This Conservation section serves to supply members with information on issues pertaining to the conservation of native plants and habitats on public and private lands in New Mexico. We offer this information to assist interested individuals in learning about the laws, agencies and programs involved in plant related issues. Involvement provides the catalyst for change that can benefit our native heritage.
- Center for Plant Conservation
- New Mexico Biodiversity Collections Consortium The NMBCC Gateway to New Mexico Biodiversity NMBCC has integrated museum data at the University of New Mexico, New Mexico
State University, Western New Mexico University, and Eastern New Mexico University into a searchable geospatial format accessible via the Internet
- New Mexico Rare Plants NMRPTC OverviewThe New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council’s (NMRPTC) primary goal is to develop an internet version of a rare plant inventory with information on the basic biology and conservation status of New Mexico’s approximately 190 rare plants. Photographs, line drawings, and distribution maps accompany the written reports. The reports are edited to preclude inclusion of sensitive information, such as detailed location data, which might further endanger rare species.
- The National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) Invasive Species Information Node
- Invasive weeds of the Southwest
- Native Plant Conservation Campaign
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s “Conservation Showcase“
Articles and press releases
- Where Have All The Botanists Gone?, by Jim McGrath
- Botany:The Death of a Science in American Education, by Jack Carter
- Saving the San Juan Badlands, by George Miller
- Rooted in Place: Roadside Plant Rescue Honors Desert Plants, by Sandra Lynn. Wildflower, a publication of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas Summer 2008 issue
- Conserving the Process – Lessons in Plant Ecology, by Jim Nellessen
- The Ecological Balance: Natives vs. Non-natives, by Jim Nellessen
New Mexico Contacts
Giant hawk moths fly for miles each night in search of flower nectar — and are thus critically important as pollinators of desert wildflowers. Dr. Chris Martine joins Krissa Skogen (Chicago Botanic Garden) in New Mexico’s White Sands National Monument and finds plant romance happening by the light of the full moon.
Of those who cherish the plants native to the Land of Enchantment, there are few unaffected by the small and simple word IVEY. Thousands have paged through his Flowering Plants of New Mexico while puzzling over a plant in the field. For all of us, his passing on June 23 was a sobering tragedy. As I write this, I place him among the greatest souls I have known, the consummate gentleman, the softest purveyor of knowledge, always unwilling to be special.
Robert DeWitt Ivey was born on October 8, 1923, in Tampa, Florida, but the Iveys actually lived in Plant City, about 15 miles east of Tampa. When he was five, his father accepted a job as a newspaper editor in Jacksonville, and the family relocated. There, young Ivey attended public schools, but the process of education was always under his own management. Early on he became fascinated with reptiles, animals, and birds. By the time he graduated from Robert E. Lee High School, he also knew that he had a quiet passion for drawing and art. The future was inescapable.
In 1941 he enrolled at Florida Southern College (now Florida Southern University) in Lakeland, Florida, just five miles east of Plant City. That December the United States entered World War II. DeWitt was ineligible for service because of his height (6’8″). In the fall of 1943, he transferred to the University of Florida at Gainesville, planning to major in English. Later in his junior year, after a chance meeting with a mammalogist, he decided to take extra courses in order to graduate with a double major, English and biology. In the spring of 1945 he graduated magna cum laude. He was valedictorian of his class and became a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He stayed on at Florida and in the spring of 1947 received a Master of Science degree in mammalogy.
That summer he decided to seek employment. After sending out a number of applications, he received a job offer from the University of New Mexico and was intrigued by the prospect. For two academic years he served as an instructor in the biology department there, but felt a need to pursue a PhD. He spent a year in graduate school at the University of Michigan but chose not to continue his studies. After a year at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, he became homesick for New Mexico and by the fall of 1951 was teaching biology at Albuquerque High School. In 1959 he transferred to Sandia High, also in Albuquerque, where he taught biology for the next 31 years.
