Endangered plants to watch out for in every state

Written by:
November 26, 2019
USFWS Endangered Species // Wikimedia Commons

Endangered plants to watch out for in every state

The U.S. Department of Interior in August 2019 announced a list of planned revisions to the implementation of the Endangered Species Act. Those changes include weakening current protections for threatened species and determining future risks on a case-by-case basis. Many argue that these adjustments leave the definition of “foreseeable future” up for interpretation and could negatively affect the statuses of endangered and threatened species. Reports reveal that 99% of the species protected by the Endangered Species Act have avoided extinction, and biologists are worried that the effects of diminishing the act’s power will harm endangered plants and animals across the globe—especially because many could go extinct before the end of this century. These loosened regulations could additionally enable politicians to ignore the effects of climate change even as they wreak visible damage to the world’s ecosystems.

Today, as many as 1 million of the 8 million plant species on Earth are endangered. Stacker used the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Environmental Conservation Online System to identify 50 unique plants that are federally recognized as endangered or threatened, one from every state. Plants’ statuses in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List are also included where applicable.

With the world’s urban areas having more than doubled since 1992 and plastic pollution having “increased tenfold since 1980,” humans are largely to blame for many of the most commonly cited threats to plants listed here, including pollution, residential development, and recreational activity. Encouragingly, however, some of the most successful recovery initiatives mentioned in this article are the work of citizen stewards taking conservation into their own hands through participating in private landowning agreements, organizing public education programs, or spearheading local monitoring efforts. Organized by state, here are 50 species whose conditions offer both cautionary tales and blueprints for recovery.

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Patrick Alexander // Flickr

Alabama: Fleshy-fruit gladecress

- Scientific name: Leavenworthia crassa
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

Fleshy-fruit gladecress makes its home in two counties in northern Alabama, specifically in open areas with well-lighted, exposed limestone. The open-facing, mustard-colored flower is dwindling largely due to the encroachment of weedy competitors: Even trees, through the shade they cast, disrupt the shallow, highly exposed environment needed for fleshy-fruit gladecress to thrive. There are no official conservation efforts in place.

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Mike Boylan // Wikimedia Commons

Alaska: Aleutian shield fern

- Scientific name: Polystichum aleuticum
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

Though two of the significant threats contributing to the Aleutian shield fern’s endangered classification are familiar—habitat instability and human collection—the last is perhaps unique: trampling by caribou. This dwarfish green fern, which does not grow taller than six inches, appears only in rock caves and moist crevices within rock formations facing east. Luckily, all known Aleutian shield ferns currently live on the Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge, offering the protection of park conservation regulations.

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Jim Rorabaugh // Wikimedia Commons

Arizona: Canelo Hills ladies-tresses

- Scientific name: Spiranthes delitescens
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife), Endangered (IUCN)

To appreciate the beauty of the Canelo Hills ladies-tresses, bend down and look closer: The plant—named for its resemblance to a woman’s long, flowing hair—can contain 40 tiny white flowers on one stalk. Since it exists only in wetlands in southern Arizona, many of its biggest threats are related to wetlands loss, including water diversions, sand and gravel mining, and improper livestock grazing.

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Brent Baker // Global Biodiversity Information Facility

Arkansas: Missouri bladderpod

- Scientific name: Physaria filiformis
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Missouri

Commuters driving along highways may notice the Missouri bladderpod, blooms of which can be identified by the clusters of canary-yellow flowers on the top of the plant. Found in northern Arkansas, the Missouri bladderpod’s population is waning thanks to habitat loss, roadside maintenance procedures, and fire control. The latter previously provided open glades necessary for the plant to thrive by clearing away grasses and shrubs; accordingly, conservation efforts focus on educating private landowners on the clear areas the Missouri bladderpod needs to grow.

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Ruff tuff cream puff // Wikimedia Commons

California: Chinese Camp brodiaea

- Scientific name: Brodiaea pallida
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife), Endangered (IUCN)

Though the Chinese Camp brodiaea’s lifespan is short, flowering between late May and early June, it is striking: The lilac flower sits exclusively along a half-mile stretch of a creek bed in central California. Thanks to the California Endangered Species Act, killing or possessing the Chinese Camp brodiaea is forbidden. Still, habitat destruction and the lack of genetic diversity within such a tiny population pose significant risks.

