Every three years, a group of botanists from across the state of Tennessee gets together to discuss and propose changes to the official state list of rare plants. There are three formal categories — endangered plants (most vulnerable to extirpation), threatened, and special concern — and an informal watch list of others. The group met at Cumberland Mountain State Park this week to make recommendations. These will go to the state legislature and become law, as part of the Rare Plant Protection and Conservation Act of 1985. The current list includes plants that are rare state-wide, on the federal level, and globally.
So once every three years I am privileged to sit with botanists from across the state — Tennessee’s Rare Plant Scientific Advisory Council — to make important decisions about the protection of our most vulnerable plant species , based on the council’s collective knowledge, herbarium records, and database information — quite an honor! The Natural Heritage Division of Tennessee’s Department of Environment and Conservation takes it from there. They are charged with implementing the law, publishing the list, and monitoring plant populations. This information is used by governmental agencies and private concerns in making management and land use decisions.