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Student study bolsters case for adding a rare sunflower to the endangered species list
Date:9/25/2007

acres of which is owned by Temple-Inland Inc. The area contains two other listed threatened or endangered species Mohrs Barbara Buttons and Tennessee Yellow-eyed Grass so in 1992 the timber company donated a 929-acre conservation easement on the most sensitive portion of the area to the Nature Conservancy. Population estimates of the whorled sunflower at the other known locations were much smaller. However, the size of the Georgia population plus the conservation easement reduced the sense of urgency attached to its case for listing.

The genetic study proved that the field observations of the sunflower had been misleading. The sunflower propagates clonally as well as by sexual reproduction. As a result, many stalks that appear to be individual plants are genetically identical to their neighbors. I went out and sampled a whole bunch of stalks and then genotyped them, Ellis says. I found that the whole population consists of about 20 to 40 genetic individuals. If they have the same genotype then they are the same genetic individual. There can be ten stalks growing together that you would think are ten plants. But, when you genotype them, you find they are all the same genetic individual.

The fact that there are so few individuals at the Georgia site increases the importance of protecting the other sites, Norquist says.

One hundred of the plants that Ellis grew in the greenhouse are adding to the population in a more direct fashion. She gave them to researchers at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, TN who are restoring a wetland that is a suitable environment for the whorled sunflower. They will be using the plants in an experiment designed to identify the environmental variables that have the greatest effect on the sunflowers fitness.


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Contact: David F. Salisbury
david.salisbury@vanderbilt.edu
615-343-6803
Vanderbilt University
Source:Eurekalert

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