April 2018 News

Save Plants



In this month’s issue of Save Plants, we tackle the notion of what it means to be a “weed.” The old adage that a weed is “any plant growing where you don’t want it to” is an appropriate description. But more often than not people think of a weed as any unattractive or otherwise undesirable plant. Using this definition, many native species, even endangered plants, can be characterized as weeds simply because they are not showy. But many plants that are truly detrimental weeds can be quite showy, often the result of horticulture introductions into areas outside their native range. And those ugly little imperiled plants without a use? Well, they are in fact quite useful ecologically as many other species including insects and other pollinators depend on them for survival. Read on to learn about what it means to be a weed and, more importantly, what it means to not be a weed. You will soon see that beauty—and the weedy—are not all that meet the eye of the beholder.

To Be, or Not to Be, a Weed

This month we are looking at plants that are endangered but could be mistaken for “weeds.” Both appearance and/or behavior can account for misconceptions and perceptions. What happens when there are plants that display weed-like characteristics, yet aren’t weeds? What happens when those plants are also endangered? How do we address the perception of “weed” to obtain and maintain protection status? If a plant is thought of as a weed, how do you convince anyone of the need to preserve it? The answer? It’s complicated. These questions are the subject of larger, and complex, debates.

James Lange of Fairchild Botanic Garden states that you can separate these plants into categories of “weedy” behavior, and “weedy” appearance.

“Weedy” Behavior:

“The Tephrosia spp. is a very aggressive prostrate vine. The Chromolaena frustrata and Ageratum maritimum are considered garden weeds and disturbance species. The Dalea carthagenensis is viewed as a weed throughout South and Central America. And they all have in common that they are rare plants and actually thrive in marginal habitats in terms of weedy potential.

“There are a number of rare species that absolutely thrive in mowed areas, and traffic right-of-ways, but are extremely rare in natural habitats, making for complicated conservation decisions.

“In Florida, a state-endangered liana, hoopvine (Trichostigma octandra) sometimes reaches nuisance levels in preserves where it is found. It weighs down the canopy and shades the understory. Managers are faced with the dilemma of maintaining habitat while preserving the existence of this rare species.”

Digitaria pauciflora photo @Jennifer Possley

Another example of “weedy” behavior would be Ambrosia linearis, a plant in the Center for Plant Conservation National Collection that fits the profile of a rare species that can sometimes behave as a weed. Jim Locklear of Lauritzen Gardens notes that Ambrosia linearis “is a G3 species that is endemic to the plains of eastern Colorado. It occurs naturally around the outer margins of playas, which are temporarily flooded lakes that occur in grasslands. It also occurs along upper terraces of intermittent streams in the region. Ambrosia linearis can also occur in dense stands in roadside ditches and along gravel roads in the area. It appears the plant spreads into these areas when roads have bisected its natural habitat. It is not a problem in these areas, and actually probably helps prevent erosion along roadsides. These roadside populations are most likely not controlled as they seem to be confined to ditches and occur in rural, very sparsely populated areas. However, routine road maintenance activities such as periodic grading of the road bed could have a negative impact. The greater challenge could come in trying to encourage preservation of high-quality occurrences in natural habitat when the plant can also grow as a roadside weed.

“Fortunately, playas are recognized as unique landscape features in the Great Plains and of high conservation value because of their importance to migrating shorebirds and waterfowl. The unique association of Ambrosia linearis with playa habitat just adds to the importance of preservation.”

Photo of Ambrosia linearis @Jim Locklear

“Weedy” Appearance:

According to James Lange, “there are rare plants that may have a “weedy” appearance that could make it difficult to push for protection. Several of our true endemics are diminutive plants with the reproductive potential of weeds but are true habitat specialists. Chamaesyce spp., Poinsettia pinetorum, Tragia saxicola come to mind but there are several others. This makes sense given that in order to evolve in the brief period of geologic time South Florida has been around you’d have to reproduce a lot.

“These species can be a tough sell from a conservation standpoint because they are non-charismatic, weedy-looking things. For example, Two-Spike Crabgrass (Digitaria pauciflora) which fits in this category, just by its nature of being a crabgrass, but, again, a true habitat specialist.”

