Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 11, 2016

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017,

Endangered Species Act Success Story:
Salty South Texas Shrub Recovered and Taken Off Endangered Species List

SILVER CITY, N.M.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that efforts to recover the Johnston’s frankenia have been successful, and the salt-loving south Texas and northern Mexico shrub is being removed from the list of endangered species. The plant was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1984, providing immediate protection to its habitat and spurring a cooperative effort by the Fish and Wildlife Service, ranchers and the Texas departments of transportation and of parks and wildlife to successfully recover the plant.

Johnston's frankenia

“The Johnston’s frankenia has recovered thanks to the Endangered Species Act and to the conscientiousness of landowners and state and federal and other scientists who worked to conserve part of Texas’ botanic heritage,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Endangered Species Act brought people of good will together and resulted in limits to brush-clearing, protection from highway right-of-way mowing, and countless hours of field research that underlies today’s ‘thumbs-up’ for the plant’s future.”

When placed on the endangered list, Johnston’s frankenia was known from only five sites in Texas and one in Mexico, and only 1,000 plants were counted. Today there are 68 populations in Texas and four in Mexico, and more than 4 million plants.

Informed of the endangered plant’s presence, ten landowners protected their frankenia populations from brush-clearing, herbicides and overgrazing. The Texas Department of Transportation also installed reflectors along a highway right-of-way to prevent mowing of a group of the frankenia.

“This is yet another Endangered Species Act success story,” said Robinson. “This great law has prevented the extinction of more than 99 percent of the species under its protection and put hundreds of species like Johnston's frankenia on the road to recovery.”

Johnston’s frankenia occurs in hyper-saline soils in Webb, Zapata and Starr counties in Texas, and in northeastern Mexico in the states of Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and Tamaulipas. It is a low-growing shrub with white flowers and a distinctive blue, green appearance and wiry branch structure. 

Johnston’s frankenia (Frankenia Johnstonii) is a grayish or bluish green woody shrub inhabiting highly saline soils. It turns crimson red in late fall and when stressed for water. Its stems and leaves have tiny hairs, and the undersides of its leaves extrude salt.

Johnston’s frankenia flowers from April to November, most often following rainfall, with an exquisite corolla of five white petals cupped around a yellow center. Thousands of these flowering shrubs are clumped together amidst thorny plants in the remote and scorching south Texas plains.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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