats and include a variety of woody species, perennials, orchids, and ferns.