The bright green plants with needle-like leaves were growing in about 3 inches of water. “They seem very happy,” Rickard said. With their branched roots, they anchor themselves in the thin soil at the pool’s bottom.
Rickard noted that this is the first artificial pool created for mat-forming quillworts, and the knowledge gained from it will help create new quillwort habitat elsewhere. (A similar effort is under way for a related endangered species, the black-spored quillwort.)
Plum Creek, which owns the Greene County outcrop, promises to protect the site and is partnering with state and federal biologists to create other habitats on company property.
The fragile pools in which the quillworts grow form naturally over thousands of years, Rickard explained. By excavating artificial pools, “we are speeding up nature,” he said.
Though never very abundant, the mat-forming quillwort has been decimated by rock quarries that mine granite for road-paving and building materials. Vandalism, off-road vehicle abuse, dumping, foot traffic, siltation and pollution also have taken a toll.
The quillworts planted in the artificial pool are descendants of plants removed a year ago from a natural pool threatened by a rock quarry. The rescued plants were taken to the State Botanical Garden in Athens, where botanists propagated them in a greenhouse. The state garden also will provide quillworts for other new habitats.
IN THE SKY: The moon will be last quarter on Thursday, said David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer. Mercury is low in the east just before sunrise. Jupiter is very low in the west at dusk. Saturn rises out of the east just after dark. Venus and Mars aren't easily seen right now.