2014 benefit auction announcement

NASC-auction-2014

We’re pleased to announce the 2014 NASC benefit auction will be held this year from Saturday, March 29 to Saturday, April 12 on TerraForums.com.

Links for the usual operating procedures (otherwise known as the rules – chief among them is “have fun!”) for the auction will be posted shortly. Then, as we approach March 29, a new subforum on TerraForums will appear just for this event. As we noted last year, a quick explanation of the auction follows: generous donors donate seed, plants, art, or anything else that other users bid on. The final total paid by the bidder goes to the NASC and the bidder receives the item. Every year we thank the generosity of our donors for supporting this event as our main source of fundraising to keep our organization running. The other half of the funds collected go directly to the identified beneficiary. Past recipients have included Boiling Spring Lakes, North Carolina (land acquisition); Myrtle Head Savanna, North Carolina (controlled burn); and Splinter Hill bog, Alabama (land acquisition); Old Dock Savanna, North Carolina (controlled burn); and Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park, Florida (equipment replacement).

We are still waiting to hear back from a few potential beneficiaries on their informal bids to be considered for this year’s auction, but the Board should make its final decision next week and follow up with an announcement.

We’re excited for this year’s auction – so get your plants ready for donations and be prepared for the amazing plants offered in this event. Whether you’re starting out or staking out that rare plant, you’ll be able to find something this year.

Good bidding!

The 2013 auction beneficiary: Old Dock Savanna, North Carolina

Old Dock Savanna 1

Old Dock Savanna in need of a burn.
Photo by Mark Todd.

The North American Sarracenia Conservancy is happy to announce that the 2013 auction beneficiary will be Old Dock Savanna in North Carolina.

Old Dock is a longleaf pine marl savanna in the southeast coastal plains of North Carolina that has been owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy since the mid-1990s. The unique geology of the area — a pine savanna underlain with limestone — influences the pH, nutrient availability, and kinds of plants that grow in the area. Geologists are only aware of one other marl savanna like this in North Carolina. (Read more about it at this archived TNC link.)

Old Dock Savanna hosts a variety of species that will benefit from our donation: Sarracenia minorSarracenia purpurea, Venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula), the rare Carolina grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia caroliniana), savanna cowbane (Oxypolis ternata), and wireleaf dropseed (Sporobolus teretifolius), among others. Fifty of the 350-plus acres at the site were last successfully burned in 2012 — the first such prescribed burn during the growing season in six years. Our donation this year will help The Nature Conservancy fund another prescribed burn in 2013 on the acreage not yet covered. This will, of course, help promote a healthy, open savanna for the Sarracenia at Old Dock to ensure that they continue to survive and thrive.

Sarracenia purpurea at Old Dock Savanna. Photo by Mark Todd.

Sarracenia purpurea at Old Dock Savanna. Photo by Mark Todd.

Sarracenia minor at Old Dock Savanna in an area that was probably burned last year. Photo by Mark Todd.

Sarracenia minor at Old Dock Savanna in an area that was probably burned last year. Photo by Mark Todd.

And if you’re curious about The Nature Conservancy of North Carolina’s Southeast Coastal Plain program, you can find a map of all their 2012 controlled burns and follow their excellent blog, A Place Unlike Any Other, for updates. I, for one, would highly recommend this entry of theirs from August 2012 where they highlighted a controlled burn at Myrtle Head Savanna, a project funded in part by the NASC as a previous auction beneficiary!

2013 benefit auction announcement

NASC-auction-2013

The NASC is pleased to announce the 2013 NASC benefit auction will be held this year from Saturday, March 30 to Saturday April 13 on TerraForums.com. This year we have moved the auction dates forward a few weeks to make it easier to ship your winnings – dormant Sarracenia or sensitive highland species.

As usual, we will post links in the near future to our usual operating procedures (otherwise known as the rules) for the auction – chief among them is “have fun!” Then, as we approach March 30, a new subforum on TerraForums will appear just for this event. For the uninitiated, a quick explanation is that generous donors donate seed, plants, art, or anything else that other users bid on. The final total paid by the bidder goes to the NASC and the bidder receives the item. Every year we thank the generosity of our donors for supporting this event as our main source of fundraising to keep our organization running. The other half of the funds collected go directly to the identified beneficiary. Past recipients have included Boiling Spring Lakes, North Carolina (land acquisition); Myrtle Head Savanna, North Carolina (controlled burn); and Splinter Hill bog, Alabama (land acquisition).

