Asheville Ecological Services Field Office
Conserving the Nature of America





Photo: Swamp pink. Credit: USFWSSwamp pink
Helonias bullata

Status: Threatened

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) 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: A variety of wetland habitats, including mountain bogs, swampy forested wetlands bordering smalls streams, wet meadows, and spring seepage areas.

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

Listing: Threatened, September 9, 1988. 53 FR 35076 35080

Critical habitat: None designatedMap - North Carolina county distribution of swamp pink -  Ashe, Henderson, Jackson, and Transylvania counties.

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 off-site 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.

Why should we be concerned about the loss of species? Extinction is a natural process that has been occurring since long before the appearance of humans. Normally, new species develop through a process known as speciation, at about the same rate other species become extinct. However, because of air and water pollution, forest clearing, loss of wetlands, and other man-induced environmental changes, extinctions are now occurring at a rate that far exceeds the speciation rate.

All living things are part of a complex and interconnected network. We depend on the diversity of plant and animal life for our recreation, nourishment, many of our lifesaving medicines, and the ecological functions they provide. One-quarter of all the prescriptions written in the United States today contain chemicals that were originally discovered in plants and animals. Industry and agriculture are increasingly making use of wild plants, seeking out the remaining wild strain of many common crops, such as wheat and corn, to produce new hybrids that are more resistant to disease, pests, and marginal climatic conditions. Our food crops depend on insects and other animals for pollination. Healthy forests clean the air and provide oxygen for us to breathe. Wetlands clean water and help minimize the impacts of floods. These services are the foundation of life and depend on a diversity of plants and animals working in concert. Each time a species disappears, we lose not only those benefits we know it provided but other benefits that we have yet to realize.

What you can do to help
Tread lightly and stay on designated trails. 

Visit arboretums, botanical gardens, and parks and learn all you can about endangered plants and the causes of their declines.

Don’t collect or buy plants collected from wild populations.

Participate in the protection of our remaining wild lands and the restoration of damaged ecosystems.

Support wetland protection efforts at local, state, and national levels.

Establish and maintain forested stream-side buffers. Several federal, state, and private programs are available to assist landowners, both technically and financially, with restoring and protecting stream-side buffers and eroding streams.

Implement and maintain measures for controlling erosion and storm water during and after land-clearing and disturbance activities. Excess soil in our streams from erosion is one of the greatest water pollution problems we have today.

Be careful with the use and disposal of fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals. Remember, what you put on your land or dump down the drain may eventually wind up in nearby water. 

Support local, state and national clean water legislation.

Report illegal dumping activities, erosion, and sedimentation problems. These activities affect the quality of our water, for drinking, fishing, and swimming.

Prepared by:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Asheville Field Office
160 Zillicoa Street 
Asheville, North Carolina 28801 
(828) 258‑3939

October, 2011




Species Contact:

Rebekah Reid
office - 828/258-3939, ext. 238
fax - 828/258-5330
160 Zillicoa St.
Asheville, NC 28801
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Last Updated: May 13, 2015