Pityopsis ruthii, Ruth's Golden Aster, is an endangered herbaceous perennial that is endemic to small sections of the Hiwassee and Ocoee Rivers in the southeastern US. Our objective was to test the effect of bonded fiber matrix (BFM) on establishment and fecundity of Ruth's Golden Aster in order to develop a robust restoration protocol. We augmented existing populations with plants grown from achenes collected at each restoration location. We monitored plantings through 3 growing seasons by measuring stem number, stem height, leaf number, flowering incidence, and number of flower heads per plant in the spring and fall of each season. We assessed survival at 1 month post-planting. We randomly assigned plants at each location to a treatment (BFM vs. no BFM) for analysis as a randomized complete-block design. Germination rate of filled seeds, number of acclimated seedlings, and percent of seedlings planted after 14 days of acclimatization differed significantly across sites. Survival was significantly higher at 1 month, fall year 1, spring/fall year 2, and spring year 3 for the plants mulched with BFM compared to the control. However, there were no significant differences between treatment for stem number, stem height, leaf number, flowering incidence, or final 3-year survival. The methods developed herein represent a major step towards meeting the recovery-plan objective of developing the ability to establish Ruth's Golden Aster on suitable habitat. Herein, we provide a framework for augmentation or restoration of critical populations threatened by extirpation.
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Vol. 17 • No. 1