Floristic Research

SGI is leading the charge to identify the types of grasslands of the southeastern U.S. and their research needs. High on our list of priorities are nearly pristine grasslands that have escaped degradation up until now and grasslands at risk of extinction due to active threats. Our researchers, most of whom are students, have been working to document the species and ecology of these rare grasslands. 

 
 
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poorly explored Riparian grasslands of appalachia

SGI researchers have completed surveys of four remote Southern Appalachian river gorges across Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama that harbor rare, riparian grasslands known as Cumberland Riverscour. These grasslands have received little prior exploration because they are located in deep, rocky, river gorges. SGI researchers have documented more than 500 native plant species from these rare grasslands, including dozens of rare species and nearly a half-dozen undescribed species. Many riparian grasslands were destroyed upon being inundated by the construction of reservoirs in the 1920-40s.

 

globally rare wet limestone glade grasslands

Research by SGI staff and students has led to a complete reassessment of how we view rocky limestone grasslands of central Tennessee, southern Kentucky, and northern Alabama. In the past few decades, many of these rocky grasslands, which are known as limestone glades, have been lost to rapid urban sprawl and limestone quarrying. Research revealed that many limestone glades, though often quite dry during summer and fall, contain wetlands that are well developed in spring. Limestone glades are now being given serious consideration in the environmental review process as a result of our work.

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Southern appalachian mafic glades

We are partnering with the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program to survey rare rocky grasslands found on low mountains along the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. Recent fieldwork has led to the discovery of at least two new plant species. Some of these rare montane grasslands have already been lost to construction of upscale residential development.