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“Holy Grail” of rare plants found

“Holy Grail” of rare plants found

The “holy grail” of a rare plant in Wisconsin recently was found by a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist. He found that green violet – long thought gone from the state – is growing by the hundreds in a State Natural Area in west central Wisconsin.

The species  Hybanthus concolor – was last documented in Wisconsin in 1958 when it was collected from a site in Grant County. That site had been adversely affected by grazing and the species was thought to no longer grow in Wisconsin.

“It really drives home several things, including that there are still important things to discover on State Natural Areas and that the areas are vital to the conservation of plants and animals,” said Ryan O’Connor, DNR conservation biologist.

The recent discovery isn’t the first rare-plant finding within Wisconsin’s State Natural Areas. Seventy-five percent of wildlife species listed in Wisconsin as threatened or endangered, and 90 percent of state-listed plants are supported on State Natural Areas. The sites are owned both by the DNR and more than 50 partners.

O’Connor’s discovery also underscores the importance of having experts conduct “biotic inventory surveys” to document the different rare species on state-owned lands and assess how the natural community they’re part of is faring.

Natural communities are defined by the soils, geology, plants and animals that evolved together to form different types of prairies, wetlands and forests. Wisconsin has more than 100 of the distinct communities, some of which are globally rare. The state legislature created 70 years ago the State Natural Areas program to conserve examples of the communities.

The DNR uses the inventory-survey information to inform master plans determining how to manage properties and prioritize the attention they receive. Visit dnr.wi.gov and search for “State Natural Areas Program” for more information.

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