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Rebou // Wikimedia Commons

Colorado: Knowlton's cactus

- Scientific name: Pediocactus knowltonii
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife), Critically Endangered (IUCN)
- Also found in: New Mexico

Knowlton’s cactus—also known as Knowlton’s miniature cactus and Knowlton’s minute cactus—is tiny but mighty: The flowers that adorn the tops of the prickly stems, while roughly only the size of a penny, are a distinctive purple color. In Colorado’s La Plata and Archuleta counties, “cactus poachers” pose a particular risk to this plant, as its miniature stature makes it a prized target for illegal collectors. The Nature Conservancy has established a preserve around the locality where the plant is known to occur.

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Nicholas A. Tonelli // Wikimedia Commons

Connecticut: American chestnut

- Scientific name: Castanea dentata
- Endangered status: Not listed (U.S. Fish & Wildlife), Critically Endangered (IUCN)
- Also found in: Across the East Coast, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, California

Found throughout Connecticut, the American chestnut tree has an impressive presence, growing up to 100 feet tall and 10 feet in diameter, and living for as long as 500 to 800 years. Formerly thick forests filled with the species have been thinned out due to chestnut blight, a fungus that “enters the tree through cracks in the bark then ‘eats’ away” the tree from the inside. The American Chestnut Foundation’s Connecticut chapter aims to restore populations through planting seed orchards.

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Hedwig Storch // Wikimedia Commons

Delaware: Swamp pink

- Scientific name: Helonias bullata
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia

With purple anthers dotting hot pink flowers on top of its stalk, the swamp pink has an otherworldly look—fitting, as many of the plants are actually clones of the mother plant. Found throughout Delaware, wetland disturbances, including urban development, drainage, and sedimentation are all major threats to the plant. The Adopt-a-Swamp Pink program aims to increase citizen stewardship of the species.

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CactiLegacy // Consolea

Florida: Florida semaphore cactus

- Scientific name: Consolea corallicola
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife), Critically Endangered (IUCN)

Found in the southernmost tip of Florida, the semaphore cactus is striking thanks to not only the long prickles that jut out from its base but also from the fiery orange flower that blooms at its peak. The Everglades National Park plays a large part in conserving this species, which is at risk because of the unsteady habitat it exists in, subject to wildfires, hurricanes, and rising sea levels.

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Pete Pattavina // Wikimedia Commons

Georgia: Mat-forming quillwort

- Scientific name: Isoetes tegetiformans
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

These small green plants can only be found in vernal pools—temporary pools of water—on flat sheets of granite across Georgia between December and March, as well as when rain is heavy mid-summer. These very specific pool habitats are necessary for the plant to thrive, and disruption to these pools from trash, foot traffic, fires, and sedimentation is mainly to blame for endangering the species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has implemented a series of programs designed to deepen existing pools at Stone Mountain and Plum Creek—with notable success.

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H. Oppenheimer // National Center for Biotechnology Information

Hawaii: Melicope oppenheimeri

- Scientific name: Melicope oppenheimeri
- Endangered status: Not yet listed (U.S. Fish & Wildlife), Critically Endangered (IUCN)

Found only on a cliff-base plateau in West Maui’s Waihe’e Valley, Melicope oppenheimeri is a tree that generally grows three or four meters tall, laden with green leaves, dark pink flowers, and dark pink beaked fruits. Habitat destruction, particularly by wild pigs, is to blame for this species’ small number, though its existence in a protected area allows for its monitoring by conservationists.

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Sheri Hagwood // Wikimedia Commons

Idaho: Slickspot peppergrass

- Scientific name: Lepidium papilliferum
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

Found only in the sagebrush of southwestern Idaho, the slickspot peppergrass is a low-lying, bush-like plant whose leaves are covered with fine, soft hair, as well as multiple white flowers. Erratic wildfire behavior and invasive plant species are the two most prominent threats endangering the plant, and conservation measures focus on fire prevention and invasive species removal.

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Ken Gibson // Flickr

Illinois: Decurrent false aster

- Scientific name: Boltonia decurrens
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Missouri

Be careful not to mistake the decurrent false aster for daisies: With its butter-yellow center and white petals, it’s easy to. This flower is found along the Illinois River, in moist, sandy floodplains. As it depends on periodic flooding to eliminate other plants that compete for the same habitat, the predominant cause for the plant’s endangered status is excessive silting. Recovery efforts largely inform farming practices, advising agricultural projects to be careful to eliminate species that invade the decurrent false aster’s habitat and prevent disruption of floodwater flow to the area.

