thefederalregister.com

Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2012-0064; 4500030113]

RIN 1018-AX74

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of Status for Texas Golden Gladecress and Neches River Rose-mallow and Designation of Critical Habitat

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Proposed rule.
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, propose to list two Texas plants,Leavenworthia texana(Texas golden gladecress) as an endangered species andHibiscus dasycalyx(Neches River rose-mallow) as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act) and propose to designate critical habitat for both species. These are proposed regulations, and if finalized the effect of these regulations will be to conserve the species and protect their habitat under the Endangered Species Act.
DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before November 13, 2012. We must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, at the address shown in theADDRESSESsection by October 26, 2012.
ADDRESSES: (1)Electronically:Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal:http://www.regulations.gov.In the Keyword box, enter Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2012-0064, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on "Send a Comment or Submission."

(2)By hard copy:Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R2-ES-2012-0064; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

We request that you send comments only by the methods described above. We will post all comments onhttp://www.regulations.gov.This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section below for more information).

The coordinates or plot points or both from which the critical habitat maps are generated are included in the administrative record for this rulemaking and are available athttp://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ElectronicLibrary/ElectronicLibrary_Main.cfm, http://www.regulations.govat Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2012-0064, and at the Corpus Christi Ecological Services Field Office (seeFOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Any additional tools or supporting information that we may develop for this rulemaking will also be available at the Fish and Wildlife Service Web site and Field Office set out above, and may also be included in the preamble and/or atwww.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Allan Strand, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Corpus Christi Ecological Services Field Office, 6300 Ocean Drive, Unit 5837, Corpus Christi, Texas, 78412-5837, by telephone 361-994-9005 or by facsimile 361-994-8262. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Executive Summary

Why we need to publish a rule.Under the Endangered Species Act (Act), a species may warrant protection through listing if it is determined to be an endangered or threatened species throughout all or a significant portion of its range.Leavenworthia texana(Texas golden gladecress) andHibiscus dasycalyx(Neches River rose-mallow) have been candidates for listing since 1997, but action has been precluded by higher priority listings. As part of a court-approved settlement, we agreed to reevaluate the status of both species and after conducting a thorough review of the current status and level of threats to both species and their habitats between fall 2011 and winter 2012, we concluded that listing, and designation of critical habitat, for both species is warranted.

This rule proposes to add both species to the Federal Lists of Threatened and Endangered Animals and Plants and proposes to designate critical habitat for both species.

• We propose to list the Texas golden gladecress and the Neches River rose-mallow as an endangered and threatened species, respectively, under the Act.

We propose to designate approximately 1,353 acres (ac) (539 hectares (ha)) of critical habitat for the gladecress in Sabine and San Augustine Counties, and approximately 187.8 ac (76.0 ha) of critical habitat for the rose-mallow in Cherokee, Houston, Trinity, Harrison, and Nacogdoches Counties, Texas.

The basis for our action.Under the Act, we can determine that a species is an endangered or threatened species based on any of five factors: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) Disease or predation; (D) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.

We have determined that both species are negatively affected by the following:

• Habitat loss and degradation of herbaceous glade plant communities supporting the gladecress, and of open habitats on hydric alluvial soils along sloughs, oxbows, terraces, and wetlands of the Neches River or Mud and Tantabogue Creeks that support the rose-mallow. Activities or factors negatively impacting the habitat of the gladecress include: Glauconite quarrying; natural gas and oil exploration and production; invasion of open glades by nonnative and native shrubs, trees, and vines, and other weedy species; pine tree plantings in close proximity to occupied glades; and herbicide applications that have potential to kill emerging seedlings. The rose-mallow's habitat is being lost and degraded by encroachment of nonnative and native plant species, particularly trees, herbicide use, livestock trampling, and alteration of natural hydrology of seasonal flooding to conditions where habitat has been drained or has become permanently flooded. Prolonged or frequent droughts can exacerbate habitat degradation for both species.

• Lack of existing regulatory mechanisms to protect either species or their habitats.

• Other natural or manmade factors, including low numbers of individual plants and few remaining populations. The species' natural variability that is associated with climatic conditions can be negatively affected by the effects of drought.

Also under the Act, upon making a determination that a species warrants listing as an endangered or threatened species, we are required to designate critical habitat to the maximum extent prudent and determinable. We are required to base the designation on the best available scientific data after taking into consideration economic and other impacts. We can exclude an area from critical habitat if the benefits ofexclusion outweigh the benefits of designation, unless the exclusion will result in the extinction of the species.

This rule proposes to designate critical habitat for each species.

We are proposing to designate critical habitat for both species in East Texas as follows:

• Approximately 1,353 acres (ac) (539 hectares (ha)) are designated as critical habitat for Texas golden gladecress.

• Approximately 178 ac (76 ha) are designated as critical habitat for Neches River rose-mallow.

We are planning to prepare an economic analysis.To ensure that we consider the economic impacts, we will prepare an economic analysis of the proposed critical habitat designations. We will use the data from the economic analysis to inform the final rule.

We will seek peer review.We are seeking comments from independent specialists to ensure that our assessment of threats and their impacts on these species, as well as our critical habitat designations, are based on the best available scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. We have invited these peer reviewers to comment on our proposed listing of the gladecress and the rose-mallow and our critical habitat designations. Because we will consider all comments and information received during the comment period, our final determinations may differ from this proposal.

This document consists of: (1) One proposed rule to list theLeavenworthia texanaas an endangered species; (2) one proposed rule to list theHibiscus dasycalyxas a threatened species; and (3) proposed critical habitat designations for each species. For the purposes of this document, we will refer toLeavenworthia texanaas Texas golden gladecress or gladecress andHibiscus dasycalyxas Neches River rose-mallow or rose-mallow.

