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Rough popcornflower

Photo of Rough Popcornflower (USFWS)

Scientific name: Plagiobothrys hirtus 

Status:  Endangered

Critical Habitat: None

Listing Activity: The rough popcornflower was federally listed as endangered without critical habitat in January 2000 (US Fish and Wildlife Service 2000). A recovery plan for this species was published on July 28, 2003.

Potential Range Map 

  • Historic Status and Current Trends

    Rough popcornflower was probably widespread historically on the floodplains of the interior valleys of the Umpqua River. Because it occurs in low-lying areas, seeds were likely dispersed by flood waters, resulting in a patchy, clumped distribution on the floodplains. Natural processes such as flooding and fire maintained open, wetland habitat. Draining of wetlands for urban and agricultural uses and road and reservoir construction, however, has altered the original hydrology of the valley to such an extent that the total area of suitable habitat for this species has been significantly reduced.

    Description and Life History

    The rough popcornflower is a member of the borage family (Boraginaceae) and is an annual herb on drier sites or perennial herb on wetter sites. It reaches 30-70 cm (1-2 ft) in height and has a fairly stout stem with widely spreading, coarse, firm hairs on the upper part. The leaves of the main stem are opposite (paired), and the inflorescence (flower) is paired and without bracts (small leaf). The individual flowers are 1-2 mm (0.04-0.08 in) wide and white. It generally blooms June-July. Rough popcornflower grows in scattered groups and reproduces largely by insect-aided cross-pollination and partially by self-pollination. The species is distinguished from other Plagiobothrys species by its coarse, sparse hairs on the stem and branches.


    Rough popcornflower grows in open, seasonal wetlands in poorly- drained clay or silty clay loam soils at elevations ranging from 30 to 270 m (100 to 900 ft). The taxon depends on seasonal flooding and/or fire to maintain open habitat and to limit competition with invasive native and non-native plant species. This plant occurs in open microsites within the one-sided sedge (Carex unilateralis)--meadow barley (Hordeum brachyantherum) community type within interior valley grasslands. The plant occurs on soils in the Conser Silty Clay Loam Series (NRCS mapped soil unit SSURGO 44A).

    Reasons for Decline

    The rough popcornflower is highly threatened by direct loss of habitat from conversion to urban and agricultural uses, hydrological alterations, and fire suppression. Other threats to the species include spring and summer livestock grazing, roadside mowing, spraying, competition with non-native vegetation, and landscaping.


    Rough popcornflower is endemic to seasonal wetlands in the interior valley of the Umpqua River in southwestern Oregon. The rough popcornflower has a narrow range historically, and currently occurs on only 17 habitat patches in Oregon's Umpqua Valley in Douglas County. The sites are all located within 8 km (5 miles) of one another and total under 18 hectares (45 acres) in area. Fewer than 7,000 plants are known to exist.

    Conservation Measures

    Various USFWS partners are accomplishing recovery of the rough popcornflower:  The Oregon Department of Agriculture has over the past 12 years developed a procedure to cultivate, propagate, and outplant rough popcornflower into historically occupied habitat successfully.  The Nature Conservancy protects and manages approximately 30 acres of rough popcornflower occupied habitat on a nature preserve.  The Oregon Department of Transportation protects and manages two robust rough popcornflower sites adjacent to an interstate highway.  Douglas Soil and water Conservation District manages and protects a healthy rough popcornflower population in the Sutherlin, Oregon area. The City of Sutherlin also manages and protects two fenced-in, but happy rough popcornflower patches within the City’s “Festival Grounds."  The Bureau of Land Management protects several introduced rough popcornflower patches at the North Bank Habitat Management Area. One patch is so successful that it has expanded in its size to become one of the largest and most vigorous populations.

    References and Links

    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2003. Recovery Plan for the Rough Popcornflower (Plagiobothrys hirtus). Portland, Oregon. 60pp.

    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2000. Endangered Status for the Plant Plagiobothrys hirtus (Rough Popcornflower) Federal Register 65:3866-3875.

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