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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

The Elusive Fassett’s Locoweed of Wisconsin

Region 3, May 31, 2012
Fassett’s Locoweed, Waushara County, Wisconsin.
Fassett’s Locoweed, Waushara County, Wisconsin. - Photo Credit: n/a
From left to right:  Nick Salick and Dr. Tracy Feldman (UW-SP), Cathy Carnes, (USFWS), Thomas Meyer and Kevin Doyle (WDNR) and Jill Utrup (USFWS) admire a flowering Fassett’s locoweed at Plainfield Lake in Waushara County, Wisconsin.
From left to right: Nick Salick and Dr. Tracy Feldman (UW-SP), Cathy Carnes, (USFWS), Thomas Meyer and Kevin Doyle (WDNR) and Jill Utrup (USFWS) admire a flowering Fassett’s locoweed at Plainfield Lake in Waushara County, Wisconsin. - Photo Credit: n/a

On May 31, 2012, Cathy Carnes, Jill Utrup, and Jessica Kempke with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Ecological Services Green Bay Field Office, and staff from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources met with Dr. Tracy Feldman and his assistant from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Dr. Feldman provided an update on the research work being conducted on Fassett’s locoweed (Oxytropis campestris var. chartacea) on Plainfield and Pickeral lakes in Wisconsin. Fassett’s locoweed is federally listed as threatened and state-listed as endangered. The species is only found in Bayfield, Portage, and Waushara counties in Wisconsin, and does not occur anywhere else in the world. Fassett’s locoweed is a perennial herb in the pea family with rose-pink to violet flowers; it is found on gentle slopes in sand-gravel shorelines around shallow lakes which are subject to water level fluctuations. The plant depends on the open habitat (above the water line) provided when lake levels are low and a large seed bank that germinates in this open habitat for long-term population maintenance. During the last 2 years thousands of seedlings have germinated at Plainfield and Pickeral lakes due to lower water levels. Research, which includes modeling as well as counting the number of seedlings, reproducing adults, and non-reproducing adults, has found that the populations at both lakes is likely growing but show much year-to-year variation. Data from tagged plants has also shown that larger plants are more likely to survive but less likely to grow in size from year to year. Invasive species such as white clover and cottonwood trees are being monitored and the data provided to the WDNR to assist them in their invasive species control program. Population monitoring and control of invasive species at Fassett’s locoweed sites remain priority recovery tasks for this rare species. For more information on Fassett’s locoweed, you can go to the following website: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/plants/index.html

Contact Info: Jessica Kempke, (920)866-1738, jessica_kempke@fws.gov