Light colored exposures of Mancos shale soils as pictured on this barren hillside, is typical habitat for the Pagosa skyrocket.
Photo credit: USFWS
Pagosa skyrocket (Ipomopsis polyantha) is an extremely rare plant endemic to two populations on Mancos shale outcrops in and around the Town of Pagosa Springs in Archuleta County, Colorado. This member of the phlox family (Polemoniaceae) grows as a rosette for one to many years; then flowers, produces seeds, and dies in its final year of life. In June and July when the species is flowering, numerous bees and other insects can be seen visiting its clusters of white flowers with small purple spots. These pollinators are essential to the survival of the species and are comprised primarily of native ground-dwelling solitary bees. Pagosa skyrocket habitat is unique, being comprised of barren shales where conditions are harsh and difficult for growth.
The species was discovered in 1899 by Charles Fuller Baker, an American naturalist, and described as a new species in 1904 by the well-known botanist Axel Rydberg. No comprehensive surveys were conducted until the mid-1980s, when it became a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Today the Pagosa skyrocket is threatened by commercial, residential, and agricultural property development; the associated new utility installations and access roads; and from the potential effects of climate change. Because of Pagosa skyrocketâs limited range, the fact that there are only two populations, its small population size, and numerous threats to the species, it was proposed for Endangered Species Act protection in 2010. A final listing is expected in 2011.
Eighty-eight percent of the areas where Pagosa skyrocket are found are private lands. The Endangered Species Act does not protect plants on private lands and therefore, all conservation actions on private land are voluntary. Funding is available to landowners wanting to conserve the species. Please contact Gina Glenne or Ellen Mayo at 970-243-2778 for further information on this species and ways that you can help with conservation and recovery.
April 13, 2014
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