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 swamp pinks in the pages of a book or in an internet photo album.

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As stated, swamp pink likes to have its feet wet. Not just any old wetland will do though. Swamp pinks require a very stable water table with a water line that rests just below the dense rosette of strap-like leaves. At one time, this species could be found from Staten Island, New York all the way south to Georgia. There is even a disjunct population located in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Today, swamp pink has been reduced to a mere fraction of this former range and now only occurs in isolated pockets of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

There are two major threats to the continued survival of this species - wetland destruction and poaching. Because it is a magnificent looking plant, it is often dug up and taken away. Sadly, swamp pink does not transplant well and plants rarely survive the ordeal. Far more deadly to this species is 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: [1] [2] [3]

Further Reading: [1] [2] [3]