Two endemic locoweeds of Washington County, Utah, Astragalus holmgreniorum and A. ampullarioides, were recently listed as federally endangered plant species (Federal Register 2001). They both occur in few, small populations surrounded by increasing human activity in the St. George, Utah, area. Demographic and habitat studies have been ongoing since 1992 and results of those studies are presented here. Astragalus holmgreniorum (Holmgren locoweed) is presently limited to 1 larger population and 2 smaller, isolated populations on the eastern and western edges of its range. It is a short-lived perennial that grows primarily on the Virgin limestone member of the Moenkopi Formation. Density of A. holmgreniorum over the 10-year study averaged about 2 plants per m2. The number of living plants of this species perhaps never exceeds 10,000. In drought years A. holmgreniorum populations are as much as 95% smaller than in years with adequate water, and few plants produce flowers that successfully contribute to the seed bank. Astragalus ampullarioides (Shivwits locoweed) occurs in 4 populations where plant density fluctuated between 0.5 and 4.8 per m2 during our study period (average = 2.6). This locoweed is restricted to clay soils of the Chinle Formation. Direct threats to both Astragalus species include widespread urbanization, road construction, population fragmentation, and off-highway vehicle use. Indirect threats include competition from aggressive, introduced annual species such as Bromus rubens, B. tectorum, Malcolmia africana, and Erodium cicutarium. Our data show that 3 of 4 species most closely associated with these Astragalus species are introduced. Studies of seed banks and reproduction biology, as well as continued monitoring of these Astragalus species, are critically needed. Studies of the consequences of competition from alien and native species on seedling establishment of these locoweeds are especially needed.
Buren, Renée Van and Harper, K. T.
"Demographic and environmental relations of two rare Astragalus species endemic to Washington County, Utah: Astragalus holmgreniorum and A. ampullarioides,"
Western North American Naturalist: Vol. 63
, Article 10.
Available at: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/wnan/vol63/iss2/10