Pyne’s Ground Plum

Biologists are working hard to protect some rare plants with beautiful flowers and colorful fruit that can only found in the rocky terrain of Tennessee cedar glades.


While many people aspire to greatness and long for recognition, not everyone gets something named after them. Milo Pyne sure did. Milo is an ecologist who accidentally discovered something rare and endangered one day back in the 1980s. It’s a small flowering plant with a unique fruit that is found only in one Tennessee county. Today the plant known as Pyne’s Ground Plum is at the center of an effort to preserve it and the special habitat in which it lives. Wild Side Guide Alan Griggs takes us to Rutherford County and one of the last remaining limestone cedar glades in the world.

Since we aren’t sure we would have the patience to meticulously measure, count, and tag all those little plants, we are certainly glad the hard-working folks with TDEC’s Natural Areas Program and the Missouri Botanical Garden do have the patience, because there’s much more work to be done to ensure this plant’s future. So far only nine populations of the Pyne’s Ground Plum have been found. To be recognized as a recovering plant, researchers need to find at least sixteen populations.

Pyne’s Ground Plum (Astragalus bibullatus) is federally listed as endangered. It is currently known to live in only eight specific sites, all located within approximately 15 miles of one another, in an area encompassing approximately 90 square miles. This rare plant grows on the edges of limestone cedar clearings and in the open areas of surrounding cedar woodlands in full to moderate light. A member of the pea family, the Pyne’s ground-plum is a perennial, surviving for more than two growing seasons. The plant produces beautiful purple flowers in early spring (April/May) followed by plump fruits in late May to early June. The fruits turn from green to a reddish color and rest on the ground as they mature.

From show 3005


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