MILTON – American chaffseed isn’t the most glamorous plant in the Panhandle. It’s not vibrant and showy when it blooms. It doesn’t dwarf its neighbors in height or mass. It’s not carnivorous like some of its better-known neighbors. It is hard to find, though, which is part of its claim to fame.
Also known as Schwalbaea americana, the chaffseed is a federally listed endangered species and once was found throughout 15 southeastern and eastern states but now is limited to five.
A new population of American chaffseed recently was discovered in the Blackwater River State Forest.
This new population area makes the second known chaffseed site on the forest.
“The fact that it occurs on Blackwater is a good thing,” said Craig Iversen, forest ecology supervisor for Blackwater. “It shows us that our management, especially the use of fire and the protection of seepage slopes and other sensitive areas, has helped this species hang on.”
According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Schwalbaea is found in habitats described as open, moist pine flatwoods, fire-maintained savannas. Most of the surviving populations, and all the most vigorous populations, are in areas that are still subject to frequent fire.
These fire-maintained habitats include forest management areas such as Blackwater that are burned to maintain habitat for wildlife, including the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.