Marines looking for a few good plants

12 Mar 2001 | Lance Cpl. Charles W. Palmer IV

A plant called Solidago villosicarpa was recently found here which scientists declared a new species, and the Marine Corps is doing its best to protect this resident of the base.

The plant, more commonly known as coastal goldenrod, is known to grow in only four locations in the world, three of which are found in Onslow County on this base, according to Karen Ogden, a wildlife biologist for environmental management division.

The coastal goldenrod is a large, "showy" plant, said Ogden, that grows in pine/hardwood forests near the coast and reaches about five feet in height with numerous flowers nearly an inch wide.

This member of the aster family was first found in 1949-50 along the coast in Brunswick County, but was mistaken for a goldenrod that only grows in the upper Midwest. It was then collected in 1963 in New Hanover County and again was misidentified as another species.

Coastal goldenrod was not seen again until its rediscovery in 1991 after the U.S. Department of Defense requested a natural area inventory on Camp Lejeune by biologists working with the Natural Heritage Trust.

Since then, it has been found at two other sites here, and at a fourth site in adjacent Pender County in 1998.

Although the new species is not on the federal endangered list, it is still important to protect, explained Ogden.

"It is in the Marine Corps' best interest to protect its wildlife," said Ogden. "Whenever anyone looks up coastal goldenrod they'll see that Camp Lejeune's (examples) are representative of the species."

Over the years, the plant has flourished because the taller trees, blocking most of the sunlight, where blown down by hurricanes.

The coastal goldenrod has come a long way to being officially recognized as a new species.

For a plant to become a new species it must go through a peer review-process that results in its description being placed in publications such as "Sida," by the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.

Natural Resource Management makes sure the base complies with all natural resources regulations and manages the conservation of those resources.

"Both historically and currently, Natural Research Management has been supporting the mission while conserving native biodiversity," said Ogden.

Native biodiversity means all the various wildlife and plant life are kept stable as if humans did not populate the area, she added.

Ogden said, by maintaining this vast array of wildlife, plants such as the coastal goldenrod can continue to exist. These plants grow only near the coast, which is prime real-estate and is often heavily populated. Coastal development destroys their natural habitat. Most of the coastal regions of Camp Lejeune remain in their native state, untouched by development or training.

Ogden added, "It is important to maintain the ground on which (Marines) train, so that training can continue without restrictions placed upon them by outside agencies."

So far no restrictions have been placed on training areas where Marines train, explained John Townson, director of Fish and Wildlife branch, EMD. "Military training has not been affected by the coastal goldenrod's. They aren't marked or tagged so most Marines wouldn't know they were any were around the goldenrod."
In addition to the lower populated coast, we have the element of fire, both prescribed and those caused by military training, which keeps shrubs down allowing smaller plants to prosper, said Ogden.

Camp Lejeune will continue to safeguard its diverse wildlife by preserving all life, not just those protected by the federal government.