Biologist finds ‘holy grail’ of rare plant in Wisconsin, last recorded in 1958

Local News

Green violet, a species last documented in Wisconsin in 1958, was found this spring on a State Natural Area in west central Wisconsin by DNR Conservation Biologist Ryan O’Connor.
Photo courtsey of Wisconsin DNR

(WFRV) – Hybanthus concolor was last documented in Wisconsin in 1958, but a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation biologist Ryan O’Connor found the plant growing by the hundreds in west central Wisconsin.

Hybanthus concolor is a green violet that was found in a State Natural Area (SNA), and when it was last collected in 1958 it was taken from a site in Grant County. The DNR says the site in Grant County was impacted by grazing and the species was thought to no longer grow in Wisconsin.

The DNR provided some facts about the green violets:

  • Green violets are native to the eastern United States. Wisconsin is at the northern edge of the green violet range.
  • Most violets have white, yellow or purple petals and green sepals, but green violet has much less show flowers.
  • Like other violets, green violet has a gelatinous substance, called elaiosome, attached to its seeds.

“It really drives home several things, including that there are still important things to discover on State Natural Areas and that our SNAs are vital to the conservation of plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else in the state,” says O’Connor.

Wisconsin SNAs play an important role in protecting rare plants and wildlife, as 75% of wildlife species listed in Wisconsin as threatened or endangered, and 90% of state-listed plants are supported on SNAs, according to the DNR. The SNA sites are owned by the DNR and more than 50 partners, and its primary purpose is to maintain the natural heritage for future generations.

The DNR says they use the inventory survey information to inform master plans determining how to manage properties and prioritize the attention they receive.

Visit the DNR’s website for more information about SNAs.

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