It's nothing important, but we ran across this plant on a hike this weekend and are frustrated because we have been unable to locate it in our guide books. The blossom looks like perhaps a type of mallow, but the leaves don't seem to match.
Location: Walking Iron Park, south-central Wisconsin. Thanks in advance.
Mallow was my first thought as well until you pointed out the leaves. It also looks sort of like Narrowleaf Springbeauty (Claytonia virginica) but this is the wrong time of year for that. Perhaps another member of the purslane family? I'll keep looking.ReplyDelete
I'm no expert, but I looked here and my eye was drawn to the 'Smooth Ruellia' http://www.redbubble.com/groups/wildflowers-of-north-america/forums/3578/topics/201887-catalogue-of-purple-wildflowers-of-north-americaReplyDelete
Gagh, visually your suggestion looks like the best so far. The puzzlement is that Ruellia is not listed in my book of prairie plants of Wisconsin or in my reference on wildflowers of the Great Plains. The genus maps -Delete
- show only 1 of 18 varieties present in Wisconsin, and that one "rare." I'll look into this some more.
i am pretty sure it's some kind of spring beauty, even though it's late. the weather has been weird and i keep seeing the odd thing or two blooming early or late.ReplyDelete
on ne sait jamais.
Looks a bit like vinkaReplyDelete
I'm with Gagh on this -- Ruellia strepens.ReplyDelete
This link has some info on how to ID it.
Ruellia - many varieties, most some kind of prairie planrs.ReplyDelete
Gardenweb.com is an amazing resource for identifying plants of all kinds. Put up a photo, you'll have several accurate responses by morning.ReplyDelete
I think other commenters are right that it is some kind of Ruellia, also known as wild petunia. This link is to a great prairie plant nursery and resource - hard to tell if you have the exact variety they have, but their range list seems to jive somewhat.ReplyDelete
That map pretty well locks it up. (Interesting how the map boundaries are sharp at state margins, suggesting not all states provide data).Delete
Thank you, anonymous person.
Yay! A question I can answer!!* (Although I am a bit late to the party.)ReplyDelete
It indeed looks like Ruellia humilis. http://wisplants.uwsp.edu/scripts/detail.asp?SpCode=RUEHUM According to the USDA PLANTS database, this is the only Ruellia species recorded from Wisconsin, but their data's often incomplete.
*I am a botanist, but I've never been anywhere near Wisconsin.
Nice. And I didn't have that link. Thank you, Ducky.Delete
No problem...this is what I often do all day, and I love it! Oh, and here's the USDA page: http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=RUHUDelete
Wow, it's state endangered! Nice find.
Since you do have botanical expertise, let me ask you about that last point. This plant is "state endangered," but from what I can gather from looking at the national distribution map, the endangerment seems to come because Wisconsin is at the edge of the range (presumably because of winter temperatures). Elsewhere in more southerly states this is probably a common - perhaps even a nuisance - plant.Delete
What is the point of designating something as "endangered" when it happens for this reason? Does the plant then receive special consideration or special protection? Will roads and developments have to give way where the plant is established?
I can fully understand assigning an "endangered" status when habitat loss is occurring, but in this case (when it's on the perimeter of a range) it seems frankly silly. By this criteria, every plant in the United States will be "endangered" in some state.
I see it all the time and have been guilty of it myself: disproportionate excitement over plants that just happen to be rare where you are! We do our best to keep our heads over such things, but indeed, it gets messy. For the record, I have never been involved in determining conservation status for any organism; I'm still in grad school. Not knowing Wisconsin's flora or conservation programs, I can't speak confidently or competently for why this particular species has this status there. I'll try to give some general thoughts off of the top of my head.Delete
True, Ruellia humilis is judged as globally secure ("G5"), so it's not in any danger of going extinct throughout its entire range. Sometimes, state protection of such a plant has to do with the rarity/security of the habitat in which it is found. A plant's habitat can vary within its range. R. humilis appears to be primarily a prairie plant in Wisconsin, and as you probably know, most prairie in the US has been--and continues to be--degraded. It wouldn't necessarily matter to the local botanists if a species is common several states away along crappy roadsides if it's a hallmark of a rare and distinctive community in their area. Further considering the local context, how much degradation of natural areas is there in the state? If there is a high rate of degradation, then ecologically conservative (uh…"non-weedy") native species may see their value further boosted. It's the best stuff you've got! What is the species richness/diversity of plants in the state? If it's relatively low compared to other states in the plant's range, then that may also be a contributing factor. Wisconsin certainly has much lower plant diversity than say, Georgia. One state's trash is another state's treasure?
Some other factors/considerations:
-Lack of information regarding range and abundance: the Wisconsin State Herbarium has only one R. humilis specimen from Dane County, Wisconsin, and it's not from the park in question. Maybe it's more common than people realize? Species documentation is an ongoing project everywhere, and protection status is often re-evaluated to reflect new data.