Photo @Jim Locklear of his friend Erik with hoopvine

The Tale of a True Habitat Specialist

“Long ago, one rebellious sister in the crabgrass genus decided to quit her weedy ways. She diverged from more than 200 other Digitaria species (congeners), settled in a remote Florida swamp and traded her hardiness for beauty. She grew tall and acquired a bluish sheen. Her new growth sported soft, fuzzy hair; her old growth, a distinctive zig-zag, checkered pattern. She became so attractive that she didn’t feel the need to produce as many flowers. Because she loved the swamp so much, she never bothered to venture out to other lands, even though human alteration of natural water levels has recently given her much cause for concern.” Jennifer Possley, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Virtual Herbarium

A Weed or Not a Weed, That is The Question

Test your skills: determine which plants are considered weeds or invasives and which are rare plants. (The answers are at the end of the newsletter.)


The National Tropical Botanical Garden announced Dr. David H. Lorence as recipient of the prestigious 2017 Robert Allerton Award for Excellence in Tropical Botany or Horticulture. Read more here.


Jennifer Ramp Neale, PhD, Director of Research & Conservation at Denver Botanic Gardens, was recently interviewed for the podcast People Behind the Science. Her topic was “Conducting Research to Conserve Colorado’s Rare Plants.” You can listen to the April 9th podcast here.

Rookies for Recovery!

The Rookies for Recovery Internship Program is an exciting new venture cultivated through a partnership between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Center for Plant Conservation, and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

Through this program, interns will be chosen based on their competitive qualifications, previous experience, eagerness to learn, and interest in the fields of biological science and conservation. This program, in its pilot year, will be selecting five interns to undergo an intensive training led by field researchers and government agency representatives to prepare them for a five-month full-time, paid internship placement within a BLM office or field location. During their program, interns will engage with science and policy, gain skills and professional development strategy and be exposed to the inner workings of management techniques for federally listed species. This year opportunities include placement in:

  • BLM Royal Gorge Field Office, Colorado

Working on inventory, monitoring, and banding of Mexican spotted owls, assessing and restoring lynx habitat, and the development and implementation of a bat acoustic monitoring project. Apply here.

  • Grants Pass, Oregon on the Cook’s lomatium Recovery Project and the Gentner’s Fritillary Recovery Project

Mapping, seed collecting/banking, invasive species monitoring, and mitigation strategy planning. Apply here.

  • Coachella Valley, California

Tracking disturbance in habitat for Peninsular bighorn sheep, native seed collection for desert tortoise habitat restoration, and restoring habitat for desert pupfish. Apply here.

  • BLM Central Coast Field Office in Marina, California

Leading a radio-telemetry study and measuring habitat requirements for the endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard. Apply here.

  • BLM El Centro Field Office in El Centro, California

Implementing the Flat-tailed Horned Lizard Rangewide Management Strategy, creating maps of Quino checkerspot sightings and suitable habitat, and identifying and monitoring the condition and use of water sources in Peninsular bighorn sheep habitat. Apply here.

For more information and to apply please visit the San Diego Zoo Jobs List website

Funding Opportunity

Botanic Gardens Conservation International – Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Grant

Applications are invited for the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) – Minnesota Landscape (MLA) Grant: The deadline is April 30, 2018. The grant fund will support worldwide conservation through botanical gardens. The MLA grants will aid botanical gardens or arboreta around the world that are having difficulty in carrying out their mission. Grants range from US $500 to US $1000, and may be used for any part of the gardens’ work, operations, conservation, education or research.

Further details at http://bgci.org/joinin/job/0930/

Job Opportunities

  • Southwest Botany Crew Lead

The Southwest Program at the Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE SW) (www.appliedeco.org) will be hiring a botany technician during summer-fall 2018 to oversee native seed collection fieldwork in southern New Mexico as part of the Southwest Seed Partnership. This is an exciting opportunity to apply leadership skills to help develop a seed collection program in a new area while coordinating with a network of seed collectors to improve the supply of native seed for restoration projects in New Mexico and Arizona.

The technician/crew lead will work closely with IAE staff and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) botanists and also coordinate with the SW Region Forest Service staff to collect seed from native plants for production and restoration efforts in the Southwest. This position will be based out of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Most of the work will occur in the Lincoln and Gila National Forests and BLM sites in the area. This position will be for 10 or 11 weeks with the possibility of extension depending on funding, weather, and plant phenology. The work week will be four 10-hour days, Monday through Thursday. Mondays will be spent in the office and the rest of the week will be spent in the field, with frequent overnight camping required. The crew will meet at BLM Las Cruces District Office (LCDO) and travel to field sites together in an IAE SW vehicle.

