CPC Plant Profile: Ertter's Ragwort
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Plant Profile

Ertter's Ragwort (Senecio ertterae)

Senecio ertterae is a member of the sunflower family. What looks like one flower is actually made up of many tiny flowers. Photo Credit: Oregon Department of Agriculture
Description
  • Global Rank: G2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • State: OR
  • Nature Serve ID: 158854
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 02/09/1992

Know your rare plants. A bit of careful observation saved this rare plant from being exterminated by herbicides. Senecio ertterae requires a very unusual soil containing rhyolitic ash, derived from a particular volcanic rock in the Leslie Gulch area. These specific soil requirements make it one of 6 species endemic to Leslie Gulch in eastern Oregon. In the early 1990's a range extension 8 miles (13 km) southwest of the main population was discovered by accident when S. ertterae was mistakenly identified as a weed. A range technician brought in what he thought was a "new weed" from the Birch Creek Ranch on the Owyhee River. It was correctly identified and any preventative weed control measures were soon halted (Findley 2001). Senecio ertterae was previously listed as an Oregon State threatened species but in 2000, a proposal from the Oregon Department of Agriculture was submitted to the state to remove Ertter's Senecio from the list. This was suggested after thoroughly evaluating the species' reproductive potential, geographic distribution, commercial uses, and existing protective regulations. Extensive field surveys by the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the USFWS led to the discovery of new populations within the Leslie Gulch area. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) showed that neither population numbers nor range were decreasing and designated the Leslie Gulch region as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). Previous threats from mining claims were eliminated with this designation which will hopefully help to continue the proliferation of these populations.

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Updates
Center for Plant Conservation
  • 08/19/2021
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

In 2021, CPC contracted Institute for Applied Ecology to recollect seed from a population currently held in long term orthodox seed storage as part of an IMLS-funded seed longevity experiment. The National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation will evaluate how germination tested viability and RNA Integrity of seed lots decline over time in storage.

  • 09/28/2020
  • Demographic Research

Population monitoring since 1988 on BLM land. Current monitoring is via annual photographic plots. This reduces the potential for damage to plants due to trampling by researchers. Monitoring will continue long-term. Population numbers appear relatively stable although they fluctuate with annual precipitation levels. Clumps of plants tend to move around from year to year (Findley 2001).

  • 09/28/2020
  • Propagation Research

Germination studies at the Berry Botanic Garden were inconclusive. Five separate trials were conducted. In each one, seeds were either cold stratified for 8 weeks or not cold stratified. This was followed by placement in either constant 68F (20C) or alternating 50/68F (10/20C). No treatment was consistently better than any other, and each of the four treatments yielded 100% germination in at least one of the trials (BBG File).

  • 09/28/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Seed from at least 4 populations is stored at The Berry Botanic Garden.

  • 09/28/2020
  • Seed Collection

Seed from at least 4 populations is stored at The Berry Botanic Garden.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

A narrow eastern Oregon endemic with only 15 known populations, restricted to a specific kind of ash deposit. Observed to be locally abundant on some of the beds, but the total number of plants fluctuates wildly (by orders of magnitude) between years. The species' habitat is somewhat threatened by off-road vehicles and other ground disturbance, e.g. hiking.

Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Parts of two populations are on private land. No protection is afforded to these areas. Any initiation of large-scale mining operations in Leslie Gulch or immediate vicinity in areas not designated as an ACEC (Kaye 2000) would threaten populations of

Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

As of 2000: The most recent counts were conducted in 1989. In 1989, there were 11 known populations, with numbers ranging from 350 individuals to nearly 200,000 with a total of around 332,000 individuals. Because this is an annual species, it is highly dependent on rainfall totals. Numbers may be very high in a wet year and very low in a dry year (Kaye 2000).

Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Population monitoring since 1988 on BLM land. Current monitoring is via annual photographic plots. This reduces the potential for damage to plants due to trampling by researchers. Monitoring will continue long-term. Population numbers appear relatively stable although they fluctuate with annual precipitation levels. Clumps of plants tend to move around from year to year (Findley 2001). Studies of photosynthesis indicate that Senecio errterae is a C3 plant because of the high CO2 compensation point (Mansfield 2001). Germination studies at the Berry Botanic Garden were inconclusive. Five separate trials were conducted. In each one, seeds were either cold stratified for 8 weeks or not cold stratified. This was followed by placement in either constant 68F (20C) or alternating 50/68F (10/20C). No treatment was consistently better than any other, and each of the four treatments yielded 100% germination in at least one of the trials (BBG File).

Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

In 1995, the BLM prepared and signed a management plan for this species in addition to Mentzelia packardiae and Ivesia rhypara var. rhypara. This created the ACEC (Area of Critical Environmental Concern), which is the ""most important regulatory mechanism"" protecting Senecio ertterae (Kaye 2000). Six of the eleven known populations, including all of the largest populations are within BLM land designated as an ACEC (Kaye 2000). Within the ACEC, road location and width changes as well as gates, pullouts and parking areas are utilized to direct visitors away from Senecio errterae habitat (Kaye 2000). Within the ACEC, mineral collection requires a permit, and the area is closed to mining (Kaye 2000). Livestock grazing is prohibited on ACEC land (Kaye 2000). Recreation is restricted to day use only in the ACEC (Kaye 2000). Seed from at least 4 populations is stored at The Berry Botanic Garden.

Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Continue to manage areas in designated ACEC to ensure there are no unauthorized grazing, mining or recreational activities. Such events that threaten the stability of these populations will result in an emergency re-listing of the species with the state of Oregon. Conduct physiological studies to determine the photosynthetic pathways of this species. Research suggests that it is a C3 plant because of the high carbon dioxide (CO2) compensation point (Mansfield 2001). However, observations suggest that it may be a C4 plant, as it is unusual to have a fall blooming plant in an arid environment (Findley 2001). Determine when seeds germinate in the field.

Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Collect and store seeds from across the range. Determine germination protocols. Determine propagation and reintroduction protocols.

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Senecio ertterae
Authority T.M. Barkley
Family Asteraceae
CPC Number 3927
ITIS 36128
USDA SEER4
Common Names Ertter's ragwort
Associated Scientific Names Senecio ertterae
Distribution OR: Owyhee Uplands (Malheur Co.) in eastern Oregon, less than 40 square miles (100 sq km) encompassing Leslie Gulch and its side canyons.
State Rank
State State Rank
Oregon S2
Habitat

Dry clay ash deposits, sand, gravel, and talus derived from the Leslie Gulch ash flow tuff formation. The substrate is susceptible to erosion and disturbances. It is sparsely vegetated but includes species such as: Pseudoregnaria spicata (bluebunch wheatgrass), Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass), Mimulus cusickii (Cusick's monkey flower), Eriogonum vimineum (broom buckwheat), and Phacelia hastata (silverleaf phacelia). Plants are found at an elevation of approximately 3950 feet (1200 m).

Ecological Relationships

Flowers begin to appear in mid-July, but most flowers are open in September. This is unusual for an annual, especially one in such a harsh, dry climate (Kaye 2000). The primary pollinator of Senecio ertterae is a syrphid fly, but a wide range of insects from wasps to bumblebees pollinate the plant (Kaye 1989). As it is an annual, the yearly contribution to the soil seed bank is critical for its continued survival (Findley 2001). Several dry years in succession would be damaging to the population. Especially damaging would be years with enough rain early in the year to allow germination, but not enough for the plant to compete its life cycle. This would deplete the soil seed bank reserves.This species is dependent on frequent disturbance and erosion to create suitable habitat. Most plants occur on loose soils, mostly on slopes subject to erosion and slumping. Individuals have been observed on gravel recently disturbed by run-off, along old cattle trails, and in soil disrupted by road maintenance equipment (Kaye 2000).

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

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