US agency says rare flowering plant found only in New Mexico should be listed as endangered

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A rare flowering plant found only in one spot in southern New Mexico should be granted federal protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday.

The agency is proposing to list the swale paintbrush as endangered. Also known as the glowing Indian paintbrush, the plant’s bright yellowish flowers produce nectar and support pollinators.

Historically, the plant was native to grasslands in Hidalgo County in southwestern New Mexico and used to grow at sites in the Sierra Madre Occidental region, which spans parts of the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Durango.

Biologists listed drought, altered water flows, wildfires, excessive grazing and a warming climate as some of the threats to the species.

The Center for Biological Diversity supported the proposed listing, saying the plant has an extremely limited known distribution and that the last confirmed siting in Mexico was in 1985.

“The Endangered Species Act has prevented the extinction of so many other plant and animal species,” said Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate with the center. “In this instance, the law will help save a unique flower that’s part of what makes the Southwest not only botanically interesting but also beautiful.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service will be accepting public comment on the proposal through Aug. 7.

If the agency moves forward with the listing, it will then have to develop a recovery plan for the plants. That will likely call for reintroducing the paintbrush to other habitats in case its current known population is wiped out.