Carter's small-flowered flax and Florida brickellbush now officially are endangered species
Pursuant to a 2011 agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Endangered Species Act protection today for two imperiled flowers found exclusively in the disappearing pine rocklands of Miami-Dade County. The flowers' habitat has been fragmented and destroyed due to population growth, and they are threatened by climate change and a proposed development to construct a strip mall with a Walmart.
"These flowers represent the natural beauty that's capable of surviving in Florida's extreme conditions, and today's listing will help ensure they're around for generations to come," said Jaclyn Lopez, a Florida-based attorney with the Center. "And they're a stark reminder that Florida stands at the precipice of an important decision: Wake up and address climate change and population growth, or lose Florida as we know it forever."
Both flowers have been waiting for federal protection since 1985. Their final listing was prompted by the Center’s 2011 agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service expediting protection decisions for 757 imperiled species across the country.
Carter's small-flowered flax is 1 foot tall with slender leaves and yellow petals. Florida brickellbush is a white, perennial flower in the aster family that grows to more than 3 feet tall. Small and fragmented occurrences are all that remain of these two flowers. Both Miami-Dade County flowers are threatened by conversion of native habitat for urban and agricultural development and by inadequate fire management.
At least five populations of Carter's small-flowered flax have been lost to development. Four of the seven surviving populations have fewer than 20 individual plants. At least nine known populations of Florida brickellbush have been wiped out by development. The total number of plants is estimated to have declined by 50 percent since 1999, and the overall population is estimated at 2,100 to 3,700 plants.
The listing, which becomes official Oct. 4, according to the Miami Herald, will not stop construction of the shopping center and apartment complex near Zoo Miami in southern Miami-Dade County. But it does mean the plants — the white-bloomed Florida brickell-bush and yellow Carter's small-flowered flax — will receive some measure of protection, said Lopez.
"Unfortunately there's a wrinkle with the Endangered Species Act where plants are treated as second-class citizens," she said.
She added in an interview with the Miami New Times: What's the priority for South Florida? "Is it that we have another regional shopping opportunity, or is it that we maintain what we have left of our natural environment?"