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Tuesday - May 03, 2005

From: Bellaire, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Rare or Endangered Plants
Title: Smarty Plants on Herbertia lahue
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Herbertia lahue is now blooming in Russ Pitman Park in Bellaire, TX. Below is a story about it. I heard that the plant is a protected species, but I could not find anything to confirm that. Could you send me some information about this and what it means. Also I would appreciate any other information about the plant.

"If you are lucky enough to visit Russ Pitman Park (on Newcastle at Evergreen in Bellaire, Texas) on a sunny morning in April, you will see a dazzling display of miniature irises, with the scientific name of herbertia lahue, although its name has changed a number of times. Commonly it is known as prairie nymph or pleat-leaf iris. Whatever the name of this protected species, its breath taking carpet of blue is a rare sight. The flowers only open when the sun is out but low. If you pick a flower, it will close. By early afternoon the show is over. The flowers close when the sun is too bright, and the plant, with its slender pleated leaves, blends with the grass. The profusion of herbertia in Russ Pitman Park is due to postponing mowing until the seed capsule is ripe in mid May. Donít miss the show."


Herbertia, or prairie nymph, (Herbertia lahue) is a member of the iris family (Family Iridaceae). It is native to North America and the USDA Plants Database shows it occuring in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida. It is not shown on the Texas Endangered Plants list as endangered or threatened in U. S. or the State of Texas, nor is it listed in the Nature Conservancy's Annotated List of the G3/T3 and Rarer Plant Taxa of Texas.. In Texas a "protected" plant, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code, must be listed on the U. S. list or the Texas list of Endangered or Threatened species. This means that Herbertia is not protected in Texas. It is not listed on the Florida or Louisiana state endangered or threatened species lists, nor does it occur on their lists of rare species. Only in Mississippi is it listed as rare with a ranking of S2. Globally its ranking is G4 G5 and T4. T4 is for subspecies of H. lahue.

An explanation of the Natural Heritage Program ranking system as given on the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science web page is as follows: "Heritage Ranks: The Natural Heritage Program uses the Heritage ranking system developed by The Nature Conservancy. Each species is assigned two ranks; one representing its range wide or global status (GRANK), and one representing its status in the state (SRANK). GRANK criteria follow those of SRANK except for species having several subspecies. In these cases, a subrank made up of the letter "T" plus a number or letter (1,2,3,4,5,H,U,X,?) Is added to the GRANK. A guide to ranking criteria and symbols follows: S1 — Critically imperiled in Mississippi because of extreme rarity (5 or fewer occurrences or very few remaining individuals or acres) or because of some factor(s) making it vulnerable to extirpation. S2 — Imperiled in Mississippi because of rarity (6 to 20 occurrences or few remaining individuals or acres) or because of some factor(s) making it vulnerable to extirpation. S3 — Rare or uncommon in Mississippi (on the order of 21 to 100 occurrences). S4 — Widespread, abundant, and apparently secure in the state, but with cause for long-term concern ( more than 101 occurrences). S5 — Demonstrably widespread, abundant, and secure in the state."

By the way, the Wildflower Center also had a beautiful display of Herbertia blooming this spring.

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