Swamp Pink

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Swamp Pink

Helonias bullata

ListedSeptember 9, 1988
FamilyLiliaceae (Lily)
DescriptionA spring-flowering wildflower.
HabitatSwamps and other wetlands.
ThreatsHabitat destruction and degradation by siltation and nutrients, and collecting for use in horticulture.
RangeDelaware, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, South Carolina, Virginia


The swamp pink is an attractive, perennial wild-flower. It has dark evergreen, lance-shaped, parallel-veined leaves that form a basal rosette. The fragrant flowers are colored pink and occur in a cluster of 30 to 50. The flowers arise from a stout, hollow stem, which grows 8-35 in (20-90 cm) tall during flowering, and to 59 in (150 cm) tall during seed maturation. The stout rootstock has many fibrous rootlets. During the winter, the leaves turn reddish brown and lie flat or slightly raised from the ground. A large "button" in the center of the leaf rosette develops into the flowering stem in the following springtime. The three-lobed fruit has an inverted heart shape.


The swamp pink occurs in a variety of wetland habitats, including swamps (forested wetlands) of various kinds, wet meadows, and spring seepage areas. It requires a habitat that is saturated with water, but not flooded. It is usually associated with conifer trees such as Atlantic white-cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides ), pitch pine (Pinus rigida ), American larch (Larix laricina ), and black spruce (Picea mariana ). The swamp pink is somewhat shade tolerant, and needs enough overhead canopy cover to decrease competition with more aggressive under-story plants.


The swamp pink was once found in appropriate habitats in Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia.


The swamp pink has a more restricted range and overall abundance than in historical times. The largest and most abundant populations occur in New Jersey, with 68 sites in 12 southern counties in the Coastal Plain region. Most of the populations are located along the Pinelands fringe in the Delaware River drainage. However, New Jersey once supported more than 100 populations. In addition, Delaware (10 sites), Maryland (6), Virginia (16), North Carolina (8), South Carolina (1), and Georgia (1) support scattered colonies of the swamp pink. The swamp pink has suffered the loss of most of its wetland habitat to urban and agricultural development and timber harvesting. It is also threatened by habitat degradation caused by water withdrawals for irrigation, discharges from sewage-treatment plants, siltation from local soil erosion, and the dumping of nutrients and other chemicals into water. The swamp pink has also been excessively collected in some areas for use in horticulture.

Conservation and Recovery

State and Federal laws protecting wetlands and endangered species have slowed the rate of destruction of wetland habitats. However, it is also necessary to conserve the habitat quality of existing wetlands by preventing erosion and the dumping of nutrients and other degrading chemicals, and by not allowing excessive withdrawals of water for use in irrigation. The swamp pink must also be protected from collection for the horticultural trade. Although some populations occur in protected areas, many do not. Efforts should be made to protect additional populations. This can be done by acquiring the land and setting up ecological reserves, or by negotiating conservation easements.


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
1875 Century Blvd., Suite 200
Atlanta, Georgia 30345

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
300 Westgate Center Dr.
Hadley, Massachusetts 01035-9589
Telephone: (413) 253-8200
Fax: (413) 253-8308

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Jersey Field Office
927 North Main Street, Building D-1
Pleasantville, New Jersey 08232-1454
Telephone: (609) 646-9310
Fax: (609) 646-0352


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 9 September 1988. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Determination of Helonias bullata (Swamp Pink) to be a Threatened Species." Federal Register 53 (175):35076-35079.

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. September 1990. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Endangered Species, Species Accounts: "Swamp Pink (Helonias bullata)." U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Program. (http://endangered.fws.gov/i/q/saq54.html) (Date Accessed: July 6, 2000).