Information Requested

We intend that any final action resulting from this proposed rule will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request comments or information from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, Native American tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested parties concerning this proposed rule. We particularly seek comments concerning:

(1) These species' biology, range, and population trends, including:

(a) Habitat requirements for pollination, reproduction, and dispersal;

(b) Genetics and taxonomy;

(c) Historical and current range including distribution patterns;

(d) Historical and current population levels, and current and projected trends; and

(e) Past and ongoing conservation measures for these species, their habitat or both.

(2) The factors that are the basis for making a listing determination for a species under section 4(a) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531et seq.), which are:

(a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of their habitat or range;

(b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;

(c) Disease or predation;

(d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or

(e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting their continued existence.

(3) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning any threats (or lack thereof) to these species and existing regulations that may be addressing those threats;

(4) Additional information concerning the historical and current status, range, distribution, and population size of these species, including the locations of any additional populations of these species;

(5) Any information on the biological or ecological requirements of the species, and ongoing conservation measures for the species and their habitat;

(6) The reasons why we should or should not designate habitat as “critical habitat” under section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531et seq.), including whether there are threats to these species from human activity, the degree of which can be expected to increase due to the designation, and whether that increase in threats outweighs the benefit of designation such that the designation of critical habitat is not prudent.

(7) Specific information on:

(a) The amount and distribution of the Texas golden gladecress and Neches River rose-mallow and their habitat;

(b) What may constitute “physical or biological features essential to the conservation of these species,” within the geographical range currently occupied by these species;

(c) Where these features are currently found;

(d) Whether any of these features may require special management considerations or protection;

(e) What areas, that were occupied at the time of listing (or are currently occupied) and that contain features essential to the conservation of these species, should be included in the designation and why;

(f) What areas not occupied at the time of listing are essential for the conservation of these species and why;

(8) Land use designations and current or planned activities in the areas occupied by these species or proposed to be designated as critical habitat, and possible impacts of these activities on these species and proposed critical habitat;

(9) Information on the projected and reasonably likely impacts of climate change on these species and proposed critical habitat;

(10) Any foreseeable economic, national security, or other relevant impacts that may result from designating any area that may be included in the final designation. We are particularly interested in any impacts on small entities, and the benefits of including or excluding areas from the proposed designation that are subject to these impacts;

(11) Whether our approach to designating critical habitat could be improved or modified in any way to provide for greater public participation and understanding, or to assist us in accommodating public concerns and comments;

(12) The likelihood of adverse social reactions to the designation of critical habitat and how the consequences of such reactions, if likely to occur, would relate to the conservation and regulatory benefits of the proposed critical habitat designations.

Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to verify any scientific or commercial information you include.

Please note that submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the action under consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in making a determination, as section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that determinations as to whether any species is a threatened or endangered species must be made “solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.”

You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed rule by one of the methods listed in theADDRESSESsection. We request that you send comments only by the methods described in theADDRESSESsection.

If you submit information viahttp://www.regulations.gov,your entire submission—including any personal identifying information—will be posted on the Web site. If your submission is made via a hardcopy that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your documentthat we withhold this information from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We will post all hardcopy submissions onhttp://www.regulations.gov.Please include sufficient information with your comments to allow us to verify any scientific or commercial information you include.

Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection onhttp://www.regulations.gov,or by appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Corpus Christi Ecological Services Field Office (seeFOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, above).

Previous Federal Actions

We first identified the Texas golden gladecress and Neches River rose-mallow as candidates for listing in the September 19, 1997, Notice of Review of Plant and Animal Taxa that are Candidates or Proposed for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species (62 FR 49397). Candidates are those fish, wildlife, and plants for which we have on file sufficient information on biological vulnerability and threats to support preparation of a listing proposal, but for which development of a listing regulation is precluded by other higher priority listing activities. The Texas golden gladecress and the Neches River rose-mallow were included in subsequent annual Candidate Notices of Reviews through 2004 (64 FR 57533, October 25, 1999; 66 FR 54808, October 30, 2001; 67 FR 40657, June 13, 2002; and 69 FR 24876, May 4, 2004). A petition to list Texas golden gladecress and the Neches River rose-mallow was received on May 11, 2004, but contained no new information, and we continued to include both species in all annual Candidate Notices of Review between 2005 and 2011 (70 FR 24870, May 11, 2005; 71 FR 53756, September 12, 2006; 72 FR 69034, December 6, 2007; 73 FR 75176, December 10, 2008; 74 FR 57804, November 9, 2009; 75 FR 69222, November 10, 2010; and 76 FR 66370, October 26, 2011). In 2000, Texas golden gladecress' listing priority number was increased from 5 to 2 in accordance with our priority guidance published on September 21, 1983 (48 FR 43098). A listing priority of 2 reflects a species with threats that are both imminent and high in magnitude. In 2010, Neches River rose-mallow's listing priority number was also increased from 5 to 2. It is our intent to discuss below only those topics directly relevant to the proposed listing of the Texas golden gladecress as an endangered species and Neches River rose-mallow as a threatened species in this section of the proposed rule.

Background

This document contains proposed rules to list Texas golden gladecress as an endangered species and Neches River rose-mallow as a threatened species and to propose critical habitat for each species. The document is structured to address the taxa separately under each of the sectional headings that follow.

Species Information Texas Golden Gladecress Taxonomy and Description

Texas golden gladecress is a small, annual, herbaceous plant belonging to the mustard family (Brassicaceae). Dr. M.C. Leavenworth, an Army physician, first collected the taxon in Choctaw County, Oklahoma, in 1835, and the specimens were later described as a new species,Leavenworthia aurea,by Torrey (Mahler 1981, pp. 76-77). From 1836 to 1837, Leavenworth collected similar specimens near the present-day town of San Augustine, San Augustine County, Texas, and these were also identified asL. aurea.Later collections of the plant in the San Augustine area were made by E.J. Palmer (1915 and 1918), D.S. and H.B. Correll (1961 to 1962) as cited by Mahler (1981, pp. 83), and populations in this area were studied and mapped by George and Nixon (1990, pp. 117-127) between 1979 to 1980. W.H. Mahler studied the collected specimens and their habitat, and described the Texas plants as a new species,Leavenworthia texana(Mahler 1987, pp. 239-242), based on differences in morphological characteristics of flowers and leaves, and in chromosome number, between the Oklahoma and Texas plants (Mahler 1987, pp. 239-242).

