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Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
Ellington Agricultural Center
440 Hogan Road
Nashville, TN 37220
(615) 781-6500
Tennessee Plant Conservation Alliance Fellow Update

Shelby Meckstroth participated in many plant conservation projects led by the Tennessee Plant Conservation Alliance (TNPCA) in 2017-2018. She worked under the guidance of Dr. Jon Evans as a post-baccalaureate fellow in the Sewanee Herbarium at the University of the South, thanks to support from an Oak Spring Garden Foundation grant.

Shelby recently took some time to tell us about her activities to conserve some of the 568 plant species designated as greatest conservation need for the first time in the 2015 Tennessee State Wildlife Action Plan (see Appendix C for a complete list).

The Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation, Division of Natural Areas (TDEC-DNA) has lead responsibility for plant conservation in the state. The Tennessee Plant Conservation Alliance was established in 2017 as a public/private network focused on leveraging expertise and resources for the common goal of conserving a state's native plants and their habitats and preventing native plant extinctions.

Chattahoochee False Foxglove

My first project was located in the Cherokee National Forest, where I assisted Mark Pistrang, a botanist with the U.S. Forest Service, with a survey of the only known population of Agalinis plukenetti in Tennessee. Agalinis plukenetti is also known as the Chattahoochee False Foxglove and is a state-listed endangered species. I conducted a demographic assessment of the Agalinis population and assisted in identifying other plants species found in the same habitat. Seeds collected from the site this year will be used to expand the population next year. A. plukenetti is listed as state endangered.

White Fringeless Orchid

The second project focused on the White Fringeless Orchid, Platanthera integrilabia, which was recently listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This project was headed by Adam Dattilo, a botanist for the Tennessee Valley Authority, and Geoff Call with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Also involved in the project were: Rebecca Byrd with the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Dr. Jennifer Boyd from University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC) and Paul Stockton, James Douglas and Richard Underwood from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).

We met at an old decommissioned power line site on the Cumberland Plateau from which about 50 P. integrilabia plants had been collected the previous year. This year, the team found an additional 44 flowering individuals that hadn't been collected. Our job was to dig up and then transplant these 44 individuals to a site owned by TWRA.

Transplanting is necessary in this case because hardwoods can quickly recolonize the power line site and outcompete the P. integrilabia for light. After carefully replanting and watering each plant in the new site, all transplants were tagged and GIS was used to make a map of the site. These were the first 44 of about 500 P. integrilabia individuals that will eventually be planted at this location. As for future plantings, Dr. Jennifer Boyd has around 100 plants that she has been growing in the greenhouse at UTC and Rebecca Byrd has about 400 at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Running Glade Clover

The third project was with Andrea Bishop, a recovery botanist from TDEC DNA, and Margie Hunter, who is the Trifolium safeguarding project coordinator for the Tennessee Plant Conservation Alliance. This project consisted of outplanting 103 potted cuttings of Trifolium calcaricum (Running Glade Clover) at separate sites around the Cedars of Lebanon State Park and Forest. T. calcaricum is listed as state endangered and only one population is on protected lands. This project involves transplanting cuttings from plants on unprotected private property and establishing them on protected state owned lands. A significant part of this project involves working with the landowner for permission to collect the cuttings.

Morefield's Leather Flower or Huntsville Vasevine

Finally, I helped Todd Crabtree, state botanist with TDEC DNA, monitor the population of Clematis morefieldii (a state- and federally-listed endangered species) at the Hawkins Cove State Natural Area. C. morefieldii is in the buttercup family and the common names are Morefield's Leather Flower and the Huntsville Vasevine. The population has been monitored two times in the past six years by Mr. Crabtree.

As three years had passed since the last monitoring, it was time to see how this population was doing. Overall, most of the marked vines could be identified, however only a handful were flowering (C. morefieldii flowers from May-July). Also, many of the seedlings that Mr. Crabtree had identified 3 years ago were still living, which is a good sign for the population in Hawkins Cove. However, the lack of flowering is definitely something to keep an eye on in the future. This project was funded through the annual USFWS Endangered Species Act Section 6 grant to TDEC. Monitoring data is used to guide recovery actions for listed species.

Shelby's fellowship and the support of the Sewanee Herbarium continue to foster cooperative plant conservation and aid the Tennessee Plant Conservation Alliance in preventing the extirpation of our native flora.

View or download a TPCA Fellow illustrated factsheet with photos.


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