Holy Ghost Ipomopsis

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Holy Ghost Ipomopsis

Ipomopsis sancti-spiritus

ListedMarch 23, 1994
FamilyPolemoniaceae (Phlox)
DescriptionErect plant with solitary stems, oval leaves, and tubular, pink flowers.
HabitatSmall openings or clearings on steep forested slopes.
ThreatsRoad maintenance, wildfire, fire management, and possible pesticide spraying.
RangeNew Mexico


The Holy Ghost ipomopsis is an erect, biennial to short-lived perennial plant, 12-31 in (30.5-78.7 cm) tall, with mostly solitary stems, and occasionally branched from the base. The leaves are oval, 1-2.4 in (2.5-6.1 cm) long, with 9-15 linear divisions. The basal leaves form a loose to compact rosette that dies back at flowering. The leaves are gradually reduced in size up the length of the stem. The flowers are tubular, pink, and about 0.8-1 in (2-2.5 cm) long. The stamens do not extend beyond the corolla tube. This species is distinguished from others in the genus by its shorter flower ovary and stigma.


The single known population occurs at approximately 8,000 ft (2,438 m) in a 2-mi (3.2-km) segment of a canyon in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of New Mexico. The plants are restricted to steep, south-or southwest-facing slopes, primarily in openings under ponderous pine, Douglas fir, Gambel oak, and quaking aspen. The substrate is a sandy to pebbly limestone conglomerate derived from the Terrero and Spiritu Santo formations.

The plant grows in small openings or clearings on the forested slopes, and it is likely that fire may have played a role in the past in maintaining open habitat for this species. Plants have colonized the cut-and-fill slopes of a Forest Service road, indicating some preference for open, disturbed areas.


The historic range is not known but apparently occurs only in the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

The entire population of the Holy Ghost ipomopsis consists of approximately 1,200-2,500 plants, located on Forest Service and private lands within boundaries of the Santa Fe National Forest. Approximately 80% of the population occupies the cutand-fill slopes along a Forest Service road; the remaining 20% occurs on the natural dry and open habitat higher up on the canyon slope.

Surveys conducted in 1991 by Forest Service personnel and New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department botanists within a 15-mi (24.1-km) radius of the known population failed to locate any additional populations of the species.


Most of the occupied habitat is along a Forest Service road that provides access to summer homes and Forest Service campgrounds. In this location, the plants and their habitat are vulnerable to harm from road maintenance, wildfire, fire management, and possible pesticide spraying.

The species occurs in an area that has been heavily used for recreation for at least 50 years, which includes 36 cabins, a campground, and a nearby trout stream. Because of its recreational use, the forest has been protected from timber harvests, and as the forest has matured and natural openings become less numerous, Holy Ghost ipomopsis has become associated with human-made disturbances which created open land. The presence of people in these human-made areas creates a threat to the species. For example, a Forest Service road was graveled with crushed waste rock from an abandoned mine. The sulfides in this mine waste created highly acidic road runoff that killed the surrounding vegetation.

The biological pest control Bt is commonly used for outbreaks of spruce budworm. Both the U.S. Forest Service and the state of New Mexico have used Bt. Because of the anatomical characteristics of its flower, Holy Ghost ipomopsis is thought to be pollinated by various moths and butterflies, which are highly susceptible to Bt. Elimination of these pollinators could reduce seed production and seedling recruitment, and contribute to the decline of the plant.

Conservation and Recovery

Propagation material was obtained by a commercial grower of native plants. Nursery propagation of this species could provide a commercial source and thus discourage the collection or digging of plants from wild populations. Propagation knowledge gained by the commercial grower may be of considerable value in establishing refugial populations in natural habitats within the species range.

Because of Holy Ghost ipomopsis's showy flowers, overcollection could present a serious threat. Horticulturists and rare plant enthusiasts are constantly looking for new plants for commercial use.


Regional Office of Endangered Species
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P. O. Box 1306
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103

New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office
2105 Osuna Rd. N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87113-1001
Telephone: (505) 346-2525


Sivinski, R. and K. Lightfoot. 1991. Status report onIpomopsis sancti-spiritus. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Albuquerque, NM. 17 pp.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 23 March 1994. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Endangered Status for the Plant Ipomopsis sanctispiritus (Holy Ghost Ipomopsis)." Federal Register 59(56): 13836-13840.

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Holy Ghost Ipomopsis

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