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Gierisch Mallow Threatened by Gypsum Mining
Phoenix, AZ – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will propose to list the Gierisch mallow (also known as Gierisch’s globemallow) as “endangered” throughout its range in Mohave County, Arizona, and Washington County, Utah. FWS will also propose to designate approximately 12,822 acres (ac) in Arizona and Utah as critical habitat.
Gierisch mallow was first described in 2002. This narrowly endemic wildflower grows on gypsum outcrops in arid Mohave desertscrub communities. The tall, wispy plant with orange flowers appears to be a perennial that sprouts annually from a woody stalk each spring. Only 18 populations are known to exist, 17 on federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and one on Arizona state land.
“It would be heartbreaking to lose a species that was so recently discovered,” said Taylor Jones, Endangered Species Advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “This plant is a reminder that in the current extinction crisis, we may be losing species before we even knew they existed. Listing the Gierisch mallow under the ESA is the only way to ensure protection for this rare wildflower.”
The species is highly imperiled as most of its range is being actively mined for gypsum. Gypsum is used to manufacture sheetrock, which is used in home construction. Gypsum mining in Arizona threatens the two largest populations of Gierisch mallow, representing up to 50 percent of the species’ total numbers. Gypsum mining eliminates mallow habitat and creates piles of tailings that may be dumped on plants. It is unknown if Gierisch mallow will readily grow on reclaimed mining sites. WildEarth Guardians petitioned for the plant’s federal protection in June 2007, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated Gierisch mallow as a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2008.
While gypsum mining is the major threat to Gierisch mallow, the beleaguered plant must also contend with other factors. Unauthorized off-road vehicle use, illegal dumping and impacts associated with illegal target shooting are degrading habitat, as are invasive plant species such as red brome and cheatgrass. Livestock will also eat or trample the mallow.