Plants of Southern New Jersey

Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River & Its Tributaries
Photos by Renee Brecht    Plants of Southern NJ: Home Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River 

Plant Profile

Helonias bullata

Swamp pink

Swamp pink Helonias bullata
Photo by Renee Scagnelli Britton and Brown. See credits below.
Botanical name: Helonias bullata
Common name: Swamp pink
Group: Monocot
Family: Liliaceae
Growth Type: Forb/herb
Duration: Perennial
Plant height: 1'-2'
Flower color: Bright pink, lavender pink, or lilac, with blue stamens
Flower size: Dense, terminal spike; flowers 1 cm. wide
Flowering/fruiting time Flowers early April to mid-May
Habitat: Atlantic white cedar swamps and hardwood swamps
Range in New Jersey: Swamps of the Pine Barrens, Middle and Cape May districts.
Heritage rank if any State rank is threatened; federally endangered, listed CMP.
Misc.: Leaves are evergreen. Begins to bloom when the "spike is almost sessile in the center of the rosette of narrow spatulate leaves, but the scape lengthens rapidly" (Stone 341).


      • This species historically ranged from New York State to the southern Appalachian Mountains. The largest percentage of extant groups is found in New Jersey but the species is also locally abundant at other sites in the Mid-Atlantic region (NatureServe 2001).
• Found in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia (WWF 1990)

Number Left
      In 1990, there were over 65 populations confirmed (population sizes ranging from 1 to 5,000 rosettes) in New Jersey, the state with the highest concentration of populations remaining (Peterson 1990).

Ecological Relationships

      • Seeds have fatty appendages on them, assumed to be eliasomes, suggesting that ant dispersal (myrmechochory) may be a means of seed dispersal for the species. (Sutter 1982)

 Current Research Summary
      • Godt et al. (1995) measured the genetic diversity of 15 populations and found greater diversity in some of the smallest ones suggesting that they might be relict groups.
• Sutter (1984) published a status report on the species in the southern Appalachians and described the species breeding system. Swamp pink is self-compatible with prolific seed production. However, browsing can reduce reproductive output and the poor dispersal and lack of suitable sites for germination severely restrict recruitment.

Current Management Summary
      The recovery plan for this species was completed in 1991 and several tasks are in progress including research on genetics, habitat requirements, the impact of disturbances, the development of conservation plans, searches for additional sites and the enforcement of regulations protecting swamp pink habitat (North Carolina Ecological Services 2002). The USFWS and the EPA helped to protect a population from hazardous waste remediation activities at a Superfund site (North Carolina Ecological Services 2002). The Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and its Tributaries. Inc. has funded research to locate populations near this NJ river (CU 2002). Baltimore Washington International Airport has altered forest management plans to protect a stand of swamp pink at the end of one of their runways (McCord 1985). Several government agencies and horticultural and nature groups have also been involved in monitoring populations."

Center for Plant Conservation

Resources: Adopt A Swamp Pink Population

US Fish & Wildlife Swamp Pink Species Account

Center for Plant Conservation Plant Profile

EFlora's Plant Profile
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