U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
The federal Endangered Species Act Schweinitz’s sunflower. This species agriculture are increasingly making use
The Endangered Species Act of 1973, as occurs in many rapidly developing areas of wild plants, seeking out the remaining
amended (Act), recognizes that many of within the piedmont region of North and wild strains of many common crops, such
our nation’s valuable plant and wildlife South Carolina. As these areas develop, as wheat and corn, to produce hybrids
resources have been lost and that other Schweinitz’s sunflower loses habitat. that are more resistant to disease, pests,
species are close to extinction. The Act and marginal climatic conditions. If these
provides a means to help preserve these Why should we be concerned about the organisms had been destroyed before
species and their habitats for future loss of species? their values were known, their secrets
generations. Schweinitz’s sunflower Extinction is a natural process that has would have died with them. When a
(Helianthus schweinitzii) is native to the been occurring since long before the species is lost, the benefits it might have
piedmont of North Carolina and South appearance of humans. Normally, new provided are gone forever.
Carolina. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife species develop (through a process known
Service added this plant to the Federal as speciation) at about the same rate as What you can do to help
List of Endangered and Threatened other species become extinct. However, ■ Visit arboretums, botanical gardens,
Wildlife and Plants as an endangered because of air and water pollution, forest and parks to learn all you can about
species on May 7, 1991. clearing, loss of wetlands, and other endangered plants and the causes of
human-induced environmental changes, their decline.
Description, habitat, and biology extinctions are now occurring at a rate
Schweinitz’s sunflower is a perennial that that far exceeds the speciation rate. Since ■ Don’t collect or buy plants that have
regularly grows approximately 6 feet tall the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in been gathered from wild populations.
(although it can be shorter if it is young 1620, more than 500 species, subspecies,
or injured) and can occasionally reach and varieties of our nation’s plants and ■ Participate in the protection of our
heights of 16 feet. It has thickened roots animals have become extinct. By remaining wild land and the
that are specially designed to store contrast, during the 3,000 years of the restoration of damaged ecosystems.
starch. The stem is purple, and the upper Pleistocene Ice Age, all of North America
third is branched at a 45 degree angle. lost only about 90 species.
The leaves are arranged in pairs on the
lower part of the stem but usually occur All living things are part of a complex and
singly on the upper part. They grow out interconnected network. The removal of a
from the stem at a right angle, and the single species can set off a chain reaction
tips of the leaves tend to droop. The that could affect many other species. For
leaves are thick and stiff, with a rough example, the loss of a single plant species
upper surface. They have broad spiny can result in the disappearance of up to
hairs that are directed toward the tip, and 30 other species of animals and plants.
soft white hairs cover the underside. The Each plant and animal
plant produces small yellow flowers. extinction diminishes
the diversity and
Schweinitz’s sunflower blooms from late complexity of life on
August until frost. It is able to colonize earth.
through the dispersal of seeds that
readily germinate without a dormant Furthermore, wild
period. In good conditions, it can grow 3 plants and animals are
to 6 feet in a year and can live for important to the
decades. It occurs in full to partial sun development of new
and is found in areas with poor soils, such and improved
as thin clays that vary from wet to dry. medicines, agricultural
This preference for poor soil helps crops, and other
eliminate competition from other species. industrial products.
One-fourth of all the
Why is Schweinitz’s sunflower so rare? prescriptions written
Habitat destruction, fire suppression, in the United States
alteration of native habitat, roadside and today contain
utility right-of-way maintenance, chemicals that were
industrial development, mining, originally discovered
encroachment by exotic species, and in plants and animals.
highway construction and improvement Industry and
have all contributed to the decline of
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
■ Be careful with the use and disposal
of pesticides and other chemicals,
especially near sensitive habitats.
■ Recycle as much as you can. As
landfills become full, new ones are
often placed in uninhabited areas,
causing the destruction of hundreds
of acres of wild habitat.
Wild land and the plant and animal life
that inhabit unique natural places are
now dependent on us for survival. These
natural places, with their diversity of life,
can be enjoyed by and benefit all of us;
with our help, they can be there for
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Asheville Field Office
160 Zillicoa Street
Asheville, North Carolina 28801
Schweinitz’s sunflower county distribution in North Carolina