|Florida Nature: Endangered Plants|
Florida is home to a number of plant species that are not doing so well
now, or that might in the future be in serious jeopardy. For a number of
reasons, natural and otherwise, these plants are disappearing, or, in
some hopeful cases, are slowly increasing their numbers. An endangered
species is a species, subspecies or isolated population which is so rare
or depleted in number or so restricted in range of habitat due to any
man-made or natural factor that it is in immediate danger of extinction
or extirpation from Florida. These plants are listed alphabetically
according to their scientific name. Education is one of the keys in
helping endangered and threatened plants remain in our ecosystem.
Crenulate Lead-Plant (Amorpha crenulata)- The crenulate lead-plant is a perennial, deciduous shrub that inhabits marl prairies and wet pine rocklands in a small area of Miami-Dade County. This pine rockland community is maintained by periodic fires. Greater than 98 percent habitat loss, fire suppression, drainage, and exotic pest plant invasions threaten the species, which was federally listed as endangered on July 18, 1985.
Four-Petal Pawpaw (Asimina tetramera)- The four-petalpawpaw is an aromatic shrub or small tree in the Annonaceae family. Asimina tetramera is limited to sand pine scrub habitats in Martin and Palm Beach Counties on the Atlantic Coastal Ridge in southeast Florida. Habitat loss and fragmentation have lead to a small number of remaining individuals, questionable reproductive success, narrow endemism, and escalating pressure on public and private land use, all of which are reasons why this species was listed as federally endangered in 1986. The four petal pawpaw grows up to three meters tall, with one to many stems arising from an underground stem with a deep taproot. Flowering occurs from late March through July. Flowers are cream colored turning dark maroon, or rarely yellow, as they mature. Beetles are the primary pollinators, although flies and wasps also visit flowers.
Brooksville Bellflower (Campanula robinsiae)- Not much is known about the Brooksville bellflower. The main thing that botanists thought they knew ,that it could grow only in the Brooksville area, now turns out to be wrong. The Brooksville bellflower was first discovered in the early 1900s. Because it is an annual, the Brooksville bellflower only grows from January to early April, and apparently only near ponds. For most of that time, the Brooksville bellflower is an inconspicuous ground cover plant, smaller than a blade of grass. It blooms for a couple of weeks in late March and then dies out. Its seeds can stay dormant for at least a few years and then come to life when conditions are exactly right. In early 2006 Carmel van Hoek found a Brooksville bellflower in a cow pasture at Hillsborough River State Park. Before that discovery the Brooksville bellflower was considered one of the rarest flowers in the world and only existing on a hillside near Brooksville in Hernando County Florida.
Fragrant Prickly-Apple (Cereus eriophorus var. fragrans)-Fragrant prickly-apple is a columnar cactus endemic to south Florida. It may reach 3-5 m tall (reports vary), though it frequently has a sprawling, more horizontal growth form. The fragrant, showy, pink to white flowers reach 10 cm long and bloom nocturnally. Fruits are orange-red and reach 5 cm in diameter. In 1984, only one remaining population of this species was known from a short strip of land in St. Lucie county, Florida, with a second population having recently been extirpated from Malabar in Brevard County. This species prefers partial shade, and the fragrant prickly apple is found growing on the dry sandy soils of coastal berm and sand pine scrub.
Key Tree-Cactus (Cereus robinii)- is a large, tree-like cactus known in the U.S. only from the Florida Keys. The Key tree-cactus produces large white flowers and a purplish-red fruit. It is a member of the rare and declining tropical hammock communities on Upper and Lower Matecumbe, and Long and Big Pine keys. Populations formerly found on Key West and Windley and Boca Chica keys are believed to be extirpated. As early as 1917, this cactus was on the edge of being extinct as a result of habitat destruction. The Key tree-cactus was listed as endangered because of severe population declines caused by destruction of its habitat for commercial and residential development.
Deltoid Spurge (Chamaesyce deltoidea ssp. deltoidea)- deltoid spurge is a federally endangered, prostrate, perennial herb with wiry stems and tiny wedge-shaped leaves. It is found only in the extremely rare pine rockland ecosystem of Miami-Dade County, and occurs in mats over exposed limestone. These inconspicuous plants have a disproportionately large woody taproot, indicating their tendency to be long-lived and their ability to recover from fire. Historically, habitat destruction was a primary threat that reduced this species range by 98% . There are an estimated 10,000 individuals at 18 sites; 12 of which are publicly owned.
Pygmy Fringe Tree (Chionanthus pygmaeus)-A dwarfed (maximum height 10') relative of the American fringetree, pygmy fringetree is one of the most beautiful of the Florida scrub plants. It occurs in scrubs and turkey oak sandhills on the Lake Wales Ridge and has been reported also from Citrus and Hillsborough Counties. Like the other scrub shrubs, pygmy fringetree sprouts back quickly after fire. Pygmy fringetree blooms in April and May and the sweet fragrance from its delicate white blossoms is a favorite scrub memory. One of the best places to see this scrub beauty is at The Nature Conservancy's Saddle Blanket Lakes Scrub Preserve near Lake Wales. Much of this species' habitat has been lost due to land clearing for residential development and citrus production. As a result, Chionanthus pygmaeus, as well as a number of other plant species in the same habitat, was listed as federally endangered on January 21, 1987.
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