New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection is fighting to preserve an endangered grassland herb from extinction.

State Office of Natural Lands Management Administrator Bob Cartica describes the state's last remaining wild population of American chaffseed as "a very showy, attractive plant. It looks a lot like a snapdragon, but you are not going to find it in your local nursery or big box retailer. It is extremely rare."

The flowering plant species is native to New Jersey. It grows as far south as Florida and as far north as Massachusetts. It used to grow in 16 states but has disappeared from almost half of them.

"There are five other plants listed in the endangered act in New Jersey, but they are all in threatened status. This is like the highest-ranking, federally listed species that exists in New Jersey," Cartica said.

He says New Jersey is protecting the chaffseed growing in Burlington County on state lands by burning away surrounding plants to give it more sun.

"We receive some support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in terms of funding to monitor and manage the species," he said.

"Various volunteer groups, including New Jersey Conservation Foundation, and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, cooperated with us in removing shrubs and competing vegetation. And then finally, the New Jersey Forest Service staff removed some trees and girdled some other trees surrounding the location where the plant occurs to increase sunlight and it reduces the transpiration, the moisture that is removed from the groundwater through the trees."

Cartica says their intent is to prevent the species from going extinct, and New Jersey is playing a role in that.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5

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