FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Vicki M. Boatwright or August 17, 1995 Diana M. Hawkins U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE SEEKS COMMENTS ON RECOVERY PLAN FOR 19 PROTECTED PLANTS IN CENTRAL FLORIDA
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that it is seeking public comment on a revised plan to bring about the recovery of 19 endangered and threatened plants that are native to central Florida. This draft plan is a revision of an earlier plan, developed in 1990, that covered 11 of these species.
Of the 19 plants included in the recovery plan, 15 are classified as endangered and 4 are classified as threatened. The plants are:
Listed as "endangered" in 1987 Chionanthus pygmaeus (pygmy fringe tree) Eryngium cuneifolium Hypericum cumulicola Lupinus aridorum (scrub lupine) Polygonella basiramia Prunus geniculata (scrub plum) Warea carteri (Carter's mustard) Listed as "threatened" in 1987 Bonamia grandiflora (Florida bonamia) Paronychia chartacea Listed as "endangered" in 1989 Liatris ohlingerae Ziziphus celata Listed as "endangered" in 1993 Cladonia perforata (Florida perforate cladonia, a lichen) Conradina brevifolia (short-leaved rosemary) Crotalaria avonensis Nolina brittoniana (a beargrass) Polygala lewtonii Polygonella myriophylla (sand lace) Listed as "threatened" in 1993 Clitoria fragrans (pigeon-wings) Eriogonum longifolium var. gnaphalifolium (scrub buckwheat)
Most of these plant species live on very dry, sandy soils in an area of central Florida that is characterized by ancient sand dunes, scrub vegetation with shrub-sized evergreen oaks, and sand pines with characteristic leaning trunks and blue-green short needles. High pineland vegetation with straight-trunked longleaf pines, deciduous turkey oaks, and abundant grasses also occur in the same geographic area.
The scrub vegetation and, to a lesser extent, the high pineland on the southern Lake Wales Ridge of central Florida have a striking concentration of plant species, some of which are believed to live nowhere else in the world. The Lake Wales Ridge is a series of hills that runs southward from Haines City through Lake Wales, Sebring, and Lake Placid in Polk and Highlands counties. The ridge's scrub vegetation is the remnant of an ancient ecosystem estimated to be of Miocene, Pliocene, or Pleistocene age (one to three million years old).
Once, when sea levels were higher, the Lake Wales Ridge was the narrow southern tip of the Florida peninsula. The Ridge has been above sea level for at least three million years, long enough to cause geographic isolation that would allow new plant species to evolve, in the same way as often happens on oceanic islands, such as the Galapagos Islands, or atop mountain ranges.
The ranges of several species extend beyond the Lake Wales Ridge. Florida bonamia, scrub buckwheat, and the small herb Polygala lewtonii occur in Ocala National Forest and may be found in the vicinity of Orlando and Lake Apopka. Several species were collected near Eustis around a century ago. Carter's mustard once occurred in Miami and Coral Gables; it was reported from scrub in Brevard County several years ago. The small herb Paronychia chartacea has recently been found on sandy lake margins along the border between Bay and Washington counties north of Panama City in the Florida panhandle. These limestone sink lakes and ponds have several other distinctive local plant species. The lichen Cladonia perforata is restricted to a few sites near Lake Placid, three sites in northern Palm Beach and southern Martin counties on the southeast coast, and one site on Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida panhandle. The scrub lupine occurs in the western Orlando metro area (Orange County) and in small areas near Winter Haven (Polk County). Sharing the same central Florida habitat with most of these plants are several other threatened species that include the Florida scrub jay and two lizards--the blue-tailed mole skink and the sand skink.
The draft recovery plan calls for the State of Florida and the Fish and Wildlife Service to continue land acquisition programs and set aside a series of protected lands along the Lake Wales Ridge and elsewhere. The plan provides a framework to monitor the status of these plants on public lands and to ensure that management of those lands is appropriate for the plants. Within a few years, if land acquisitions continue, the Service expects to be able to delist several species and to upgrade the status of others from endangered to threatened. The plan does not affect private landowners, who are under no obligation to protect endangered or threatened plants on their land.
The Service will collect written public comments on this recovery plan over the next 60 days. Copies of the draft plan can be obtained from the Service by writing to the Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 6620 Southpoint Drive South, Suite 310, Jacksonville, Florida 32216-0912 or by calling 904/232-2580 (fax 904/232-2404).
X X X Release #95-64
1995 News Releases