According to Mahler (1987, p. 240), Texas golden gladecress flower petals were a brighter, deeper yellow than those ofL. aurea;and the petals were egg-shaped and flat instead of being broad and notched. TheL. texanahad wider-than-long terminal leaf segments that were usually distinctly lobed whileL. aurea's terminal leaves were essentially unlobed, flat, and more circular. Texas plants had a chromosome number of 2n = 22 (E.S. Nixon, pers. comm. in Mahler 1987, pp. 239, 241) while the OklahomaL. aureahad 2n = 48 (Rollins 1963, pp. 9-11; Becket al.2006, p. 156). We are aware that a recently completed monograph of the genus may have taxonomic implications for the Texas and OklahomaLeavenworthiaspecies in the future, but several questions, including the differences in chromosome number, remain unresolved and no supporting information that would change the current status of Texas golden gladecress has been published to date (Poole 2011a, pers. comm.).

Texas golden gladecress is a weakly rooted, glabrous (smooth, glossy), winter annual (completes its life cycle in 1 year). Texas golden gladecress is small in stature, less than 3.9 inches (in) (10 centimeters (cm)) in height, making it difficult to find except during flowering or when it bears fruit. The leaves are 0.8-3.1 in (2-8 cm) long and 0.4-0.6 in (1-1.5 millimeters (mm)) wide, forming rosettes at the base of the plant. Terminal leaf segments are wider-than-long, and usually distinctly lobed, with angular teeth. Flowers are bright yellow and borne on scapes (leafless flowering stems or stalks arising from the ground) that are 1.2-3.5 in (3-9 cm) long early in the flowering season. Later in the season, the flowers occur on unbranched flower clusters that come off a single central stem from which the individual flowers grow on small stalks, at intervals. The four petals are bright golden-yellow with a slightly darker base, narrowly obovate (tongue-shaped), 0.3-0.4 in (7-10 mm) long and 0.1-0.2 (3.5-5 mm) wide. The fruit is a slender seed capsule, known as a silique, with a length (0.6-1.2 in (15-30 mm)) that is more than twice its width (0.08-0.22 in (2-5.5 mm)) and that contains 5-11 flattened, circular or spherically shaped seeds. The description above was drawn from Pooleet al.(2007, p. 286), who adapted it from others.

Habitat

Texas golden gladecress occurs within the Pineywoods natural region of easternmost Texas, within the Gulf Coastal Plain Physiographic Region. The region is defined by pine-dominated forests or woodlands interspersed with bottomland, mesic slope and bald cypress-tupelo swamp forests. Many of the rare plants of the Pineywoods region, including the gladecress and the federally endangeredPhysaria pallida(white bladderpod) are found in small-scale plant communities tied to “geologic and hydrologic conditions that are themselves rather rare on the landscape” (Pooleet al.2007, p. 6).

The Texas golden gladecress is endemic to glade habitats in northern San Augustine and northwest Sabine Counties, Texas, and is a habitat specialist, occurring only on outcrops of the Weches Geologic Formation (Mahler 1987, p. 240; George and Nixon 1990, p. 120; Pooleet al.2007, pp. 286-287). The gladecress grows only in glades on shallow, calcium-rich soils that are wetin winter and spring. These occur on ironstone (glauconite or green-stone) outcrops (Pooleet al.2007, p. 286).

All species within the small genusLeavenworthiashare an adaptation to glade habitats that have unique physical characteristics, the most important being a combination of shallow soil depth and high calcium content (dolomitic limestone or otherwise calcareous soils) where the soil layers have been deposited in such a manner that they maintain temporary high-moisture content at or very near the surface (Rollins 1963, pp. 4-6). Typically, only a few inches of soil overlie the bedrock, or, in spots, the soil may be almost lacking and the surface barren. The glade habitats that support allLeavenworthiaspecies are extremely wet during the late winter and early spring and then dry to the point of being parched in summer (Rollins 1963, p. 5). These glades can vary in size from as small as a few meters to larger than 0.37 miles2(mi2) (1 kilometer2(km2)) and are characterized as having an open, sunny aspect (lacking canopy) (Quarterman 1950, p. 1; Rollins 1963, p. 5). The landscape position of the glades may also play a role in assuring the cyclic moisture regime required by glade vegetation communities.

The Weches Geologic Formation consists of bands of ancient marine sediments deposited in a line roughly parallel to the Gulf of Mexico, running from Sabine to Frio Counties, Texas. A layer of glauconite clay is either exposed at the surface or covered by a thin layer of calcareous (calcium-containing) sediment measuring as deep as 20 in (50 cm) (George and Nixon 1990, pp. 117-118). Glauconite is a characteristic mineral of marine depositional environments, presenting a greenish color when initially exposed to the atmosphere, and later turning red (Davis 1966, pp. 17-18; Nemec 1996, p. 7). The area of the Weches outcrops in San Augustine County is referred to as the “redlands” (Ritter 2011b, pers. comm.). The glauconite is very friable (crumbly) and has low resistance to weathering (Geocaching.com 2010, p. 5). The soils overlying the clay layer are typically rocky and shallow (George 1987, p. 3) and at all Texas golden gladecress sites are classified within the Nacogdoches, Trawick, or Bub soils series (USDA 2009, entire).

