Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rare Plants of Lake Guntersville State Park

Following up on the previous post, many thanks to botanist Dan Spaulding of the Anniston Museum of Natural History for sharing with me his 1995 Jacksonville State University master's thesis titled The Vascular Flora of Lake Guntersville State Park, Marshall County, Alabama. Dan reported 1,076 plant species, a remarkable diversity for an area the size of the park. Of these, 30 are today tracked as species of conservation concern by the Alabama Natural Heritage Program. They are listed below, followed by their state NatureServe rank (S = State. 1 = critically imperiled, 2 = imperiled, 3 = vulnerable).
  • Allium speculae, Little River Canyon Onion (S2)
  • Aralia racemosa, American Spikenard (S1)
  • Aster (Eurybia) surculosus, Purple Aster (S1)
  • Bigelowia nuttallii, Rayless Goldenrod (S3)
  • Castilleja coccinea, Indian Paintbrush (S1)
  • Corallorhiza wisteriana, Spring Coral-root (S2)
  • Coreopsis pulchra Woodland Tickseed (S2)
  • Croomia pauciflora, Croomia (S2)
  • Cuscuta harperi, Harper's Dodder (S2)
  • Dicentra cucullaria, Dutchman's-breeches (S2)
  • Diervilla rivularis, Riverbank Bush-honeysuckle (S2)
  • Elodea canadensis, Broad Water-weed (S1)
  • Fothergilla major, Witch-alder (S2)
  • Frasera caroliniensis, American Columbo (S2)
  • Helianthus longifolius, Long-leaf Sunflower (S1S2)
  • Hydrastis canadensis, Goldenseal (S2)
  • Juglans cinerea, Butternut (S1)
  • Monarda clinopodia, Basil-balm (S2)
  • Pachysandra procumbens, Allegheny-spurge (S2S3)
  • Ribes curvatum, Drooping Gooseberry (S2)
  • Rudbeckia heliopsidis, Sun-facing Coneflower (S2)
  • Sabatia capitata, Upland Rose-pink (S2)
  • Schoenolirion wrightii, Texas Sunnybell (S1)
  • Silene caroliniana spp. wherryi, Wherry's Catchfly (S1S2)
  • Silene ovata, Ovate Catchfly (S2)
  • Silphium mohrii, Mohr's Rosinweed (S1)
  • Stewartia ovata, Mountain Camellia (S2S3)
  • Talinum (Phemeranthus) mengesii, Menge's Fameflower (S2S3)
  • Trillium sulcatum, Southern Red Trillium (S1)
  • Veratrum (Melanthium) parviflorum, Small-flowered False-hellebore (S1S2)
Describing the park's diverse forest, Dan writes,
Some of the canopy trees in the park include basswood (Tilia americana), tulip-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), white oak (Quercus alba), black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), white ash (Fraxinus americana), black walnut (Juglans nigra), yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava), northern red oak (Quercus rubra), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), chestnut oak (Quercus montana), black oak (Quercus velutina), mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa), chinquapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii), shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), and sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua). The understory trees documented from the park include flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), red bud (Cercis canadensis), sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), chalk maple (Acer leucoderme), ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana), hop hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), downy serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), cucumber magnolia (Magnolia acuminata), mountain-camellia (Stewartia ovata), and American holly (Ilex opaca). Many shrubs such as witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), spicebush (Lindera benzoin), drooping gooseberry (Ribes curvatum), leatherwood (Dirca palustris), maple-leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), mountain rose-bay (Rhododendron catawbiense), and oak-leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) are frequently encountered. The herbaceous ground cover is also rich and varied and is characterized by a number of wildflowers, grasses, sedges, and ferns.
Dan Spaulding is arguably the authority on the flora of the park, yet neither he nor any other knowledgeable biologist was consulted during the decision making process regarding the logging there. A poorly publicized "public comment period" hardly counts. ADCNR's Parks Division employs a forester yet has no botanist or community ecologist staff position. Other state park systems with far less biodiversity than Alabama's, like New York, do. I would say that other states might have more money, but what fraction of that $26 million recently spent on upgrading just Lake Guntersville State Park would fund such a position in the Montgomery office?

1 comment:

Dan Spaulding said...

I spent over 4 years documenting the flora of Lake Guntersville State Park and was truly amazed by the diversity of plants. I was concerned about some of the logging and herbicide they sprayed along the roadsides back then. I always appreciated Linda Reynolds, the park naturalist who kept them at bay, but since she retired “they” have gotten their way and I understand are destroying sections of the park. Very sad!!