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March 15, 2004
Partners Work To Conserve Rare Texas Plant
AUSTIN, Texas — The bracted twistflower (Streptanthus bracteatus) is a beautiful and rare mustard that exists only on the Edwards Plateau of Central Texas. For three years, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the City of Austin, Travis County, the Lower Colorado River Authority, and Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center have worked to conserve this globally rare plant growing in the Austin area.
A recent outcome of this strong partnership was a voluntary memorandum of agreement for which a signing ceremony was held March 10 at the capitol in Austin. The ceremony recognized private landowners, non-profit organizations, state and federal agencies, and wildflower enthusiasts for their dedication to preserving Texas’ heritage represented by this small but important and rare plant.
For the last couple of years, a group of volunteers organized by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and botanists from several organizations have searched public land in Travis County to gather information that might lead to a brighter future for the bracted twistflower. This volunteer program remains active and organizers continue to look for local landowners that would like to join in the search. This is especially important since the flower occurs largely on private land.
During the last 150 years, the twistflower has been observed in seven counties, but more recently is restricted to Bexar, Medina, Travis, and Uvalde counties. This annual plant has delicate pink flowers and usually grows no taller than 3 feet. It is usually found on rocky limestone slopes and terraces in juniper-oak woodlands. When flowering during April and May, it is difficult to see amid the over-wintering brown shrubs. Leaves on the upper part of the plant wrap around the stem like those of local common mustards and have smooth margins. Leaves on the lower stem are on long stalks and are often deeply incised, like those of a dandelion. To make it easier for the wildflower enthusiast to recognize in spring, look for the four flowering pink petals.
For more local information, contact the USFWS Austin Ecological Services Field Office at (512) 490-0057.
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