Measures taken to protect rare plant colony

Telephus spurge Photo available for purchase

Telephus spurge

Lois Swoboda
Published: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 11:50 AM.

A colony of rare plants is being marked for preservation by Duke Energy.

A routine environmental survey along the Duke Power transmission lines between Eastpoint and Carrabelle has revealed something highly unusual.

Telephus spurge, Euphorbia telephiodes, isn’t much to look at but it is quite rare. This relative of familiar plants like poinsettia, crown of thorns, and pencil cactus, is found only in Bay, Gulf and Franklin counties within four miles of the Gulf of Mexico.

Biologists Annie Doyle and Lee Walton of Flatwoods Consulting Group, an environmental consulting firm employed by the energy giant, were surveying along transmission lines in Gulf and Franklin counties prior to pole replacement when they discovered a colony containing about 1,500 of the rare spurge plants.

Walton said Dr. Vivian Negrón-Ortiz, at the Panama City office of US Fish and Wildlife (USFW), was excited about the discovery.

 “It is an important find because telephus spurge habitat is usually in conflict with development, so management they will be providing is important,” she said.

Negrón-Ortiz, who is the recovery lead for 10 listed plant species in the Panhandle, has written extensively of telephus spurge. She said the plant is unusual in that it exhibits tremendous genetic variation, which may indicate it was once common in its current range. Surveys conducted between 1988 and 2007 indicate fewer than 20,000 remain.



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