In mid-January, Jen Karberg (NCF’s Research Supervisor) attended the annual New England Plant Conservation Program (NEPCoP) MA Task Force Meeting to discuss rare plants and the state of rare plant populations and management in Massachusetts. NEPCoP is a collection of professional botanists, conservation organizations, universities and state agencies organized in order to document New England’s rare plants and assist in managing and maintaining populations of rare and endangered plants.  In 1996 NEPCoP published the first Flora Conservanda – a list of the plants of conservation concern (rare, threatened and endangered) in each of the New England States.  NEPCoP recently released an updated version of that list for 2012.

Each state in New England has an organized NEPCoP Task Force to manage the monitoring of rare plants across the state.  The Task Force for Massachusetts meets annually in January to discuss review rare plant surveys from the previous year, plan rare plant surveys for the coming field season and discuss proposed changes to the rare plant list for the state.

One of the key things we discussed this year was changes to the listing of rare plants in Massachusetts.  When the state looks at changing the status of a listed plant, or even delisting it – the process takes a bit of time.  There is an information gathering period to see what we really know about the plant – where is in the state, how large are the populations, how healthy are the populations, etc.  Once this information is gathered, the state can make an informed decision about how much protection a plant needs.  This year the state is considering delisting two plants that we monitor and protect here on Nantucket:

Crocanthemum dumosum (bushy rockrose)

Flower of Crocanthemum dumosum. Photo Credit: Danielle O'Dell

Flower of Crocanthemum dumosum. Photo Credit: Danielle O’Dell

Linum intercursum (sandplain yellow flax)

Linum intercursum in flower.

Linum intercursum in flower.

In addition to these plants, we also have a few of our local plants that are being added to the Watch List this year.  The Watch List consists of plants the state suspects might be in danger but needs more information on.  When our Science staff is out and about on our properties this year, we will make sure to keep an eye out for and try and document these plants if we find them.

Asclepias amplexicaulis (clasping milkweed)

Asclepias amplexicaulis

Asclepias amplexicaulis

Tephrosia virginiana (wild goat’s-rue)

Goat's rue (Tephrosia virginiana) in bloom.

Goat’s rue (Tephrosia virginiana) in bloom.

Calystegia silvatica (short-stalked false bindweed)

Calystegia silvatica - source Wikimedia Commons

Calystegia silvatica – source Wikimedia Commons

If you happen to see any of these plants out on Nantucket this year – make sure to contact our Science staff!

Does all of this plant talk make you want to run out and start searching for new and rare plants?  Consider becoming a Plant Conservation Volunteer for the New England Wildflower Society! We are always looking to energetic and dedicated people to assist in the work of locating and surveying rare plant populations.

Also – if you are looking for a good source to help you identify local plants – check out the GoBotany website!  GoBotany is a fantastic tool developed by the New England Wildflower Society to make plant identification accessible to everyone.  The website is complete with wonderful photographs and very clear illustrations as well as detailed plant characteristics to help everyone from the very beginner to the experienced botanist.

If you are new to learning plants – visit the website’s Simple Key: a very user-friendly guide to 1,200 of the most common plants in New England.

For all of you Botany-nerds out there: check out the Complete Dichotomous Key to ALL of the plants in New England (over 3500 plants).  This detailed key will allow you to interactively key out plants anywhere you are as long as you have access to the internet!  Also – if you want a list of which plants you can find in your particular county, check out the Vascular Flora of Massachusetts Checklist complied by the Massachusetts Natural Heritage Department.

For more information about our Science and Stewardship Department and the Nantucket Conservation Foundation – please visit our website.