Posted by: Reena Ramos

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  • 09/06/2023

Springing into Action: A Plant Rescue

Because protecting land is its mission, ACRES periodically receives calls that require immediate action. Such was the case in April when Freya Berntson, Stewardship Chair of the Northeast Chapter of Indiana Native Plant Society (NE INPS), reached out to ACRES with an urgent request to rescue an endangered violet found on land slated for development. Here is Freya’s first-hand account of how the plant rescue unfolded:

Allen County’s suburban areas are expanding with new housing developments. A number of these new structures will be placed on land that has been forested for decades if not centuries.

Knowing that a certain level of habitat loss may be unavoidable on new construction sites, one might want to quickly “rescue” plants from a site slated for development. However, if you don’t have a connection to the property development group, it can be difficult to obtain permission to perform that rescue.

Enter Kelly Wheat, a member of NE INPS, who was granted permission to remove plants from a future construction site. One particular species she was interested in was a sweet little violet with lobed leaves. I reached out to our State Botanist, Scott Namestnik, who confirmed with violet expert Dr. Harvey Ballard of Ohio University that the plant was Viola baxteri, Baxter’s violet.

Baxter’s violet is an extremely rare plant in Indiana, listed as endangered and critically imperiled in the state. The advice given was to relocate what we could to nearby nature preserves with similar habitats. The site happened to be a few miles from some of ACRES Land Trust’s nature preserves. I reached out to ACRES Stewardship Director Evan Hill, who graciously agreed to receive all 80 V. baxteri and plant them
on ACRES properties.

Although events like this are not a solution to the ecological crisis brought by habitat loss, they serve an important purpose. Saving those individual violets may one day genetically benefit the species as a whole.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2023 ACRES Quarterly, mailed to members each season. The 20-page Quarterly features ACRES news, stories and events. You can subscribe by becoming an ACRES member with a donation of $20 or more. Click here to learn more!

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