Recovery on the Horizon
a species facing extinction, the Missouri bladderpod now has a bright
future due to efforts by concerned people.
bladderpod, named for its bladder-like seedpods, was listed as endangered
in February 1987. Progress toward recovery led to its reclassification
to threatened in September 2003. It is a short (about 8 inches high)
annual plant with beautiful yellow flowers that bloom from April through
May. The bladderpod survives hot Missouri summers as seeds that germinate
in fall when the temperature drops. The plant spends winter as a small
cluster of leaves. In spring, stems and flowers develop, seeds are
produced and shed, and the life cycle starts over again.
Bladderpod and Glades
The Missouri bladderpod is a species that inhabits glades. The word
glade comes from the Old English word glad, meaning a
shining place. In the Ozarks, glades are truly sunlit islands
in the forest. A parklike bench on a hillside where the bedrock is
exposed or nearly so, a glade resembles a miniature prairie perched
among the hills. The old-timers referred to a hilltop glade, or knob,
as a bald, a word that describes the glades most recognizable
characteristic: treeless and brushless. (Modeland, P. R. Glades:
Sunlit Islands in the Hills. http://www.runningriver.com/)
and Arkansas there are six different types of glades depending on
the underlying bedrock: limestone, dolomite, sandstone, chert, igneous
rock, and shale. The Missouri bladderpod is found primarily on limestone
glades (although there is one collection from a dolomite glade in
glades tend to be hot and dry, some of the animals and plants found
there are more typical of southwestern deserts including scorpions,
tarantulas, collared lizards and prickly pear cacti. Other plants
inhabiting glades include those that are more typical of prairies,
such as big and little bluestem, Indian grass, Indian paintbrush,
prairie larkspur, purple coneflower, and blazing stars. Historically
the open nature of glades was a result of being frequently burned
by lightning-caused fires or fire set by Native Americans. Today,
glades must be actively managed to maintain their unique plant and
of most endangered species recovery efforts, conservation of the Missouri
bladderpod results in conserving the natural community and habitat
associated with this species. The species occurs primarily on limestone
glades that have a varied array of plant and animal life.
In the early 1980s concern arose about the Missouri bladderpods
future due to low population numbers and the fact that many of those
were threatened by ongoing land uses. After it was listed as endangered,
the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDOC), The Nature Conservancy
(TNC), the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and concerned individuals
began conservation actions. As required by the Endangered Species
Act, a Recovery Plan was prepared and actions needed to recover the
bladderpod were identified and prioritized. Listed below are the most
important actions identified in the Recovery Plan and the progress
made to date in implementing those activities.
When listed, the Missouri bladderpod was known from only nine sites
in three counties and was thought to be Missouris only state
endemic plant. Many areas, however, had not been surveyed for this
species. Unfortunately, there is often little money available for
plant and nongame animal surveys until a species is federally listed.
The need for additional surveys was identified as a recovery task
in the Services approved Recovery Plan. Surveys of glades in
and adjacent to counties where existing populations of Missouri bladderpod
occurred resulted in the discovery of 52 new populations in 4 counties
by 1995. Then, in 1997, the bladderpod was found in Izard County,
Arkansas, during a field trip by the Arkansas Native Plant Society.
Investigations following this discovery also brought to light the
fact that the Missouri bladderpod had been collected in Washington
County, Arkansas in 1992 and rediscovered at this site in 2002. Missouri
no longer had bragging rights to its only state-endemic plant.
Although knowing the range and number of populations is important
when evaluating the health of a species, we also need to learn what
is happening within individual populations over time. Monitoring enables
us to evaluate population trends and determine whether conditions
for the bladderpod are improving, declining, or stable. Monitoring
showed us that wide yearly fluctuations in numbers were characteristic
of this species. For example, the number of Missouri bladderpods at
Bloody Hill Glade ranged from a high of 303,466 plants in 1991 to
a low of 0 in 1993 and 1994. Therefore long-term monitoring is necessary
to determine populations trends.
To manage for a species, we need to know what environmental conditions
are necessary for the plant to survive and reproduce. With this information
we can develop management guidelines best suited to the species and
adequately monitor it until it is fully recovered. Research conducted
to date includes seed bank ecology; factors affecting germination
and seedling establishment; genetic diversity among populations; and
techniques to control exotic plants in bladderpod habitat.
Research results were and are being used to develop management techniques
to improve habitat conditions on sites where the Missouri bladderpod
occurs. The MDOC, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, TNC, National
Park Service, and private landowners use these management techniques
to improve and maintain bladderpod populations. Management tools include
prescribed burns, chainsawing, and herbicides to control the woody
vegetation and invasive exotic plants (herbicide use is restricted
from June through August); rerouting hiking trails to reduce foot
traffic impacts; and reducing or eliminating excessive livestock grazing.
fire is a particularly effective tool for improving bladderpod habitat.
Glades are burned in August to set back woody plants and aggressive
invasive grasses. Bladderpods are apparently not harmed because the
seeds remain dormant until conditions are favorable for germination
later in the fall. The effects of prescribed burns were evident at
Rocky Barrens Conservation Area. In 1992 there were about 2,000 plants
on that site and in 1994, after August 1993 burns, there were over
Ownership by a public natural resources agency or a private conservation
organization is an important conservation tool to ensure that some
sites are protected in perpetuity. The Nature Conservancy protected
the first site when it purchased the 47-acre Greenfield Glade in 1986.
One of the largest populations of bladderpod was protected when the
MDOC and TNC purchased 281 acres at Rocky Barrens in Greene County,
Missouri. Currently, 9 sites totaling 400 acres are in public or TNC
Awareness and Support
A number of groups and agencies involved in Missouri bladderpod conservation
have created outreach materials and met with individuals, landowners,
and other interested parties to discuss the species and its conservation
about Missouri bladderpod has been provided to the general public
by way of a baseball-type trading card featuring the bladderpod, an
MDOC Endangered Species Guide Sheet, and two articles in the MDOCs
Missouri Conservationist (June 1995 and February 1999) highlighting
the bladderpod. Other fact sheets on the bladderpod were prepared
and distributed at sites with bladderpods. The MDOC also distributed
a Best Management Practice Guide Sheet outlining management practices
that benefit the bladderpod. These were provided to other state agencies
for use during environmental reviews of projects that could potentially
harm the species.
people who may encounter the bladderpod, the MDOC conducted an identification
workshop for employees of the National Resources Conservation Service
and the Williams Pipeline Company in Springfield, Missouri. Information
learned from the workshop led to the discovery of a previously unknown
site along a powerline right-of-way in Greene County.
the MDOC and the Service cooperated in a program to contact landowners
who had Missouri bladderpods on their property. Information on habitat
needs of Missouri bladderpod and suggested compatible land management
techniques were discussed with landowners. Over 80 percent of the
people contacted responded favorably to the protection and management
of bladderpod habitat.
Conservancy has also contacted landowners through its Registry Program.
The Registry Program involves a verbal agreement between TNC and a
landowner to protect Missouri bladderpod and its habitat. Personnel
from TNC assist landowners by providing managment suggestions and
alerting them to various landowner incentive programs.
Will This Story End?
Recovery of this once-imperiled species is on the horizon if these
recovery actions are continued and expanded. We can all take pride
in the Missouri bladderpods progress toward recovery. Thanks
to the combined efforts of private, State, and Federal partners, a
small, colorful plant and its unique habitat will continue to grace
the glades of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.
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