He loved to take his students on field trips to study and trap mammals, but concerns about potential health problems became a limitation and he began concentrating on plants. He began making study units for his students with his own illustrations. In 1982 he married Vivian Porter. In 1983 they put together the first edition of Flowering Plants of New Mexico. Over the years they traveled all over the state collecting and studying plants. Four more editions of the book appeared, culminating in the fifth in 2008. Flowering Plants of New Mexico is by far the most consulted plant reference in the state. Countless fresh and tattered copies rest in the hands of plant enthusiasts all over New Mexico.
He officially retired from the classroom in 1990. He donated his extensive mammal collection to UNM. His bird collections went to Adams State College in Alamosa, Colorado. Recognition of his achievements and contributions began even before his retirement. In 1963, he was designated Science Teacher of the Year for New Mexico by the National Science Teachers Association. The following year, the NSTA selected him as Science Teacher of the Year for Region 7 (a five-state area containing NM). In 1993 the New Mexico Chapter of The Nature Conservancy awarded him with their Aldo Leopold Conservation Award. In 1995 he was given the Sigma Xi award for his dedication to the teaching of science. In Santa Fe in 2003, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson formally recognized his decades of contributions to science and teaching in the state. NPSNM presented him with a lifetime membership in honor of his efforts.
Robert DeWitt Ivey always chose to adore the process of living and to grasp each moment fully. Tales abound. He built a catamaran to sail the lakes of New Mexico. He dabbled in taxidermy. He taught ballroom dancing. He developed his own style of mammal trap. He spent the decades since his “retirement” working to make the vast natural universe real and accessible for those around him. He gave countless talks all around the state and was always willing to help others with identification of their plants. In 2012, in conjunction with Dr. Kelly Allred of New Mexico State University, he published Flora Neomexicana III: An Illustrated Identification Manual, a book that allows botanists to determine the genus and species of any vascular plant known in New Mexico.
His mark on the natural history of this state is indelible.
~ Gene Jercinovic
The Department of Biology and College or Arts and Sciences (NMSU) are pleased to announce the recent hire of Dr. Patrick Alexander into a half-time postdoctoral position as curator of the Department’s Herbarium (NMC). This two year position and University support for the herbarium is, in part, the result of many years of donations to the herbarium endowment and current use accounts. In particular, donations from numerous individuals and organizations made a big difference in the University’s decision to open such a position. We would like to thank these individuals and organizations (particularly the statewide NPSNM as well as the Otero and Las Cruces Chapters) for their support and hope that you will all be pleased to see the outcome of this generosity.
This development means that we can now offer public open hours for herbarium access to facilitate plant identification, botanical research related activities, literature use, and outreach activities to the region. The herbarium will now be open to the public from 8:30am to 5pm on Mondays and Tuesdays. However, as there may be days when Patrick is out of the museum or when school groups are occupying much of the collection, it is still best to contact Patrick or myself if you plan on traveling to Las Cruces to use the herbarium. More information about the herbarium, use of the collection, and visitation can be found on http://biology-web.nmsu.edu/~
Dept of Biology Herbarium, NMSU
Holy Ghost Ipomopsis (Ipomopsis sancti-spiritus) – a 2012 update (by Jim McGrath)
On July 29, 2012 I joined state Division of Forestry botanist Daniela Roth, former state Division of Forestry botanist Bob Sivinski, UNM rare plant botanist Phil Tonne and 3 others at 2 sites of the 2011 Holy Ghost ipomopsis plantings in Holy Ghost Canyon adjacent to the Pecos Wilderness. These plantings are part of the recovery program for this federally listed endangered species. I can report that our half day visit clearly indicated that the plantings we made in 2011 were doing quite well. The majority of the plantings were in flower at the time of our visit. Our purpose on this visit was to prepare a seedbed for certain portions of the plantings. As part of the recovery program for this endangered species we needed to remove the organic material (litter and duff layers) so that mineral soil would be exposed. In nearby areas of this “experiment” the organic material remained untouched. Botanical researchers want to know under what conditions the Holy Ghost ipomopsis reproduces best. Does mineral soil enhance germination and successful reproduction? Does the organic material (litter and duff) inhibit or encourage successful germination and reproduction? The ecology of this endangered species is discussed in detail by Phil Tonne in an article published in the Newsletter in 2011*.
