Mentzelia mollis

Common Names:
smooth blazing star, smooth stickleaf
M.E. Peck
Growth Habit:
CPC Number:
Profile Contributors:
Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
Fully Sponsored

Reference Links

ITIS - Tropicos - USDA Plants - Fish & WildLife

Participating Institutions

The following Participating Institutions are custodians for this species in the CPC National Collection:
Rae Selling Berry Seed Bank & Plant Conservation Programs
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

The conservation of Mentzelia mollis is fully sponsored.
Edward Guerrant, Ph.D. contributed to this Plant Profile.


The last extensive search for Mentzelia mollis (Smithman 1989) yielded good news: botanists found high population numbers. However, because it is an annual, it is susceptible to dramatic population fluctuations. For instance, the spring of 2001 was extremely dry and few, if any seedlings emerged that year (Findley 2001a). Depending on the viability of the soil seed bank, several years of low rainfall could be extremely detrimental to the population's long-term survival.

In an effort to protect this rare plant from destruction, an enclosure was erected around a large population of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land to exclude cattle, off-road-vehicles, and hikers. Signs were posted requesting that the exclosure not be entered due to the unusual soils and rare plants, and informational brochures were placed in a box along the fence. As is often the case when protecting rare species, publicity can be a double- or even triple-edged sword. For those who are interested in the environment and in protecting it, the publicity surrounding a rare or endangered species invites learning and discovery. Publicity may also attract the attention of curious people who may, inadvertently, cause harm to the very plants they are interested in. In the case of Mentzelia mollis, it is common to see human footprints in the fragile "popcorn clay" within the enclosure. Perhaps they are merely curious, but their curiosity can be damaging to these rare plants, especially in years of low rainfall. On the more sinister side, publicity of rare and endangered species can draw unwanted attention and bring out the worst in people. Unscrupulous plant collectors may remove rare plants to sell or for their private collections. Others, who may be frustrated with the limitations and regulations enacted to protect the endangered species in general, may willfully destroy them. In the case of M. mollis, just three years after the construction of the enclosure, all but a few fence posts were removed, and the following year, all the wires were cut. On three separate occasions, signs on either end of the exclosure have been cut off or completely removed. The box containing brochures has been repeatedly filled with rocks or even stolen (Findley 2001b).

Researchers and land managers must walk a fine line between protecting a rare and endangered plant and educating the public.

Distribution & Occurrence


Conservation, Ecology & Research