CPC Plant Profile: Showy Stickseed
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Plant Profile

Showy Stickseed (Hackelia venusta)

Hackelia venusta is found on unstable sand and rock substrate. Photo Credit: Ed Guerrant
Description
  • Global Rank: G1 - Critically Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Boraginaceae
  • State: WA
  • Nature Serve ID: 128463
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 02/10/1987

Hackelia venusta makes up for its short stature, being only 8-16 in. (20-40) cm tall, by a splashy display of large, showy white flowers. This beautiful plant is the rarest in Washington, found at only one site in the entire state, and nowhere else in the world. The Showy stickseed is restricted to an area of less than two and a half acres on a slope within 330 feet (100 m) of a major state highway. The slope that they grow on is extremely unstable, and susceptible to landslides and disturbance by hikers and potential plant collectors, or even those only wanting to take photographs. Only two populations of true Hackelia venusta have ever been found, within about 12 mi. (20 km) of each other in Chelan County, Washington. The plant was first discovered in 1920 in Tumwater Canyon. In 1948 an occurrence of Hackelia venusta was reported near Merrit, Washington, but recent efforts to relocate this site have been unsuccessful. Changes in land-use have most likely caused the extirpation of the plants in this area (USFWS 2000). The sole remaining population is at the original discovery site. Although the population is still present, it has exhibited a clear downward trend over recent years. A survey in 1968 estimated that the population covered "a few hundred acres." In 1981, this population contained 800-1000 individuals. By 1984, only 400 were observed, covering 12 acres. Presently only 300-500 individuals remain in this population (WNHP 2017). Several populations of what was considered to be H. venusta were found high in the mountains, at elevations near 6,300-7,400 ft (1,920-2,255 m). Questions arose as to whether they could be considered the same species. They were observed to be shorter in stature and had smaller, blue tinged flowers. Due to the distance between the populations and differences in flowering time, the blue and white forms are incapable of naturally interbreeding (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2000). Observations and genetic studies have indicated that they are indeed different species. The blue form has recently been named H. taylori. A major landslide completely destroyed one of the populations in 1994 or 1995, but subsequently a couple more populations have been documented. Although H. taylori is known from only four locations, it has not been listed as threatened or endangered.

Participating Institutions
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Updates
Ruby Iacuaniello
  • 04/12/2021
  • Reintroduction

Wendy Gibble of the Rare Plant Care and Conservation Program (Rare Care) at University of Washington Botanic Gardens is monitoring the showy stickseed in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. She and her team are working to find new reintroduction sites using habitat models. With the US Forest Service they are developing a management plan for the future restoration. See the full story here.

  • 10/17/2020
  • Tissue Culture

Development of micropropagation techniques to aid in reintroduction efforts- Results indicate that if vegetative material is harvested in early spring, Hackelia venusta plantlets can be successfully micropropagated, acclimatized, and reintroduced within one growing season (Wenny 1995). Development of micropropagation techniques utilizing low levels of growth regulators- Shoot cultures normally produce true-to-type plantlets, but off-type individuals (due to mutation) can result from use of growth regulators and extended subculture. In an effort to reduce the threat of somaclonal variation, researchers supplemented culture media with minimal cytokinin and auxin. Shoot proliferation is not as vigorous as with optimal levels of growth regulators, but the benefit of reduced variation is great to the conservation field (Edson et al. 1996). Continued propagation and tissue culture research at the Rare Plant Care and Conservation Program through the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington, Seattle. Early results show that it may be easier to grow from seed than originally thought (Laura Zybas, Rare Plant Care and Conservation Program, 2001, Personal Communication).

  • 10/17/2020
  • Propagation Research

Development of micropropagation techniques to aid in reintroduction efforts- Results indicate that if vegetative material is harvested in early spring, Hackelia venusta plantlets can be successfully micropropagated, acclimatized, and reintroduced within one growing season (Wenny 1995). Development of micropropagation techniques utilizing low levels of growth regulators- Shoot cultures normally produce true-to-type plantlets, but off-type individuals (due to mutation) can result from use of growth regulators and extended subculture. In an effort to reduce the threat of somaclonal variation, researchers supplemented culture media with minimal cytokinin and auxin. Shoot proliferation is not as vigorous as with optimal levels of growth regulators, but the benefit of reduced variation is great to the conservation field (Edson et al. 1996). Continued propagation and tissue culture research at the Rare Plant Care and Conservation Program through the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington, Seattle. Early results show that it may be easier to grow from seed than originally thought (Laura Zybas, Rare Plant Care and Conservation Program, 2001, Personal Communication).

  • 10/17/2020
  • Genetic Research

Genetic (isosyme) studies- Preliminary isozyme analysis by US Forest Service measured the differences in plant proteins to detect genetic differences between Hackelia venusta (white flowered form), H. venusta (blue flowered form-later named H. taylori) and other Hackelia species. These results indicated a clear separation between the white and blue flowered forms and suggest that the blue form is the result of a recent speciation event (Harrod et al. 1998).

