Conservation Partners Save Georgia Aster from Endangered Status

Purple Georgia aster flower in the foreground and some in the backgroun

Georgia aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum) is a wide-ranging, but rare, purple-flowering plant found in the upper Piedmont and lower mountain regions of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The plant has been a candidate for the federal endangered species list since 1999. On September 17, 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that Georgia aster does not require federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, a decision reflecting years of conservation work by myriad partners.

In May 2014, nine partners that included the Forest Service along with other federal, state and local agencies, a power company and a university, signed a Candidate Conservation Agreement in which they committed to proactive conservation actions to ensure the plant’s survival. Those actions include searching for new populations; monitoring known populations to estimate trends; and thinning forests with Georgia aster to provide ample sunlight.

 

A bee collecting pollen from Georgia Aster flowers

Georgia Aster is found on the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia in the Lake Russell Wildlife Management Areas on the Chattooga River Ranger District and John’s and Horn Mountain areas on the Conasauga Ranger District. Find wildflower viewing areas in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests and other in the southeast.

A smooth coneflower in foreground as a ground fire in the background removes competing vegetation.

To maintain and expand Georgia Aster habitats, the Forest Service and partners mangage vegetation to control competition from woody species, treat invasive plants, and plant Georgia Aster. Prescribed fire is one tool used to improve and maintain these habitats.

Widely spaced longleaf pines and an open forest floor provide good habitat for the Georgia aster

Managing for healthy forest benefits Georgia Aster and many other species.  In 2014, the Forest improved Georgia Aster habitat and surrounding area by reducing the tree canopy in cooperation with Soque River Spurs Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and Georgia Department of Natural Resources (NWTF Superfund Grant).  This open forest will provide better habitat for Georgia Aster, Smooth Coneflower (Federally listed), and Wild Turkey.  A few other species that will benefit include Northern Bobwhite, White-tailed Deer and the rare Bachman’s Sparrow.