Later in August Daniela documented more thoroughly the response from the 2011 plantings. She found that 84% of the 640 plants planted at the two 2011 treatment sites were alive in 2012. And 92% of those surviving plants were flowering. A total of 57% of the survivors were browsed in the 2 plots. Deer are presumed to be the browsing culprit, but elk or rabbits may be involved. There were no tracks or droppings observed.
Just because a plant is in flower does not necessarily mean it is reproducing. The flowers need to produce seeds. Because of the large degree of browsing impacts observed in August 2012 and the associated late flowering of plants that compensated for the browsing damage, Daniela returned to the two study sites in late September to determine the number of adult plants that had mature or maturing seed capsules. Only 52% of the total number of flowering plants produced mature or maturing capsules on one site, while 94% of the total number of flowering plants produced mature or maturing capsules at the second site.
According to Daniela more study is needed to determine what effect browsing has on the production of mature seeds.
*Tonne, P. 2011. “Painting the Canyon Pink: Efforts to Recover the Endangered Ipomopsis sancti-spiritus.” Newsletter of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico Vol. XXXVI No. 4: 6-7.
August 31, 2012
Very likely the readers of this essay have never heard of the Leoncita false–foxglove. That’s because it is known from only two locations – one in Texas and one in New Mexico. And New Mexico botanists only became aware that this species is very rare sometime after 2007.
The Leoncita false-foxglove is an annual plant with linear leaves and pink flowers about an inch long that resemble the common garden foxglove (Digitalis purpurea). The species is a member of the broomrape family (Orobanchaceae). The plant occurs only in alkaline wetland habitats derived from gypsum and limestone that are permanently saturated with water. These wetland habitats often stand out as green jewels within the larger dry and drab-colored plant communities of the desert southwest. Such wetland habitats are often referred to as ciénegas. These gypsum and limestone-based ciénegas are unique and rare themselves in the desert southwest. They are also home to several federally listed endangered and threatened plant and animal species, which are entirely dependent on this very specialized habitat. You can learn more about the Leoncita false-foxglove on the New Mexico Rare Plant website. All of the information about this species portrayed in this essay has been derived from a single document written by former New Mexico Division of Forestry botanist Bob Sivinski (Sivinski 2011) which can be viewed here (PDF).
As mentioned above, the Leoncita false-foxglove is known from only two locations. In New Mexico the plant has been found only in Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The federally threatened Pecos sunflower (Helianthus paradoxus) and Wright’s marsh thistle (Cirsium wrightii) occur side by side with the Leoncita false-foxglove at Bitter Lake. Populations vary from year to year but have been in the hundreds or thousands. In Texas, the plant has been found at the Diamond Y Spring, now a Nature Conservancy Preserve about 7 miles NNW of Fort Stockton. The preserve is already home to 5 federally listed plant or animal species. Historic plant collections have been made of the Leoncita false-foxglove at two locations in Coahuila,Mexico. The common thread connecting the four locations is the presence of very large wetland complexes or very large springs. However, the springs in Mexico have been drastically altered by urban and agricultural development. Therefore, the Leoncita false-foxglove is very likely no longer present in at least one of the locations in Mexico.
The Case for Endangered Status
We in the Native Plant Society of New Mexico feel that the Leoncita false-foxglove should be established as an endangered species. Although the species is persisting at two places where protection is already provided, we believe that endangered status is necessary for several reasons:
1. The Preserve Protection Fallacy. Just because a species is found within a preserve does not mean it is adequately protected. Proper protection within that preserve implies proper management that specifically focuses on needs of the species whose existence is in jeopardy. Proper management may not be consistent over the years. There is also the possibility that some natural or unnatural event may permanently alter the unique characteristics of the habitat required for continued survival of the species.
