Bernheim Rediscovers Rare Plant Species

By Andrew Berry

During an October botanical expedition deep inside Bernheim’s forest, our team discovered two very rare flower species that hadn’t been seen at Bernheim for over 15 years. Yellow ladies tresses orchids (spiranthes ochroleuca) and Porter’s reedgrass (calamagrostis porter). Also discovered for the first time at Bernheim was a highbush blueberry (vaccinium corymbosum). Though common in the northern midwestern states, it is not common to Kentucky.

Finally, we also discovered the resurrection fern (pleopeltis polypodioides) for the first time inside Bernheim. This long-lived species inhabits boulders that have split from the cliffline. It is extremely drought tolerant – experts have estimated that it can live 100 years without water. It can lose up to 97% of its water and stay alive, whereas other similar plants would perish after losing just 10% of their water. The fern is very rare in our region, except on nearly pristine clifflines and boulder fields. Bernheim is one of the most northern regions of its range.

Spotting new and/or revived species is a fantastic sign of the health of our forests at Bernheim. Increasing plant diversity is one of the goals of Bernheim’s ecological stewardship.

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