Endangered Plants in the U.S.

The Endangered Species Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1973 as a way to protect endangered plants and wildlife species when their numbers become so few that they are in danger of extinction. Depletion of numbers can be a result of many factors, most notably loss of habitat brought on by pollution, deforestation, construction, agriculture, overgrazing, logging, or residential or commercial development. There are hundreds of plants on the federal list of endangered plants, and hundreds more on the list of threatened plants, which means those plants are likely to become endangered in the near future. Both lists are updated on a daily basis. A state-by-state listing is available in the Resources section below.

Yellow Larkspur

Yellow larkspur (Delphinium luteum) grows on the low-lying rocky areas of the picturesque northern California coast. Although the numbers of yellow larkspur vary from year to year, there are fewer than 80 plants remaining, all of them on private land or at the University of California Botanical Garden. Although yellow larkspur is easily grown, its existence is threatened by rock quarrying, destruction of habitat arising from residential development, overcollecting by people and overgrazing by sheep and deer. Yellow larkspur is only one of many threatened plants along rocky areas of our nation's coast lands.

Black Lace Cactus

Black lace cactus (Echinocereus reichenbachii) is an ornamental cactus that is endangered because of overcollection arising from the attraction of its large purple and pink flowers, along with destruction of habitat and overgrazing. Currently, black lace cactus, also known as hedgehog cactus, exists in wild, brushy areas on private land in three south Texas counties and is being cultivated at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. Black lace cactus is one example of several endangered cacti, trees, shrubs or grasses in the American Southwest.

Scrub Lupine

Scrub lupine (Lupinus westianus) is a tall plant with pink flowers that bloom between March and May. Currently found in sandy scrubland of only three counties in central Florida, populations of scrub lupine are declining because of recreational off-road vehicles, agriculture, commercial and residential development, competition with other plants and mowing of grassy roadsides. Unfortunately, the scrub lupine isn't the only lupine on the threatened or endangered list. Others include Kincaid's lupine and Biddle's lupine, both found in Oregon; California's Nipomo Mesa lupine and Santa Ynez lupine; and Payson's lupine, found in Colorado.

Michigan Monkey Flower

Michigan monkey flower (Mimulus glabratus) is found in aquatic habitats along Michigan's lake shores and streams and along the edges of meadows and forests. Michigan monkey flower has bright yellow blooms that look similar to snapdragons. The plant is endangered because of increases in water temperature, encroachment by non-native plants and destruction of habitat arising from construction of roads. The Michigan monkey flower is indicative of many endangered species in America's fragile wetlands and coastal areas.

Keywords: endangered species, endangered plants, destruction of habitat

About this Author

M.H. Dyer is a long-time writer, editor and proofreader. She has been a contributor to the East-Oregonian Newspaper and See Jane Run magazine, and is author of a memoir, “The Tumbleweed Chronicles, a Sideways Look at Life." She holds an Master of Fine Arts from National University, San Diego.