Since the 1996 publication of the most recent definitive flora covering Nantucket and its surrounding islands (“The Vascular and Non-Vascular Flora of Nantucket, Tuckernuck, and Muskeget Islands” by Sorrie and Dunwiddie), much botanical survey and research has taken place. Shifts in land use, ecological succession, development, and introductions of horticultural and weedy/invasive species have strongly influenced the island flora during this time frame. Recent major taxonomic reassignments and nomenclatural changes, combined with shifting on-the-ground vegetation patterns led us to conclude that it was time for a revised Nantucket Flora. In an effort to assess and describe these changes, we partnered with the Linda Loring Nature Foundation, Framingham State University, and Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association to update the vascular plant portion of the flora for the main island of Nantucket. This project has been focused on the following priorities:
Database & Herbarium Work: Significant adaptations have been made to the original Sorrie & Dunwiddie M.S. Access database to facilitate the inclusion of new species and habitat information, as well as the necessary taxonomic and nomenclatural updates. “New” species are vouchered with herbarium specimens deposited in local and regional herbaria. These include any plant species we have encountered that appear to be naturalized (“growing wild” and reproducing) without the need for continued human intervention.
“No Recent Records” Searches: Targeted searches for species that Sorrie & Dunwiddie listed as “no recent records” have been a high priority. Some of these are native species that were rare on the island and may have been eliminated due to changes in habitat, while others were introduced species that may have failed to become established. Historical information from publications of previous botanists and herbarium specimens at Maria Mitchell Association and in the digitized collections of the Consortium of Northeastern Herbaria (CNH) have been helpful in defining likely habitats and past locations for “no recent record” searches. Portions of some conservation areas that are isolated and have not been surveyed for some time, offering possible discoveries or rediscoveries, have also been targeted for visits in different seasons.
Exploring Understudied/Novel Habitats: We have also made efforts to search previously understudied areas and those that have undergone major changes in recent years. Disturbed road and bike path edges, residential neighborhoods and agricultural fields have not typically been a focus of botanical research conducted by local conservation organizations. However, these areas are among the most transformed, and newly species are likely. Opportunistic discoveries and reports of visiting and local botanists have highlighted some understudied areas and generated some species additions.
Difficult Groups: Several taxonomic groups require careful use of dichotomous keys for identification. Aquatic plants and families such as Salicaceae, Asteraceae, Cyperaceae, Rosaceae, and Poaceae have been given emphasis for collecting and vouchering in the Nantucket Flora Update. Species in these groups are often overlooked during casual visits and may require expert assistance to identify with certainty. We have reached out to expert botanists specializing in particular taxonomic groups to verify or identify these difficult specimens and obtain a regional context.
Cooperative Update of the Vascular Flora of Nantucket; S.T. Bois, K.A. Omand and B.A. Connolly; Rhodora 119(980): 360-362. 2017. Journal copyright does not allow open website access to this publication- please email to request a copy.