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Recovery Strategy for Hoary Mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum incanum (L.) Michx.) in Canada [Final Version]


11.  Ecological and Technical Feasibility of Species Recovery

Based on current knowledge of the Hoary Mountain-mint, it is considered that recovery of this species is technically and biologically feasible.  

The number of stems per plant is a good indicator of plant age and vigour.  Crins (1986) felt that Hoary Mountain-mint was reproducing largely through vegetative means.  This is possible, although the species is producing viable seed in sufficient quantities for reproduction.  It is possible that germination requirements are not being met.  In addition, competition with native and non-native shrubs may be reducing the amount of reproduction through seed. Hoary Mountain-mint is known to be self-compatible, so the lack of a nearby population should not affect the probability of sexual reproduction (Chambers 1961, 1962). It is not known whether this species maintains a viable seed bank.

Ideal habitat conditions include areas where natural disturbance and succession of open habitat by woody vegetation are minimal (Obee 1994).  A limited amount of suitable, uncolonized habitat is present in the area.  Since this species occurs mainly on the south-facing slopes of the Burlington Bluffs, the available habitat is very restricted.  Also, succession and the introduction of invasive species have eliminated much of the suitable habitat for this species.  There is potential for the reintroduction of this species in some suitable areas, but prescribed burning or manual shrub removal would have to be undertaken in order to prepare the habitat.  

Herbaceous species found in relatively open areas within wooded lands are often gap-colonizers, which benefit from natural disturbances such as windthrows, fire, and erosion within a mosaic of successional stages (Obee 1994). Alteration of this natural process may result in a successional stage dominated by mature woody vegetation of uniform age and the elimination of Hoary Mountain-mint. However, recovery potential of populations should be good as long as a seed source of Hoary Mountain-mint is present near newly available habitat.  Since the bluffs are currently not maintained and development is not possible, there is potential for the restoration of adjacent areas to create suitable habitat using a management plan that includes a prescribed burn. 

This species is currently being propagated through the Seed Bank Pilot Project at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, Ontario, and seed has been collected and stored in a seed bank.  In addition, the RBG has grown and outplanted approximately 400 plants in a demonstration prairie garden for educational/seed collection purposes.  It would be beneficial to transplant some of the plants grown in 1999 to sites with low stem counts in order to secure the survival of this species at those locations.  Growth of this species in ex situ populations indicates that it has high germination rates (83% under suitable conditions) as well as high survival rates.  Vigorous root growth has also been observed in specimens grown in captivity (P. O'Hara, pers. comm.).  

12.  Recovery Goal

The long-term recovery goal for this species is to ensure that the extant populations are protected with no further losses of habitat or populations.  In addition, in order to allow for the potential reintroduction of self-sustaining populations to historical locations, it is imperative that proper management practices be implemented in portions of the recovery habitat of this species.


13.  Recovery Objectives

Objective 1: Ensure protection of the habitat of extant populations through implementation of appropriate management techniques

            Strategy 1 Annual monitoring of existing populations and habitat

            Strategy 2 Promotion of stewardship and awareness among landowners and the public

            Strategy 3 Habitat mapping with Ecological Land Classification (ELC) standards and                                Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program (CLTIP) guidelines

            Strategy 4 Invasive species removal at existing sites and monitoring

Objective 2: Increase population size of existing populations to self-sustainable levels

            Strategy 1 Determination of species requirements

            Strategy 2 Collection of seeds and propagation of plant material

            Strategy 3 Planting (augmentation) or site maintenance to increase population size at

                            selected areas, if required

Objective 3: Investigate feasibility of restoring recovery habitat and reintroducing individuals to historical sites

            Strategy 1 Investigation of the effects of prescribed burning

            Strategy 2 Investigation of possibilities for species reintroduction

The recovery objectives for this species place great emphasis on ensuring protection of extant populations. The success of these efforts can be measured through ongoing monitoring of populations and threats, assessment of habitat conditions, and evaluation of the effectiveness of management, stewardship, and education programs.

14.  Approaches for Meeting Recovery Objectives

A wide range of strategies and approaches are recommended for achieving the short-term and long-term recovery goals for Hoary Mountain-mint in Canada.  A summary of recommended activities for species recovery is provided in Table 3. Each type of activity is categorized according to its priority, actions, and anticipated effects.


