New Jersey Field Office
Northeast Region

Swamp Pink (Helonias bullata) [threatened]

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Additional Information

Swamp pink


Forested wetlands

Main Threats:
Adjacent development
Past wetland destruction Climate change

Fun Fact:
Many swamp pink rosettes are actually clones of a mother plant.


Swamp pink was federally listed as a threatened species in 1988.

A perennial member of the lily family, swamp pink has smooth, oblong, dark green leaves that form an evergreen rosette. In spring, some rosettes produce a flowering stalk that can grow over 3 feet tall. The stalk is topped by a 1 to 3-inch-long cluster of 30 to 50 small, fragrant, pink flowers dotted with pale blue anthers. The evergreen leaves of swamp pink can be seen year round, and flowering occurs between March and May.

Supporting over half of the known populations, New Jersey is the stronghold for swamp pink. An obligate wetland species, swamp pink occurs in a variety of palustrine forested wetlands including swampy forested wetlands bordering meandering streamlets, headwater wetlands, sphagnous Atlantic white-cedar swamps, and spring seepage areas. Specific hydrologic requirements of swamp pink limit its occurrence within these wetlands to areas that are perennially saturated, but not inundated, by floodwater. The water table must be at or near the surface, fluctuating only slightly during spring and summer months. Groundwater seepage with lateral groundwater movement are common hydrologic characteristics of swamp pink habitat.

Swamp pink is a shade-tolerant plant and has been found in wetlands with canopy closure varying between 20-100%. Sites with minimal canopy closure are less vigorous due in part to competition from other species. Common vegetative associates of swamp pink include Atlantic white-cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides), red maple (Acer rubrum), pitch pine (Pinus rigida), American larch (Larix laricina), black spruce (Picea mariana), red spruce (P. rubens), sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), sphagnum mosses (Sphagnum spp.), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), and laurels (Kalmia spp.). Swamp pink is often found growing on the hummocks formed by trees, shrubs, and sphagnum mosses, and these micro-topographic conditions may be an important component of swamp pink habitat.

The primary threats to swamp pink are the indirect effects of off-site activities and development, such as pollution, introduction of invasive species, and subtle changes in groundwater and surface water hydrology. Hydrologic changes include increased sedimentation from off-site construction, groundwater withdrawals or diversion of surface water, reduced infiltration (recharge) of groundwater, increases in erosion, increases in the frequency, duration, and volume of flooding caused by direct discharges to wetlands (such as stormwater outfalls), and increased runoff from upstream development. Other threats to this species include direct destruction of habitat from wetland clearing, draining, and filling; collection; trampling; and climate change.

Map of swamp pink distribution in the US
Swamp pink distribution in the U.S.

Map of swamp pink distribution in New Jersey by municipality
Swamp pink distribution in New Jersey by municipality


Species Range: Swamp pink occurs in headwater streams and mountain bogs from New Jersey to Georgia.

Distribution in New Jersey: Swamp pink occurs in Morris, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Atlantic, Salem, Cumberland, and Cape May Counties. The species formerly occurred in Mercer County.

Examples of actions that may affect this species

The following is provided as technical assistance only and is not intended as a comprehensive list of all activities that may affect this species.

Within wetlands supporting swamp pink:

  • any activity, especially
    • cutting or clearing of trees, shrubs or other vegetation
    • wetland flooding, filling, draining, ditching, tiling, or excavating
    • stream channelization, diversion, stabilization or impoundment
    • discharge of storm or waste water
    • application of herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers

Within 500 feet of wetlands supporting swamp pink:

  • any ground or vegetation disturbances, especially
    • construction or development (e.g., residential or commercial structures, sewers, utilities, roads, parking lots, driveways, and other structures or impervious surfaces)
    • stream channelization, diversion, stabilization or impoundment
    • storm water or sediment control facilities (e.g., basins, manufactured treatment devises)
    • discharge of storm or waste water
    • application of herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers
  • permanent or temporary increases in disturbance or human activity including but not limited to installation of new public access facilities (e.g., parking lots, trails)

Within 0.5 mile of wetlands supporting swamp pink and/or in the same subwatershed (HUC14):

  • temporary or permanent increases in erosion or sediment-generating activities
  • potential changes in surface or groundwater hydrology, including but not limited to the significant addition, modification, or expansion of
    • impervious surface
    • storm water control facilities
    • storm water or waste water discharges (ground or surface)
    • water withdrawals (ground or surface)
    • water control structures
  • activities in, or within 150 feet of, streams that flow to wetlands supporting swamp pink

Best Management Practices

The following Best Management Practices are examples of typical Conservation Measures frequently recommended by the New Jersey Field Office in the course of consultation or technical assistance.

