CPC Plant Profile: Holy Ghost Ipomopsis
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Plant Profile

Holy Ghost Ipomopsis (Ipomopsis sancti-spiritus)

Photo Credit: Joyce Maschinski
  • Global Rank: G1 - Critically Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Polemoniaceae
  • State: NM
  • Nature Serve ID: 145135
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 03/05/1993

Holy Ghost ipomopsis is known from a single 2-mile stretch of canyon east of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The population of approximately 2000 individuals has experienced decline in the past 6 years. Population viability models indicate that the species is headed toward extinction within the next 50 years. What is making matters worse is that reproduction in the species is very poor. Less than 10% of flowers produce viable fruits, and fruits produce only 3 seeds each. The Arboretum at Flagstaff is monitoring the wild population each year and is making recommendations to land managers. In addition, they are investigating the poor reproduction of the species in an attempt to overcome inherent limitations. This species is a member of the Phlox family, and produces pink, tubular flowers from July to September.

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Center for Plant Conservation
  • 12/03/2021
  • Reintroduction

Holy Ghost ipomopsis is known from only a single location in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of north-central New Mexico. In May 1998, approximately 1800 seeds were planted at 7 sites along Willow Creek by the NM Forestry Division. By Aug 1999 1 reproductive plant and several rosettes were found at all sites (however rosettes could not be distinguished from congener I. aggregata). The sites were re-visited in 2000,2001 & 2002, but only 1 reproductive plant was found. This preliminary study suggested that direct seeding may not be a viable option for establishing new Holy Ghost ipomopsis populations. Therefore, in 2004, we identified 3 potential transplant locations (outside of the known range of the species, but with wetter soil conditions than the Willow Creek site). In July 2005, we transplanted 169 seedlings to Panchuela Creek and 212 to Winsor Creek and hand watered them until mid-August. By 2006, 280 (73.5%) of transplants survived at the sites combined, 258 flowered and produced mature capsules. In July 2006, we transplanted 308 and 299 more rosettes to P and W Creeks respectively. By 2007, 842 plants remained as rosettes and 135 seedlings emerged. By 2008, 157 seedlings, 93 rosettes and 11 flowering plants grew at the sites.

Katie Heineman
  • 06/25/2021
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

The Arboretum at Flagstaff holds several long term seed accession of the Holy Ghost Ipomopsis dating back to at least 1993. 

Katie Heineman
  • 06/25/2021
  • Propagation Research

In 2018, as part of CPC-USFS Region 3 seed banking intiative, The Arboretum at Flagstaff conducted germination trials on Ipomopsis sancti-spiritus seed to determine if this rare species is maintaining viability in in long term storage.  Previous germination trials conducted in winter 1993 by The Arboretum at Flagstaff (FLAG; accession #1993-0419) contrasted 84 fresh seeds that did not receive a germination pretreatment with 60 seeds receiving one month of cold stratification. Both sets of seed (treated and cold stratified) and exhibited 50% germination. In 1997, FLAG staff conducted germination trials on 29 seeds, ranging in age from one to five years old. FLAG staff subjected seeds to two months of cold stratification and observed an overall germination rate of 31%.

For this project in 2018, the Arboretum at Flagstaff examined germination rate in four accessions spanning ages from 19 to 21 years. Germination across the accessions ranged from 8-70%. The average germination rate was 28%, not including shelf-stored samples (Table 2). Freezer storage resulted in higher seed longevity than shelf storing. Seed treatments included one, two or three months (1MC, 2 MC and 3MC) of cold/moist treatment. Cold moist treatments involved placing seeds in moist Perlite, inside Ziplock bags, in the freezer. The treatment with the best germination rate was one month of cold/moist storage (Table 2 - 38%). Increasing the cold/moist period decreased germination rate. Germinated seedlings grew well in the greenhouse.

  • 09/16/2020
  • Reintroduction

Robert Sivinski of New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department has done common garden experiments and reintroductions.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Endemic to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico and restricted to a single canyon population with relatively few individuals. Threats include recreation, fire suppression, invasive plants, road maintenance, and spruce budworm control.

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

An estimated 1,200-2,500 plants grow in the Santa Fe National Forest (USFWS 1992)

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010
  • Demographic Research

Wild populations are monitored yearly (Maschinski 2001). Population viability models indicate that the species is at very high risk of extinction within the next 50 years. Maschinski is also examining flower morphology of Holy Ghost ipomopsis to determine if there are anomalies that may be causing low reproductive success. Robert Sivinski of New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department has done common garden experiments and reintroductions.

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Holy Ghost ipomopsis is a federally listed endangered species and is managed by the Santa Fe National Forest.

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

The severe reproduction problems of Holy Ghost ipomopsis are the most critical research need. Its overall seed production is so low in the wild and in controlled cultivation in gardens that little material is available for reintroduction efforts.

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Propagation of large numbers of propagules for reintroduction efforts is needed.

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Threats include: Fire suppression Pesticides Road construction (11 plants lost in 1989 to road straightening/paving activity) Inbreeding depression (USFWS 1992)


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Taxon Ipomopsis sancti-spiritus
Authority Wilken & Fletcher
Family Polemoniaceae
CPC Number 13365
ITIS 503189
Common Names Holy ghost ipomopsis | Holy Ghost skyrocket
Associated Scientific Names Ipomopsis sancti-spiritus
Distribution Holy Ghost ipomopsis is only known from a single canyon in the upper Pecos River drainage of the southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico, San Miguel County. (New Mexico Rare Plant Technical C
State Rank
State State Rank
New Mexico S1

This species grows on relatively dry, steep, west to southwest-facing slopes in open ponderosa pine or mixed conifer/aspen forest at 2,400-2,500 m (7,730-8,220 ft). It is found on the geologic substrate of partly weathered Terrero limestone. (New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council 1999)

Ecological Relationships

The Holy Ghost ipomopsis is believed to be a recently derived species and there is a strong possibility that it is suffering from the problems of small populations. Its extremely poor reproduction is an indication that it has inbreeding depression, a genetic condition that may lead to malformations that hinder future reproductive success. It is believed that fire historically played a role in maintaining the open habitat that this species requires. (USFWS 1992) Biological control of an invasive species, the spruce budworm moth, that involves the widespread aerial broadcast of a bacterium may also kills innumerable other insects in the area, including potential pollinators for the Holy Ghost ipomopsis. (USFWS 1992)

Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Lead Institution State Reintroduction Type Year of First Outplanting
New Mexico Forestry Division New Mexico Reintroduction 1998
New Mexico Forestry Division New Mexico Reintroduction 2005
New Mexico Forestry Division New Mexico Reinforcement 2007
New Mexico Forestry Division New Mexico Reintroduction 2011

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