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Rescue of Rare Plants

Lance Leaf Violets and the Superheroes Saving Them 

Sept 2019

The rare plants were doomed without options… until a group of volunteers swooped in to gather them. The bulldozers where taking out trees and moving earth in preparation for a new housing development. With just a few days notice, the group of about 20 scientists, gardeners, interns and citizens met at the development site in mid-August to gently scoop and gather lance leaf violets.  The plants were then taken to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum for proper cleaning and transplanting.  On Sept 20th many of the same volunteers will gather to put the rare plants into the ground at their new home- the Blaine Wetland Sanctuary.  

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and MinnesotaWildflowers.info, the lance leaf violet was “listed as a State Special Concern species in 1984 and elevated to Threatened in 1996, due to habitat loss. Most of its natural habitat is within the Anoka Sandplain, and has been largely destroyed by development.” 

We may call the suburbs and towns north of Minneapolis and St. Paul the “north metro” but the Blaine, Centennial, Lino Lakes area and larger is geologically known as the Anoka County Sandplain.  When glaciers were ameltin’ 10,000+ years ago sand was deposited.  Layers, landforms, lakes and even pockets were left behind. Ice chunks left pockets that developed into lakes and even specialized wetlands called a “fens.”  The housing development mentioned above was home to unique plants because of the unique geology combined with water flow.  That’s called hydrogeology. The sandy soil and pockets of peat are places where rare plants like the lance-leaf violet will thrive.  

Why biodiversity? It may be cheaper to move existing plants than trying to propogate new ones.  Thank you to the scientists, gardeners, interns, and citizens that are volunteering time and expertise to live out this idea.   Nature has been intertwining species with the land, air, and water for thousands of years.  There are millions of discoveries, but also trillions of things yet to be discovered (or uncovered)! Unfortunately humans can untangle, destroy, remove that interconnectedness rather quickly.  It costs less to keep than try and restore a site back to it’s untouched state.  Face it, the beauty and function of biodiversity is not just for the rainforest or coral reef system- it’s also where you live. Economically, it’s wise to keep it rather than try to get it back.

It’s not cattails or swamp monsters!  What is so special about wetlands, this violet and fens?  How wonderful that wetland areas reduce flooding and filter water. The specialized wetlands called fens, do that AND create unique habitat for plants, pollinators and other critters. Blaine Wetland Sanctuary is in the north metro area and has that unique “hydrogeology” with the flat, sand plain and underground water flow.  The ideal habitat for the threatened lance-leaf violet is a fen, which is a type of palustrine wetland that also supports sedges, grasses and wildflowers in acidic peat….all thanks to that sand plain and underground water flow.  There are 5 main types of wetlands:  marine (as in ocean), tidal (as in tidal zone), lacustrine(as in lakes), palustrine (as in marshes) and riverine (as in rivers).  That’s according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Cowardin wetland classification system they use for the National Wetlands Inventory.  Want to see it and learn more?  Check out Blaine Wetland Sanctuary (https://www.blainemn.gov/1387/Blaine-Wetland-Sanctuary) year round for a hike or a virtual tour. Go ahead and take in the wonders wetlands, biodiversity, and conservation.

Play. Learn. Love.

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