Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
NEVADA FWO: Surveying For Rare Plants
California-Nevada Offices , July 14, 2009
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Railroad Valley globemallow (Sphaeralcea caespitosa var. williamsiae) (photo: USFWS)
Railroad Valley globemallow (Sphaeralcea caespitosa var. williamsiae) (photo: USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a

by Jeannie Stafford, Nevada FWO
In 2005, the Fish and Wildlife Service provided Recovery Land Acquisition funding to assist the Nevada Department of Wildlife in purchasing Lockes Ranch in the Railroad Valley of central Nevada for conservation of the threatened Railroad Valley Springfish (Crenichthys nevadae). As part of a restoration planning effort for the ranch, the Service’s botanist, Steve Caicco, conducted a survey in May 2008, to see if any of the rare plants known occur in Railroad Valley occurred there. Steve found populations of the currant milkvetch and Railroad Valley globemallow do occur on a rocky upland adjacent to the wetlands. The milkvetch is a former candidate species and both plants are designated as sensitive species by the Bureau of Land Management.

Currant milkvetch grows as a tight cushion, seldom more than a few inches in diameter, and can bear a dozen or more large, bright-pink pea-like flowers. It is easy to spot when in flower but difficult to find once the flowers have faded. There are only seven known occurrences of the milkvetch in Nevada, all in the Railroad Valley. It is more common within a similarly narrow range in western Utah. Populations in Nevada tend to have fewer than 100 plants and, in some years, only a few plants are seen.

Globemallow has an upright growth form but seldom exceeds 10 inches in height. It bears several reddish-orange flowers. This plant, first identified as a new variety in 2002, is restricted to the Railroad Valley where it is reported in only six occurrences.

Although the two plant species often co-occur, globemallow is typically present in larger numbers at any given site. Both species bloom in spring, the milkvetch in mid-April and the globemallow a few weeks later.

This spring, Steve began a monitoring project for the milkvetch and will incorporate globemallow monitoring in the future. The purpose of the monitoring project is to provide a baseline against which population changes can be evaluated and to provide management recommendations to maintain viable populations of these species on the ranch in the future.

Contact Info: Jeannie Stafford, 775-861-6300, jeannie_stafford@fws.gov
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