The Arizona eryngo or its scientific name Eryngium sparganophyllum, is a rare wetland plant that has recently been listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under the Endangered Species Act. The Arizona eryngo is a flowering plant in the carrot family that can grow to more than 5 feet tall, with large, cream-colored spherical flowers. It is frequented by pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds and grows only in ciénegas, a type of wetland fed by natural springs. According to the Center for Biological Diversity more than 95 percent of the cienega habitats that the eryngo needs to survive have already been lost due to groundwater overuse to support human populations.
The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Arizona eryngo under the Endangered Species Act since 2016 including a petition in 2018 that was followed with a filed notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Service in 2019 due to the agency failing to make an initial decision on the petition within 90 days. In response to the eryngo finally gaining endangered protection status Robin Silver, a cofounder and board member at the Center, said “I’m so glad these big, beautiful plants and the rare cienega habitats where they live are getting these badly needed protections; the eryngo gives us one more reason to save the San Pedro River.”
This decision to list the plant as endangered allows the USFWS to designate 12.7 acres of wetlands as critical habitat for the species on public and private land in Arizona’s Pima and Cochise counties. The critical habitat designation identifies areas that are important to the conservation of the Arizona eryngo. USFWS Regional Director Amy Lueders stated “The Service looks forward to continuing our work with conservation partners in Arizona to protect and recover this rare native plant; partnerships will be central to addressing the threats to the Arizona eryngo and putting it on the path to recovery.”