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Thomas Barnes // Wikimedia Commons

Indiana: Short's goldenrod

- Scientific name: Solidago shortii
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Kentucky

The recovery of short’s goldenrod around the Harrison-Crawford State Forest in Indiana is a heartening example of citizen stewardship, with private landowners volunteering to collaborate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to plant and protect this species on their property. The plant—which typically sits at the height of two feet and can be recognized by the distinctive long yellow flower stalks jutting from its stem—is at risk because of over-collection, fire suppression, and human disturbance.

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Aaron Carlson // Flickr

Iowa: Northern wild monkshood

- Scientific name: Aconitum noveboracense
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: New York, Ohio, Wisconsin

"Cool" is perhaps the first word that comes to mind when describing the northern wild monkshood, both in appearance and habitat. The plant exists only in shaded areas or streamside sites, requiring cool soil, air, or groundwater to thrive. It's recognizable by its icy periwinkle hood-shaped flowers. Occurring in northeastern Iowa, the northern wild monkshood is threatened mainly by the intrusion of humans, resulting in both habitat loss and over-collection of the plant. Conservation efforts focus on educating the public on the endangerment facing the aesthetically appealing plant to dissuade collection and trampling, and habitat protection through collaboration with local governments and private landowners.

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Jason Sturner // WIkimedia Commons

Kansas: Mead's milkweed

- Scientific name: Asclepias meadii
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin

Mead’s milkweed has seen much more than its younger, shorter-lived ecological brethren—taking a minimum of 15 years to mature into a flowering plant, it can live indefinitely after maturing, with striking longevity. Found in eastern Kansas tallgrass prairie land, the plant comprises a single thin stalk flanked by hairless leaves—but no branches—and a bell-shaped cluster of cream-colored flowers at the top. Farming and mowing patterns have been detrimental to the plant’s survival, risks that large-scale reintroduction efforts are attempting to curtail.

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Bryan Siders // Flickr

Kentucky: Kentucky glade cress

- Scientific name: Leavenworthia exigua laciniata
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

The Kentucky glade cress’ annual nature may make its beauty fleeting, but it also poses risks to its survival. The plant is vulnerable to temporary phenomena more permanent plants could withstand like floods and droughts, which are the main players influencing the species’ endangered status. Occurring only in southeastern Jefferson County and northeaster Bullitt County, Ky., the plant grows to be only two to four inches tall at most, with a tiny white or lilac-colored flower on top, usually with four or so petals. A 2014 agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Center for Biological Diversity protected the Kentucky glade cress under the Endangered Species Act, providing 2,053 acres of protected critical habitat for the plant.

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Alvin Diamond // Global Biodiversity Information Facility

Louisiana: Louisiana quillwort

- Scientific name: Isoetes louisianensis
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Alabama, Mississippi

Occurring on the eastern edge of Louisiana, the Louisiana quillwort could be mistaken for a fern, with its low-lying height and a multitude of long, green grasses stretching out from its base. Its relatively small population and restricted range are the main reasons for its endangerment, but current conservation efforts include searching for other habitats the plant may exist in and monitoring timber harvesting throughout the Louisiana quillwort’s current range.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region // Wikimedida Commons

Maine: Furbish lousewort

- Scientific name: Pedicularis furbishiae
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife), Endangered (IUCN)

Few plants are as resilient as the furbish lousewort, which was declared extinct in 1975, only to reappear the following year. It favors extreme environments, residing exclusively along a 140-mile stretch of the St. John River in Maine, where it consistently withstands ice scouring, flooding, undercutting, and unreliable reproduction options. The one challenge the hairy-leaved, spike-topped plant can’t outsmart, however, is human-made disturbances, including housing development, road building, and vegetation clearing. Recovery efforts transcend borders, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recruiting citizens and NGOs from both the U.S. and Canada to assist with re-planting the natural habitat of the furbish lousewort to encourage its preservation.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region // Wikimedia Commons

Maryland: Sensitive joint-vetch

- Scientific name: Aeschynomene virginica
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Delaware, New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia

The sensitive joint-vetch earned its unusual name thanks to its leaves, which fold when touched. Reaching heights between 3.3 and 7.8 feet, the plant has an almost fantastical appearance, laden with red-streaked yellow flowers and brown fruits. Its decline is because of growing human populations near its occurrence along tributaries of the Manokin River, including housing developments, dam construction, and recreational activity. Conservation efforts focus on wetlands recovery to preserve the plant through restoring the marshy habitat it requires for survival.