  • 10/17/2020
  • Reproductive Research

A study was completed in 2015 to evaluate the ecological requirements of Hackelia venusta to inform management and reintroduction efforts.Analyses of the physical and chemical properties of the soils did not reveal a unique soil environment that explains the limited distribution of H. venusta. The soils are shallow, well-drained and coarse-textured with low organic matter content. Total and extractable nitrogen are low but similar to forest soils of other locations with similar site characteristics. Bray extractable phosphorus is high and, given the history of fire in the study area, is most likely attributed to increased mineralization of phosphorus as a result of burning. DNA extraction of several root and rhizosphere soil samples indicated that arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi may be associated with the species. H. venusta appears to tolerate a range of light conditions, and is not shade-intolerant. It occupied sites with average non-vegetative cover ranging between 67 and 80 percent. Its preferred microsites exhibited lower cover of shrub, grass, and non-vascular plants, but higher forb cover was positively correlated with H. venusta presence. Based on these results, it is surmised that the limited distribution of H. venusta is due primarily to its ability to exploit the coarse, unstable soils at the sites that result in a low competitive environment (Gibble 2015).

  • 10/17/2020
  • Seed Collection

BBG houses seeds from the only remaining population. Seeds were collected in 1984 and 1987 as bulk collections. In 1990 and 1995 collections, seeds from different maternal lines were kept separate (BBG file). Approximately 2,800 seeds of this taxon are currently preserved in seed banks.

  • 10/17/2020
  • Reintroduction

In November 2015, approximately 300 individuals were planted in and adjacent to the native population to augment the population and evaluate propagation and out-planting protocols. Development of micropropagation techniques to aid in reintroduction efforts- Results indicate that if vegetative material is harvested in early spring, Hackelia venusta plantlets can be successfully micropropagated, acclimatized, and reintroduced within one growing season (Wenny 1995).

  • 10/17/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

BBG houses seeds from the only remaining population. Seeds were collected in 1984 and 1987 as bulk collections. In 1990 and 1995 collections, seeds from different maternal lines were kept separate (BBG file). Approximately 2,800 seeds of this taxon are currently preserved in seed banks.

  • 01/22/2018

A study was completed in 2015 to evaluate the ecological requirements of Hackelia venusta to inform management and reintroduction efforts.Analyses of the physical and chemical properties of the soils did not reveal a unique soil
environment that explains the limited distribution of H. venusta. The soils are shallow, well-drained and coarse-textured with low organic matter content. Total and extractable nitrogen are low but similar to forest soils of other locations with similar site characteristics. Bray extractable phosphorus is high and, given the history of fire in the study area, is most likely attributed to increased mineralization of phosphorus as a result of burning. DNA extraction of several root and rhizosphere soil samples indicated that arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi may be associated with the species. H. venusta appears to tolerate a range of light conditions, and is not shade-intolerant. It occupied sites with average non-vegetative cover ranging between 67 and 80 percent. Its preferred microsites exhibited lower cover of shrub, grass, and non-vascular plants, but higher forb cover was positively correlated with H. venusta presence. Based on these results, it is surmised that the limited distribution of H. venusta is due primarily to its ability to exploit the coarse, unstable soils at the sites that result in a low competitive environment (Gibble 2015).

Wendy Gibble
  • 01/22/2018

Propagation protocols have been determined for this species.

Wendy Gibble
  • 01/22/2018

In November 2015, approximately 300 individuals were planted in and adjacent to the native population to augment the population and evaluate propagation and out-planting protocols.

Wendy Gibble
  • 01/22/2018

Approximately 2,800 seeds of this taxon are currently preserved in seed banks.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Hackelia venusta is a narrow endemic restricted to one small population on less than 1 hectare (2.5 acres) of unstable, granitic talus on the lower slopes of Tumwater Canyon, Chelan County, Washington (USFWS, 2002).

Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Fire suppression allowing competition and shading from native trees and shrubs (USFWS 20000). Fire suppression allowing plant succession to proceed and stabilize slopes. However, subsequent fire may lead to increased slope instability resulting in r

Wendy Gibble
  • 01/01/2010

Between 2004 and 2015, the only known population of this species has fluctuated between 239 and 477 individuals (WNHP 2017).

Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Genetic (isosyme) studies- Preliminary isozyme analysis by US Forest Service measured the differences in plant proteins to detect genetic differences between Hackelia venusta (white flowered form), H. venusta (blue flowered form-later named H. taylori) and other Hackelia species. These results indicated a clear separation between the white and blue flowered forms and suggest that the blue form is the result of a recent speciation event (Harrod et al. 1998). Development of micropropagation techniques to aid in reintroduction efforts- Results indicate that if vegetative material is harvested in early spring, Hackelia venusta plantlets can be successfully micropropagated, acclimatized, and reintroduced within one growing season (Wenny 1995). Development of micropropagation techniques utilizing low levels of growth regulators- Shoot cultures normally produce true-to-type plantlets, but off-type individuals (due to mutation) can result from use of growth regulators and extended subculture. In an effort to reduce the threat of somaclonal variation, researchers supplemented culture media with minimal cytokinin and auxin. Shoot proliferation is not as vigorous as with optimal levels of growth regulators, but the benefit of reduced variation is great to the conservation field (Edson et al. 1996). Continued propagation and tissue culture research at the Rare Plant Care and Conservation Program through the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington, Seattle. Early results show that it may be easier to grow from seed than originally thought (Laura Zybas, Rare Plant Care and Conservation Program, 2001, Personal Communication).

Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

The sole remaining population is on National Forest land that is designated at a ""Botanical Area"". The area was established in 1938 to protect Lewisia tweedyi, a plant then thought to be rare. The plant is more common than thought, but the designation of the land has continued because of the presence of Hackelia venusta and Silene seelyi (USFWS 2000). Endangered species and critical habitat designation proposed by US Fish and Wildlife Service in Feb. 2000. Decision coming soon No active management of the site was occurring as of 2000 (USFWS 2000). BBG houses seeds from the only remaining population. Seeds were collected in 1984 and 1987 as bulk collections. In 1990 and 1995 collections, seeds from different maternal lines were kept separate (BBG file).

Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Inventory potential habitat throughout range. Consultation about activities such as highway maintenance, fire suppression, timber harvest, and habitat restoration activities to determine cumulative impact on Hackelia venusta population. Investigate the natural history of Hackelia vestusta - What was its historic range Could the white-flowered population have been at higher elevations at one time (Malmquist 1995). Explore the risk of pests and disease being transmitted from the greenhouse to the reintroduction site. This may not be a large problem in cool climates, but all moss and liverworts should be removed from containers, and plants should be inspected by a pathologist prior to reintroduction (Malmquist 1995). Examination of life history: Reproductive/pollination biology, seed production, germination requirements, seedling establishment, life span (Malmquist 1995).

Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Store genetically representative sample of seeds. Determine optimal germination requirements. Develop propagation and reintroduction protocols.

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Nomenclature
Taxon Hackelia venusta
Authority (Piper) H. St. John
Family Boraginaceae
CPC Number 2109
ITIS 31920
USDA HAVE4
Common Names Showy stickseed | esser showy stickseed
Associated Scientific Names Hackelia venusta | Lappula venusta
Distribution Tumwater Canyon in the eastern Cascades in Washington.
State Rank
State State Rank
Washington S1
Habitat

Hackelia venusta grows on steep slopes (25-70 degrees) composed of loose, well-drained granitic sand and broken rocks at an elevation of approx. 1600 to 2500 ft (480 -765 m) in the dry eastern slopes of the Washington Cascades. The plants grow in openings within the Ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir forests which are maintained by occasional wildfires.

Ecological Relationships

Hackelia venusta grows in the openings of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Douglas-Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) forests. The loose, rocky soil characteristically supports little competing vegetation and contains low levels of soil-organic matter. This habitat is maintained by occasional burning and minor habitat disturbances. In the past 100 years, there have been great efforts to control or eradicate forest fires. The suppression of fire has hurt this population by allowing trees and shrubs to flourish causing shading and crowding of the showy stickseed. The loss of suitable habitat is the primary cause of the decrease in population numbers. Without occasional fires, organic material may accumulate to such levels as to result in hotter burning fires. A fire now would be very detrimental to the population, as these hot fires are capable of destroying everything in their path. A hot burning fire will damage the root of the plant, leading to plant death, whereas a cooler burning fire would only damage the above ground portions of the plant, allowing it to grow back the following year. Large, hot burning fires could also increase the likelihood of a major landslide by destroying the root structure of the plants that normally stabilize the soil. (USFWS 2000). As the common name suggests, seeds are dispersed by clinging to passing animals. The fruits of the showy stickseed are spurred and covered with stout hairs that cling to the hair and bodies of animal. They can even cling to the smooth skin on the palm of one's hand (USFWS 2000).

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Bees
Bees Suspected Pollinator Floral Link
Leaf-cutting bees Protosmia rubifloris Confirmed Pollinator Link
Mining bees Andrena nigrocaerulea Confirmed Pollinator Link
Mining bees Andrena nigrocaerulea bees Confirmed Pollinator Link
Leaf-cutting bees Protosmia rubifrons bees Confirmed Pollinator Link
Flies
Flies Suspected Pollinator Floral Link
Small-headed flies Eulonchus Confirmed Pollinator Link
Small-headed flies Eulonchus fly Confirmed Pollinator Link
Other
Thrips Thrips Floral Visitor Link
Thrips Thysanoptera Floral Visitor Link
Reintroduction
Lead Institution State Reintroduction Type Year of First Outplanting

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