Garden News 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 curator of BBG's Native Flora Garden. He has had a lifelong interest in native plants and collaborates with regional botanists and horticulturalists to promote the use of native plants in the landscape.

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Image, top of page:
Bog Asphodel
Narthecium americanum (bog asphodel) in bloom in Webb's Mill Bog in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Photo by Uli Lorimer.
Bog Asphodel
Inflorescence of Narthecium americanum (bog asphodel) up close. Photo by Uli Lorimer.
Bog Asphodel
Narthecium americanum (bog asphodel) seed heads in the summer. Photo by Uli Lorimer.