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Doug McGrady // Flickr

Massachusetts: American chaffseed

- Scientific name: Schwalbea americana
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina

Found along the eastern coast of Massachusetts, you can spot the American chaffseed by looking for a straight stem, from one to two feet high, lined with purple and yellow flowers. The plant requires open conditions to thrive, and many factors that normally contribute to the endangerment of other plants are necessary for the American chaffseed’s survival, including fire, mowing, and fluctuating water levels. Its largest threats are excessive collecting and habitat loss due to human development. Conservation is largely achieved through partnering with private landowners to develop plans for habitat preservation.

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Nate Martineau // Global Biodiversity Information Facility

Michigan: Michigan monkey-flower

- Scientific name: Mimulus michiganensis
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

This tubular yellow blossom is found along the Great Lakes shorelines in the Mackinac Straits and Grand Traverse regions of Michigan. The popularity of tourist-frequented areas is largely to blame for the Michigan monkey-flower’s low population. Much of the plant’s habitat has been eliminated through recreational and residential development. Recovery is taking place on public land conserved as natural habitats, and education resources are being offered to the public on best practices for preserving this rare plant.

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U.S. FWS // Wikimedia Commons

Minnesota: Minnesota dwarf trout lily

- Scientific name: Erythronium propullans
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

This forest wildflower is found only in Goodhue, Rice, and Steele Counties of Minnesota, residing in woodland habitats, surrounded by maple, basswood, elm, and cottonwood trees. It has an unmistakable appearance, with a thin stem topped with a dime-sized pink flower rising out of a patch of wide, tapered green leaves. Uniquely, its small population is partially self-inflicted, as the dwarf trout lily reproduces by producing offset runners. It is vulnerable to shifting conditions, including housing developments and invasive plant species. The best way to protect the dwarf trout lily is to let the forest ecosystem clean itself up. Preservation efforts include building boardwalks and retaining walls to keep humans from unwittingly encroaching on the plant’s habitat.

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Gerrit Davidse // Global Biodiversity Information Facility

Mississippi: Pondberry

- Scientific name: Lindera melissifolia
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina

Distinguished by its pale yellow flowers and red, oval-shaped fruits, the pondberry shrub can be found within the Mississippi Embayment. Timber-harvesting, drainage, and wildlife grazing have all diminished the plant’s habitat. There are no official conservation efforts in place for the plant.

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G. Yatskievych // Global Biodiversity Information Facility

Missouri: Virginia sneezeweed

- Scientific name: Helenium virginicum
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Virginia

The Virginia sneezeweed is known for its bright yellow, sun-facing flowers atop its thin stems. Its population is mainly threatened by residential development and wetlands ditching. In its south-central Missouri habitat, it is prohibited to collect or disturb the plant.

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USFWS Endangered Species // Flickr

Montana: Ute ladies'-tresses

- Scientific name: Spiranthes diluvialis
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, Utah, Washington, Wyoming

Named for its resemblance to a lock of a woman’s long hair, the Ute ladies’-tresses makes its home in wetlands and floodplains in southwestern Montana. The plant's eight to 20-inch long stem is laden with clusters of white flowers towards the top. Unsurprisingly, many of its greatest threats are risks that come with living near bodies of water, including altered stream flows due to dams, fisheries, and housing developments, as well as habitat damage from livestock and recreationists. Monitoring the plant’s habitat and managing livestock grazing are some of the more effective efforts taking place to bring this species back from the brink.

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USFWS Endangered Species // Wikimedia Commons

Nebraska: Blowout penstemon

- Scientific name: Penstemon haydenii
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Wyoming

Curiously, the Blowout penstemon’s population in the Sandhills region is bolstered, rather than diminished, by unstable environments: the plant seeds in ‘blowouts,’ open areas created when the wind blows and re-deposits loose sand. As bison herds and wildfires no longer regularly disturb the sands, populations of this plant—notable for the clusters of lavender and pale blue flowers that top it—are dwindling. Recovery efforts include reintroducing controlled fires and grazing to the habitat.

