For Immediate Release, October 23, 2013

Contact:  Jaclyn Lopez, (727) 490-9190 or

Three Florida Plants Threatened by Sea-level Rise Receive Endangered Species Act Protection

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— As part of a settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Endangered Species Act protection today for three Florida plants threatened by sea-level rise: the aboriginal prickly apple, Florida semaphore cactus and Cape Sable thoroughwort. Most populations of the plants are at, or just above, mean sea level.

“These native plants are being squeezed out of existence — pressed between coastal development and rising sea levels,” said Jaclyn Lopez, a Center attorney based in Florida. “Protection under the Endangered Species Act will give them a role in South Florida’s planning for rising seas.”

The aboriginal prickly apple is found in Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties, among coastal strand vegetation and tropical coastal hammocks. Most of the 12 coastal sites would likely be wiped out by sea-level rise.

The Florida semaphore cactus is found naturally in Biscayne National Park and on Little Torch Key. Sea-level rise may already be contributing to the plant’s decline as rising seas increase soil salinity in its buttonwood forests and rockland hammocks.

The Cape Sable thoroughwort is found in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, mainly in Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys. Seven of its 11 locations will be inundated by the 1- to 6- foot sea-level rise expected this century. One foot of sea-level rise would substantially inundate mainland habitat in Everglades National Park and completely inundate habitat in the Florida Keys.

The decision is part of a historic settlement agreement signed with the Center for Biological Diversity that requires expedited decisions on protection for 757 species around the country.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Go back