Leedy's roseroot is named after the botanist John Leedy, who first collected the species in 1936, and belongs to the Crassulacaea family of plants that are often characterized by succulent stems and leaves. Flowers produced by Leedy's roseroot range from red to yellow, while their leaves and stems are a distinctive blue green. They are habitat specialists, only occupying cliff sides in Minnesota, New York and South Dakota. Because cliff sides that feature Leedy's roseroot habitat are relatively uncommon on the landscape, their populations are small and isolated, which is the primary threat to the species. Other threats include development, erosion and runoff above and on cliff sides, as well as inherent cliff instability, altered hydrology, groundwater contamination and. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with federal and state agencies, universities, non-governmental organizations and private landowners to collect Leedy's roseroot seeds for seed banking, as well as leaves for genetic analysis which will help to determine management priorities.
Although Leedy’s roseroot is only found on cliffsides, the specific characteristics and conditions of those cliffsides vary across its current range. In Minnesota, Leedy’s roseroot grow on primarily north-facing maderate cliffs, which are unique to the Driftless Area and formed when streams undercut and eroded rock formations. This erosion causes the formation of sinkholes and underground ice caves. Cool and moist air escaping out of fractures in the cliff face create microclimates where temperature and humidity are more constant than surrounding areas. In New York, Leedy’s roseroot can be found primarily on east-facing cliffs. Because New York sites do not feature the same formations and resulting microclimates found in Minnesota, Leedy’s roseroot rely on seepage, sheltered areas and waterfalls to create suitable conditions. Leedy’s roseroot in South Dakota are found at a single site that shares habitat characteristics with both Minnesota and New York sites, occupying a north-facing, seepy cliff face in the Black Hills.
Land covered by evergreen trees in cool, northern latitudes. Also called taiga.
Leedy’s roseroot plants grow from scaly rhizomes, which are underground stems that produce both shoots and roots. Stems growing from the rhizome are leafy and can grow up to 45 centimeters (17.7 in) tall. Leaves are fleshy, which is characteristic of succulents, and waxy, with irregular teeth, are oblong in shape and slightly wider toward the tip. Leaf size averages 30 millimeters (1.2 in) in length and 5 millimeters (0.2 in) in width. Male and female flowers exist on different plants and are usually made up of four to five petals that range from 1.3 to 1.7 millimeters (0.05 to 0.06 in) in width.
Leedy’s roseroot stems and leaves are a distinctive blue-green in color, while flower petals range from yellow at the base to orange and red towards the tip.
Leedy’s roseroot are perennial plants, which means that individual plants may live for multiple years. Stems begin to emerge from rhizomes and leaf out in March. Starting in May, flowers begin to bloom and, if pollinated, plants begin to produce seed in late summer. In October, plants senesce until the following spring.
Although Leedy’s roseroot can reproduce vegetatively, meaning that new plants can be produced from fragments of existing rhizomes. Reproduction of Leedy’s roseroot usually occurs through pollination by insects.
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