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Elaphoglossum serpens

No Common Name

Status Endangered
Listed June 9, 1993
Family Lomariopsidaceae (Vine fern)
Description Fern with a wide-creeping thick rhizome; apex and nodes have lustrous reddish brown scales.
Habitat Mossy trunks of trees found in a patch of a montane dwarf forest.
Threats Construction of a communication facility; collecting; hurricanes.
Range Puerto Rico

Description

Elaphoglossum serpens is an epiphytic fern with a wide-creeping, 0.06-0.08 in (1.5-2 mm) thick rhizome. The apex and nodes bear lustrous reddish brown scales with ciliate margins that are lanceolate to attenuate and 0.12-0.16 in (3-4 mm) long. This species has only a few distant and erect fronds. Sterile fronds are 2.75-7.5 in (7-19 cm) long. The stipes, from 1.4 to 4.3 in (3.5 to 11 cm) in length, are usually as long or longer than the blades. The blades are ovate, 1.4-3.15 in (3.5-8 cm) long and 0.8-1.4 in (2-3.5 cm) broad, obtuse at the apex, and cuneate at the base. The veins are free, reaching the margins of the blades. The coriaceous tissue is opaque with only scattered scales on the abaxial side. The fertile fronds are 3.3-7 in (8.5-18 cm) long. In contrast to the sterile fronds, the stipes are about three times longer than the blades. The blades are lanceolate to elliptic-oblong with rounded or blunt apex, 1-1.8 in (2.5-4.5 cm) long and 0.4-0.6 in (1-1.5 cm) broad.

Habitat

At present, 22 plants are known from the summit area, all occurring on the mossy trunks of only six trees. These trees are found in a patch of a montane dwarf forest at an elevation of about 4,265 ft (1,300 m). This patch of forest is all that has survived the encroachment of telecommunication towers and was seriously damaged in 1989 by Hurricane Hugo.

Distribution

E. serpens was described in 1947 from specimens on tree trunks at Monte Jayuya, but the fern is now extirpated from this site due to construction of a communication facility. Specimens were found later on the summit of Cerro Punta. Most of these plants were also destroyed with the construction of telecommunications towers.

Threats

The construction of communications facilities at Monte Jayuya destroyed the only other known population of E. serpens. The encroachment of similar other facilities have threatened the population at Cerro Punta. This species is in serious danger of extinction.

The most important factor affecting E. serpens is its limited distribution. The patch of forest where E. serpens is found was seriously damaged in 1989 by Hurricane ugo.

Conservation and Recovery

The type specimen's site locality was destroyed during the construction of a communication facility. A second population was found at a later date; most of these plants were also destroyed by the construction of telecommunications towers. Future maintenance activities or expansion of the facilities would likely jeopardize the rest of this population. The remainder of this population (22 plants) was seriously damaged in 1989 by Hurricane Hugo.

Collecting for private collections could present a problem, especially after the publicity generated following this species' listing. Research is needed to determine this species' life history and ecological requirements and to develop and refine propagation and transplant techniques. Surveys are needed to determine if other populations exist and to locate potential transplant sites.

Contacts

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
1875 Century Blvd., Suite 200
Atlanta, Georgia 30345
http://southeast.fws.gov/

Caribbean Field Office
Ecological Services Field Office
P.O. Box 491
Boquerón, Puerto Rico 00622
Telephone: (809) 851-7297
Fax: (809) 851-7440

Reference

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 9 June 1993. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of Endangered Status for Four Endemic Puerto Rican Ferns." Federal Register, 58 (109): 32308-32311.

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Elaphoglossum serpens

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