Each year the Rare Plant Monitoring Program picks a plant deserving special survey attention. Monitors are not required to look for the target species but are encouraged to do so to build excitement and allow participants to become more familiar with that one plant. This year we will target not one but the 15 rarest plants on the Priority Rare Plants List. Doing so gives more people opportunities to survey for plants near where they live and also will provide important information as DNR gears up for coming assessments to determine if plants are to be added or removed from the state endangered and threatened species list.
Each of these 15 plants has only one population that meets the three criteria for Priority Rare Plants. (See page 4 of our 2017 program report.) They are truly the rarest of the rare. If you remember, this list is a subset of all rare plants known in Wisconsin. It includes rare plant populations that:
In the next few years the DNR will be updating the state Endangered and Threatened Species List. Understanding as much as we can about the rarest of our plant species will inform our decisions to move species from special concern to endangered or threatened status or downgrade species from endangered or threatened to special concern. Species also can be moved off the Endangered and Threatened Species List if we think they have been extirpated from the state. Given the rarity of these 15 species that is a real possibility.
The DNR will hopefully begin collecting more seed of rare plants in the near future with the goal of preserving our unique genotypes in long-term storage. These surveys for our rarest species could be reconnaissance for that future seed collection effort. Seed banking buys time by preserving genotypes while we develop a more comprehensive conservation strategy to address the threats responsible for species' decline. If we fail to collect these seeds, the unique genotypes found in Wisconsin will be vulnerable to winking out before we can preserve them.
|Yellow wild indigo
|Northwestern sticky aster
|Mountain fir moss
|Three-flowered melic grass
|Special Concern||Difficult||Moderate||2004||Fond du
Clockwise from top left: Lobed spleenwort (Thomas Meyer), Slender sedge (UW Herbarium/Linda Curtis), Silver bladderpod (Emmet Judziewicz), Northwestern sticky aster (Scott Namestnik), Striped maple (Kevin Doyle).