Gypsum Wild-buckwheat

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Gypsum Wild-buckwheat

Eriogonum gypsophilum

Status Threatened
Listed January 19, 1981
Family Polygonaceae (Buckwheat)
Description Clumping perennial herb with dark green, oval leaves.
Habitat Chihuahuan Desert; gypsum soils.
Threats Restricted range, reservoir construction, livestock grazing.
Range New Mexico

Description

Gypsum wild-buckwheat, Eriogonum gypsophilum, is an erect, woody-stemmed perennial that grows in dense clumps to about 8 in (20 cm) in height. Thick, ovate leaves are dark green, mainly hairless, and about 0.75 in (2 cm) wide. Often leaf width is greater than length. In the fall the leaves turn bright red. Bright yellow flowers appear from May to July at the ends of a many-branched flower stalk. Reproduction is mostly vegetative, rather than by seed.

Habitat

Gypsum wild-buckwheat occurs in a desert scrub plant community in the semi-arid Seven Rivers Hills area of New Mexico. This portion of the Chihuahuan Desert receives about 14 in (36 cm) of precipitation per year. The species' scientific name gypsophilum, or "gypsum-loving," is appropriate as the plant grows only on gravelly gypsum outcrops on hills capped with a limestone layer, 50-100 ft (15-30 m) thick. The plant generally prefers north-facing slopes at an elevation of above 3,300 ft (1,000 m).

Distribution

Gypsum wild-buckwheat was first collected in 1909 near Lakewood, New Mexico, and is believed endemic to the gypsum soils of extreme southeastern New Mexico.

Gypsum wild-buckwheat is currently restricted to about 130 acres (53 hectares) in Eddy County, New Mexico. The total population was estimated at 10,000 plants in 1987 and appeared stable. The habitat area is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Bureau of Reclamation.

Threats

Threats to gypsum wild-buckwheat and its fragile habitat are considered small but are not to be ignored. Off-road vehicles have caused some damage to other plants in the area, and grazing cattle pose some danger of trampling. There are oil leases pending and active drilling would degrade the habitat.

Gypsum wild-buckwheat is highly specific in habitat requirements, requiring a specialized substrate.

Conservation and Recovery

When gypsum wild-buckwheat was federally listed in 1981, the BLM and Water and Power Resources Service were required by law to review the potential impact of the nearby Brantley Dam Project on the buckwheat population. Their report suggested that several hundred of the lowest elevation plants might be slightly disturbed by growth of a salt cedar fringe around the dam reservoir. Since the projected flood level of the reservoir was well below the elevation of the bulk of the population, it was determined that completing the dam would not significantly damage the buckwheat. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service concurred. However, there is some concern that grazing, the reconstruction of the adjacent highway, and impacts of water levels will negatively impact the buckwheat.

When the species was listed, Critical Habitat was designated to include 130 acres (52.6 hectares) of public land, which ensures suitable habitat for the existing population if properly managed.

Contact

Regional Office of Endangered Species
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 1306
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103
http://southwest.fws.gov/

References

Reveal, J. L. 1976. " Eriogonum (Polygonaceae) of Arizona and New Mexico." Phytologia 34:409-484.

Spellenberg, R. 1977. "A Report of the Investigation of Eriogonum gypsophilum and Haplopappus spinulosus ssp. laevis." Bureau of Reclamation, Amarillo, Texas.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1984. "Gypsum Wild Buckwheat Recovery Plan." U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Albuquerque.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1987. "Endangered and Threatened Species of Arizona and New Mexico (with 1988 Addendum)." U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Albuquerque.