Wide-leaf Warea

views updated

Wide-leaf Warea

Warea amplexifolia

ListedApril 29, 1987
FamilyCruciferae (Brassicaceae)
DescriptionAnnual herb, with slender branching stems, heart-shaped leaves, and showy purple flowers.
HabitatSand pine forest and oak scrub.
ThreatsAgricultural and residential development.


Warea amplexifolia (wide-leaf warea) is an erect herb formed of slender branching stems, up to 3 ft (1 m) tall, arising from an elongated tap root. Stalkless leaves are alternate and heart-shaped, up to 1.5 in (4 cm) long. Showy flowers, made up of four purple petals and protruding stamens, are borne in rounded clusters at the ends of the stems. The fruit is a thin, dry, curved pod that eventually splits to lay bare a central partition with many tiny brown seeds. Wide-leaf warea is a summer annual that is visited by a large number of bees and butterflies. The plant flowers from mid-August to October and bears fruit in late September.


This species is adapted to the specialized habitat created by the Lake Wales Ridge of central Florida, an upland area of dry, sandy soil that reaches an elevation of 300 ft (100 m). The ridge extends northward from central Highlands County through Polk and Lake counties and gradually disappears in southern Marion County. This habitat harbors dozens of rare and endangered endemic plants, including the federally endangered Carter's mustard (Warea carteri ) and snakeroot (Eryngium cuneifolium ).


Wide-leaf warea is native to central Florida and particularly to the region comprising Lake County, western Orange County, northwestern Osceola County, and northern Polk County. The habitat is lightly forested with long-leaf and sand pines and associated scrub communities of oaks and rosemary.

Much of the Lake Wales Ridge has been converted to citrus groves, resulting in a loss of habitat for the wide-leaf warea and associated species. More recently, housing subdivisions have been constructed along the ridge, particularly in Lake County. Of 10 sites known historically, six have been lost to development.

When federally listed in 1987, the plant survived at four sites in Lake and Polk counties. The largest population of about 700 plants was found on 10 acres (4 hectares) of woodland near Clermont (Lake) owned by a phosphate mining company. A wood-lot near Leesburg (Lake) supported a population of about 250 plants surrounded by houses and citrus groves. Near Haines City (Polk) about 200 plants survived in a privately owned woodlot of about 2 acres (0.8 hectares). A remnant population of about 20 plants was found on the grounds of the Bok Tower Gardens (Polk); the Gardens manage their grounds to preserve the plants, but the population is not vigorous.


Wide-leaf warea, which is extremely limited in range and numbers, occurs mostly on unprotected private lands. None of the surviving warea populations are considered secure.

Conservation and Recovery

The alternatives for recovering the plant are limited, since it is unlikely that the pace of development on the Lake Wales Ridge will slacken. To preserve the species, surviving remnants of sand pine forest and scrub must be secured, either through acquisition or negotiated easements.

Habitat along the Lake Wales Ridge has benefitted from protection under the Florida Natural Areas Inventory; federal listing of the plant may spur conservation efforts at the state and local levels.


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
1875 Century Blvd., Suite 200
Atlanta, Georgia 30345


Channel, R. B., and C. W. James. 1964. "Nomenclatural and Taxonomic Corrections in Warea [Cruciferae]." Rhodora 66:18-26.

Judd, W. S. 1980. "Status Report on Warea amplexifolia." Report to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1987. "Determination of Wide-leaf warea, Warea amplexifolia, to be an Endangered Species." Federal Register 52(82): 15501-15505.