One of the most spectacular Pinelands flowers, if you are lucky enough to find one, is the Swamp Pink, (Helonias Bullata). This perennial evergreen herb is one of the more unusual members of the Lily family.
The Swamp Pink is found only in the coastal states from New Jersey to Georgia. Throughout its range, it blooms from March into June. New Jersey is home to 70 percent of the entire Swamp Pink population.
A large flower bud can be seen in a basal rosette of oblong, parallel-veined leaves. As a hollow, yellowish, leafless stem grows from this rosette, the flower bud at its tip develops into a fragrant, egg shaped cluster of 30 to 60 tiny blossoms. Each blossom is composed of six tiny pink petals encircling deep blue anthers (the part of the flower that contains the pollen). This often gives the flower head an overall lavender hue.
During the flowering stage, the stem can reach a height of four feet as the fatty seeds develop. However, most propagation occurs through the thick rhizome-like roots. The starchy roots and the fatty seeds are a popular food source for a variety of animals and insects, including deer and ants.
Being “evergreen,” the leaves persist throughout the winter as a reddish-brown rosette flattened to the ground. In the spring, as the flower stalk grows and the large bud forms, new bright green leaves also emerge from the center of the rosette. As they mature, the leaves take on a darker shade and can reach a length of 16 inches.
Swamp Pink requires regularly saturated, spring-fed, nutrient poor soils. It must also have stable water levels. It can only tolerate brief periods of flooding.
The flower is listed as federally threatened due to habitat loss or destruction. Development can prove fatal because of pollutant runoff or sedimentation. Vehicular or foot traffic is especially deadly.
For this reason, the stunning Swamp Pink is difficult to find and doesn’t thrive in easily accessible areas. Its survival is dependent on these hidden locations.