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First Ever Survey at Beltsville Farm Reveals Some Rare Species

By Hank Becker
July 18, 2000

A new comprehensive survey of the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville (Md.) Agricultural Research Center reveals some interesting rare plants and great plant diversity.

Annotated List of the Flora of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, Maryland provides both scientific and selected common names for 901 native and naturalized plant species. The list includes data on the habitats and frequency of occurrence of 13 lichens, 71 mosses, 24 ferns and fern-like relatives, 7 pines and pine-like relatives, and 786 seed plant species.

The book was compiled by Agricultural Research Service botanist Joseph H. Kirkbride, three retired ARS scientists (E. E. Terrell, R. F. Whitcomb, and R.W. Spjut) and University of Maryland-College Park plant systematist James L. Reveal and graduate student Mat T. Cimino. The 89-page book inventories plants found at the 6,866-acre research farm operated by ARS and located in Prince George's County, about 6 miles from the District of Columbia.

According to Kirkbride, the farm's location makes it an important and unique ecological niche--an environment where the floras of the Atlantic Coastal Plain and the Piedmont Provinces meet. Over the years, the plant flora has been described and documented with herbarium specimens. But a complete list of plants that occur in this area has never been published.

About 141 (17 percent) of the total number of species of vascular plants at the Beltsville Center are designated as "rare." Twelve species (1.5 percent) are designated as "rare or infrequent." Many are invasive Eurasian plants. Others are native species that may be scarce or rare in Maryland. The survey revealed the recent absence or reduction of two formerly more frequent species--the ladyslipper and false solomon's seal.

While supplies last, single copies can be obtained from Kirkbride. Multiple copies can be purchased from the National Technical Information Services, 5285 Port Royal Rd., Springfield, VA 22161; phone (703) 605-6000. ARS is the chief research arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scientific contact: Joseph H. Kirkbride, Jr., ARS Systematic Botany and Mycology Laboratory, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-9447, fax (301) 504-5810,

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