Table 3.  Strategies and Approaches for Recovery

PriorityObjectiveStrategyBroad ApproachThreats AddressedSpecific StepsAnticipated Effect
Critical11Yearly monitoring Monitor population annually and maintain database of the data collectedOngoing assessment of population status
Necessary 1Yearly monitoringSlumpingMonitor effects of slumping on populationsDetermine if there is a need for bank stabilization
Critical 2Habitat protection

Accidental destruction,

Dumping, Succession, and Fire suppression

Educate landowners and municipalities about species presence, threats, and management optionsEnhanced protection for areas that are recognized as endangered species habitat
Critical 3Habitat mapping Map current and potential habitat with ELC standardsImproved understanding of habitat and its characteristics, provision of information for habitat protection, and identification of potential habitats for introduction
Critical 4Invasive species removalInvasive speciesRemove invasive species at existing sitesPrevention of the loss of populations through encroachment
Beneficial21Population studies Determine species requirementsIdentification of life history attributes, germination requirements, ecological niche, studies of genetic variation should be initiated
Beneficial 2Propagation Collect seed and propagate plant materialProvision of plants that can be used as a basis for further studies
Necessary 3ReintroductionSmall population sizeIncrease population size at selected areas through planting (reintroduction) or site maintenanceProvision of plants to augment numbers and ensure genetic variability in natural populations
Necessary31Habitat restorationSuccession and Fire suppressionInvestigate effects of prescribed burning on Hoary Mountain-mintBurning may increase habitat quality and suitable habitat available for species reintroduction
Beneficial 2PropagationSmall population sizeInvestigate possibilities for reintroductionDetermination of the suitability of reintroduction in historical habitats

15.  Potential Impacts of Recovery Strategy on Other Species/Ecological Processes

Hoary Mountain-mint tends to occur with many prairie/savanna affiliates, including:

Scientific Name             Common Name           Provincial Rank

Andropogon gerardii       Big Bluestem                S4

Anemone cylindrica         Thimbleweed               S4

Asclepias tuberosa           Butterfly-weed             S4

Aster laevis                      Smooth Aster               S5

Aster oolentangiensis      Sky-blue Aster           S4

Elymus canadensis          CanadaWild-rye            S4 S5

Helianthus divaricatus    Woodland Sunflower     S5

Lespedeza capitata          Round-headed Bush-clover    S4

Monarda fistulosa           Wild Bergamot                        S5

Panicum virgatum           Switchgrass                            S4

Quercus velutina              Black Oak                             S4

Schizachyrium scoparium    Little Bluestem                   S4

Most of these species have a rank of S4 in Ontario.  Further inventory of the habitat at these sites may reveal more species that are considered rare in Ontario (S3 or above).  For example, Few-flowered Club-rush is an Endangered species that occupies similar habitat. 

Any management practices put in place for Hoary Mountain-mint would be expected to have a positive effect on all of the species listed above and on the existing habitat.  Much of the habitat along the Burlington Bluffs is being overrun with invasive species, and management processes/activities that focus on the removal of invasive species will be especially important. 

16 .  Evaluation

Performance measures for evaluation of the success of the approaches to recovery set out in this strategy will include the extent to which goals and objectives have been met, specifically:

Objective 1

1)     All populations have been monitored in a consistent manner for at least 3 consecutive years; monitoring results indicate stable or increasing populations.

2)     Landowners and the public are aware of the presence of the species and its importance and are participating in recovery.

3)     All habitat has been mapped using ELC and CLTIP mapping guidelines.

4)     Invasive species have been removed for at least one site and effects have been assessed.

Objective 2

1)     Species’ requirements for germination and survival have been determined.

2)     Seeds have been collected and stored in a gene bank.

3)     Propagation experiments have been completed.

4)     Population sizes for at least two small sites have been increased to more than 10 plants through planting or habitat improvement.

Objective 3

1)     Effects of prescribed burning have been assessed for this species through research and experimentation.

2)     Historical sites have been assessed for suitability of reintroduction by seed or plantings.

17.  Recommended Approach/Scale for Recovery

The small amount of area that constitutes the current habitat for this species can be easily managed as its own entity, and distinct management practices relating specifically to the habitat requirements of Hoary Mountain-mint should be considered.  

Coordination with the Few-flowered Club-rush (Trichophorum planifolium)recovery team and strategy should be investigated because these species share some similar threats and habitat requirements.  Additionally, both species may benefit from the same recovery actions.  

The Hoary Mountain-mint was originally considered a part of the Tallgrass Communities of Southern Ontario (Rodger 1998).  Although it is not considered a prairie species, Hoary Mountain-mint occurs in tallgrass prairie sites due to its affinity for dry, open habitats. Other Pycnanthemum species (P. verticillatum var. pilosum, P. virginianum, P. tenuifolium) are considered prairie affiliates and are listed under the Tallgrass Communities Recovery Strategy (Rodger 1998). The extreme degradation of the Hoary Mountain-mint habitat and the lack of other species at risk in the area may make the species an unsuitable candidate for recovery under the auspices of the Tallgrass Communities Recovery Strategy.  However, this option should be explored in further detail through discussion with members of the tallgrass recovery team. 

