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Bright pink conical flowers.
Information icon Flowering swamp pink. Photo by Maja Dumat, CC BY 2.0.

Swamp pink

Helonias bullata

Swamp pink is only found in wetlands along streams and seepage areas in freshwater swamps. The major threat to the species is loss and degradation of its wetland habitat due to encroaching development, sedimentation, pollution, succession, and wetland drainage. Swamp pink has extremely low seedling establishment, which appears limit establishment of population at new sites. Other threats include plant collection and trampling.

Appearance

A small plant with bright pink, conical flowers.
Swamp pink. Photo by Alan Cressler.

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.

A female biologist searches for an marks small plants with orange flags in a forest.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Jenny Cruse-Sanders looking for swamp pink, May 2010. Photo by Gary Peeples, USFWS.

Historical range

The species historical range included Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia.

Current range

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

Conservation challenges

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.

A low-growing green plant.
Swamp pink in profile. Photo by Gary Peeples, USFWS.

Recovery plan

A close-up photo of a pink flower dusted with white pollen.
Swamp pink flower close-up. Photo USFWS.

In order to remove swamp pink from the endangered species list, biologists must stabilize the range-wide status of the species by:

  • securing permanent land protection for a minimum of 80 sites;
  • ensuring long-term regulatory protection of all extant populations and their habitat at the state and local levels; and
  • if needed, maintaining representative genotypes in cultivation.

Actions needed

  • Protect all known Helonias sites through habitat protection and regulatory enforcement.
  • Characterize existing colonies and define essential habitat.
  • Monitor and minimize on- and off-site threats to viable populations.
  • Identify and implement management techniques.
  • As needed, preserve genotypes in laboratory/storage facilities.
  • Provide public information and education.
  • Review recovery progress and revise plan as necessary.

Download the 1991 recovery plan.

Partnerships, research and projects

Partners came together in mid-June 2016 to plant 50 threatened swamp pink plants at a western North Carolina bog managed by the North Carolina Plant Conservation Program. The fifty plants were raised in captivity by the Atlanta Botanical Garden from seed collected at a nearby site. Staff from the Atlanta Botanical Garden, N.C. Plant Conservation Program, and the Service helped with the planting.

A female biologist holds a small green plant with long pink roots.
Plant Conservation Program’s Jenny Stanley separates roots for planting. Photo by Gary Peeples, USFWS.

How you can 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 stormwater 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.
Biologists circle up to discuss a small plant.
Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Ron Determann explains swamp pink’s root system. Photo by Gary Peeples, USFWS.

Subject matter expert

Designated critical habitat

None designated.

Federal Register notices

The following Federal Register documents were automatically gathered by searching the Federal Register Official API with this species’ scientific name ordered by relevance. You can conduct your own search on the Federal Register website.

  • We're sorry but an error occurred. Visit the Federal Register to conduct your own search.

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