In Search of Long Island Rare Plants 4 – Sandplain Gerardia

From Steve Young, NY Natural Heritage.

In August and early September I searched grassland habitat on Long Island for Sandplain Gerardia, Agalinis acuta.  There are only a few sites left on Long Island for this federally endangered plant but some new sites have been established by planting seeds in the last decade. With the help of volunteers Rich Kelly, Mike Feder and Carole Ryder we explored known grasslands and some new sites to see if sandplain geradia has been overlooked recently.  Unfortunately we did not see any new populations but saw other interesting plants during our search.  Most of the native grassland areas on Long Island are small and are now growing up to shrubland since active management has been reduced in recent years by budget cuts and other factors.  Here are some of the plants and habitats we saw.

Our quarry. Flowers of Agalinis acuta are pink and have a notch in the upper margin. Photo Carole Ryder.

The Hempstead Plains is a remnant of a much larger grassland in Nassau County that is now hemmed in by development. It is a managed preserve and contains Agalinis acuta.

A small population of green milkweed, Asclepias viridis, still survives there despite nearby invasive species.

Here is a closeup of the distinctive flowers.

A federal grassland refuge in Sayville contains the largest population of Agalinis acuta in New York

This plant of Agalinis in bud shows the narrow branches and leaves.

Also here are large populations of goat's-rue, Tephrosia virginiana, with its twisted pods.

It also contains one of the largest populations of stargrass, Aletris farinosa, a state-rare plant in the Lily family. Its tall stalks of white flowers turn to tan fruit in late summer.

Butterfly weed is another chacteristic plant of these grasslands. Its orange flowers and erect pods are hard to miss.

The old grass airstrip and surrounding shrubland openings of Montauk airport seemed like a good place to find Agalinis.

No Agalinis but there was another pink flower here, on the Natural Heritage watch list, cross-leaf milkwort.

The tops of the eroded bluffs at Camp Hero at Montauk Point contain grassy openings that could harbor Agalinis (there are small populations on bluffs to the west) but they turned out to be too small or too weedy.

The bluffs are covered with maritime shrubland.

The light blue fruit of Bayberry, Myrica pensylvanica, are common here.

As are the bright yellow flowers of golden aster, Chrysopsis mariana.

They are so photogenic!

Below the lighthouse is a small grassland area but no Agalinis.

Turn around and you see one of the state's most recognizable landmarks.

When exploring shrublands and grasslands at this time of year we had to put up with the masses of tiny red larval ticks that can end up on pant legs looking for their first blood meal. Fortunately they don't contain disease but can leave an itchy bite. They are often confused with chiggers which probably don't live in New York.

On the way back to home base I stopped to check on a population of whorled-pennywort, Hydrocotyl verticillata, in Montauk. Its small white flowers are in multiple tiers above the round peltate leaves. Some years the water is so high here the plants are not visible but this year they were easily seen.

Explore posts in the same categories: Rare Plant Surveys

One Comment on “In Search of Long Island Rare Plants 4 – Sandplain Gerardia”

  1. Kimberly Smith Says:

    Nice photos– Love the green milkweed!

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