Holy Ghost Ipomopsis Endangered Species Recovery Effort

Adam Crateau, Joy Avritt, Phil Tonne photoThe Holy Ghost Ipomopsis is found only in a single canyon in northern New Mexico. Since 2001, Joy Avritt and Phil Tonne (at right in photo, shown with Adam Crateau) have been growing the Holy Ghost Ipomopsis, a federally endangered species, in the UNM Biology Department greenhouse. This year they and their cooperators planted 380 rosettes in the Pecos watershed, near the plant’s naturally occupied habitat, a low-density, spotty distribution over 1.3 miles of Holy Ghost Canyon. The current habitat occurs within and above summer homes in the forest. It appears to require disturbance since it is almost entirely confined to the cut-and-fill slopes of a single forest road.

To provide for this plant’s future, it is crucial to establish new populations. The single isolated population is vulnerable to events such as disease or changes in forest structure. If the group can establish this plant in new areas with less restricted resource management pressures, it may be possible to help the species recover from its current bottleneck of about 3,000 naturally occurring plants. They hope to place another 750–1,000 plants in the forest in 2006, and eventually establish several self-sustaining populations on the Santa Fe National Forest.

This is part of a cooperative effort by the USFWS, USFS (Charlie McDonald and Esther Nelson), NM State Forestry Division (Bob Sivinski) and UNM with some volunteer efforts by Rayo McCullough (Natural Heritage NM) and Tim Meehan (College of Santa Fe).