18.  Anticipated Conflicts or Challenges

No major conflicts or logistical difficulties are anticipated that would interfere with the realization of the short- and long-term goals and objectives of the recovery strategy for this species.

19.  Statement of When One or More Action Plans in Relation to the Recovery Strategy will be Completed

An Action Plan will be prepared by the recovery team, if necessary with the assistance of a Recovery Implementation Group (RIG), by 2009.  It will address research needs, monitoring, site management, and restoration.

20.  References Cited

Argus, G.W., K.M. Pryer, D.J. White, and C.J. Keddy. 1982-87. Atlas of the Rare Vascular Plants of Ontario. 4 parts. National Museum of Natural Sciences, Ottawa, Ontario. Looseleaf.

Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada.  2004.  Hoary Mountain-mint.  Environment Canada,

Species at Risk website.   Available:

Chambers, H.L.  1961.  Chromosome numbers and breeding systems in Pycnanthemum         (Labiatae). Brittonia 13: 116-128.

Chambers, H.L. 1962. Experimental studies in Pycnanthemum (Labiatae). Am. J. Bot. 49: 674.

Crins, W.J.  1985.  Conservation Recommendations for Hoary Mountain-mint

Pycnanthemum incanum (L.) Michx., an endangered species in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.  2 pp.

Crins, W.J.  1986.  Status Report on the Hoary Mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum incanum)

in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.  Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa.  Unpublished report.  18 pp.

Crins, W.J.  1989.  Status of the Hoary Mountain-mint, Pycnanthemum incanum

(Lamiaceae), in Canada.  Canadian Field-Naturalist 103(2): 283-286.

1Foster, Steven, and James A. Duke.  1990. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of

Eastern and Central North America.  Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

Grieve, Mrs. M., and Mrs. C. F. Leyel (eds). 1996. A Modern Herbal: The Medical, Culinary, Cosmetic

and Economic Properties, Cultivation and Folklore of Herbs, Grasses, Fungi, Shrubs and Trees with All Their Modern Scientific Uses. Barnes & Noble Inc.

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Heagy, A. (ed.).  1993.  Hamilton-Wentworth Natural Areas Inventory Volume II: Site

Summaries.   Hamilton Naturalists Club, Hamilton, Ontario.

Lee, H.T., W.D. Bakowsky, J. Riley, J. Bowles, M. Puddister, P. Uhlig, and S. McMurray. 

1998.   Ecological Land Classification for Southern Ontario: First Approximation and its Application.  Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Southcentral Science Section, Science Development and Transfer Branch.  SCSS Field Guide FG-02.

NatureServe.   2005. NatureServe Explorer Version 4.6.  NatureServe. Arlington, Va.  Available: http:// (Accessed: December 6, 2005).

NatureServe.   2002.  Element Occurrence Data Standard. NatureServe.  Arlington, Va.  Available:  (Accessed: December 6, 2005).

Obee, E.M.  1994. Element Stewardship Abstract for Pycnanthemum clinopodioides.

State of New Jersey, Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks and Forestry, Office of Natural Lands Management.Available:

O'Hara, P.  2001.  Preliminary Surveys and ELC Habitat Summaries for Hoary Mountain

Mint, Pycnanthemum incanum (L.) Michx. var incanum, on the Burlington Bluffs in Hamilton and Burlington, Ontario.  Royal Botanical Gardens.  Unpublished report.  3 pp.

O’Hara, P.  2002.  (publication name removed to protect the location identity). 

Oldham , M.J.  1997.  COSSARO Candidate V,T,E Species Evaluation Form, Hoary

Mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum incanum).  Unpublished report.  7 pp.

Oldham , M.J.  2000.  Element Occurrence Records of the Hoary Mountain-mint

( Pycnanthemum incanum) from the Database of the Natural Heritage Information Centre, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Peterborough.  2 pp.

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.  1998.  Guidelines for Mapping Endangered Species Habitats

 Under the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program. Natural Heritage Section, Lands and Natural Heritage Branch, Ministry of Natural Resources, Peterborough, Ontario.

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. 1999. Natural Heritage Reference Manual for Policy 2.3 of the Provincial Policy Statement. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Peterborough.  127 pp.

Rodger, L.  1998.  Tallgrass Communities of Southern Ontario: A Recovery Plan.  World

Wildlife Fund and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.  66 pp.   

United States Department of Agriculture, NRCS. 1999. The PLANTS database

 ( . National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA.

White, D.J.  1997.  Update Status Report on Hoary Mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum

incanum ).   COSEWIC.  5 pp.