The Center for Biological Diversity added four plants to an expanding win column for imperiled Florida species when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week protected the pineland crabgrass, Everglades bully, pineland sandmat, and prairie clover.
The prairie clover, a fancy member of the pea family that can soar to 6 feet in pine rocklands and coastal uplands, won full guardianship under the Endangered Species Act. The others are now considered threatened.
“This decision underscores just how vulnerable South Florida is to rising seas,” said Jacki Lopez, Florida director with the Center for Biological Diversity.
According to Lopez, the South Florida foursome is beleaguered by sea-level rise, natural fires, and people, including a planned shopping mall and theme park in south Miami. They belong to a troubled neighborhood of federally protected species that make homes in the pine rocklands.
“Without Endangered Species Act protections, storms like Irma could wipe out these Florida natives overnight,” Lopez said in a press release.
The pineland sandmat (above), a candidate for protection since 1999, also happens to be a real looker, a showy perennial herb with a red stem and delicate yellow flowers. The largest population occurs in Everglades National Park.
Florida pineland crabgrass is clinging in the Everglades and Monroe County. Everglades bully is native to Miami-Dade County but only in pine rocklands. Prairie clover (below) is hiding out in Big Cypress National Preserve and on private and county-managed property in Miami-Dade.
» Related: The prickly-apple, a Manatee County homecoming.
The FWS said “the risk of extinction is high for these plants, now or within the foreseeable future, because the populations are small, isolated and have limited to no potential for recolonization.”
The FWS also said a proposed rule designating critical habitat for the four rocky plant stars is likely.
With the decision, 192 plants and animals have won endangered species protection because of a 2011 agreement between Lopez’s group and FWS. Another six are proposed, including the mighty red knot, a tiny bird that depends on Florida for refueling during Antarctic to Arctic migrations.
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» Captive breeding may be the last chance to save Florida's grasshopper sparrow, North America's most endangered bird. (Via Audubon)