Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Who’s eating the flowers of a rare western Nevada range plant?

Authors
item Longland, William
item Aten, Melany - UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA RENO
item Swartz, Maryke
item Kulpa, Sarah - USDI,BLM, CARSON CITY, NV

Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 20, 2009
Publication Date: April 1, 2009
Citation: Longland, W.S., Aten, M., Swartz, M., Kulpa, S. 2009. Who’s Eating the Flowers of a Rare Western Nevada Range Plant?. Rangelands 31:26-30.

Interpretive Summary: Churchill Narrows buckwheat is a rare range plant that only occurs on outcroppings of diatomaceous soils on the northeastern flanks of the Pine Nut Mountains in Lyon Co., NV. The plant is listed by the State of Nevada as a sensitive species, and is a priority for federal listing as an endangered species. Monitoring of this plant has shown that developing flowers are subjected to intense herbivory, and there is some concern that this may impact seedling production. We conducted a series of studies during summer 2007 to determine the type of the animal(s) consuming Churchill Narrows buckwheat flowers. Live trapping showed that the longtail pocket mouse was plentiful around the plants, but like most desert rodents, this species is a seed-eater. Since developing flowers were being consumed rather than mature flowers containing seeds, we omitted seed-eating rodents as agents of flower damage. Tracking stations showed that rabbits also visited the plants, and we found significantly more rabbit droppings around buckwheat plants than around neighboring plants of other species. Trail monitoring cameras yielded direct evidence that blacktail jackrabbits were responsible for flower consumption. If seedling production limits Churchill Narrows buckwheat, management to reduce herbivory on flowers may be necessary.

Technical Abstract: Churchill Narrows buckwheat (Eriogonum diatomaceum) is an edaphic endemic plant that occurs only on diatomaceous soils on the northeastern flanks of the Pine Nut Mountains, Lyon Co., NV. The plant is listed by the State of Nevada as a sensitive species, and is on a priority list for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. Monitoring of this plant has shown that developing flowers are subjected to intense herbivory, and there is some concern that this may limit potential seedling recruitment. We conducted a series of studies during summer 2007 to determine the identity of the animal(s) consuming E. diatomaceum flowers. Live trapping showed that the longtail pocket mouse (Chaetodipus formosus) was plentiful around the plants, but like most desert rodents, this species is a granivore. Since developing flowers were being consumed rather than mature flowers containing seeds, we omitted granivores as agents of flower damage. Tracking stations showed that rabbits also visited the plants, and we found significantly more rabbit droppings around E. diatomaceum plants than for heterospecific neighbors. Trail monitoring cameras yielded direct evidence that blacktail jackrabbits (Lepus californicus) were responsible for flower consumption. If seedling recruitment limits E. diatomaceum, active management to reduce herbivory on flowers may be necessary.

Last Modified: 4/16/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page