Plants & Gardens Blog

Fieldwork: Bog Asphodel

Bog asphodel (Narthecium americanum) grows in sunny, low-lying wetlands like those found in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. It produces deep yellow, tightly clustered, star-shaped flowers in late spring, which fade to reveal crimson seed capsules in the summer and fall. It was once common along the central and southern East Coast, but due to habitat loss, it is now considered imperiled globally, extirpated from Delaware, and is listed as endangered in New Jersey and North Carolina.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, in collaboration with the Center for Plant Conservation, has made important progress toward the conservation of bog asphodel. In addition to yearly monitoring of extant populations, BBG has collected seeds this year from populations on Department of Defense lands in the Pine Barrens.

Those seeds have been banked at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center in Staten Island and are currently being propagated at BBG for education and display. Mature plants will be planted in the Native Flora Garden this year. Seeds and living plant material have also been used to support phylogenetic research on the genus Narthecium at the University of Osnabrück in Germany. Drawing on historical and herbarium records, BBG continues to search for new populations of this plant.

Uli Lorimer is director of Horticulture at Garden In The Woods, in Framingham, Massachussettes. Previously, he was curator of BBG's Native Flora Garden.

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Image, top of page: Uli Lorimer