For Immediate Release, September 10, 2013
Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017
Two Texas Plants Protected Under Endangered Species Act
1,500 Acres in East Texas Conserved as Critical Habitat
HOUSTON— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protected two rare East Texas plants under the Endangered Species Act today. The Texas golden gladecress was designated as endangered and the Neches River rose mallow as threatened, a slightly less urgent category. The Service also designated 1,519.5 acres of protected critical habitat for the plants, in Cherokee, Harrison, Houston, Nacogdoches, Sabine, San Augustine and Trinity counties. The decisions to protect the plants and their habitats result from a landmark 2011 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 that future generations will still have a chance to study and marvel at these unique plants.”
The Texas golden gladecress, with egg-shaped leaves and deep-yellow flowers, was granted 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. In recent decades the gladecress has lost much of its habitat to quarries and other developments. In 2011 the largest population at the time, consisting of 721 individual plants (two-thirds of the known plants then), was completely obliterated through construction of a pipeline.
The Neches River rose mallow’s creamy white (occasionally pink-tinged) flowers sway on stems several feet tall that grow in saturated soils. It was granted 166.5 acres of critical habitat in 11 locales, including 18 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 came to be endangered because of quarrying, oil and gas drilling and associated pipeline construction, nonnative plants and herbicides. The Neches River rose mallow is threatened because of the proliferation of nonnative species and application of herbicides, as well as because of road projects, changes to streambeds and hydrology, and drought that is increasing because of global warming. Both plants had been waiting for federal protection since 1997. The Center petitioned for protection of both species in 2004 and sued for their protections in 2006.
In 2011 the Center and the Fish and Wildlife Service reached a settlement to speed protections for all the species on the candidate waiting list as of 2010, as well as a host of other species that had been petitioned for protection.
Texas golden gladecress, Leavenworthia Texana (Nacogdoches, 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, Nacogdoches 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 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.