Weches outcrops occur in a band averaging 5 miles (mi) (8 kilometers (km)) in width that parallels Texas State Highway (SH) 21 through northern San Augustine and northwestern Sabine Counties (Sellardset al.1932 in Diggset al.2006, p. 56). It has been deeply dissected by erosion that created islands of thin, loamy, alkaline soils (pH 7-8), within the normally deep, sandy, acidic soils (pH 4-5) of the Pineywoods region. The glauconite layer of the Weches Formation is fairly impermeable to water, producing saturated, thin upper soils in late fall through spring, that dry out and harden during summer months (George 1987, pp. 2-4; Bezanson 2000 in Diggset al.2006, p. 56). Down-slope seepage across the Weches terraces may also be important to maintain the hydrology required by the gladecress (Singhurst 2003, pers. comm.). The cyclic moisture regime and the alkalinity of the soils produce conditions unique to the Weches outcrops. Certain plants, such as the Texas golden gladecress, have evolved to live within these specialized geologic formations (Mahler 1987, p. 240; George and Nixon 1990, pp. 120-122).

Biology

The Texas golden gladecress occurs in open, sunny, herbaceous-dominated plant communities in Weches glades, in some areas that also support the white bladderpod (Bridges 1988, p. II-7, II-35, and II-35 supplement). Unlike the white bladderpod, which can grow throughout the glade, the gladecress is restricted to the outcrop rock faces within the glades where it occurs (Nemec 1996, p. 8).

As is true of otherLeavenworthiaspecies (Rollins 1963, p. 6), Texas golden gladecress seeds germinate during fall rains and the plants overwinter as small, tap-rooted rosettes. Flowering begins in February and continues into March, and sometimes as late as April, depending on annual weather conditions. Rollins (1963, p. 6) noted that the blooming period ofLeavenworthiavaried according to the temperature, moisture, and severity of winter freezes. Fruit production is generally seen from March into April. The plants respond to drying of the soil by dropping seed and withering away, usually in April and May (Singhurst 2011b, pers. comm.). By summer months, gladecress plants are dead, replaced by other low-growing species such asSedum pulchellum(stonecrop),Portulaca oleracea(common purslane),Phemeranthus parviflorus(sunbright), andElocharis occulata(limestone spikerush) (Singhurst 2012e, pers. comm.). Although seed dispersal has not been studied in Texas golden gladecress, observations indicate that seeds fall within 6-8 in (15-20 cm) of the parent plant (Singhurst 2011c, pers. comm.).

Little is known about the gladecress' seed bank as this aspect of life history has not been researched. The species did reappear at two sites where it was believed lost due to habitat degradation. A population location, the Geneva Site in Sabine County (see Table 1), was bulldozed in late March 1999, one week after flowering plants were counted—the site was subsequently described by the surveyor as “lost or destroyed” (Turner 1999, pers. comm.). However, plants were found again at this site in 2003 and continued to emerge in succeeding years. At a second site in San Augustine County (Chapel Hill Site, see Table 1), a thick growth of the invasive, nonnative shrub,Rosa bracteata(Macartney rose) was removed in 1995. Post-brush removal, the gladecress reappeared after not having been seen for the previous 10 years (Nemec 1996, p. 1). The species' reappearance after these habitat alterations suggests a persistent seed bank, although there have been no formal studies to verify this hypothesis.

Rare plants often have adaptations such as early blooming, extended flowering, or mixed-mating systems that allow them to persist in small populations (Brigham 2003, p. 61). The Texas golden gladecress is believed to be self-compatible and able to self-fertilize (Rollins 1963, p. 19; Becket al.2006, p. 153). The species may have evolved for self-fertilization when conditions are not favorable for insect-vectored pollination, lessening the species' dependence on pollinators for cross-pollination and survival and potentially making the species more resilient under conditions of small, geographically separated populations. Rollins (1963, pp. 41-47) speculated that species in the genusLeavenworthiaevolved from a self-incompatible original ancestor to self-compatibility in some species to persist with a diminishing overlap in seasonality of adequate moisture in glade habitats versus availability of insect pollinators (e.g., as the southeastern part of the U.S. warmed, the required moisture levels for germination and flowering became more restricted to winter months when insect availability was lower). This could help to enhance the species' persistence, at least in the short term, in a fragmented landscape where habitat patches may be so distant from one another as to preclude pollinators' movements between them. The presence of other flowering plants at gladecress sites could help to attract and maintain a reservoir of pollinators, thereby increasing the chances for the gladecress to be cross-pollinated. This would benefit the species by potentially providing a higher level of genetic diversity.

Distribution and Status

Texas golden gladecress is known from eight locations, including one introduced population, all within a narrow zone that parallels SH 21 in San Augustine, Sabine, and Nacogdoches Counties (Texas Natural Diversity Database (TXNDD) 2012b). Table 1 (below) summarizes the location information for Texas golden gladecress populations (taken from the TXNDD 2012b). Based on known population locations, taken from the TXNDD element occurrence records from 1974-1988, the Weches Glades of San Augustine County appear to be the center of the species' distribution; to date all but one of the naturally occurring populations were found in this area, with the other naturally occurring population in Sabine County. One population was successfully introduced into Nacogdoches County. All locations (historic and extant) occur primarily on privately owned land, although the plants do extend onto the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) right-of-way (ROW) at two sites: Geneva Site and Caney Creek Glades Site 1 (CCG 1).