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Stan Shebs // Wikimedia Commons

Nevada: Ash meadows milk-vetch

- Scientific name: Astragalus phoenix
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

Found in Nye County, Nev., the Ash meadows milk-vetch has a multitude of pink and purple flowers bursting out of mounds of matted green brush lying low on the ground. Habitat disturbance, including road construction and local mining infrastructure, have wiped out large swaths of its population. It is now protected largely thanks to the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, which provides a stable habitat for the plant—as well as many other at-risk plant and animal species of Nevada—to thrive in.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region // Wikimedia Commons

New Hampshire: Jesup's milk-vetch

- Scientific name: Astragalus robbinsii var. jesupi
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Vermont

Jesup’s milk vetch’s namesake, Henry Griswold Jesup, was amazed when he discovered the plant in 1876, marveling at its ability to withstand harsh conditions. The plant nestles into rock crevices along the Connecticut River, holding up through ice scours, floods, and extreme shade and sun throughout the year, producing small purple flowers in May followed by seed pods in June. As this challenging habitat normally kept weaker, invasive plant species at bay, dams have softened the habitat, allowing the species to encroach and harm the plant’s population. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is aiding its recovery by transplanting seedlings along the river to encourage its storied resiliency.

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Birder20714 // Global Biodiversity Information Facility

New Jersey: Knieskern's Beaked-rush

- Scientific name: Rhynchospora knieskernii
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

Only found in New Jersey—specifically in wetlands in Monmouth, Ocean, Burlington, Camden, and Atlantic Counties—Knieskern’s beaked-rush is a tall, grass-like plant peaked with cranberry to brown-colored flowers. Wetland flooding, draining, ditching, and clearing all pose substantial threats to the species, and state and federal laws attempt to protect the plant by regulating urban development.

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Hkiernan // Wikimedia Commons

New Mexico: Holy Ghost ipomopsis

- Scientific name: Ipomopsis sancti-spiritus
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

Biblical references surround the Holy Ghost ipomopsis, which is known for its vibrant magenta flowers and only exists within the Holy Ghost Canyon in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Its flowers are so striking they prompt excessive collection, which is one of the main reasons for the plant’s decline. Other threats include wildfires, non-native plant invasion, and road maintenance. Efforts at recovery include planting new populations and clearing out habitats in Holy Ghost Canyon.

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Rob Routledge // Wikimedia Commons

New York: Houghton's goldenrod

- Scientific name: Solidago houghtonii
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Michigan

First, a myth needs to be disproved: Though many attribute hay fever to Houghton’s goldenrod, the congestion, itching, and other allergic reactions some people experience when the plant blooms are actually from ragweed flowers, which appear at the same time as the goldenrod. True to its name, the plant—found in Genesee County—is admired for its long, fern-like stems laden with golden flowers. Though urban development—including railroads, recreation, and housing construction—have diminished the plant’s population, agreements with private landowners aim to protect the species.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region // Flickr

North Carolina: Golden sedge

- Scientific name: Carex lutea
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

Greenish, prickly spikes extend from the top of the grasslike stems of the golden sedge, which is found in the Cape Fear River watershed, specifically the Pender and Onslow counties. Because the plant requires wet soil to survive, many of its main threats are associated with draining wetlands, including silviculture, agriculture, and urban development. Some North Carolinian organizations are banding together to monitor and restore the golden sedge’s habitat, including establishing some sites as Dedicated Nature Preserves.

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Justin Meissen // Flickr

North Dakota: Western prairie fringed orchid

- Scientific name: Platanthera praeclara
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife), Endangered (IUCN)
- Also found in: Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming

Don't confuse North Dakota’s western prairie fringed orchid with the eastern prairie fringed orchid, which occurs east of the Mississippi River. Both are endangered and comprise stems up to 47 inches tall, laden with white flowers, but the flowers of the western version—found within the Sheyenne National Grasslands—are slightly larger. Overgrazing, mowing, invasive plants, and fire suppression threaten this plant, which has public education programs being developed around it to encourage citizen stewardship for its survival.

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qmnonic // Wikimedia Commons

Ohio: Lakeside daisy

- Scientific name: Hymenoxys herbacea
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Illinois, Michigan

These sunny, yellow-petaled daisies are found throughout the Marblehead Peninsula in northern Ohio, where the flowers all bloom simultaneously, creating a “golden blanket across a rocky landscape.” Limestone quarrying has had devastating effects on its population. However, the plant is easily transplanted, offering an opportunity to salvage its species.

