Endangered Species
Midwest Region



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Geocarpon (Geocarpon minimum)

Fact Sheet


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Geocarpon may be a pioneer species, taking advantage of newly cleared sandstone "slicks" before other plants can colonize them.


Status: Threatened


Habitat: Geocarpon prefers eroded areas in grasslands called "slicks" or "slickspots." Bare soil over sandstone, slicks are high in salinity and may be the remains of ancient Pleistocene lake beds. It is not known if these slicks are renewed by fire or flooding or if they eventually disappear. If they are renewed, then geocarpons may be a pioneer species - one of the first plants to take root in a newly cleared habitat. Colonization by other species eventually forces out the pioneer species.


Why It's Threatened: Vegetational succession appears to be the major threat to this tiny (0.4" to 1.6"), inconspicuous plant. When grasses or shrubs encroach on a slick, the geocarpons fail. If slicks do indeed result from fire, then fire suppression would hasten encroachment of geocarpon habitat.


Geocarpons also suffer from certain forestry practices such as the piling and burning of slash and the use of heavy equipment. Other threats include off-road vehicles, which damage habitat, and livestock grazing. In places, however, cattle may actually assist geocarpons by clearing the ground of competing seedlings.


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Last updated: October 10, 2018