Rediscoveries of wetland plants reveal Nebraska's natural heritage

Tyler Janke, Wetlands Restoration Specialist, recently found a sedge hybrid never before spotted in Nebraska in a small remnant wetland on the Missouri River floodplain.

Janke was out with a colleague doing springtime monitoring on a Wetlands Reserve Program-enrolled property when he spotted a plant he had not seen before. Because its flower pieces were already gone, he decided to return to the spot later to visit it again. It was then that he discovered it was Carex subimpressa, a hybrid between Carez hyalinolepsis and Carex pellita.

"There are something like 70 to 80 known sedges in Nebraska," said Janke. "I couldn't find it in the 'known sedge' books, so I looked in Flora of the Great Plains, and there it was."

A month later, he was back out on an oxbow wetland to see if it would be a good candidate for high diversity seeding and found another unfamiliar plant. “I knew it was a sedge, but didn’t know what species,” he said. It turned out to be Ravenfoot sedge (Carex crus-corvi) and it was thought to be extripated in Nebraska. NatureServe (a natural heritage inventory) lists Ravenfoot sedge as critically endangered in Nebraska. No one had reported the plant in the state since 1910!

After learning this, Janke went back to the site and found 12 individual plants, the only known population in the state. He collected seed from these plants to grow seedlings in a greenhouse and transplant them to other wetland sites in eastern Nebraska. “With a little luck, we will be able to establish several populations and greatly increase the viability of this critically endangered plant,” he said.

For Janke, this part of the job is the most rewarding. "Maybe it doesn't sound like much, but I'm excited to come across new plants. The Missouri River has been channelized for a long time, so it's hard to know what plants grew where. When you run across a plant like this you learn something about our natural heritage," he said. "Enrolling these remaining remnants into WRP and WREP protects flora you might not find anywhere else."


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