September 9, 2014 - Press Release PDF ver (163KB)
Comunicado en español PDF ver (68KB)
Scientific Name: Agave eggersiana
Common Name: No common name
Distribution: St. Croix, USVI
On September 9, 2014 the Service listed the Agave eggersiana as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)..
See the map with designated critical habitat areas: Agave eggersiana Index Map (PDF 288KB)
Agave eggersiana is a robust perennial herb in the Agavaceae family (century plant family) that only grows on the dry eastern side of the Island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). This species does not form offshoots around its base and leaves are fleshy and nearly straight. Agave eggersiana reproduces only once every 10 to 15 years by producing a tall spike about 21 feet high known as inflorescence. Deep yellow flowers develop into numerous, small vegetative bulbs (bulbils). Agave eggersiana does not produce fruit or seeds, and dies after producing the spike. The spike then falls dispersing bulbils away from the mother plant.
Agave eggersiana can be found in about 50.6 acres (24 hectares) of coastal cliffs and dry coastal shrublands, mostly low vegetation within the Island of St. Croix, USVI. Four of the existing populations are located in areas that do not provide safeguards to perpetuate the survival and recovery of A. eggersiana
The Most important habitat units proposed for designation as critical habitat are:
Habitat and Biological Features Needed by the Species
The following primary constituent elements are based on the physical and biological features of the species describe what is essential habitat for the recovery of A. eggersiana and the criteria used for the selection in our proposal for critical habitat designation.
(1) Areas consisting of coastal cliffs and dry coastal shrubland.
(a) Coastal cliff habitat includes:
(i) Bare rock
(ii) Sparse vegetation
(B) Dry coastal shrubland habitat includes:
(i) Dry forest structure
(ii) A plant community of predominately native vegetation.
(2) Well drained soils from the series Cramer, Glynn, Hasselberg, Southgate, and Victory.
(3) Habitat of sufficient area to sustain viable populations in coastal cliffs and dry coastal shrublands listed above.
Agave eggersiana is an ornamental species commonly used in the island of St. Croix. Recent declines in the number of individuals at one population along the coast of Manchenil Bay are thought to be due to collection for ornamental purposes. Adding the species to the list of threatened and Endangered Species will allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue working cooperatively with the USVI Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the St. George Botanical Garden, the National Park Service at Buck Island Reef National Monument and the Salt River Bay National Historic Park and Ecological Preserve, and private land owners to raise awareness for the incompatibility between the reproductive needs of this wild plant and some horticultural practices.
St. George Botanical Garden and the St. Croix Environmental Association distribute A. eggersiana for conservation and private landscaping purposes. Re-establishment efforts of locally endangered plant species to the wild are occurring within properties managed by U.S. National Park Service (NPS) (SARI and Buck Island Reef National Monument) in St. Croix. In 2007, NPS planted seven individuals of A. eggersiana to increase production of the species’ progeny in and around the Island. Also, an Intra Agency agreement between the Service and NPS, in cooperation with the Florida and Caribbean Exotic Plant Management Team, was established in 2007 to control non-native invasive plants and restore the coastal landscape. The agreement was to restore approximately 6.1 ha (15 acres) of SARI coastal wetlands and uplands. The agreement also included planting A. eggersiana among other native flora. Currently, there are more than 100 juvenile individuals on NPS lands. However, there is the need to continue monitoring these individuals to document their long-term survival and recruitment, and to adaptively manage the population.
The Service also dedicated efforts to document threats and conservation measures implemented. In 2010 and 2013 Service biologists visited St. Croix and found A. eggersiana planted at Lagoon Picnic Area - a public beach that is under a reforestation effort funded by the Antilitter and Beautification Commission. The site harbors about 220 plants. This reforestation project seems to be a good effort for the protection of coastal habitat and as an outreach vehicle to promote protection of the species.
Existing legal protections that need to be promoted and enforced
The Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands currently considers A. eggersiana as endangered under the Virgin Islands Indigenous and Endangered Species Act (Law No. 5665)(V.I. Code, Title 12, Chapter 2). Collecting A. eggersiana is prohibited by the USVI law Act No. 5665, that provides protection to indigenous, endangered, and threatened fish, wildlife, and plants in the Territory.
Caption 1: Agave plants are not cactus. They are a different kind of succulent plant used as a source of food (sugar and tequila), fibers and building materials.
Caption 2: Agave eggersiana has a large rosette body of think, fleshy leaves, each ending generally in a sharp point and with a spiny margin.