Table 1—Location and Status of Texas Golden Gladecress Populations County Population
  • designation
  • Status Historic site description Land owner
    San Augustine Caney Creek Glade Site 1 Extant Described by The Nature Conservancy as approx. 1 ac (0.4 ha) site; by 2001 was less than 100 ft² (9 m²) Private & State ROW. San Augustine Chapel Hill (aka Tiger Creek) Extant Tract on which gladecress was found was less than 0.25 ac (0.1 ha) Private. Sabine Geneva Extant Size of site was approx. 100 ft² (9 m²) Private & State ROW. Nacogdoches Simpson Farms (Introduced Population) Extant through 2009. Site was eradicated by pipeline in 2011 Population approx. 200 ft² (18 m²) in size Private. San Augustine Caney Creek Glade Site 7 Status unknown. Possibly extant—not accessible in last 24 years Small population; locally abundant in very small area Private. San Augustine Caney Creek Glade Site 2 Site is now excavated pits Site was approx. 3 ac (1.21ha) Private. San Augustine Caney Creek Glade Site 6 Site is now excavated pits. Possibility that some habitat and plants remain on adjacent, unquarried land Multiple tracts totaling ∼ 10 ac. Sites 6, 7 and 8 in different areas on these tracts. Site 6 was the largest known population—thousands of plants Private. San Augustine Caney Creek Glade Site 8 Site lost to excavated pits Very small population on a degraded outcrop Private.

    Four Texas golden gladecress populations (CCG 1, Chapel Hill, Geneva, and Simpson Farms) were present through 2009—the last year that the plants were surveyed (Singhurst 2011a, pers. comm.). In October 2011, Service and TPWD biologists visited all four known locations and found that the plants and habitat at the introduced site in Nacogdoches County (Simpson Farms) had been removed by a recent pipeline installation. The habitat was still intact at the other three locations (Cobb 2011, pers. comm.), and we assume that plants still occupy these sites.

    Three San Augustine County occurrences (CCG Sites 2, 6, and 8) were believed extirpated, at least in large part, by construction of glauconite mines (open pits) beginning in the late 1990's. These occurrences may have been part of a much larger glade complex, referred to as the Caney Creek Glade Complex, that included the Caney Creek Glade Sites 1, 2, 6, 7, and 8. These five occurrences were located within an area extending out to 1.5 mi (2.41 km) to the east of the town of San Augustine (TXNDD 2012b, unpaginated). In 1987, the CCG Site 6 was described as having Texas golden gladecress plants “in the thousands” (TXNDD 2012b, unpaginated). Access to these three privately owned sites is prohibited; therefore, we cannot ascertain whether any plants or their habitat are still present on the peripheries of the mined areas.

    The CCG Site 7 was last visited in 1988 (TXNDD 2012b, unpaginated). There were no further site visits due to lack of access to the privately owned land. Satellite images taken as recently as 2008 show this population site has not been altered by construction or quarrying (mining), but the open glade appearance at this site has changed to one of dense growth of woody vegetation, so it is unknown whether the plants still occur at the site.

    Table 2 presents estimates for extant Texas golden gladecress populations between 1999 and 2009 (USFWS 2012, p. 4). The total number of plants seen in 2009 was 1,108. The largest population, consisting of 721 plants, was at the introduced site in Nacogdoches County, a site that was lost in 2011 when a pipeline route was constructed directly through it. This represents a loss of 65 percent of the known plants. After 2009, approximately 400 plants in 3 populations were all that remained of this species. The number of gladecress plants fluctuated widely from year to year, likely due to differences in precipitation levels between years. The gladecress is dependent on fall and winter rain to saturate the sediment and produce the seeps and pooling it requires, and drought conditions were noted to have a significant negative effect on reproduction, (Turner 2000, p. 1) as seen in the drought years of 1999-2000 (Texas Water Resources Institute 2011, unpaginated) when the Chapel Hill site decreased from 91 to 67 plants and the CCG Site 1 decreased from 490 to 96 plants (USFWS 2010, p. 5).

    Table 2—Population Estimates for Texas Golden Gladecress at Monitored Sites Year Chapel Hill CCG #1 Geneva Simpson Farms 1999 91 490 319 * NS 2000 67 96 NS NS 2001 96 520 NS 270 2002 NS NS NS NS 2003 42 NS 57 57 2004 NS NS NS NS 2005 40-50 0 54 2,873 2006 NS NS 200 NS 2007 200 NS 1,000 1,000 2008 9 NS 49 NS 2009 98 29 260 721 * NS—Not surveyed.

    Singhurst (2011a, pers. comm.) referred to the difficulty of trying to determine population trends for the Texas golden gladecress due to the lack of comprehensive numbers for the species. He attributed this data gap to variation in surveyors and their techniques, the inability to see gladecress plants under invasive brush, lack of access to multiple sites, and the fluctuation in plant numbers associated with moisture conditions. Nevertheless, despite these limitations, it is evident that there are few remaining populations and that the overall numbers of existing plants are fluctuating. For example, a decrease in plant numbers in 2009 was likely due to drought; however, following significant rains in late fall 2011 and early winter 2012, Singhurst (2012f, pers. comm.) noted higher numbers of plants than the 2009 counts at Geneva, Chapel Hill, and CCG Site 1.

    Most of the known populations, historic and extant, were and are restricted to small areas (see Table 1). For example, in San Augustine County, the Chapel Hill site is less than 0.2 acres (ac) (0.1 hectare (ha)) in size and lies between a pasture fence and gravel road southwest of SH 21. The area of the plants at the CCG Site 1 is less than 100 ft2(9 m2) in size, on the side of Sunrise Road south of SH 21. In Sabine County, the plants at the Geneva site occupy approximately 100 ft2(9 m2) adjacent to, and west of, SH 21, south of Geneva. The total area occupied by the plants at the remaining three sites covers less than 1.2 ac (0.5 ha). Area sizes for gladecress occurrences were taken from the TXNDD element of occurrence records.

    Although no new populations of Texas golden gladecress have been found since the late 1980s, there is potential for more gladecress to exist across the Weches Glades Region. Known populations all occur close to roads suggesting that most searches for the species were nearby to public road access. All known occurrences are on private property, as is all remaining habitat; therefore, surveys cannot be conducted without landowner permission. Effective identification of suitable habitat is needed to survey for new populations. Even in areas of potential Weches Glades, as identified using Geographic Systems Information (GIS) data, including aerial, geologic, and hydrologic data sources, the habitat may not contain Texas golden gladecress populations. Between 1999 and 2003, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) used these tools to identify 44 potential sites of gladecress and white bladderpod occurrence in the San Augustine Glades. The TNC was granted access to 14 of the 44 sites, but found little Weches habitat, and no new gladecress or bladderpod sites (Turner 2003 in USFWS 2010b, p. 3).

