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How Eastern CT researchers could help save an endangered New England wildflower

Northern blazing star wildflower on Martha's Vineyard.
Dr. Bryan Connolly
/
associate professor at Eastern Connecticut State University
Northern blazing star wildflower on Martha's Vineyard.

The northern blazing star flower was never particularly widespread in New England. It likes to grow in specific conditions, such as dry, sandy or rocky open places. Currently, it can be found on Cape Cod and usually in western Connecticut.

But it has been decimated by habitat loss, herbicides and unchecked deer and rabbit populations who love to eat them.

Attempts to repopulate the region with the northern blazing star flower are hampered by its seed's long germination requirements.

Dylan Tillman spent his senior year at Eastern Connecticut State University soaking the northern blazing star seed in a plant hormone to accelerate germination.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
Dylan Tillman spent his senior year at Eastern Connecticut State University soaking the northern blazing star seed in a plant hormone to accelerate germination.

“Normally they need to be what's called stratified. They need to be overwintered," Dylan Tillman, a 2023 graduate of Eastern Connecticut State University said.

So Tillman worked with associate professor Dr. Bryan Connolly to find out if a technique used on echinacea, commonly known as the coneflower, would work on the northern blazing star because they are in the same plant family.

Tillman spent his senior year soaking the northern blazing star seed in a plant hormone called ethephon. His results showed the process can cut down the germination time from 60 days to 14.

Professor Bryan Connolly discusses his work at Eastern Connecticut State University on a process that could help spread an endangered native wildflower, the northern blazing star.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
Professor Bryan Connolly discusses his work at Eastern Connecticut State University on a process that could help spread an endangered native wildflower, the northern blazing star.

“Being able to germinate them much faster means that we can grow them faster, and then introduce them more," Tillman said.

Tillman's research results will be published in an upcoming issue of The Native Plants Journal.

Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. She spent 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN. She joined Connecticut Public Media because it lets her report on her two passions, nature and animals.
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