February 13, 2020: Mississippi PCA Winter Meeting

The Mississippi Plant Conservation Alliance had a meeting on February 13, 2020, at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Mississippi. Four people were able to attend in person, with seven more joining in by Webex. The meeting was recorded by Webex, and a link to the recording is available in the notes below.

Mississippi Plant Conservation Alliance Meeting

 Thursday, February 13, 2020

 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

 Geosystems Research Institute, Mississippi State University, Starkville, Mississippi

Temporary link to meeting video:


Attending in person:
Toby Gray, Mississippi State University, Geosystems Research Institute
Stephanie Green, Strawberry Plains Audubon Society
Robert Ballard, Camp Creek Native Plants
Timothy Schauwecker, Department of Landscape Architecture, Mississippi State University

On Webex
Matthew Paek, Auburn University
Nadine Phillips, volunteer, independent contractor, Nature Mindfulness Facilitator
Patrick Thompson, Auburn University
Scott Wiggers, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Lucile McCook, University of MississippiJennifer Mendel, Memphis University
Mitch Robinson, Strawberry Plains Audubon Society

Where have we been?
1900 – New England Wildflower Society formed. In 1991 they organized the first regional plant conservation network. Recently (2019?) they changed their name to Native Plant Trust
1995 GA PCA formed
2009 AL PCA formed
2016 SePPCon
2017 TN PCA formed
2018 MS PCA: scoping letter, conference calls, AL PCA meetings, website, plant lists, prioritization schemes, mission statement, goals and objectives
2019 MS PCA increased interest, first face-to-face meeting in August
2020 map of botanical literature, February meeting,  SePPCon in March

A review of other PCA organizations in southeastern states, how they are structured and funded. Do we want to follow an example or create our own path? These three neighborhood PCAs represent a spectrum: older/larger to newer/smaller

Georgia: Supported by State Botanical Garden, University of Georgia. Coordinator: Jennifer Ceska. “In the early days, we had no staff, but we had gumption and we were friendly.” Her “Solid Gold PCA Essentials:”

  1. It is all about the plants. Leave egos at the door
  2. Document and share work and resources and accolades
  3. Positivity
  4. Facilitation of projects and meetings
    1. Make things happen
  5. Face to face time
    1. Know your partners
    2. Builds trust, and lets you know who
  6. Allow open time for networking
    1. don’t overbook meetings
  7. Partnering
    1. Two institutions
    2. Two project leaders

Alabama: Supported by the Davis Arboretum at Auburn University, contact Patrick Thompson. A recent comment from an email (in the context of what does a steering committee do):

Actions are usually taken on as a group of partners. Their participation links them to those project actions, but generally are not held accountable for the actions on projects by other partners on other projects, so there is never really a thing the APCA is doing by itself. It is more like the Arboretum and Birmingham Botanic Gardens is doing a thing through USFWS, on TNC property, so when there are projects like that going on, I never feel the need to have anything approved by a committee. If we are doing something like adopting a policy (hog policy, Digital Safety check, etc.) I do run it by a few folks before I just bring it up at a meeting, but then it goes into the minutes, and if people want to object, they need to be at the meeting or paying attention to minutes. The APCA itself is not there to do or decide things really, it is more of a forum where partners can hold each other accountable in a positive way, and pool resources to make sure things aren’t falling through the cracks.

Tennessee: Coordinator position funded by APSU and SGI. Cooper Breeden is in a similar situation as we are in Mississippi. The Georgia model is characterized by a large community of interest. Cooper is working on ways to identify key people and help that community take shape in TN. We both (TN and MS,,,and probably everyone else…) need to get creative about finding ways our partners can justify PCA work within their organizations.

Mississippi PCA Current Status
DRAFT Mission Statement, Goals and Objectives on Google Drive
We need to distinguish ourselves from MNPS, Crosby Arboretum, other orgs, while supporting them

Prioritization (all rare species are important and need love)

  1. MNHP tracking list, special concern, 495 sp
  2. MNHP watch list, potential of becoming SGCN, 100 sp
  3. Federal T and E: 6 (or 5) species
  4. Prioritize by G and S status
  5. Does a neighbor state have a program for that sp?
  6. COAs, partner density
  7. How do other states prioritize?

Website: https://mississippiplantconservation.org/

  1. I need help with pictures and content especially
  2. Money would be nice too

Create a steering committee.

  1. Qualified people
  2. People have time to contribute
  3. Not all academics and agency folks but also practitioners and volunteers
  4. Among academics: representation from all Mississippi Universities?


  1. Eli Polzer, USACE
  2. Melinda Lyman, TNC
  3. Scott Wiggers, USFWS
  4. Lucile McCook, UM

SePPCon 2020: we have 5 minutes to tell our story

  1. Mississippi has young surficial geology. Much of the state only became dry land after the end of the Cretaceous (70 mya). We lack the niches for relictual plants produced by deep time
  2. We are part of a growing regional network
  3. Status of current organization and projects

Plant Projects

Price’s Potato Bean:
Listed Threatened
Found in Oktibbeha County (Morris et al. 1993. Castanea) on a terrace of a tributary of Sand Creek
Grows primarily on rich calcareous bluffs
We need to

  1. Look for it
  2. Identify safeguarding sites

Presentation by Matthew Paek, Auburn University

  1. An investigation into how seed is produced in the species. Plants don’t produce a great deal of seed, the treatments in the experiment are designed to isolate why that is so. Hypothesis is that they can’t self-pollinate, they must outcross, and they lack candidates (lack genetic diversity?)
  2. Matthew knows where the populations are in Mississippi, his work takes him to the wild populations in four states.
  3. The Missouri Botanical Garden is involved, Matthew Albrecht is the contact there.


  1. We have information about the preferred habitat. We need to come up with a list of mappable attributes (soil, slope, proximity to streams, etc), then we can use GIS to prioritize the landscape for suitable sites for discovery and safeguarding.
  2. We need to identify key folks for a Apios priciana taxa team.


Whorled Sunflower
Listed endangered
ECOS site https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp0/profile/speciesProfile?sId=3375

Literature review: recovery plan, best practices
Draft Recovery plan in progress. Meanwhile an interim recovery plan is available (at ECOS?)

Possible that species has been under-reported or mis-ID’d in numerous Herbarium.  Herbarium search for suspect Helianthus Spp. and identification of those process might shed light on other populations.

Key people, contacts, orgs. ECOS and BISON are good sources of information. ECOS page brings up a lot more information if you use the Chrome browser.

There is limited information on genetics, this is especially important due to the wide distance between extant populations. 

Conservation actions, appropriateness of:

  1. Propagation from seed (Strawberry Plains Audubon Center)
    1. Seed harvesting in late summer, fall
    2. Propagation has been shown to be relatively easy from seed (1st generation) and then from root division thereafter. 
  2. In situ planting
  3. Ex situ establishment
    1. Be careful about genetics when growing in cultivation or outplanting: if parent plants are too closely related offspring won’t produce viable seed. This is why ABG deadheads their plants: they don’t want seeds!
    2. At SPAC (could be an educational planting to maintain species material and to inform public)
    3. On private land nearby
    4. Holly Springs National Forest – who to contact?
    5. Better understanding of habitat requirements: soil, fire dependence, etc.  would be beneficial in order to possibly locate other populations.

Protection of current MS population vital.  Will require establishing a good relationship with private land owner and MDOT. The MNHP and Heather Sullivan need to be included in landowner outreach efforts. Possible actions include offering to maintain open habitat (cut trees/shrubs) and ensuring no-spray or correct timing of spraying along MDOT right of way. 


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