We are still waiting to hear back from a few potential beneficiaries on their informal bids to be considered for this year’s, but the Board should make its final decision next week and follow up with an announcement.

We’re excited for this year’s auction – so get your plants ready for donations and be prepared for the amazing plants offered in this event. Whether you’re starting out or staking out that rare plant, you’ll be able to find something this year.

Good bidding!

Sampling Sarracenia in Florida for ex-situ conservation and reintroduction

Sarracenia leucophylla in Pensacola, Florida. Photo by Victor Holland.

What winter? Sarracenia leucophylla in Pensacola, Florida in January 2013.
Photo by Victor Holland.

Standing in the wetlands of Pensacola, Florida earlier this month boot-deep in muck and probably deeper than usual water – it had been raining heavily the past few weeks though the rain held off just long enough to complete the task at hand – it was sometimes difficult for Mark, Sheila, Victor, and Mason to decide which hundred plants or so among thousands were worth prying loose from the soil. They were there with the North American Sarracenia Conservancy, making hopefully objective decisions on which new Sarracenia on these 40 acres to collect for our ex-situ conservation and propagation program. The volunteers asked themselves, what represented a good sample? Which plants represent unique genetic lineages? No, we don’t want to load up on too many of the same clone. Spread out over the property and make sure we sample broadly, but efficiently. There are three species of Sarracenia, the genus of North American pitcher plants, on these properties: in order of decreasing absolute population, Sarracenia leucophylla (white pitcher plant), S. psittacina (parrot pitcher plant), and S. rosea (Burk’s southern pitcher plant); in what proportion do we sample each species? How do we perform this work in the most environmentally sensitive way?

Sarracenia rosea at the site in Pensacola, FL. Photo by Mark Todd.

Sarracenia rosea at the site in Pensacola, FL. Photo by Mark Todd.

It was as early as five years ago that NASC treasurer Sheila Stewart first saw and admired the plants on these properties in Pensacola. The panhandle of Florida, if you’re unaware, is a fairly species rich area for carnivorous plants and is home to several threatened or endangered plants, including the state-endangered S. leucophylla. Sheila became concerned about the future of the site in October 2011 after a few years of seeing nearby rapid development; the for-sale signs that recently sprouted on the properties that contained the Sarracenia worried her that much more. Sheila feared this meant a swift sale and then development, so she approached the NASC Board of Directors in October 2011 and we began pursuing our options soon after.

Hovering over a clonal clump of pitcher plants in the wetlands in Pensacola looking for the best angle of attack to cleave off a small sample so that the remainder is left healthy and undisturbed, our volunteers must have been thinking about the ultimate destination of these plants. We had negotiated a contract with two different property owners and the plants would be placed with individual growers who had demonstrated experience and had applied to grow plants for us on the grower committee. These plants will be propagated as rapidly as possible by rhizome divisions or by seedlings and then used for reintroductions to areas identified by The Nature Conservancy of Florida and the Weeks Bay Foundation relatively near the site of collection. Our volunteer readies his equipment after all this contemplation, the shovel hits its mark, and a subset of the Sarracenia rhizomes are liberated from the mother clump and then unceremoniously placed into a labeled plastic bag for safe keeping until it can be cleaned, sorted, and shipped to one of the volunteer growers across the country.

Sarracenia leucophylla

S. leucophylla at the site. Photo by Mark Todd.

So how did we get to this point of a simple sample of Sarracenia for the purpose of ex-situ conservation with plans of reintroduction from that stock material? Just a few months ago in November we had been moving forward with a plan with full consent from the property owners to complete the much larger and grander idea of a full removal and relocation of the thousands of Sarracenia to TNC properties near Pensacola and the Weeks Bay Foundation property in nearby Alabama. Both organizations have been great to work with and raised a medium-sized legion of dedicated volunteers to replant the Sarracenia in their new locations. If you don’t already support either or both non-profits, we suggest you consider them for your charitable giving in the future. We were all set to go, volunteers were popping up all over, we had our agreements with the property owners and an established relocation site. But in December after extensive conversations with Escambia County environmental officials and as described in detail elsewhere, we were quite happy to discover how rigorous the permitting and approval process is for potential development within Pensacola. As we wrote in December:

While the properties do remain for sale and could be developed by the potential new owners … we are thoroughly impressed with Escambia County’s commitment to the retention of wetlands and threatened and endangered species within them as a public good. This means, of course, that the great news is that the NASC is confident that the plants will be able to remain on the properties in their original habitat, which is one of our primary goals.

