SCIENTIFIC NAME: Helonias bullata
HABITAT: Wetlands such as swamps, wet meadows, forested seepage areas near small streams
LIFE HISTORY: Slow growing. Limited seed dispersal. Blooms in fragrant, cone-shaped clusters of 30 to 50 flowers, March to May.
THREATS: Habitat loss due to development and hydro-management; water pollution
FORMER RANGE: Eastern U.S. from Delaware to Georgia
CURRENT POPULATION: 110 known populations
This rare wetlands perennial is one of the first wild blooms of the spring, heralding the arrival of warmer weather with a cluster of fragrant pink flowers. Swamp pinks need a moisture-rich environment, and are often found clustered near evergreen trees like Atlantic white cedar, pitch pine, American larch and black spruce.
The swamp pink was declared threatened in 1988, and subsequent protections under the Endangered Species Act helped stave off the rapid loss of its wetland habitat to development and logging. The largest population of swamp pinks found today is in the wetlands of southern New Jersey.
Even today, however, its habitat is being degraded by human activity outside of wetlands, such as the withdrawal of water for irrigation, sewage treatment discharge and the introduction of excess nutrients or chemicals into the water.
Photos: Delaware River Gap © National Park Service; piping plover © Gene Nieminen, USFWS; swamp pink © Gene Nieminen, USFWS; Atlantic salmon © William W. Hartley, USFWS