NEW, RARE PLANT DISCOVERED IN NEW JERSEY FOREST
(08/40) TRENTON - A rare wildflower, never before documented in New Jersey, has been discovered in a forest in northwestern New Jersey, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson today announced.
Known as the fern-leaf scorpion-flower or Phacelia bipinnatifida, the tiny, lavender-blue specimen was found on the forest floor and adjacent rock outcrops in the natural area at Whittingham Wildlife Management Area in Sussex County.
“The amazing discovery of this beautiful wildflower underscores the importance of the work we are doing to thoroughly inventory the natural treasures that exist within hundreds of thousands of state-owned acres,” Commissioner Jackson said. “Such detailed information will significantly enhance our ability to manage and protect these special lands and exceptional natural resources.”
Immediately following the discovery, the DEP’s Natural Heritage Program confirmed the identification, and soon after, DEP experts further documented the population of several thousand of the rare plants and its associated habitat.
The rare find represents the first and only documented location for the fern-leaf scorpion-flower in New Jersey, qualifying the species for proposed listing as endangered. The current list of New Jersey’s Endangered Plant Species, generally defined as those with five or fewer locations statewide, includes 339 plant species.
Fern-leaf scorpion-flower is a biennial plant, meaning it flowers every other year, typically from mid-April through May. The species occurs throughout most of the eastern half of the United States south of New Jersey and is a characteristic spring herb of rich, rocky woods.
The isolated occurrence of the fern-leaf scorpion-flower in northwestern New Jersey is more than 300 miles northeast of the nearest documented native populations in Virginia and West Virginia. Though unusual, that distribution is shared by other plant species from Whittingham Wildlife Management Area, which is one of New Jersey’s most botanically rich sites, supporting several hundred plant species.
Some 22 plant species at Whittingham are listed as endangered or threatened, and some, such as the Allegheny Mountain buttercup, are only known from this New Jersey location.
The DEP currently tracks 804 plant species considered either rare or special in New Jersey. The DEP’s Natural Heritage Program serves as a clearinghouse for information on occurrences of these species. People who observe locations for plant species that they believe to be listed as Special Plants of New Jersey are encouraged to report their findings to the NHP using its Species Reporting Form.
For information on the Natural Heritage Program, including the list of Special Plants of New Jersey and the Species Reporting Form, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/natural/heritage/index.html