  • Avoid direct modifications to wetlands supporting swamp pink (e.g., clearing, flooding, filling, draining, ditching, tiling, excavating), and to streams that flow to swamp pink habitat (e.g., channelizing, diverting, stabilizing, impounding, dredging).

  • Provide adequate upland buffers around wetlands supporting swamp pink, often at least 300 feet of native, woody vegetation. A site-specific buffer design is often necessary.

  • Provide at least 150-foot buffers of native, woody vegetation along streams that flow to wetlands supporting swamp pink.

  • For activities throughout the watershed, avoid permanent changes to the hydrology or sedimentation rates of wetlands supporting swamp pink. For example:
    • minimize net increases in impervious surface;
    • minimize soil compaction;
    • design storm water management plans to minimize long-term hydrologic changes to swamp pink habitat (often by maximizing infiltration);
    • avoid storm or waste water discharges in or upgradient of swamp pink habitat;
    • ensure adequate recharge of groundwater; and
    • evaluate proposed surface or groundwater withdrawals to ensure swamp pink habitat is not affected.
    See Low Impact Design Techniques in the New Jersey Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual.

  • For activities within 500 feet of swamp pink habitat, take particular care to avoid permanent changes to the hydrology or sedimentation rates of wetlands supporting swamp pink. For example:
    • Implement all of measures listed above for activities throughout the watershed.
    • Use Appendix A of the New Jersey Stormwater BMP Manual to complete a thorough alternatives analysis of nonstructural stormwater management measures.
    • Seek to mimic the pre-development 2 and 10-year hydrographs.
    • Seek to recharge 100% of the site’s pre-development annual average recharge amount.
    • Seek a score of 100% or greater in the Nonstructural Stormwater Strategies Point System regardless of Planning Area or project size.
    • Grade lawn and landscaped areas with lightweight equipment (maximum equipment load of 8 PSI)

  • Avoid temporary changes to the hydrology or sedimentation rates of wetlands supporting swamp pink from ground disturbances within 500 feet of swamp pink habitat, or within 150 feet of streams that flow to swamp pink habitat. For example:
    • locate temporary work areas and access routes outside of wetlands;
    • construct storm water management infrastructure prior to all other components of a development project to control storm water and sediment during the remaining construction;
    • install two rows of silt fencing around work areas, with daily inspection and maintenance;
    • minimize the duration of exposed soils;
    • use jute matting or other erosion control blankets on disturbed areas immediately after project completion to minimize sedimentation; and
    • prompt re-vegetating areas of temporary disturbance with native species.

  • Avoid introductions of invasive species to wetlands supporting swamp pink. For example:
    • thoroughly wash construction equipment offsite before use within 500 feet of swamp pink habitat; and
    • use only native plant species and weed-free mulches and soils for landscaping within 500 feet of swamp pink habitat.
  • Avoid public access or other human activities in and around wetlands supporting swamp pink.

  • Place wetlands supporting swamp pink and associated upland buffers in permanent conservation ownership or easement. Enroll properties supporting swamp pink in the Service's Adopt a Swamp Pink Population program and execute a voluntary landowner agreement with the Service.

What to do if this species occurs on your property or project site

  • Contact the Service early in planning for any project or activity that may affect swamp pink or its habitat. See New Jersey Field Office Procedures for Consultation and Technical Assistance for instructions. Through the technical assistance or consultation processes of the Endangered Species Act, the Service will provide project-specific recommendations to avoid or minimize adverse effects to listed species.

  • Individual landowners with suitable habitat can also contact the Service for proactive conservation recommendations. If a landowner enters into a voluntary conservation agreement, the Service will provide ongoing technical assistance and recognize the commitment to natural resource stewardship with a plaque. Most land in New Jersey is privately owned. Voluntary conservation efforts by New Jersey's residents are critical in the conservation and recovery of threatened and endangered species

  • Also see "Endangered Species and You" Frequently Asked Questions.

Adopt a Swamp Pink Population

Note: Beginning in 2011, adopted populations will be surveyed every other year. Also note important changes to the Adopt Instructions and the Adopt Form.

Background Information

For Returning Volunteers

For New Volunteers

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Last updated: May 11, 2016
New Jersey Field Office
Northeast Region Ecological Services
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