Helonias bullata (swamp pink) is a rare perennial rhizomatous herb native to the eastern United States, the only known species in the genus Helonias. The root system is extensive in comparison to the apparent size of the plant on the surface. Blooming in March to May, its fragrant flowers are pink and occur in a cluster at the end a vertical spike which may reach up to 3' in height. It has evergreen, lance-shaped, and parallel-veined leaves ranging from dark green to light yellow green in color that form a basal rosette.
Swamp pink is a federally threatened species that was historically distributed from Staten Island, New York to the southern Appalachians. Currently, New Jersey supports the largest and most numerous populations, but there are populations in six other states: Delaware; Maryland; Virginia; West Virginia;North Carolina; South Carolina, and Georgia. There is also some unverified indication that a population of swamp pink has survived on Staten Island. Populations of swamp pink are on occasion subject to poaching by plant enthusiasts and others who prize the early bright pink blooms. Unfortunately, the poached plants likely do not survive their move owing to the high sensitivity to being removed from the water saturated environment, underestimation of the size of the root mass, and failure to replicate the necessary environment sufficiently.
United States Fish and Wildlife Service has instituted a volunteer monitoring project, “Adopt-a-Swamp-Pink Population”. The program has been further expanded by a joint volunteer effort with Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and Its Tributaries, Inc.. The survey results are shared with U.S.F.W.S. and the New Jersey Natural Heritage database.