    Neches River rose-mallow Taxonomy and Description

    Hibiscus dasycalyx(the rose-mallow) (Blake) is a nonwoody perennial (plant that grows year after year) in the Malvaceae (mallow) family that grows 1.9-7.5 feet (ft) (0.6-2.3 meters (m)) tall (Correll and Johnston 1979, p. 1030). Leaves are alternate and simple, generally t-shaped and deeply three-lobed with petioles (leaf stalks) 1.1-1.9 in (3-5 cm) long (Correll and Johnston 1979, p. 1030). This rose-mallow generally produces six or seven creamy white flowers (rarely pink) singularly on branches flowering between June and August (Pooleet al.2007, p. 265), sometimes into late October depending on water availability during springtime inundations (Warnock 1995, p. 20; Center for Plant Conservation 2011,http://www.centerforplantconservation.org/). Large and numerous stamens are monodelphous, forming a tube that is united with the base of the petals (Klips 1999, p. 270).

    The rose-mallow was first collected by Ivan Shiller on June 23, 1955, at the type locality at Hwy 204 (also referred to as Apple Springs), Trinity County, Texas, and was later identified as a distinct species (Correll and Johnston 1979, pp. 1030-1031). Blake (1958, p. 277) determined that the rose-mallow was different from the closely relatedHibiscus laevis(halberdleaf rose-mallow) by examining specimens from the type locality. Gould (1975), Nixon (1985), Hatchet al.(1990), Johnston (1990), and Fryxell (Warnock 1995, pp. 1-2; Poole 2002, pers. comm.) all recognized the rose-mallow as a distinct species.

    Two similar-lookingHibiscusspecies,H. laevisandH. moscheutos(crimsoneyed rose-mallow) are aquatic species documented in areas where the rose-mallow occurs. A morphological distinction between theseHibiscusspecies of East Texas and the rose-mallow is the species' notably hairy calyx (Warnock 1995, p. 5). All three of these species have a similar general appearance, but can be separated based on a comparison of external characteristics including leaf structure, and degree of pubescence (fine hairs) on the calyx, leaves, capsule (dry fruit), or seeds (Correll and Correll 1975, p. 1118; Blanchard 1976, p. 5; Warnock 1995, p. 4). Geographically, these three species can be found within similar habitats, but the halberdleaf and the crimsoneyed rose-mallows prefer deeper water and are found along edges of major rivers and streams (Blanchard 1976, pp. 10-14; Poole 2011b, pers. comm.), compared with the rose-mallow, which is found in side channels and floodplains of major river drainages. Based on the available information on the species morphology, biology, and habitat-specific needs, we conclude that the rose-mallow is a valid taxon.

    Habitat

    The rose-mallow is endemic to relatively open habitat (Kennedy and Poole 1990, p. 11) of the Pineywoods (or Timber belt) of East Texas (Gould 1975, p. 1; Correll and Johnston 1979, p. 1030), within Cherokee, Houston, and Trinity Counties and has been introduced into Nacogdoches and Harrison Counties. Shortleaf/loblolly pine-hardwood forests dominate the habitat with portions of suitable habitat extending into longleaf pine (Pinus palustrus) and loblolly pine forest (Pinus taeda) (Telfair 1983, p. 28; Diggset al.2006, p. 95). The common native woody and herbaceous plant associates are listed in Table 3 (Warnock 1995, pp. 14-15; Pooleet. al2007, pp. 264-265).

    Table 3—Native Plant Associates of Neches River Rose-Mallow Scientific name Common name Native Woody Plant Associates Carya aquatic water hickory. Cephalanthus occidentalis common buttonbush. Celtis laevigatavar.laevigata sugar berry. Fraxinussp. ash. Quercus lyrata overcup oak. Q. nigra wateroak. Liquidambar styraciflua sweetgum. Salix nigra black willow. Native Herbaceous Plant Associates Boehmeria cylindrica smallspike false nettle. Brunnichia ovate buckwheat vine. Carex lupulina common hop sedge. Chasmanthium sessilifolium longleaf woodoats. Diodia virginiana Virginia buttonweed. Eichhornia crassipes water hyacinth. Heliotropium indicum Indian heliotrope. H. moscheutos crimsoneyed rose-mallow. H. laevis halberdleaf rose-mallow. Hydrolea ovate ovate false fiddleleaf. Hydrocotyle ranunculoides floating pennywort. Juncus effuses common rush. Ludwigia leptocarpa anglestem primrose-willow. Nuphar lutea yellow pond-lily. Phanopyrum gymnocarpon Savannah-panicgrass. Panicum ridgulum redtop panicgrass. Pluchea foetida stinking camphorweed. Polygonum hydropiperoides swamp smartweed. Pontederia cordata pickerelweed. Rhynchospora corniculata shortbristle horned beaksedge. Scirpus cyperinus woolgrass. Thalia dealbata powdery alligator-flag. Trachelospermum difforme climbing dogbane.

    Sites where the rose mallow have been found have been described as sloughs, oxbows, terraces, and sand bars. Sites include low areas (Warnock 1995, p. 13) within the Neches River basin and Mud and Tantabogue Creek basins, with soils that are classified generically as hydric alluvials, or water-saturated soils, of the Inceptisol or Entisol orders (Diggset al.2006, pp. 46, 79) that remain flooded or frequently flood. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) completed soils surveys for all counties with known occurrences of the rose-mallow, and the associated soils are frequently flooded clay loams. Sites are both perennial and intermittent wetlands with water levels between sites varying due to their proximity to water, amount of rainfall, and floodwaters. Intermittent wetlands are inundated during the winter months but become dry during the summer months (Warnock 1995, p. 11). Flowing water is required for seed dispersal downstream (Warnock 1995, p. 20; Scott 1997, p. 8; Reeves 2008, p. 3). Rivers of East Texas tend to overflow onto banks and floodplains (Diggset al.2006, p. 78), especially during the rainy season, thereby dispersing seed. Research has not been done to identify methods of seed dispersal upstream; however, avian species may facilitate this process.