-Professionals' personal bias: There's a lot of factors here, but even someone's simple liking for a species could skew it. How many people are involved in designating the state rankings? What standards are there? That could filter a lot of this sort of thing out, but I still hear of a lot of bickering over similar issues.
-Politics. It's always in there somewhere. I can safely leave this to your imagination.
-Other stuff I took out. Already tl;dr. See http://www.natureserve.org/explorer/ranking.htm#assessment for NatureServe's standards; R. humilis is S2 in Wisconsin. This probably does a better job of explaining than me, but I have to get back to work now.
I don't know how zealously Wisconsin guards their state-protected plants, but in the states where I have lived, it really didn't amount to anything legally. Federally endangered species can halt the building of highways. I reported several state endangered species from one locality in Kentucky that were at risk from oil wells, but all we could do was shrug. In the end, there are cases of state protection that can be argued to be inflated, but many such arguments are academic. Even if the situation is not serious, state protected plants can be a good way to draw attention to the importance of conservation in general.
It's such a complex issue! I hope you can still find some pleasure in knowing you found a plant that is at least locally rare. I just completed a massive floristic survey of an unusual habitat type and had only one state threatened plant...and plenty of the species I found were at the edge of their range or seen as generally uncommon. If you like, you can report the plant at
http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/EndangeredResources/rareplantform.asp . Or stomp on it. Just kidding. Don't do that. It's too pretty. :-)
Dang. That was a lot of text. Sorry!!Delete
Thank you, Ducky. Your extended comment does pretty much answer my question. And if you're still in Kentucky, greetings from a (former) Kentucky resident. Many years ago (almost in a previous life) I enjoyed being a member of the Kentucky Native Plant Society and the Kentucky Society for Natural History and was twice photographer of the year for the Bluegrass chapter of the latter. Pleasant memories.Delete
Can you tell I wrote that comment while in the middle of working on a paper? My fingers are too warmed up! I wish I had more direct experience so that I could better answer your question, but I'm just getting started. You can probably find more info specific to Wisconsin through the DNR page I linked to. Speaking of Kentucky (I recall our blog conversations from before about that), I found this plant at Raven Run back when I worked there. It had been found in the original plant survey, then "lost." It's also state endangered. The park staff was initially hopeful that we could secure some funding because of it, but no dice. Only federal plants counted. The end result was that we were simply much more mindful of the plants and how they were doing. Aaaw, no security detail or electrified razorwire fencing. There is at least some perspective in the system. ;-)Delete
I am a Natural Heritage biologist in Virginia and the vast majority of the rare plants and animals I monitor of edge of range species. Edge of range species are are useful as indicators of a changing environment. Those species are at their range edge for a reason; any further and the conditions are not suitable their existence. Because they are at the edge of their range their existence can be precarious. Things are just right enough to allow them to exist. If some factor changes such as nutrient loads, water quality, winter low temps, an invasive species, etc, their loss (or expansion) can let us know something about the environment is changing. In Virginia we can see that in the reduced numbers of red spruce and fir species that we have on our highest mountains.ReplyDelete
That being said every state is going to have different standards for the listing of things as Endangered or Threatened. Virginia list very few species as such and even then the designation comes with little enforcement unless the violation is egregious. It is also important to remember that the listing of something as Threatened or Endangered is essentially a political decision and not a scientific one. In Virginia (and probably many other states)we have G1, G2 and G3 ranked species with neither state or federal listed status. Just as a quick overview the ranking system is 1-5 with 5 being secure and 1 having five or fewer known populations or having fewer than 20 known pops but are extremely susceptible to loss. G is the global rank S is the sub-national (or state rank) and ranks are given as for example in Wisconsin Ruellia humilis G5S2. If you are curious about a plant or animal's rank you can visit this site http://www.natureserve.org/explorer/ to inquire. Natureserve collates the data from all the states, Canada and Latin America's Natural Heritage programs to develop rankings.
In the grand scheme of things a G5S2 species isn't at high risk of going extinct but people are proud of their state's natural heritage and the thought of a species becoming regionally extirpated is upsetting. So in that sense it seems reasonable for people to push for some sort of protection...especially the organism is showy or cuddly. Not too many people pushing to get protection for Isoetes virginica (G1S1).
Makes sense. Thanks, Darren.Delete
I'm so glad someone who actually works for a heritage program spoke up! I knew nothing of how such things worked in Virginia, but that's exactly the thing--it varies from state to state. I can imagine that there would be an outrageous contrast between how California handles their protected species compared to, oh, say, Alabama. ;-) I started to go into detail in my long comment about the importance of populations at the edge of a species' range, but ended up taking it out due to length. I would like to mention that these "fringe" populations (in addition to being important to the genetic diversity of the species) can become important to the survival of the species as a whole. The natural ranges of species shift constantly over time in response to disturbances such as disease, climate change, natural disasters, etc. In our time, I'm sure we'll see more rapid "range creep" due to anthropogenic climate change. For example, if the more southern "main" populations suffer from increased heat, perhaps the northerly (and formerly half-frozen) Ruellia humilis populations will become the best bet for survival.Delete