Swamp Pink

The name "swamp pink" just doesn't do Helonias bullata justice. Yes, this species grows in wetlands and yes, the flowers are indeed pink. However, seeing one of these beauties in person will help you realize that the grandeur of such a plant cannot be summed up by any title. Sadly, if we continue to treat wetlands with rampant disregard, future generations will only see one of these plants in the pages of a book or in an internet photo album.

As stated, swamp pink is a plant of wet places. Not just any old wetland will do. Swamp pink requires a very stable water table with a water line that rests just below the dense rosette of strap-like leaves. At one time, such conditions allowed this species to be found from Staten Island, New York all the way south to Georgia. There is even a disjunct population located in the Southern Appalachains. It has since been reduced to a mere fraction of its range and now only occurs in a handful of areas in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

There are two major threats to the further survival of this species - wetland destruction and poaching. Because it is a magnificent looking plant, greedy folk decide it would look better in their garden. Sadly, swamp pink does not transplant well and plants rarely survive the ordeal. Far more deadly to this species is a loss of habitat. It isn't just outright destruction of wetlands either. Alterations in the hydrology that stem from increased runoff and poor wetland buffering can cause entire populations to die off.

Both seed production and germination rates are low for this species. What's more, viable seeds suffer from minuscule dispersal distances. Because of this, establishment of new populations can be difficult. Also, since most reproduction is clonal, the gene pools of many extant populations are quite shallow. The plight of the swamp pink really brings meaning to the cultural meme "this is why we can't have nice things."

Photo Credits: Kerry Wixted (http://bit.ly/1LyUz3A) and Kristine Paulus (http://bit.ly/1JtL9GZ)

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