UWA’s Keener discovers new, rare species of mint in Talladega Mountains of Alabama

UWA Professor Dr. Brian R. Keener

LIVINGSTON, Ala.—Dr. Brian R. Keener, professor of Biology at the University of West Alabama, and Samford University Professor Lawrence J. Davenport have discovered and named two new species of hedge-nettles from Alabama. Their findings have now been published in the Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, an international botanical journal specializing in taxonomy, systematics, and floristics primarily in the Western Hemisphere.

Hedge-nettles are a large group of plants in the mint family (Lamiaceae) that are classified in the genus Stachys [stay-keez]. The two new species, Alabama Hedge-Nettle (Stachys alabamica [al-uh-bam-i-ka]) and Nelson’s Hedge-Nettle (Stachys nelsonii [nel-sone-eee-eye]), appear to be extremely rare Alabama endemics both occurring only in the Talladega Mountains of east central Alabama in the Talladega National Forest.

Alabama Hedge-Nettle (named after the state of Alabama) occurs in the sandy alluvium of a half mile stretch of Cheaha Creek in Clay County. Nelsons’s Hedge-Nettle (named after hedge-nettle expert John Nelson, botanist at The University of South Carolina) is only known from a single population in rocky woods on Horn Mountain in Talladega County.

“Alabama’s biodiversity is full of surprises,” Keener explained. “Not just in plants, but new, never-before-named species among unrelated groups continue to be discovered. It is amazing what is still out there just waiting to be found.” In addition to his faculty role at UWA, Keener is also a research associate at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, located in Fort Worth.

Representative specimens of the two new species will be curated in the University of West Alabama Herbarium. Images and data will also be available on the Alabama Plant Atlas (floraofalabama.org).

The Alabama Plant Atlas is a joint effort by the Alabama Herbarium Consortium (AHC) and UWA, established to provide users with a comprehensive searchable database of plants that occur in the state of Alabama.

With more than 3,000 species of native pteridophytes and seed plants, Alabama is the ninth most floristically diverse state in the United States. The flora of Alabama contains more than 4,000 taxa when native and naturalized species are considered. The Alabama Plant Atlas provides a source of information for each species including the distribution within the state using historical and recent data.

For more information on Keener’s research or the Alabama Plant Atlas, contact him at bkeener@uwa.edu or by phone at 205-652-3796.

Stachys nelsonii

Stachys alabamica