The most serious threat to the habitats protected by Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Diamond Y Spring Preserve is depletion of the ground water supply that is the lifeblood of the cienegas. Many springs and ciénegas in the southwest have either dried up or the amount of ground water feeding them has been drastically reduced from what it once was due to agricultural and urban usage. The original Leon Spring near the Diamond Y Spring ceased to flow around 1958 due to excessive ground water pumping. A recent proposal was made to pump 47,418 acre-feet of water per year from a nearby west Texas aquifer.
Ground water pumping may also be a serious threat to false-foxglove populations at Bitter lake NWR. The New Mexico state engineer’s office hydrologist stated in 2005 that current ground water pumping levels would not affect the spring flows at Bitter Lake NWR unless drought conditions become greater than historic drought conditions. However, the implications of global warming suggest that these drought conditions will be exceeded in the future.
Another factor involves the management at Bitter Lake NWR. The refuge has been historically managed for waterfowl and in 1995 the refuge began to focus on management of the Pecos sunflower, which at the time was proposed for listing as a federally endangered species. The refuge has a network of ditches, canals and impoundments that have resulted in the fragmentation of the natural cienegas at Bitter Lake. The original ciénega has been fragmented and altered to the point there is likely less suitable habitat for the Leoncita false-foxglove. The point here is that there are conflicting management objectives at Bitter Lake. Endangered status for the false-foxglove would ensure that refuge management objectives include proper management in the form of suitable protection and recovery of the Leoncita false-foxglove.
Ecological Obstacles that Require Specific Management Strategies
Aggressive species like the common reed (Phragmites australis var. americanus) at Bitter Lake may crowd out or otherwise alter the required habitat of the Leoncita false- foxglove. The absence of large herbivores at both Bitter Lake and Diamond Y Spring have resulted in dense accumulations of plant material that may inhibit germination and establishment of plants like the false-foxglove. Specific management strategies like prescribed fire may be required to substitute for the absence of large herbivores in order to maintain the existing populations and assist in recovery of the species. Endangered species status would ensure that such specific ecological management strategies are utilized at the sites of the known populations.
2. Endangered Species Status
The Leoncita false-foxglove is currently listed as a Species of Concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the state of New Mexico. Species of Concern status simply does not attract the attention of governmental agencies or produce the necessary funding required to perform the research and employ recovery strategies for the species. But endangered species status will require the necessary governmental attention. It will also generate funding for the necessary research and other activities required to assure the continued existence of the Leoncita false-foxglove and to provide for its recovery.
This last point cannot be overemphasized. We live in an era when the importance of government is continually discredited. We see government agencies that lack botanists to address their botanical problems. The one situation where we see that botanists are actually consistently employed to perform botanical work is through the Fish and Wildlife Service via the Endangered Species Act. Daniela Roth, the new state botanist with the NM Division of Forestry, says that her job only exists because of Section 6 ESA funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I recently met Ralph Fink, a U.S. Forest Service range conservationist, temporarily “detailed” to fill a vacant botanist position on the Lincoln National Forest. Ralph’s job is to focus on recovery plans for the federally endangered Sacramento prickly poppy (Argemone pinnatisecta). That’s because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made a finding that the poppy is in “jeopardy.” Do you get the drift of this discourse? While there should be much more funding for professional botanists, the fact remains that the one source botanists can count on exists only because of the provisions of the Endangered Species Act.
PETITION TO LIST THE LEONCITA FALSE-FOXGLOVE AS AN ENDANGERED SPECIES – A NPSNM FIRST
Now that we have made the case for endangered species status for the Leoncita false-foxglove, the Native Plant Society of New Mexico by a vote of its State Board of Directors in February, 2012 has chosen to do something it has never done before. We have made a petition addressed to Mr. Ken Salazar, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, requesting that the Leoncita false-foxglove be listed as an endangered species in accordance with provisions of the Endangered Species Act. You may view the petition here (PDF).
Sivinski, R.C. 2011. Agalinis calycina (Leoncita False-Foxglove): A Conservation Status Assessment. 2011 ESA Section 6 Progress Report prepared for the NM Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 2. (view)
Jim McGrath, Conservation Chair, NPSNM