Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office
Conserving the Nature of America

Swamp Pink (Helonias bullata)

Swamp Pink. Credit: USFWS

Swamp Pink. Credit: USFWS

Family: Lily (Liliaceae)

Federal Status: Threatened, listed September 9, 1998

Best Search Time: April - May

Description: Swamp pink is a perennial herb in the lily family. It has a basal rosette of evergreen, strap-like leaves and an upright pink to lavender flower head. The tall flower stalks (up to 4.5 feet (1.4 meters)) appear from March to May. During the winter the leaves often turn reddish brown and lie flat or slightly raised above the ground. These winter leaves are often hidden by leaf litter, but a visible button in the center of the leaves represents the next season’s flower head. Although the plant can reproduce by seed, most of its reproduction is by vegetative expansion of established plants. This means plants tend to grow in clumps, close to the parent plants. Seed dispersal is limited, and populations appear to expand at a very slow rate.

Habitat: Swamp pink is found in a variety of wetland habitats, including mountain bogs, swampy forested wetlands bordering smalls streams, wet meadows, and spring seepage areas.

map of Swamp Pink distribution in North Carolina

Map of Swamp Pink distribution in North Carolina.

Distribution: Swamp pink can be found across much of New Jersey and Delaware and sporadically in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Threats: The loss of wetlands to urban and agricultural development and timbering operations historically have been the primary threat to the species. Now, with the loss of wetlands slowed by state and federal regulations, the major threat to swamp pink at most sites is habitat degradation caused by off-site disturbances. Some of these include water withdrawal for irrigation, increased siltation from the inadequate control of soil erosion, and in the introduction of excess nutrients or chemicals into the water. Trampling and collecting also threaten the species.

References:

Buchanan, M.F. and J.T. Finnegan. 2010. Natural Heritage Program List of the Rare Plant Species of North Carolina. N.C. Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh, NC.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1991. Swamp Pink (Helonias bullata) Recovery Plan. Newton Corner, Massachusetts. 56 pp.

For More Information on Swamp Pink...

Species Contact:

Mara Alexander, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, 828-258-3939 ext. 238

Species profile revised on September 15, 2011.

Last Updated: November 1, 2012