Pecos Sunflower- first New Mexico land acquisition saves an endangered plant.

The Pecos sunflower is a fortunate plant and so is New Mexico. It has become the first New Mexico land acquisition for a threatened or endangered plant.pecossunvert1
The Pecos sunflower is a rare wetland annual plant that grows on wet, alkaline soils at spring seeps, wet meadows and pond margins in New Mexico and Texas. New Mexico State Forestry Division purchased and restored 116 acres near Santa Rosa, New Mexico to protect the rare Pecos sunflower. The Service gave a grant of $75,000 under their Recovery Land Acquisition program and the New Mexico Dept. of Transportation granted the other $75,000 to purchase the cienega.

“Natural cienega wetlands are very rare and threatened habitats in New Mexico,” said State Forestry Division’s Rare and Endangered Plant Program Manager Bob Sivinski.  “A cienega is like an oasis in a desert that provides habitat for many unique native plants and animals. By preserving Blue Hole Cienega, we’re protecting a rare habitat and providing a way to help the Pecos Sunflower recover its population. Our goal is to be able to remove this plant from the endangered and threatened lists.

blue_hole_cienegaThe Pecos sunflower grows in desert wetland habitat is unique.  The Pecos sunflower may have genes that could improve agricultural sunflower, because of its very high tolerance for alkaline soils.

Pecos sunflower grows in seven widely spaced populations in west-central and eastern New Mexico and west Texas. Populations vary from less than 100 individuals to several hundred thousand individuals. These sunflower numbers have declined primarily due to surface water diversion and wetland filling for agriculture and recreational uses, groundwater pumping and aquifer depletion for municipal uses and nonnative plants like the Tamarisk,  by land management activities, grazing and mowing.

The Recovery actions to date to save this rare sunflower include identifying and securing core conservation areas essential for the long-term survival of this species, continuing life history, population, and habitat
studies, and ensuring compliance with existing regulations.

Some core conservation areas have been secured. A large population of Pecos sunflower was discovered in 2004 at La Joya State Waterfowl Management Area near Socorro.  The Nature Conservancy manages
another large population of Pecos sunflower at its Diamond Y Springs Preserve in West Texas.
The State of New Mexico recently acquired a significant conservation habitat near Santa
Rosa, New Mexico through a non-traditional section 6 grant awarded by the Service. 

This was the first New Mexico land acquisition for a threatened or endangered plant.

Go New Mexico! – Thanks from Mother Nature

Image and excerpts from ”PECOS SUNFLOWER – July 26, 2005 and USFS


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