Have you ever heard of “Harry Rattleweed”? Its real name is Baptisia arachnifera, and it’s actually considered a Federal Endangered plant species. The species is found only in 2 counties in southeast Georgia.
This perennial herb is actually part of the Pea family. Its covered with white, cobwebby hairs, and has wide oval or broadly heart-shaped leaves. Its flowers are yellow and cluster at the ends of the stems.
Hairy Rattleweed has widely spreading roots and has been reported to be somewhat clonal, as in it reproduces clones of itself. They have big, long and strong roots, which researchers suggest means they have a long life span. Hairy Rattleweed relies on insect pollinators to help it cross-pollinate.
This plant’s population size has been drastically reduced in the past 20 years. One study found that the Hairy Rattleweed produces fewer seeds than other plants like it, and that its seeds are heavily eaten by weevils, a type of beetle.
Hairy Rattleweed prefers habitats like Pine flatwoods with shrubby layers such as blueberries.
Threats to the species includes: fire suppression, lowering of water table, site drainage, conversion of habitat.
According to a Georgia wildlife group, the species is on the brink of extinction. Approximately 26 populations are known, all but 2 on private timber lands. There has been a drastic reduction in population size, plant growth and reproduction since 1986 for the 9 populations that have been monitored.
Conservation groups recommend that all lands containing Hairy Rattleweedshould be purchased or placed under conservation management. They also suggest flatwoods should be burned every 2-3 years.
Let’s get to growing,
Photo courtesy of wildflower.org