Pagosa Sky Rockets Waving in Town
In honor of the Town beginning to promote the Pagosa Skyrocket flower we have refreshed and added to our information on this endangered species that only grows in and around Pagosa Springs Colorado. You will be pleased it is being carefully watched over by scientists.
Several entities are currently doing research on the Pagosa skyrocket. Ecosphere Environmental Specialist in cooperation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Denver Botanical Garden and The State of Colorado want to find the true extent of this endangered species. Property owners and land users can look for skyrocket locations. The map below shows the area the plant is now known to grow, but there has never been a wider search. It may exist beyond this area and there may be growth in an area that is unknown. Please look around and see if you can find growth. Report to this website via the “contact” buttons or call Norm at 264-4542.
The plant is tiny so, look carefully. They have small white flowers on one foot tall stalks. They may grow individually or in clusters.
In one academic paper the researcher is amazed that there is little public awareness of the plant here in Pagosa Springs. The Pagosa sky rocket is something we should take to our hearts. It is beautiful, it is our plant and we should be proud of it.
Skyrocket protection is in its early stages, but they are watching and it is an ongoing process. A Denver based botanical organization has collected skyrocket seed to prevent a total loss of the species. The future will hold news of their work.
The known “critical habitat” includes all of Reservoir Hill and the space south of town including plots near Mill Creek Road, the fair grounds, the county property and a few areas down Hwy 84.
The following is from Gina Glenne, Botanist Western Colorado Field Office
Description: Pagosa skyrocket (Ipomopsis polyantha) is an extremely rare plant species only found in and near the town of Pagosa Springs in Archuleta County, Colorado. Many consider it a pretty plant, with showy clusters of ½-inch wide bright white or light pink flowers flecked with purple or pink dots. Plants are 12 to 24 inches tall with a rosette of finely dissected leaves. The plant grows as a rosette for one to many years until it has the energy reserves or when the climatic conditions are right to produce flowers and fruits. The Pagosa skyrocket is a member of the phlox family (Polemoniaceae), a small family of about 25 genera and 375 species worldwide, many of which are native to the western United States.
The Endangered Species Act: Pagosa skyrocket was listed as endangered in 2011 primarily because of threats to the species from residential and commercial development, livestock grazing, and the potential effects of climate change. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service oversees and implements the Endangered Species Act. The Act protects plant species on Federal lands; however, it does not protect plants on private lands unless there is a federal nexus (such as Federal funding or permitting). Conservation actions of private lands are voluntary. Finding the balance between development and plant species conservation is essential to the survival and recovery of the Pagosa skyrocket
Threats: The primary threat to the Pagosa skyrocket is development. The scenic beauty of Pagosa Springs and surrounding communities attracts residential and commercial development. Prime building sites near Pagosa Springs are often on Mancos-shale soils within the grassland habitats preferred by the Pagosa skyrocket, making the plant’s limited habitat particularly vulnerable to development. More than 90% of the known occurrences of the species are on private lands with no protection and in areas where future development is likely to occur.
Reproduction: During the months of June and July, insects can be seen visiting the attractive, musk-scented flowers of the Pagosa skyrocket. These pollinators are vital to the long-term survival of the species, increasing seed production 400 percent over flowers not pollinated by insects. More than 30 species of insects have been found visiting Pagosa skyrocket flowers, but the primary pollinators are the European honey bee, metallic green bee, bumble bee, and several other species of native ground- or twig-nesting solitary bees. Protection of these pollinators and their nesting habitat is essential to the conservation of the Pagosa skyrocket.
Habitat: Pagosa skyrocket is only found on shale barrens in two populations at lower elevations (6,800 to 7,300 feet) in and near the town of Pagosa Springs. Habitat is characterized as barren, dark gray Mancos Shale outcrops or Mancos Shale-derived soils in open montane-grasslands and grassland understory at the edges of open Ponderosa pine, juniper, and shrub oak forests. The species has adapted to flourish on these shale soils, which are extremely dry and erosive making the conditions harsh and difficult for most other plant species to survive. Plants may be found adjacent to roads or developed areas, such as along roadside ditches, where periodic grading or disturbance of the soils may occur. The plant seems to thrive with some periodic disturbances and decline with other more constant disturbances.