This means, however, that our commitment to TNC of Florida and the Weeks Bay Foundation remains unmet. So earlier this month, three North American Sarracenia Conservancy Board members and one volunteer member traveled to Pensacola, Florida and, with the generous permission and cooperation of the property owners and the relevant government agencies, the members worked over several days to ensure a broad sample of Sarracenia, collecting about 100 plants of the estimated 5,000 plants on the two properties. This material was distributed to a half dozen dedicated and experienced growers who will spend the next few years attempting to make thousands from what was but a hundred so that we may honor and fulfill our commitment to TNC and the Weeks Bay Foundation.

Oh, and we’re not opposed to having a bit of fun while we work.

Mark Todd, Sheila Stewart, and Victor Holland in Pensacola collecting a sample of Sarracenia. Lesson learned: Never turn your back on Sheila. Photo by Mason McNair.

Mark Todd, Sheila Stewart, and Victor Holland in Pensacola collecting a sample of Sarracenia. Lesson learned: Never turn your back on Sheila. Photo by Mason McNair.


Acknowledgements

This collection could not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of so many. To those of you who had initially stepped forward to volunteer your time for the relocation and reintroduction prior to the change in plans, thank you. Again, we would like to acknowledge the efforts of the Weeks Bay Foundation and The Nature Conservancy for working with us in the region. And last but not least, the willingness to listen to a non-local conservancy organization blather on about some carnivorous plants came naturally to the two property owners we worked with in Pensacola, as did their cooperation as our collaboration progressed. One wishes to remain anonymous but we thank them both ever so much: Anonymous and E.K. “Skip” Edwards from the TK Edwards Co Inc.

Sarracenia relocation plans in Florida cancelled

Sarracenia rosea at the site in Pensacola, FL. Photo by Mark Todd.

Sarracenia rosea at the site in Pensacola, FL; staying put. Photo by Mark Todd.

The NASC is happy to report that after conversations with Escambia County, FL environmental management officials and with our understanding of the current status of the properties where the plants would have been sourced from, we are confident that the plants are not under any immediate threat. While the properties do remain for sale and could be developed by the potential new owners, any development on the property must go through rigorous permitting and approval at the county level and we are thoroughly impressed with Escambia County’s commitment to the retention of wetlands and threatened and endangered species within them as a public good.

This means, of course, that the great news is that the NASC is confident that the plants will be able to remain on the properties in their original habitat, which is one of our primary goals. Thus the relocation of all of the plants from this site in Pensacola to other nearby preserve lands as planned for January 4-6, 2013 is cancelled.

When we were first planning this rescue, we knew that transplanting 5,000 plants would be a huge undertaking, and with such short notice we worried that we wouldn’t have enough volunteers to do the work. Imagine our delight when dozens of volunteers stepped forward, willing to travel from far and wide to save these amazing plants! This would be a relocation and reintroduction mission like nothing ever before.

We are extremely grateful for all the work, effort, and planning that all our volunteers all have done, and we apologize for any inconveniences that this cancellation may have caused. The simple fact that our volunteers were willing to “stand up and be counted” was vital to this effort, and we’re happy to have made so many new acquaintances and soon-to-be friends. I think we have sent a strong message, that we care very much about these amazing plants, and that we want to ensure that future generations will be able to see them flourishing in their natural habitat.

Finally, there will always be other opportunities and we certainly have other projects we have been working on concurrently. And we are always looking to add unique genetic lineages to our grower’s program for propagation and potential reintroduction. On that point, we’re hoping to gain approval from Escambia County to collect a sample of the plants on the properties at Pensacola to enter into our grower’s program for rapid propagation by rhizome and genetically pure seed specific to that site. In a few years we would be able to produce enough plants to honor our commitments to the Weeks Bay Foundation and The Nature Conservancy and provide them with plants propagated from stock collected from the original site for their reintroduction efforts in our collaboration with them.

Thank you to all our volunteers, from the bottom of our hearts, once again. We hope everyone has a very happy New Year!