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Dale Suiter // Wikimedia Commons

Oklahoma: Harperella

- Scientific name: Ptilimnium nodosum
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia

Found near the Ouachita Mountains, harperella closely resembles Queen Anne’s Lace, with bunches of stems dotted with tiny white flowers. Though damage to wetlands has diminished much of this plant’s habitat, the Maryland Natural Heritage Program has spearheaded research and conservation efforts, which have led to further protections by the Nature Conservancy and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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Jennifer Thompson // Wikimedia Commons

Oregon: Willamette daisy

- Scientific name: Erigeron decumbens
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

Endemic to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the Willamette daisy is known for its striking purplish petals extending off of golden yellow centers, growing up to two feet tall. Truly a wildflower, this daisy was most populous before European settlement, when fires freely spread and created the prairie habitat it favored. Urbanization, which naturally controls wildfires, has played a large hand in the plant’s rarity. The plant’s small population is mainly found on privately owned lands, creating the opportunity for conservation through protective ownership plans.

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USFWS Midwest Region // Flickr

Pennsylvania: Running buffalo clover

- Scientific name: Trifolium stoloniferum
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia

Despite its name, the running buffalo clover depends on bison rather than buffalo for survival, and as bison populations grow increasingly endangered, so too do the plant. Residents of Pennsylvania’s southwest corner, including Waynesburg, will recognize the plant by a series of three-leaf clovers jutting off of the stem, culminating in a one-inch flower at its head. Attempts to encourage the plant’s regrowth by ensuring it is trampled periodically have been so successful the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now recommending that the plant be removed from the Endangered Species list.

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Robert H. Mohlenbrock // Wikimedia Commons

Rhode Island: Small whorled pogonia

- Scientific name: Isotria medeoloides
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife), Vulnerable (IUCN)
- Also found in: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia

Two green flowers top an umbrella—or whorl—of five draping leaves in the small whorled pogonia, which can be found in northeastern Rhode Island. Urban expansion, forestry, and recreational activities have severely damaged this plant’s population, so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working on monitoring and protecting the species’ habitat.

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Ed Uebel // Wikimedia Commons

South Carolina: Rock gnome lichen

- Scientific name: Gymnoderma lineare
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia

The rock gnome lichen—a bluish-grey fungus found on rocks or tree trunks in the southern Appalachian Mountains—plays a vital role in keeping the mountain air clean, naturally filtering out pollutants. Hikers that frequent the mountains are largely to blame for the fungus’ decline, unwittingly trampling and eroding the species. The U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are combatting this by using habitat preservation efforts and investigating the effects of air pollution on the rock gnome lichen.

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Jerry Friedman // Wikimedia Commons

South Dakota: Leedy's roseroot

- Scientific name: Rhodiola integrifolia ssp. leedyi
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Minnesota, New York

Though most known populations of Leedy’s roseroot are in Minnesota and New York, there is also a small population of this fern-like cluster of green petals on a single cliff at Harney Peak in the Black Hills. Because the plant already occupies the coolest, most moist habitat available in its location, climate change poses a particular risk as it warms the species’ surroundings. Since the population in South Dakota was only recently discovered, no formal conservation plans are in place yet; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is subsequently calling for a recovery plan to be implemented.

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Steven J. Baskauf // Global Biodiversity Information Facility

Tennessee: Spring Creek bladderpod

- Scientific name: Lesquerella perforata
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

Found along Spring Creek, Cedar Creek, and Barton’s Creek in Wilson County, Tenn., the Spring Creek bladderpod is recognizable by its clusters of tiny yellow blossoms sitting low to the ground. It thrives in floodplains with periodic flooding, so habitat alteration, including commercial, residential, and agricultural development, pose the greatest threats to the species. As all known populations exist on private land, efforts at preserving the plant include arranging conservation easements with landowners.

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c299792458 // Wikimedia Commons

Texas: Star cactus

- Scientific name: Astrophytum asterias
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife), Vulnerable (IUCN)

Those who picture cacti as tall, prickly figures may be surprised to see the star cactus: a flat dome-shaped, white-speckled green stem divided into eight sections, with yellow and orange flowers budding out of it. Though populations have also been found in northern Mexico, within the U.S., only one population is known, on private land in Starr County. Uninformed range management practices pose big threats to the plant, including plowing through habitats and introducing invasive grasses for cattle grazing. Recovery efforts include establishing new populations within the species’ historical range and collaborating with Mexico on conservation plans.

