OCEAN VIEW - The flower of the swamp pink plant is an extraordinary sight. It looks like a pink pincushion. This plant, native to New Jersey, is threatened in the state.
According to a release, a conservation organization the South Jersey Land and Water Trust (SJLWT) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, however, have worked to ensure this plant lives on.
In a project completed earlier this year, they took action to protect populations of the swamp pink (Helonias bullata) at the Shore Gate Golf Course in Ocean View.
This swamp pink protection project began in July 2014 after populations of swamp pink were found at the Shore Gate Golf Course.
The swamp pink plant’s dwindling population in New Jersey is primarily due to increased development and climate change. In several cases, however, the threat is hungry deer.
“We realized that every swamp pink flower at the golf course was browsed by deer,” Michael Hogan, program manager with the SJLWT and one of the leads on the project, noted. “None of the plants went to seed.” Not a single plant reproduced.
So Hogan coordinated with the staff at the Shore Gate Golf Course and with the NJDEP and Fish and Wildlife Service, and they made a plan to save this population of swamp pink.
They came up with a simple solution: build cages around the plants. It wasn’t easy, “Getting the cages back into the wetlands was difficult,” Hogan stated, “There were areas of fallen Atlantic white cedar trees from hurricane Sandy, and we had to crawl through them to reach the plants.”
Their work paid off. In 2018 they discovered that over 200 swamp pink flowers had bloomed and gone to seed.
“We also observed two swamp pink hummocks,” Hogan stated, “These are where the flowers drop seeds. That means they germinated and produced ‘baby’ swamp pinks.”
This was great news, considering the swamp pink plant does more than just produce a beautiful flower. It also plays a critical role in the environment.
“It’s an indicator species,” Hogan stated, “Because it’s very vulnerable to changes in hydrology and runoff from development, it can tell us a lot about the health of our wetlands.”
With more protection projects like that at Shore Gate Golf Course, populations of swamp pink will rebound in the state.
To Hogan, the project demonstrated what can happen when different organizations band together.
“This project’s success was due to the partnership among a private business, federal and state departments, and a non-profit,” he stated, “By partnering with each other, we can find ways to protect the environment that are mutually beneficial for everyone involved.”