Wetland Restoration

The Garden is working in partnership with the Five Star Restoration Program to save three rare wetland plants and restore their native habitat: Tennessee yellow-eyed grass (Xyris tennessensis), Georgia alder (Alnus maritima), and Viginia spirae (Spiraea virginiana).

Learn about the plants, how they became imperiled and what they need to recover.

Tennessee yellow-eyed grass

Tennessee yellow-eyed grass (Xyris tennesseensis) is not a grass at all but a small herbaceous perennial with grass-like leaves and a long stalk from which bloom yellow flowers with three petals. Xyris grows in open wetlands and requires wet areas in full sun for seeds to become established and grow.

Conservation Status: Listed as endangered by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Protected by the Federal Endangered Species Act.

Conservation Site: One of the last remaining places where Xyris grows is in Hypericum Springs. The population is in steep decline due to habitat loss, competition with other plants and a drought. There are 25 known populations (9 in Georgia, 10 in Alabama, 6 in Tennessee).

Restoration Plan: The Atlanta Botanical Garden, Georgia Department of Transportation and plant scientists with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources manage Hypericum Springs. They occasionally thin stands of Hypericum. The Garden has collected Xyris seed to grow in the conservation greenhouse. The seeds take 6 -7 months to grow into young plants.

Georgia alder

Georgia alder (Alnus maritima) is a shrub that grows up to 30 feet tall and has many trunks. Female and male flowers occur on the same plant. Georgia alder grows in sunny areas in spring-fed swamps.

Conservation Status: Listed as threatened by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Conservation Site: This wetland shrub is rare and grows in only one location in the world: Drummond Swamp in Bartow County, on land owned by Georgia Power.

Restoration Plan: The main challenge faced by Georgia alder is the encroachment of invasive plant species.

Virginia spiraea

Virginia spiraea (Spiraea virginiana) is a shrub that produces showy clusters of small white flowers in June and July. Their habitat includes rocky streams over sandstone.

Conservation Status: Listed as threatened by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This plant is endemic to the southern Appalachians. Three populations are known in Northwest Geogia, two of which are protected on state and conservation lands.

Conservation Site: Virginia spiraea needs occasional flodding to clear competing vegetation and open up areas where Virginia spiraea can set seed.Without these conditions the plant can only clone itself rather than reproduce.

Restoration Plan: Habitat modification includes removing invasive species. The Atlanta Botanical Garden has collected Virginia spiraea seed and is growing them in the conservation greenhouse.

Restoration Methods

Restoration of Habitat: Often endangered wetland plants are in decline because competing plants have moved into the ecosystem. Methods to restore habitat include hand-pulling of herbaceous and invasive species, cutting of shrubs and small trees, and prescribed fires (controlled fires recycle nutrients tied up in old plant growth, control many woody plants and reinvigorate herbaceous growth).

Safe-Guarding: To improve a plant's chance for survival, the Garden collects seeds from wild plants and grows them in the conservation greenhouse. When seed is unavailable, the Tissue Culture Lab is used. The healthy plants are then reintroduced to their habitat and the Garden tracks their progress. Some of the rare plants grown at the Garden are kept indefinitely to protect them from extinction. The conservation greenhouse is home to rare and endangered plants from around the world.

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Why Care About Wetlands?

  • Wetlands are like the world's kidneys: They purify our water before it enters our streams, river, lakes and aquifers.
  • Coastal wetlands minimize erosion and storm damage.
  • Streams and estuaries provide spawning ground for fish.
  • Wetlands are hotspots for biodiversity.

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