CPC Plant Profile: Rhizome Fleabane
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Plant Profile

Rhizome Fleabane (Erigeron rhizomatus)

Erigeron rhizomatus close-up Photo Credit: ©Daniela Roth, NNHP
  • Global Rank: G2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Threatened
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • State: AZ, NM, NN
  • Nature Serve ID: 143504
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 03/17/2022

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.

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Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Rare regional endemic of western New Mexico and northeastern Arizona. Approximately 37 known sites within 3 metapopulations. The plants prefer specific substrates (outcrops of coarse-textured shales on the Baca Formation in west-central New Mexico and the Chinle Formation in northwestern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona) that are potentially minable. Threats include habitat disturbance, oil field activities, potential uranium mining activities, road construction and resulting erosion, and cattle grazing. Most of these threats are minor. Potential uranium mining activities could pose a serious threat in the future.

Sheila Murray and Kristin Haskins
  • 01/01/2010

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.

Sheila Murray and Kristin Haskins
  • 01/01/2010

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).

Sheila Murray and Kristin Haskins
  • 01/01/2010

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)

Sheila Murray and Kristin Haskins
  • 01/01/2010

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/)

Sheila Murray and Kristin Haskins
  • 01/01/2010

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).

Sheila Murray and Kristin Haskins
  • 01/01/2010

seed banking genetic studies propagation work additional surveys on private land


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Taxon Erigeron rhizomatus
Authority Cronquist
Family Asteraceae
CPC Number 1668
ITIS 35943
Common Names Rhizome Fleabane | Zuni Fleabane
Associated Scientific Names Erigeron rhizomatus
Distribution 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 (McKi
State Rank
State State Rank
Arizona S1
New Mexico S1
Navajo Nation S2

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.

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).

Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Lead Institution State Reintroduction Type Year of First Outplanting

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