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NATURAL HISTORY

HUACHUCA WATER UMBEL } Lilaeopsis schaffneriana ssp. recurva
FAMILY: Orchidaceae

DESCRIPTION: The Huachuca water umbel is an herbaceous, semi-aquatic, perennial plant with slender, erect leaves that grow from creeping rhizomes. The yellow-green leaves, which are one to three millimeters in diameter and three to five centimeters tall, are cylindrical, hollow, and have septa (thin partitions) at regular intervals. Three to 10 small flowers are borne on each short umbel.

HABITAT: The plant lives in marshy, mid-elevation wetlands surrounded by arid environments. It is found in and near perennial streams and river main channels, as well as backwaters, side channels, and springs.

RANGE: The plant occurs in Arizona’s Santa Cruz and Cochise counties, as well as northern Sonora, Mexico. Its habitats are on the San Pedro River, Santa Cruz River, Rio Yaqui, and Rio Sonora.

LIFE CYCLE: Asexual reproduction from rhizomes is the plant’s main mode of reproduction. It also may reproduce sexually.

THREATS: The Huachuca water umbel is imperiled by the destruction, modification, and curtailment of habitat resulting from wetland degradation and loss, groundwater pumping and growing water demand, livestock grazing, wood cutting, mining, fire suppression, water diversion, dredging, rural and urban development, and recreation. It is also threatened by nonnative plant invasion.

POPULATION TREND: The plant has been extirpated from six of 26 sites in its historical range. Individual plant numbers are difficult to determine.

Photo © Greta Anderson