CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Erigeron rhizomatus

©Daniela Roth, NNHP

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CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Erigeron rhizomatus

Common Names: 
Rhizome Fleabane, Zuni Fleabane
Growth Habit: 
CPC Number: 


Profile Links
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Erigeron rhizomatusenlarge
Photographer: ©Daniela Roth, NNHP
Image Owner: FLAG

Erigeron rhizomatusenlarge
Photographer: ©Daniela Roth, NNHP
Image Owner: FLAG

Erigeron rhizomatus is Fully Sponsored
Primary custodian for this plant in the CPC National Collection of Endangered Plants is: 
Sheila Murray and Kristin Haskins contributed to this Plant Profile.
The initial writing of this profile was funded by the U.S. Forest Service

Erigeron rhizomatus

Zuni fleabane is a rare regional endemic with three known, yet widely scattered population centers in western New Mexico and northeastern Arizona. Zuni fleabane is distinct from other Erigerons by its rhizomatus habit, nearly hairless seeds, and very few hairs on the stems and leaves. The distribution of Erigeron rhizomatus is associated with the distribution of uranium deposits in west-central New Mexico. Many of the sites for this plant occur at historical or current uranium mining claims.

Distribution & Occurrence

State Range
New Mexico
State Range of  Erigeron rhizomatus
  On steep, easily eroded sandstone slopes and clay banks, usually in close association with the Chinle and Baca Formations (often seleniferous), at 2190-2400 meters.

  From three mountain ranges in western New Mexico and northeastern Arizona. These are the Datil/Sawtooth Mountains (Catron county, NM), Zuni Mountains (McKinley county, NM), and Chuska Mountains (McKinley and San Juan counties, NM and Apache county, AZ).

Number Left
  There are three metapopulations in widely separate mountain ranges with a total of 39 local populations. All populations appeared to be healthy and reproductive when located or revisited (Sivinski and Tonne 1999, 2004; Christie 2004).


Global Rank:  
Guide to Global Ranks
Federal Status:  
Guide to Federal Status
Recovery Plan:  

State/Area Protection
  State/Area Rank Status Date  
  Arizona S1 none 6/8/2000  
  Navajo Nation S2 Endangered, Group 2 6/8/2000  
  New Mexico S2 Endangered 10/29/1985  

Conservation, Ecology & Research

Ecological Relationships
  This species reproduces predominately by rhizomes. Most populations are composed of mature plants with few juveniles. However, when wet years occur, significant reproduction has been observed. The seeds (achenes) are capped with pronounced, bristly hairs which are well suited for wind dispersion. It is also possible that these bristles could adhere to animal fur or bird feathers and provide a mechanism for dispersion. This species is visited by a variety of insects and would be considered a generalist (AZGFD, 2005).

The distribution of Erigeron rhizomatus is associated with the distribution of uranium deposits in west-central New Mexico (New Mexico Rare Plants, 1999).

  • habitat disturbance
• potential uranium mines
• road construction and resulting erosion
• cattle grazing (trampling, not grazing).
• habitat modifications and destruction associated with oil and gas development.

Current Research Summary
  Most of the public domain lands with potential Zuni fleabane habitat are easily accessible and have been surveyed by federal and state botanists. There have been extensive field surveys in the Zuni and Datil/Sawtooth mountains of New Mexico (Fletcher 1978, Sabo 1982, Sivinski and Lightfoot 1991, Sivinski and Tonne 1999). Potentially suitable habitat on privately owned lands have not, and may never be surveyed. The Acoma and Zuni reservations contain potential habitat, but are generally not accessible to most botanists for field surveys. These tribes have no active programs to look for threatened or endangered plant species. The Navajo Nation employs a botanist and has sponsored Zuni fleabane surveys. Suitable habitat on the Fort Wingate military reservation have been partially surveyed for Zuni fleabane (Sivinski, unpublished field survey, 1995). Potential habitat on the Navajo Nation in the Chuska Mountains of New Mexico and Arizona have also been surveyed (Christie 2004; USFWS, 2005)

Current Management Summary
  The USFWS completed a 5-year review on the Zuni Fleabane in 2005 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2005. Zuni fleabane (Erigeron rhizomatus) 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. Albuquerque, NM. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).
There is a memorandum that the species should be considered for delisting in 1994 or 1995 based on the finding of additional populations since the species was listed. Although additional populations of Zuni fleabane have been found since the recovery plan was finalized, the delisting criteria focuses on threats, especially uranium mining, and identifies the need for land use management within Zuni fleabane habitat to protect and conserve the species. Management plans are identified as being reliant upon information obtained through the study of Zuni fleabane habitat characteristics, ecology, and biology. No biological factors are identified as being threats to this species (USFWS, 2005).

