Rare Arizona wildflower protected under Endangered Species Act

Jun 12, 2022, 9:00 AM
(NRDC photo)...
(NRDC photo)
(NRDC photo)

PHOENIX — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protected the Arizona eryngo, a wetland wildflower, under the Endangered Species Act on Thursday.

The cream-colored, spherical flowers only exist in four remaining populations in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts in Arizona and Mexico.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a species can be listed as endangered if it is “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range” or is “likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”

The Arizona eryngo is imperiled due to groundwater pumping leading to water loss, habitat alteration and overgrazing by livestock, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Center for Biological Diversity. Climate change a key instigator, as well.

The Center explained the southwest is hotter and drier than it has been historically, and thus precipitation and soil moisture has decreased.

More than 95% of cienega habitats, or desert wetlands, in the southwest have dried up, alienating the few remaining populations of Arizona eryngo.

In response, the Service designated 12.7 acres of protected cienega habitat east of Tucson at La Cebadilla (3.1 acres) and the Lewis Spring in the San Pedro National Riparian Conservation Area southwest of Tombstone (9.6 acres).

“I’m so glad these big, beautiful plants and the rare cienega habitats where they live are getting these badly needed protections,” Robin Silver, cofounder and board member at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “The eryngo gives us one more reason to save the San Pedro River.”

The protection of the Arizona eryngo comes in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon Society.

“It is under high magnitude imminent threat of extinction due to habitat degradation from declining groundwater levels, drought, and climate change,” the petition explained. “This petition seeks Federal protection for the critically imperiled species.”

The protections went into effect on Saturday.

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Rare Arizona wildflower protected under Endangered Species Act