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Endangered Running Buffalo Clover Finds a Home in West Virginia

Photo of Typical post-harvest stand conditions that have supported long-term running buffalo clover persistence. Tom Schuler, USDA Forest Service. Inset: Running buffalo clover flower (Trifolium stoloniferum). Sarena Selbo, US Fish and Wildlife Service.Typical post-harvest stand conditions that have supported long-term running buffalo clover persistence. Tom Schuler, USDA Forest Service. Inset: Running buffalo clover flower (Trifolium stoloniferum). Sarena Selbo, US Fish and Wildlife Service.Snapshot : Running buffalo clover was once thought to be extinct but was rediscovered in 1983 and is now classified as a federally endangered species. It is still rare but grows on the Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia. Forest Service researchers found that periodic partial harvesting appears to sustain the required habitat needed by this endangered species.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Schuler, Thomas M.  
Research Location : West Virginia
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2013
Highlight ID : 482

Summary

Over the past 20 years, Forest Service scientists working on the Fernow Experimental Forest have been trying to understand the growing requirements of running buffalo clover - Trifolium stoloniferum - a member of the legume family, the only native white clover in the eastern United States, and a federally endangered species. However, on the Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia, which has a long history of forestry research practices, it is relatively abundant. Interestingly, when George Washington was surveying western Virginia (now West Virginia) over 200 years ago, he noted abundant white clover. Some think that running buffalo clover was formerly associated with the now-extirpated woodland bison. Anecdotal evidence suggests that both ground and canopy disturbance play an important role in creating the conditions needed by running buffalo clover. When these scientists analyzed over a half century of harvesting records from the experimental forest in conjunction with current running buffalo clover abundance and occurrence data, they found that the total number of forest harvest events since 1948 was the most important predictor of running buffalo clover presence or absence. Locations on the experimental forest with five or more disturbances since 1948 were much more likely to harbor running buffalo clover. When the disturbance interval stretched to 20 years, there was very little chance of supporting the clover.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Monongahela National Forest
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, West Virginia Department of Natural Resources
  • West Virginia University

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