Manatee Co. vineyard trying to save rare flower - WFLA News Channel 8

Manatee Co. vineyard trying to save rare flower

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Florida Golden Aster Florida Golden Aster
MANATEE COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

The Florida Golden Aster is a beautiful wildflower only found in the Tampa Bay region, but now it's at risk of vanishing forever.

State wildlife officials are trying to save the rare flower from extinction, and a local winery is helping out in a major way.

"For us, it's the right thing to do," said Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery owner Larry Woodham.

Larry and his wife Lenora have donated precious grape real estate to plant 100 Florida Golden Asters.

Larry Woodham said, "We may never see this plant come off the endangered species list. But if we don't do the right things today... it may disappear."

The Florida Golden Aster is extremely rare.  The only spot on earth where they're found is in the Tampa Bay area.

The plants need a specific sandy habitat to survive. 

"You can't just collect seeds and throw them anywhere on the planet and then expect them to do well," said Bok Tower Gardens rare plant specialist Juliet Rynear.

On Thursday, Rynear and other specialists from Bok Tower gardens planted more than 100 Golden Asters at the vineyard.

This project to save the species is a unique partnership between this private vineyard and US Fish and Wildlife.  The two entities will split the costs, and Bok Tower will maintain the plants for 10 years as they grow and hopefully flourish.

"They grow three, four feet tall so they will bush out, they'll fill in, they'll spread and hopefully we have them coming up everywhere," said Lenora Woodham.

The owners are giving up land that could be used to grow more grapes and make more money, but if this act of generosity saves the species, then they feel it's all worth it.

"If we can save this plant and it doesn't go extinct and it does come back and it does thrive and our kids and grand kids can come one day and see it, what does that mean? It means a whole lot!" said Larry.

The public is welcome to see the plants being raised at Bunker Hill Vineyard.

The flowers are expected to bloom later this fall.  When that happens the owners are planning to hold a big dedication ceremony.

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