    Biology

    The rose-mallow is a perennial that dies back to the ground every year and resprouts from the base; however, still maintaining aboveground stems. Longevity of the species is unknown but it may be long-lived. Cross-pollination occurs (Blanchard 1976, p. 38) within the rose-mallow populations and the species has high reproductive potential (fecundity). The number of flowers and fruits per plant were documented during the TPWD's annual monitoring of the rose-mallow along State Highway (SH) ROWs. The species produced an average of 50 fruits per plant, but seed viability and survivorship are not known (Poole 2012a, pers. comm.). An open canopy (Warnock 1995, pp. 11, 13) and sunlight are needed for flowers to bloom, and the blooming period may only last 1 day (Snow and Spira 1993, p. 160).

    Potential pollinators of the rose-mallow may include but are not limited to, the common bumblebee (Bombus pensylvanicus), Hibiscus bee (Ptilothrix bombiformis), moths, and the scentless plant bugNiesthrea louisianica(Klips 1995, p. 1471; Warnock 1995, p. 20; Warriner 2011, pers. comm.). BothH. laevisandH. moscheutosare pollinated by common bumblebees and the Hibiscus bee (Snow and Spira 1993, p. 160; Klips 1999, p. 270). The solitary Hibiscus bee prefers gently sloping or flat areas with sandy or sandy-loam soils for nesting areas (Vaughanet al.2007, pp. 25-26; Blacket al.2009, p. 12), and female bees will excavate nest cavities in elevated, hard packed, dirt roadways or levees near stands ofHibiscus(in this caseH. palustris) and standing water (Rust 1980, p. 427). Members of the genusBombus(family Apidae) are social bees, predominantly found in temperate zones, nesting underground (Evanset al.,2008, p. 6) in sandy soils (Cane 1991, p. 407). Bumblebees nest in small cavities, often underground in abandoned rodent nests, grass (Blacket al.2009, p. 12), or in open, grassy habitat (Warriner 2012a,pers. comm.). Other aboveground-nesting bees that may potentially pollinate the rose-mallow may include carpenter, mason, and leaf cutter bees that nest in dead snags or twigs or standing dead wood (Warriner 2012a, pers. comm.). Maximum foraging distances of solitary and social bee species are 492 to 1,968 ft (150 to 600 m) (Gathrmann and Tscharntke 2002, p. 762) and 263 to 5,413 ft (80 to 1,650 m) (Walther-Hellwig and Frankl 2000, p. 244), respectively. The scentless plant bug is a member of theRhopalidaefamily found specifically in association with various members of the Malvaceae family. This species is known to deposit eggs on both the vegetative and reproductive parts of mallow plants (Spencer 1988, p. 421). Holes have been eaten in floral parts of rose-mallow plants suggesting that the scentless plant bug may be a pollinator as well as a consumer of the rose-mallow.

    Natural fires occur every 1 to 3 years in East Texas (Landerset al.1990, p. 136; Landers 1991, p. 73) and control the overgrowth of longleaf and loblolly pine, as well as nonnative species; humans later used fire to suppress overgrowth. Fire suppression allows for sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), oaks (Quercussp.), hickories (Caryasp.), common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), and southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) to invade the natural pine forests (Daubenmire 1990, p. 341; Gilliam and Platt 1999, p. 22), and reduce the open canopy needed by the rose-mallow. Lack of fire increases the opportunity for nonnative species, such as chinese tallow (Triadica sebifera), to invade these sites.

    Distribution and Status

    The natural geographic range of the rose-mallow is within Trinity, Houston, Harrison, and Cherokee Counties, Texas, on State highway (SH) ROWs and on private and Federal lands. However, the species has been introduced outside of the known geographic range in Nacogdoches County on private land (Mill Creek). In addition, populations of rose-mallow have been introduced within their natural geographic range on Federal lands. In total, there are 12 occurrences of rose-mallow (see Table 4). Eleven of these are within the known geographic range, and, as of October 2011, are occupied by the rose-mallow. The rose-mallow plants within the SH 230 ROW have not been seen since 2002, and the site is considered extirpated.

