For Immediate Release, September 10, 2012
Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360
Two Texas Plants Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protection
1,500 Acres in East Texas Proposed as Critical Habitat
HOUSTON— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed two rare East Texas plants for protection as endangered today: the Texas golden gladecress and Neches River rose mallow. It also proposed to designate 1,541 acres of protected critical habitat for the plants in Cherokee, Harrison, Houston, Nacognoches, Sabine, San Augustine and Trinity counties. The proposed Endangered Species Act protection comes as a result of last year’s landmark settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity to expedite federal protection decisions for 757 species across the country.
“These exquisite flowers grow only in a few special places, including the soggy oxbows along the Neches River, in Davy Crockett National Forest, and the rocky outcrops of shallow, alkaline soils in the pine woods,” said the Center’s Michael Robinson. “Endangered Species Act protection means they’ll get a safety net to prevent extinction and will benefit from science-based recovery plans to ensure they not only survive but thrive.”
The Texas golden gladecress, with egg-shaped leaves and deep-yellow flowers, has lost much of its habitat to quarries and other uses in recent decades; only three populations are known to remain. Last year the largest population, consisting of 721 individual plants (two-thirds of the known plants at the time), was completely obliterated through construction of a pipeline. The gladecress will receive 1,353 acres of critical habitat in four locales, primarily on privately owned land but including 21 acres of state and county rights-of-way along roads.
The Neches River rose mallow’s creamy white (occasionally pink-tinged) flowers sway on stems several feet tall that grow in saturated soils. It will receive 188 acres of critical habitat in 11 locales, according to the proposal, including 20 acres of state land along road rights-of-way, 47 acres on the Davy Crockett National Forest, and 95 acres owned by Stephen F. Austin State University, whose Mast Arboretum planted 96 Neches River rose mallows at Mill Creek Gardens in 1995 to help perpetuate the declining species.
The Texas golden gladecress is threatened by quarrying, oil and gas drilling and associated pipeline construction, nonnative plants and herbicides. The Neches River rose mallow is similarly threatened by nonnative species and herbicides, as well as by road projects, changes to stream-beds and hydrology, and drought that may increase due to global warming. Both plants have been waiting for federal protection since 1997. The Center petitioned for protection of both species in 2004 and sued for their protection in 2006.
Today’s announcement by the Service opens a public-comment period on the proposed listings, with a final decision due in 12 months.
Texas golden gladecress, Leavenworthia Texana (Nacognoches, Sabine and San Augustine counties): Texas golden gladecress is a weakly rooted, smooth and glossy winter annual (completes its life cycle in one year) in the mustard family. It grows up to 3.9 inches in height, making it difficult to find when it’s not flowering or fruiting. Flowers contain four gold-yellow petals that are slightly darker at their base. The Texas golden gladecress is a habitat specialist that grows only in open, sunny areas on shallow, crumbly, calcium-rich ironstone soils that are wet in winter and spring. It germinates after fall rains and flowers from February through March.
Neches River rose mallow, Hibiscus dasycalyx (Cherokee, Harrison, Houston, Nacognoches and Trinity counties): The Neches River rose mallow is a nonwoody perennial (growing year after year) in the mallow family. It reaches 1.9–7.5 feet tall but dies back to the ground every year and resprouts from the base, while still maintaining aboveground stems. It produces six or seven creamy white flowers generally between June and August, but sometimes only blooming for a day, and inhabits open, wet, low-lying areas within the Neches River basin and Mud and Tantabogue Creek basins including areas within the longleaf and loblolly pine forest. The rose mallow’s seeds flow downstream to colonize stream banks and form new plants.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.