The Bureau of Land Management established an Area of Critical Environmental Concern on the single local population within its jurisdiction in the Datil/Sawtooth Mountains metapopulation. This Area of Critical Environmental Concern withdraws minerals from claim for as long as this special management area designation is upheld by Bureau of Land Management land use planning. No similar efforts to provide special management for occupied Zuni fleabane habitat have been made by the U.S. Forest Service (USFWS, 2005).

The Navajo Nation recommends a 200 ft buffer zone in any development to avoid disturbance. This buffer may be more or less, depending on slope, size and nature of the project (Roth, 2001).

A survey and status report of potential habitat and populations occurring on the Navajo Nation was completed in 2004 (Christie 2004, http://nnhp.navajofishandwildlife.org/). Erigeron rhizomatus is protected on the Navajo Nation and is listed as endangered on the Navajo Endangered Species List (Navajo Division of Natural Resources, Department of Fish & Wildlife. 2008. Navajo Endangered Species List. Window Rock, AZ. http://nnhp.navajofishandwildlife.org/)

Research Management Needs
  The highest priority to facilitate recovery for Zuni fleabane is to revise the recovery plan. Threat assessments and recovery criteria should incorporate new information and clearly define recovery actions. Because the only significant potential threat to Zuni fleabane at this time is uranium mining, the revised recovery plan should contain objective, measurable criteria to alleviate this threat. Administrative actions by federal land management agencies to reduce the threats from mining activities will be necessary to fully recover the species (USFWS, 2005).

Monitoring Efforts
  A monitoring plot was established in 1988 at the Six-mile Canyon population in the Zuni Mountains (Knight and Cully 1988). This monitoring program was immediately discontinued when the researchers realized that the monitoring methodology was measuring asexual clones rather than numbers of established individuals, which was not considered useful in monitoring population trends (USFWS, 2005).

Establishment of permanent monitoring plots in several populations has not been accomplished, but may be unnecessary. The predominant land use in Zuni fleabane habitat is livestock grazing, which generally does not affect this plant. Visual monitoring of most known populations in the Zuni and Datil/Sawtooth mountains could not detect any significant changes in population trends or health from 1991 to 2004 (Sivinski and Lightfoot 1991; Sivinski and Tonne 1999, 2004). Permanent monitoring plots would only add statistical confidence to a conclusion of stability, at great expense (USFWS, 2005).

Ex Situ Needs
  • seed banking
• genetic studies
• propagation work
• additional surveys on private land


Books (Sections)

Brookins, D.G.; Moon, J.L.; Riese, W.C. 1977. Trace elements as possible prospecting tools for uranium in the southern San Juan Basin, New Mexico. In: Geological Society, editor. Geological Society Guidebook, 28th Field Conference, San Juan Basin III. Geological Society. San Juan. p263-269.

Books (Edited Volumes)

New Mexico Native plants Protection Advisory Committee. 1984 A handbook of rare and endemic plants of New Mexico. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.

USDI Bureau of Land Management. 1995. The Farmington District Endangered, Threatened, and Sensitive Plant Field Guide. Farmington, NM: Echosphere Environmental Services, Inc.

Electronic Sources

AZ Heritage Data Management System. (2005). Erigeron rhizomatus. Unpublished abstract compiled and edited by the Heritage Data Management System, Arizona Game and Fish Department. [website].2005 http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/edits/documents/Erigrhiz.d_000.pdf. Accessed: 2008.

Falk, M.; Jenkins, P. et al. (2001). Arizona Rare Plant Guide. Published by a collaboration of agencies and organizations. [webpage].4/17/2002 http://www.aznmp.org/rareplants.html. Accessed: 2008.

