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New Plant Species and Habitat Near Knoxville

A paper describing the discovery of a new plant species, the Leatherleaf Tassel Rue (Trautvetteria fonticalcarea), was just published by recent UT graduate Aaron Floden (PhD 2017) in the Nordic Journal of Botany. Floden, writing with his PhD advisor Prof. Ed Schilling, also provided the first published description of the unique habitat in which this plant species grows, which occurs along the Powell River just north of Knoxville, Tennessee. Seep drainages formed by springs occur over a unique limestone substrate type in the area, producing small garden-like arrays of grasses and grass-like plants, herbaceous perennials, and small shrubs, but lacking trees. The seeps host other distinctive plants, many of which reach the southern-most extent of their natural ranges and are found in Tennessee only in this distinctive habitat. These include such beautiful plants as the Showy Lady’s Slipper and a form of Grass of Parnassus that may also be new. Floden, who is now on the staff at the Missouri Botanical Garden, has been working with TVA biologist Adam Datillo to compile and map a complete list of seep sites along the Powell River, with an eye toward considering ways to keep them preserved. Some of the larger seep areas may have been partially or completely inundated when Norris Dam was built, but there are still many nice examples. The springs that form the seeps are also utilized as a source of water by local residents. The seeps and their plants are a unique gem in the east Tennessee landscape that are worth saving for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.

The full article can be found here:

Leatherleaf Tassel Rue, Showy Lady’s Slipper, and Grass of Parnassus