To apply for this position, please submit (in a single PDF): Letter of interest (please indicate your earliest start date and latest end date), resume, names and contact information for three references, and College transcripts (unofficial transcripts are fine). Email applications to: maggie@appliedeco.org.

  • Director of Education, North Carolina Botanical Garden

The Director of Education will provide overall leadership, management direction, program development, and strategic planning and vision for the North Carolina Botanical Garden’s educational programs. In that role, the Director supervises education staff and develops and implements program plans and budgets for education and outreach programs including but not limited to professional education and training, youth and family programs, community outreach programs, and adult informal education. The Director also provides support for interpretive program development and garden-wide events, and works with volunteer management to recruit, train, and manage volunteers. Administratively, this position assists with grant writing and administration; processes bills, payments, check requests, purchase orders, and timesheets; and is responsible for tracking and reporting program participation and impact.

More information here.

  • Biological Science Technician (GS-0404-04/05, temporary), Flagstaff, Arizona

The Southwest Biological Science Center’s Terrestrial Dryland Ecology Group is seeking a temporary Biological Science Technician. This position will collect data in grassland and shrubland ecosystems across the Colorado Plateau, including measurements regarding soil conditions, plant traits, and community composition. See the full announcement here.

For more information, contact Rob Massatti at rmassatti@usgs.gov

  • Wyoming State Botanist, Cheyenne, Wyoming

Provide technical expertise and guidance on native plant materials development work; the management of threatened and endangered special status plant species; interpretation of regulations and policy; use of technical studies, methods, and techniques; and assistance to the field offices in accomplishment of botanical work.

More information here.

  • Program and Communications Manager, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The North American Invasive Species Management Association (NAISMA) seeks an experienced Program and Communications Manager to organize, coordinate, and manage programs, provide strategic guidance to committees and partners, oversee the progress of operations, and manage much of the organization’s communications. At least 50% of this position will be dedicated to the PlayCleanGo outreach campaign; especially expansion of the campaign in the Northeastern U.S.

More information here.

  • National Park Service Lead Biological Science Technician (EPMT), Boulder City, Nevada

Leads a field squad that is responsible for conducting exotic plant control involving the use of chainsaws and herbicide application. Instructs crews on standard procedures, implements treatments, collects and organizes field data. Leads a multi-person field crew implementing labor-intensive natural resource related projects.

More information here.


May 3-5, 2018 – Center for Plant Conservation National Meeting, Ft. Worth, Texas. For more information and to register, click here.

May 15-18, 2018 – Hawai‘i Native Seed Conference and Hawai‘i Seed Bank Partnership Meeting, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

This conference brings together conservationists, horticulturalists, researchers, and others working with seeds of native Hawai‘ian plants to share knowledge with each other and visiting experts. The conference will begin with an optional meeting of the Hawai‘i Seed Bank Partnership on May 15. The following days will feature speakers from Hawaiʻi, and several sessions led by staff from the Kew Millennium Seed Bank Partnership. Topics for the conference will focus on strategies and methods for collecting, handling, and processing seed collections for propagation and storage, making this widely applicable for anyone working in ecosystem restoration in the Pacific region. Updates available here.

May 18, 2018 – Smithsonian Botanical Symposium, Washington DC, “Plants in the Past: Fossils and the Future.” Presented by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Department of Botany in collaboration with the United States Botanic Garden. More information here.

June 4-8, 2018 – American Public Gardens Association Annual Conference, “Cultivate Your Creative Nature” in Southern California. More information here.

July 30-August 1, 2018 – 2nd Seed Longevity Workshop, Fort Collins, Colorado. Hosted by the International Society for Seed Science, the USDA Agricultural Research Service, and Colorado State University. More information here.

August 26-30, 2018 – Association of Zoological Horticulture Annual Conference, Winnipeg, Canada. For more information, click here.

Answers to plant quiz above:  1. Houston Camphor daisy (Rare),  2. Ox-Eye Daisy with monarch butterfly (Weed),  3. Two-Spike Crabgrass (Rare),  4. Veldt Grass (Weed),  5. Golden Indian Paintbrush (Rare),  6. Texas Wild Rice (Rare),  7. Oxalis pes-caprae (Weed)

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By | 2018-06-15T21:07:25+00:00 April 26th, 2018|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Royvia September 13, 2019 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    Great post.

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