Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 2, 2018

Contact:  Dr. Robin Silver, (602) 799-3275,
Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681,

Endangered Species Protection Sought for Rare Arizona Wildflower

TUCSON, Ariz.— The Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon Society filed a petition today with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking Endangered Species Act protection for Arizona eryngo, a critically imperiled wetland plant from southern Arizona.

There are only three confirmed surviving populations of the flower, which is at risk of extinction in the United States and Mexico because of groundwater overuse and climate change. The two U.S. populations are found in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area and at the La Cebadilla wetland in Pima County.

“Arizona eryngo and other irreplaceable parts of our natural heritage will be lost if excessive local groundwater pumping isn’t controlled, so we urge the Fish and Wildlife Service to immediately protect this imperiled flower,” said Robin Silver, a Center cofounder and board member.

The rare flower grows only in a specific type of permanently wet spring habitat called a cienega. Cienegas are a special type of wetland unique to the Southwest that provide crucial homes for fish, amphibians, invertebrates and migratory birds within otherwise arid landscapes.

More than 95 percent of cienega habitats have been lost. Both sites where this flower survives are threatened by overuse of groundwater to support sprawling human populations. The plant has been wiped out in New Mexico and from the Agua Caliente Regional Park in Tucson.

Arizona eryngo is imperiled along the San Pedro River as pumping lowers the groundwater table connected to the plant’s wetland habitat. The groundwater pumping overdraft in the Fort Huachuca-Sierra Vista area is more than minus 5,000 acre-feet per year, with all recent hydrology studies predicting the demise of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area if the unsustainable pumping continues.

“Saving Arizona eryngo is important because it’s an indicator plant for the health of imperiled desert wetland habitats that many plants and animals rely on,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center. “The eryngo’s conspicuous flowers are of high value for many pollinators, including hummingbirds.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service must evaluate today’s petition and publish a finding within one year on whether protection for the plant may be warranted. If the initial finding is positive, the flower will receive a status review that will result in either a proposal for listing or a finding that listing is not warranted.

Arizona eryngo is in the carrot family and can grow to be more than 5 feet tall, with large, cream-colored spherical flowers. It is also called ribbonleaf button snakeroot, and its scientific name is Eryngium sparganophyllum. The Arizona Native Plant Advisory Group ranks Arizona eryngo as one of the most endangered plants in the state.

Arizona eryngo photo by Elizabeth Makings

Butterfly on Arizona eryngo. Photo by Elizabeth Makings. This image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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