For Immediate Release,
June 21, 2022
ATLANTA— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed today to protect the Ocmulgee skullcap as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Only 19 populations of this rare flower remain in Georgia and South Carolina, with many of these having fewer than 20 individual plants.
The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Service to protect the Ocmulgee skullcap in 2010, and in 2020 filed a lawsuit on behalf of the flower.
“Protecting the Ocmulgee skullcap also helps protect beautiful riversides and forests in Georgia and South Carolina, which benefits everyone,” said Elise Bennett, deputy Florida director and attorney at the Center. “Safeguarding habitat along the Ocmulgee and Savannah river corridors is critical to saving this lovely little flower.”
Adorned with soft blue-violet petals and a white-striped lower lip, the Ocmulgee skullcap is a member of the mint family. It grows in moist, calcium-rich soil on north facing river bluffs in the Ocmulgee and Savannah watersheds.
The Ocmulgee skullcap is threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation from urbanization and silviculture, competition from non-native invasive plants, browsing or trampling by growing populations of white-tailed deer, and climate change.
The National Park Service is considering the Ocmulgee River corridor, one of the two watersheds where the skullcap is found, for potential inclusion as a part of the national park system. The Park Service cites a rich human history and biodiversity as key features of the river corridor.