Working with Phil Gibson, OU Departments of Biology and Botany and Microbiology, we are conducting a study on seaside alder (Alnus maritima) restoration.
To a casual observer or trout fisherman, the shrubby tree may not seem particularly special, but the seaside alder is one of Oklahoma’s rare plants, occurring only in the Clear Boggy Creek and Blue River watersheds of south-central Oklahoma. But what makes this tree extra special is the location of the nearest populations of seaside alder – the Mid-Atlantic coast and a swamp in Georgia. The seaside alder has not been found any other place in between!
Although the seaside alder was discovered in Oklahoma over 100 years ago, we know little about how and why it grows where it does and we know little about its reproduction. We have observed that, although, trees produce copious quantities of healthy seeds, we find no seedlings in the wild. The alder population is apparently persisting solely by vegetative reproduction – sending up shoots from spreading underground roots. Unfortunately, vegetative reproduction is not keeping up with tree death and populations are shrinking.