    Table 4—Population Estimates for Known Rose-Mallow Occurrences Site County First and last observation Plant estimates 1. Compartment 55, Davy Crockett National Forest (NF) Houston 2000; 2011 1000 in 2000, 750 in 2002, 750 in 2010, 400-500 in Oct. 2011. 2. Compartment 16, Davy Crockett NF (introduced) Houston 2000; 2011 450 in 2000, 115 in 2002, 78 in 2003, 50 in 2006, 90 in 2010, 43 in 2011. 3. Compartment 11, Davy Crockett NF (introduced) Houston 2004; 2011 200 in 2004, 10 in 2006, 7 in 2010, 10 in 2011. 4. Compartment 20, Davy Crockett NF (introduced) Houston 2000; 2011 200-250 in 2000, 70 in 2002, 182 in 2002, 350 in 2006, 120 in 2010, 101 in 2011. 5. SH 94 ROW/Boggy Slough Trinity 1955; 2011 100+ in 1968, 50 in 1986, 50 in 1987, 13 in 1988, 7-9 in 1991, 2 in 1992, 27 in 1993, 38 in 1994, 41 in 1995, 16 in 1996, 15 and 20 on private land in 1997, 13 in 1998, 49 in 1999, 17 in 2000, 15 and 300+ on private land in 2001, 20 in 2002, 20 and 0 on private land in 2005, 35 along powerline in 2007, 128 along ROW in 2011. 6. SH 204 ROW/Mud Creek Cherokee 1992; 2011 1 in 1992, 1 in 1993-1996, 75 in 1997, 1 in 1998, 2 in 1999, 1 in 2000, 5 in 2001, 1 in 2002, 7, 6, 3, and 30 respectively at four new subpopulations in 2010, 20 in 2011. 7. SH 230 ROW Houston 1978; 2002 50 in 1991, 58 in 1993, 38 in 1994, 1 in 1995, 2 in 1996, 6 in 1997, 8-13 in 1998, 14 in 1999, 8 in 2000, 4 in 2001, 12 in Sept. 2002, none in Oct. 2002, none in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2011. 8. Lovelady Houston 2011 50-70 in 1991, 7 in 1992, 58 in 1993, several hundred in 2001, 400 in 2002, 539 in 2011. 9. Mill Creek Gardens (introduced) Nacogdoches 1995; 2011 96 in 1995, hundreds in Oct. 2011. 10. Harrison site Harrison Not observed after 1980 Herbarium specimen was recently confirmed asH. dasycalyx,but site has not been observed since 1980. 11. Champion site Trinity 1996; 2001 Hundreds in 1997, 300-400 in 2001. 12. Camp Olympia Trinity 1977; 1992 No estimates.

    Populations along SH ROWs include Hwy 94 in Trinity County, collected in 1955 (Blake 1958, p. 277); Hwy 204 in Cherokee County, first observed in 1992; and Hwy 230 in Houston County, first observed in 1978. The TPWD performed annual SH ROW monitoring along Hwy 94 from 1993 thru 2001 (Poole, 2001, p. 1); along Hwy 204 from 1993 thru 2003 (Poole 2001, p. 1; TXNDD 2012a, pp. 20-28); and along Hwy 230 from 1993 thru 2001 (Poole 2001, p. 1). These three ROW populations are separated from one another and are considered distinct. However, the Boggy Slough site consists of several scattered rose-mallow subpopulations that are located in close proximity to one another. Boggy Slough subpopulations and the SH 94 ROW population are separated by no more than a distance of 1.0 km (3, 280 ft), and these two sites likely constitute a single, larger population, sharing pollinators, and exchanging genetic material (NatureServe 2004, p. 6; Poole 2011c, p. 2). Therefore, in Table 4, they are combined and represented as a single location.

    Adjacent lands to the SH 230 ROW were purchased by the Texas Land Conservancy (TLC) in 2004 (TLC 2011,http://www.texaslandconservancy.org). The rose-mallow plants in this site, referred to as Lovelady, are part of a population that included the rose-mallow plants in the SH 230 ROW. The rose-mallow plants within the SH 230 ROW have not been observed since 2002, and the site is consideredextirpated (TXNDD 2012a, pp. 61-67). The Lovelady site was recently surveyed in 2011, and although 539 plants were found, most were in notably poor condition, being much shorter in stature because of the drought and herbivory (Poole 2012b, pers. comm.; TXNDD 2012a, pp. 14-19). The estimates of rose-mallow displayed in Table 4 show wide variations in plant numbers. Some of this variation is due to incomplete counts at the sites, in other words, only a portion of the population was counted. Meaningful trends cannot be derived from these population estimates.

    Although annual monitoring of the ROW sites was discontinued in the early 2000s, TPWD visited all of the ROW sites in October 2011. In the past, along SH 204, several subpopulations existed along multiple portions of the ROW; however, several of these subpopulations were gone in 2011. The recent drought conditions have allowed surveyors to count rose-mallow plants in parts of sites that were not accessible in the past because the sites were too wet. The increase in numbers of plants at some of the ROW sites may be partially attributed to this.

    The Davy Crockett National Forest (NF), Houston County, Texas, contains four extant sites of the rose-mallow, three introduced and one natural. The one natural population is found in compartment 55 located west of the Neches River. This site is considered the most robust of all known extant populations (Poole 2011c, p. 3) and is almost entirely unaltered from its originally observed state as a seasonally wet flatwood pond, with vegetation being distinctly zoned (TXNDD 2012a, p. 29). The three introduced populations are located in compartment 16, which started with 450 plants (Davis 2000, pers. comm.; McCormick 2002, p. 1; USFWS 2000, p. 3), compartment 20 with 200-250 plants (Davis 2000, pers. comm.; McCormick 2002, p. 2; USFWS 2000, p. 3), and compartment 11 with about 200 plants (Nemec 2005, pers. comm.). The populations in compartments 16 and 20 were introduced in 2000, while the population in compartment 11 was introduced in 2004 (USFWS 2007, p. 6). All four of the Davy Crockett NF sites were censused in October 2011 by the Service and TPWD, and all of the introduced sites on the Davy Crockett National Forest have declined dramatically.

    The four remaining rose-mallow sites have had sporadic monitoring or have not been visited in recent years. In 1995, Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU) Mast Arboretum planted 96 rose-mallow plants into a site at Mill Creek Gardens, Nacogdoches County (Scott 1997, pp. 6-7). A conservation easement was placed on this land, and now the site is managed by the Arboretum. Rose-mallow plants at this site were observed in 1997, 1998, 2001, 2009, and in 2011 (Creech 2011a, pers. comm.). The introduced plants appear to be doing well; however, nonnatives and native species are becoming more prevalent, and may compete with the rose-mallow (Creech 2011c, pers. comm.). A rose-mallow specimen collected on private lands in 1980 from Harrison County, Texas, was presumed to be a halberdleaf rose-mallow specimen; however, it has been recently confirmed (2011) to be the rose-mallow (Birnbaum 2011, pers. comm.; TXNDD 2012a, pp. 12-13). The Harrison County site has not been visited since 1980, but we presume that rose-mallow is extant at this site since we have no evidence that the specie