Texas wildflower designated as threatened
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.
More Austin stories
No stories could be found
Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Austin.