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Schizachyrium sericatum (Swallen) Gould
South Florida Status: Critically imperiled. One occurrence on a roadside on Ramrod Key.
Taxonomy: Monocotyledon; Poaceae.
Habit: Perennial terrestrial herb.
Distribution: Endemic to South Florida.
South Florida Distribution: Monroe County Keys.
South Florida Habitats: Original habitat unknown, but possibly in pinelands, openings in hammocks, or on coastal berms. Now confined to a single roadside.
Protection Status: Listed as endangered by FDACS and as critically imperiled by FNAI.
Aids to Identification: Hitchcock & Chase (1950) has an illustration.
References: Swallen, 1941; Hitchcock & Chase, 1950; Hall, 1978; Avery & Loope, 1980a; Wunderlin, 1998; Coile, 2000.
Synonyms: Andropogon sericatus Swallen.
Historical Context: W.A. Silveus first collected silky bluestem in 1940 on Ramrod Key (6633, US). This collection was designated as the type specimen when Jason R. Swallen described it as a new species in 1941. No habitat data was specified. It was not seen again until 1995, when Bradley made two collections on roadsides on Ramrod Key (269, FTG; 278, FTG). Fewer than 50 plants were seen. This species was erroneously reported for Key Largo (Hall, 1978).
Major Threats: Mowing; herbicide applications; dumping.
Comments: This is one of the state’s most imperiled plant species. It will be under constant threat of extinction until a population is established within an appropriate habitat in at least one conservation area.
Recommendations: • Survey additional areas on Ramrod Key, including the Ramrod Key Coastal Berm Site. • Map and monitor plants at least annually. • Develop conservation agreement with Monroe County to insure that maintenance personnel do not accidentally kill the Ramrod Key population. • Conduct conservation biology and conservation horticulture studies. • Consider establishing an ex situ collection of germplasm. • Assess appropriateness and study feasibility of introducing silky bluestem to other sites within its historical range, including Ramrod Hammocks, Florida Keys Wildlife and Environmental Area. • Review for listing by USFWS.