Reclassifying Palo de Rosa From Endangered to Threatened - Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is palo de rosa?    

A: Palo de rosa is the common name of Ottochulzia rhodoxylon, an evergreen tree that may reach up to 49 feet (15 m) in height and 16 inches (40 cm) in diameter. Its common name comes from its pink colored wood. Palo de rosa also has smooth, dark gray branches and bisexual flowers arranged singly or in clusters at the leaf bases. The fruit is about one inch long and almost one inch wide, smooth and has a thin covering that turns dark purple when ripe. This species was listed in 1990 as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), due to low number of individuals and limited distribution throughout Puerto Rico.     

Q: What is the range of palo de rosa?    

A: Palo de rosa extends along the southwestern coast of Puerto Rico, from the municipality of Cabo Rojo to the municipality of Guayanilla, and along the northern coast of Puerto Rico, from the municipality of Aguadilla to the municipality of Fajardo. Although the species’ native range extends to the island of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti), there is little information on the status of the species there and the sparse information found is limited to scattered herbarium collections.      

Q: What is the population status of palo de rosa?    

A: According to a review of the best available information for the species, about 1,144 palo de rosa individuals are found in 66 subpopulations throughout Puerto Rico. Overall, about 70 percent of the areas where palo de rosa are known to occur are areas which are either protected, managed for conservation, recognized by local agencies as important for conservation, or areas of difficult access because of the topography. In Hispaniola, there is little information about the current status of this species. However, palo de rosa is categorized as critically endangered according to the red listing assessment for the flora of the Dominican Republic.     

Q: Why is the Service reclassifying palo de rosa from endangered to threatened?    

A: After a thorough review of the best scientific and commercial information available on the species, the Service found a significant improvement in palo de rosa’s overall status and a reduction on the threats affecting the species. Therefore, the Service has determined that palo de rosa no longer meets the ESA definition of an endangered species but does meet the ESA’s definition of a threatened species and will be reclassified as threatened.  

Q: How are the endangered and threatened classifications defined?    

A: The ESA defines endangered as “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range” whereas threatened is defined as “likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”    

Q: What prompted the Service to take this action?    

A: In 2017, the Service completed a five-year status review that recommended the reclassification of palo de rosa from endangered to threatened, based on substantial improvements in its status. Since listing in 1990, and as described in the 2017 five-year status review, a substantial increase in number of individuals has been documented (1,144 individuals known including adults and saplings) from 66 localities (subpopulations) throughout Puerto Rico. Furthermore, about 70 percent of the known localities occur in areas under conservation management or are in inaccessible areas, providing favorable conditions for the recovery of the species.    

Q:  What recovery actions have been implemented to lessen the threats to the species?    

A:  The Service, in collaboration with local partners, has successfully implemented the following recovery actions:    

  • Prevented the loss of habitat and populations. 

  • Continued to gather information on the distribution and abundance of palo de rosa in western Puerto Rico. 

  • Conducted research on the species.  


Q:  What are the remaining threats to palo de rosa?    

A:  Although limited species distribution is no longer considered an imminent threat, the palo de rosa still faces threats related to habitat destruction and modification in privately-owned lands, particularly along the northern coast of Puerto Rico, and other natural or manmade factors such as hurricanes. Additionally, habitat fragmentation (resulting in lack of connectivity between individuals) and habitat encroachment by invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

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continue to threaten palo de rosa populations. This is exacerbated by the species dependency on cross-pollination, slow growth of the species’ seedlings, and the species sporadic flowering and fruit production, which results in a low recruitment rate.      

Q: What did the Service consider in reaching its decision to propose a downlisting rule to reclassify palo de rosa?    

A: The ESA requires the Service to determine whether a species is endangered or threatened based on one or more of the five following factors:   

  • The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range. 

  • Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes.   

  • Disease or predation. 

  • The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. 

  • Other natural or man-made factors affecting its continued existence.    


In making this decision, the Service conducted a thorough status review based on these factors using the best scientific and commercial information available. In the 2017 five-year status review, we made a recommendation to reclassify this endangered plant based on our evaluation of these same five factors.    

Q: Where can I find the 2017 five-year review for palo de rosa?    

A:  The review and associated information related to palo de rosa is available at:    

Q: What is a 4(d) rule?    

A: The Service has the discretion under section 4(d) of the ESA to issue special regulations for a threatened species that are necessary and advisable for the conservation of the species.      

Q: What is included in the 4(d) rule?    

A:  The 4(d) rule allows the Service the regulatory flexibility to issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities involving the species, when actions are not considered detrimental to the species conservation. Some of these activities include importing or exporting; certain acts related to removing, damaging, and destroying; delivering, receiving, transporting, or shipping in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of commercial activity; selling or offering for sale in interstate or foreign commerce; or collecting plant material (seeds, seedlings, propagules, or cuttings) and natural individuals or those planted to enhance the status of the species in the wild. Additionally, the Service may grant permits for the following purposes: scientific purposes, to enhance propagation or survival, for economic hardship, for botanical or horticultural exhibition, for educational purposes, or other purposes consistent with the purposes of the ESA. Exceptions from prohibitions in the 4(d) rule include those working with seeds of cultivated origin.     

Q:  What impact does the reclassification of palo de rosa have on the public?    

A:  Reclassification means, first and foremost, that federal, state and partnering organizations, private citizens, public and private landowners, academia, etc. successfully moved palo de rosa away from the immediate threat of extinction. Existing federal protections will not change, and conservation and monitoring efforts for palo de rosa will continue.

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Endangered and/or Threatened species