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Unknown // Wikimedia Commons

Utah: Pariette cactus

- Scientific name: Sclerocactus brevispinus
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife), Critically Endangered (IUCN)

Distinctive hot pink flowers bloom out of the prickly base of the Pariette cactus, a single population of which resides in the Pariette Draw. Illegal collection, oil and gas development, and off-road vehicles all contribute to the species’ rarity. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and local Ute Tribe are all collaborating on developing a recovery plan for the Pariette cactus. Recommended conservation actions include developing formal land management reservations and installing fences to keep grazing animals and roaming vehicles away.

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Susi von Oettingen/USFWS // Wikimedia Commons

Vermont: Northeastern bulrush

- Scientific name: Scirpus ancistrochaetus
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia

The northeastern bulrush is a survivor: It is a relict species, meaning that it is “a persistent remnant of an otherwise extinct flora or fauna.” Found in wetlands or ponds in Windham County, the plant is tall and drooping, with brown flowers hanging off its top. The resilient plant has historically adapted well to fluctuating water levels, but consistent drying of its wet environment is a threat the species cannot easily overcome. The northeastern bulrush recovery program aims to protect the plant by preventing habitat destruction and encouraging further studies into the species.

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Jean-Pol GRANDMONT // Wikimedia Commons

Virginia: Virginia round-leaf birch

- Scientific name: Betula uber
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

The Virginia round-leaf birch, which is known for its aromatic, dark, smooth bark has the distinction of being the first tree species to be included under the Endangered Species Act in 1978. The tree was on the decline due to its struggles to reproduce, grappling with a limited habitat for seedlings, low seed viability, and frequent gene exchanges with the sweet birch. Recovery strategies have included clearing out habitats to encourage natural reproduction and cultivating and replanting seedlings to form new populations. Besides the original population in the Cressy Creek floodplain, there is also a new growth of the Virginia round-leaf birch in the Jefferson National Forest.

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Tim McCracken // U.S. Fish & Wildlife

Washington: Showy stickseed

- Scientific name: Hackelia venusta
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

A member of the forget-me-not family, the showy stickseed is primarily recognizable thanks to its large bluish-white flowers. It is found in Chelan County on steep sand and granite cliffs. Landslides and low seedling establishment are some bigger threats to the plant’s population, along with nonnative invasive weeds and highway maintenance disruption. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues to develop plans for protecting and growing the population. Previous efforts include establishing multiple populations within Tumwater Canyon to increase the species’ resiliency.

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Paul J Harmon // Wikimedia Commons

West Virginia: Shale barren rock cress

- Scientific name: Arabis serotina
- Endangered status: Endangered (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)
- Also found in: Virginia

The shale barren rock cress is the unfortunate victim of being a bystander to a series of damaging phenomena, including local droughts, insect infestations, pesticide treatments, and construction of dams and railroads. Found in the lower Appalachian Mountains in eastern West Virginia, this plant is most recognized by the drooping white flowers and fruits that hang off of its thin branches. Because it occurs largely on public land, including the George Washington National Forest and the Monongahela National Forest, it is subject to routine monitoring and regulation.

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USFWS Midwest Region // Flickr

Wisconsin: Fassett's locoweed

- Scientific name: Oxytropis campestris var. chartacea
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

Those familiar with the vibrant stalks of purple and pink flowers that comprise Fassett’s locoweed may be surprised to learn that the plant is actually an herb within the pea family. Found in the Bayfield, Portage, and Waushara counties, the species is mostly located around lakes, leading to damage from residential development and human recreation. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has spearheaded conservation efforts, overseeing two State Natural Areas that contain the plant and establishing a landowner contact program that has led to private landowners agreeing to conserve the plants on their properties.

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Bonnie Heidel/USGov-Interior // Wikimedia Commons

Wyoming: Desert yellowhead

- Scientific name: Yermo xanthocephalus
- Endangered status: Threatened (U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

A member of the sunflower family, the desert yellowhead grows to be around a foot high, with oval-shaped leaves and anywhere from 25 to 80 yellow flowerheads on top. The only known population lives in southern Fremont County, and the species is particularly vulnerable to oil and gas development in the surrounding area. Though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has conducted research and made plans for establishing boundaries to conserve the plant, these plans have not been implemented yet.

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