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Notable Natives

About 4,000 plants native to the United States are of concern to conservationists. The following list profiles just a few of these plants.

  • The Tennessee coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis) is known from only 10 cedar glades, all within 15 miles of Nashville, Tennessee. The expansion of the Nashville metropolitan area poses the most serious threat to this species. In addition, interbreeding or hybridization with other coneflower species may jeopardize this coneflowers's survival as a distinct species.
  • The cockspur (Erythrina eggersii) has been reduced to just four locations on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands and one or two sites on Puerto Rico. Fewer than 75 plants still grow in the wild. The U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico constitute one of the five CPC "priority regions" because of their high percentage of rare native plants.
  • The green pitcher plant (Sarracenia oreophila) is a federally protected endangered species that is now limited to a few wild populations in northeast Alabama and adjacent Georgia. The very limited range and specialized habitat of this species make it the rarest of all pitcher plants. Pitcher plants are unusual because they are carnivorous, obtaining nutrients from insects and other invertebrates that get trapped inside them. Unfortunately, this interesting trait makes them a prime target for plant collectors.
  • The Ma`o, or Hawaiian cotton (Gossypium tomentosum), has been so reduced by seaside development and habitat destruction that it is now vulnerable to extinction. This plant was once used by Hawaiians to produce green and yellow dyes for cloth. Although Hawaiian cotton is not suitable for weaving, it has been used by the cotton industry in developing disease-resistant strains of commercial cotton.
  • The California Orcutt grass (Orcuttia californica) is endemic to vernal pools of southern California. These seasonal wetlands fill with water after fall and winter rains and dry out during the spring and summer. Vernal pools are unique and fragile ecosystems, and they are being rapidly destroyed by urban and agricultural development, mowing and livestock grazing, and off-road vehicles.
  • Price's groundnut (Apios priceana) was once used as a source of food by native Americans, and if recovery efforts are successful, this vine could be developed as a food crop in the United States. Unfortunately, only 25 populations still grow in the Midwest, and many of these consist of just a few plants. Threats include trampling and grazing by cattle, clearcutting, competition from exotic species, and herbicides.

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