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Scrub Blazing Star

Scrub Blazing Star

Liatris ohlingerae

Status Endangered
Listed July 27, 1989
Family Compositae (Asteraceae)
Description Erect, unbranched perennial with very narrow leaves and pinkish-purple flowers.
Habitat Sand pine scrub.
Threats Agricultural and residential development.
Range Florida

Description

Scrub blazing star, Liatris ohlingerae, is an erect, unbranched perennial aster. Stems grow up to 3 ft (1 m) tall. Leaves are long and very narrow, only about 0.1 in (2.5 mm) wide. Each stem bears several separate flower heads that measure 1.2 in (3 cm) from the base to the tips of the flowers. Bright pinkish-purple flowers bloom from July through September. The plant is known by various other common names, including gay feather, button snakeroot, and sand torch.

Habitat

Scrub blazing star is restricted to sand pine scrub, a central Florida plant community that encompasses 40 or more endemic plant species. The richest collection of endemics is found along the sandy, well-drained Lake Wales Ridge that extends in a north and south direction through Polk and Highlands Counties. Scrub vegetation is dominated by large evergreen shrubs, sand pine, and scrub oaks. Sandy clearings scattered among the oaks and pines support smaller shrubs, numerous herbs, and a few hardy grasses.

The distribution of this plant overlaps the ranges of 10 federally listed plants found in scrub habitat. Scrub blazing star is particularly associated with Highlands scrub hypericum (Hypericum cumulicola ), wireweed (Polygonella basiramia ), and scrub plum (Prunus geniculata ).

Distribution

Because of its brilliant flowers, scrub blazing star has been included in many botanical collections. The plant's geographic range extends from near Auburndale and east of Lake Wales (Polk County) south along the Lake Wales Ridge through Sebring to the Archbold Biological Station (Highlands County).

An extensive survey of scrub habitat conducted in 1988 documented 22 localities for scrub blazing star in Polk County and 71 localities in Highlands County. Most of these sites support very limited numbers of plants, and most are found on private property, although several do occur on state and federal lands. Land acquisition efforts by government and private organizations are increasing tracts of protected habitat.

Sites at the Archbold Biological Station, in Arbuckle State Park, and in the Arbuckle State Forest are protected. Two other sites, at Saddle Blanket Lakes and adjacent to Highlands Hammock State Park, are being acquired by the state.

Threats

Sand pine scrub in central Florida is disappearing at a rapid rate. Almost every day new tracts of land are cleared to support citrus groves or new residential subdivisions. Recent frost and freeze patterns have caused large-scale citrus growers to move south along the Lake Wales Ridge. The urban populations of ridge communities, such as Haines City, Winter Haven, Lake Wales, Avon Park, and Sebring, have experienced dramatic growth in recent years and continue to expand. The remaining habitat is becoming increasingly more fragmented.

Because of its beautiful flower, the scrub blazing star has been popular with collectors, further endangering its lasting survival. It was one of four Florida plants added to the federal list as a group in July 1989; the others were Brooksville bellflower (Campanula robinsiae ), Cooley's water-willow (Justicia cooleyi ), and Florida ziziphus (Ziziphus celata ).

Conservation and Recovery

State acquisition of a large tract of scrub at Saddle Blanket Lakes and smaller tracts purchased by the Nature Conservancy provide protection for several populations of scrub blazing star. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) altered previous draft recovery plans, which covered first nine and then 11 previously listed plants to include blazing star, the ziziphus and other endangered and threatened scrub taxa.

The latest revised draft recovery plan (for 19 Florida scrub and high pineland plants) announced by the FWS in 1995, outlines basic efforts deemed necessary to restore the scrub blazing star and other endangered plants, including habitat protection through land purchase and other means (including the Habitat Conservation Plan process for threatened animals in the Florida scrub habitat); the management of protected habitats; and the assessment of progress and plan post-recovery monitoring.

This plan is a revision and expansion of a 1990 draft Recovery Plan covering 11 plants, which emphasized the need for land acquisition for habitat preservation. At the time, state and private organizations had already made significant acquisitions, and more have been accomplished since then (including initial land purchase for the Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge). These land purchases, accompanied by the other elements of the recovery plan, are likely to ensure the full recovery or at least the downlisting of the large majority of the 19 plants, including the scrub blazing star.

Contact

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

References

Christman, S. 1988. "Endemism and Florida's Interior Sand Pine Scrub Biota of the Central Florida Sand Pine Scrub." Report for Project no. GFC-84-101. Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Nongame Wildlife Program, Tallahassee.

Miller, J. W., et al. In press. "Summary Report on the Vascular Plants, Animals, and Natural Communities Endemic to Florida." Technical Report no. 7. Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Nongame Wildlife Program, Tallahassee.

Wunderlin, R. P., D. Richardson, and B. Hansen.1980. "Status Report on Liatris ohlingerae." Report. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jacksonville.

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