Missouri Botanical Garden. (2002). TROPICOS, Nomenclatural Data Base. Erigeron rhizomatus Cronquist. [website].4/17/2002 http://mobot.mobot.org/cgi-bin/search_vast. Accessed: 2002.

National Plant Data Center. (2002). The PLANTS Database. [website].Version 3.5 http://plants.usda.gov. Accessed: 2008.

NatureServe. (2008). NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. [Internet].Version 7.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. http://www.natureserve.org/explorer. Accessed: (June 17, 2008).

New Mexico Natural Heritage Program. (2006). The web-site of Natural Heritage New Mexico: An online resource. [website].Version 2.0 http://nhnm.unm.edu. Accessed: 2008.

New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council. (1999). New Mexico Rare Plants Home Page. [website].6 December 2007 http://nmrareplants.unm.edu. Accessed: 2008.

Journal Articles

Cronquist, A. 1974. A revision of the North American species of Erigeron north of Mexico. Brittonia. 6: 121-30.

Nesom, G.L.; Noyes, R.D. 1999. Notes on sectional delimitations in Erigeron (Asteraceae: Astereae). Sida. 18, 4: 1161-1165.

Scott, J.M.; Goble, D.D; Wiens, J.A.; Wilcove, D.S.; Bean, M.; Male, T. 2005. Recovery of imperiled species under the Endangered Species Act: the need for a new approach. Front Ecol Environ. 3, 7: 383-389.

Wyatt, R. 1997. Reproductive ecology of granite outcrop plants from the southeastern United States. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia. 80: 123-129.


Christie, K. 2004. Erigeron rhizomatus survey and status report for the Navajo Nation. Window Rock, AZ. Navajo Nation Heritage Program.

Fletcher, R. 1978. Status report: Erigeron rhizomatus. Albuquerque, NM. USDA Forest Service, Region 3.

Knight, P.; Cully, A. 1988. Section 6 performance report: Erigeron rhizomatus. Albuquerque, NM. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 2. p.51-74.

Mikesic, D.; Nystedt, J.; Roth, D. 2005. Navajo Nation endangered species list: Species accounts, Version 2.05. Window Rock, AZ. Navajo Fish & Wildlife Department.

Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2000. Navajo Endangered Species List. Navajo Nation, AZ. Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife. p.2.

Roth, D. 2001. Species account for Erigeron rhizomatus. Window Rock, AZ. Navajo Natural Heritage Program. p.5.

Sabo, D.G. 1982. Status report: Erigeron rhizomatus. Albuquerque, NM. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Sivinski, R.; Lightfoot, K. 1991. Field survey for Zuni fleabane (Erigeron rhizomatus), Datil and Sawtooth Mountains, Cibola National Forest. Albuquerque. The Nature Conservancy, New Mexico Natural Heritage Program.

Sivinski, R.; Tonne, P. 1999. Section 6 progress report: Zuni fleabane (Erigeron rhizomatus). Albuquerque. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Sivinski, R.; Tonne, P. 2004. Section 6 progress report: Zuni fleabane (Erigeron rhizomatus). Albuquerque. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2.

Tonne, P. 2005. Results of 2003-2004 rare plant surveys on: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, Ojito Wilderness Study Area, San Miguel Creek Dome, The Trails Area. New Mexico. Natural Heritage New Mexico, Museum of Southwestern Biology.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1988. Zuni fleabane (Erigeron rhizomatus) Recovery Plan. Albuquerque, NM. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. p.38.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2005. Programmatic biological and conference opinion on the continued implementation of the land and resource management plans for the eleven National Forests and National Grasslands of the Southwestern Region. Albuquerque, NM. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 2. Cons. #2-22-03-F-366.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2005. Zuni fleabane (Erigeron rhizomatus) 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. Albuquerque, NM. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. p.20.

USDI-BLM. 1989. Resource Management Plan, Las Cruces District, Socorro Resource Area. Las Cruces. USDI-BLM. BLM-NM-PT-89-021-4410.

  This profile was updated on 3/4/2010
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