Apr 11, 2023 - News

Texas wildflower designated as threatened

A bracted twistflower. Photo by W.D. and Dolphia Bransford via the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

A rare wildflower native to the Austin area will be listed as threatened on Tuesday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Driving the news: The feds are proposing conservation of the bracted twistflower by prohibiting removing, cutting, digging up, damaging or destroying the species.

  • Some of the flower's critical habitat is in Travis County, per the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The big picture: Some of the Austin area's fiercest battles, dating back decades, have involved the listing of endangered songbirds, especially the golden-cheeked warbler.

  • Habitat protections — including limits on development — follow from threatened or endangered designations, typically making the listings of plants and animals a political fight as much as a scientific one.

Yes, but: No opposition to the wildflower listing is expected, per Beth Ullenberg, a deputy assistant regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Details: Bracted twistflower is an annual plant that blooms in spring and bears showy, lavender-purple flowers that provide nectar and pollen for native bee species.

  • The Endangered Species Act defines as threatened "any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range."

What they're saying: "This is a species that could be recovered within a few decades if its remaining habitats are managed appropriately," Chris Best, the Texas state botanist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement.

  • Best said many populations of the flower have been lost to development, browsing by white-tailed deer and the encroachment of juniper, which cuts down available sunlight.

Between the lines: Bracted twistflower persists as seeds that may remain dormant in the soil for years.

  • Consequently, the plant may occupy a site but remain undetectable until favorable weather coaxes the seeds to germinate, per the Fish and Wildlife Service.

What's next: The final listing goes into effect 30 days following the date of publication in the Federal Register.


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