A budding effort by Marie Selby Botanical Gardens could help to preserve three rare plant species found on Longboat Key.
Botanist Bruce Holst told the Longboat Observer that his organization is working with the town and management at the Water Club to collect seeds or cuttings from plants with the goal of propagating them at Selby.
“At Selby, on the bay shore, especially, we have a native representation of coastal plantings, and we have the opportunity to educate visitors about native species,” Holst said. “We’re trying to complement that with plants immediately native to this area.”
Two of the species are located on a four-acre nature preserve at the Water Club condominium: the Crossopetalum rhacoma, a shrub commonly known as the maidenberry and the Harrisia aboriginum, referred to as the aboriginal prickly pear.
A third species, the Maytenus phyllanthoides, or the Florida mayten, is found at the town’s Quick Point Nature Preserve.
The Water Club’s maidenberry plants are the northern-most population of the species in the world. The closest population is located 180 miles south, in Monroe County.
“There’s a small population sitting there vulnerable to storms and vulnerable to the impacts that have been caused by development, so one of the targets is to bring that into conservation,” said Holst, who noted that when plants are as isolated as those at the Water Club, the species can diverge slightly.
The aboriginal prickly pear is a candidate for inclusion on the federally endangered list of plant species, because just 500 to 1,000 of the cacti remain in Southwest Florida — the only place in the entire world where the species can be found.
The Florida mayten plants at Quick Point could represent the northern-most population in the state and is included on the state’s list of endangered plant species.
Selby is seeking permits for the effort, which won’t involve uprooting any plants and could obtain them in the next couple of weeks. Ideally, the effort would culminate in new populations of all three rare species someday flourishing at Selby Gardens.