Phacelia submutica
Author: (J.T. Howell) Halse

DeBeque phacelia

Hydrophyllaceae (Waterleaf Family)

Close up of Phacelia submutica by Peggy Lyon
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Close up of Phacelia submutica by Creed Clayton
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Taxonomic Comments

=Phacelia scopulina var. submutica

Ranks and Status

Global rank: G4T2
State rank: S2
Federal protection status: USFWS Threatened
State protection status: None

[+] Description and Phenology

Phacelia submutica by Marjorie Leggitt
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General description: A small tap rooted, summer annual. The stems are 2 to 8 cm long often branched at the base with a deep red color, and generally lay flat on the ground in a disc-shaped clump. The reddish-colored leaves are 5 to 15 mm long egg-shaped, or almost rectangular, with rounded corners, with the bases abruptly tapering to a wedge-shaped point; the leaf margins are smooth or toothed. The stems and leaves are covered by variable numbers of straight stiff hairs. The very small tube-shaped flowers are crowded and light-yellow or cream colored often with a purple tinge. Unlike many Phacelia species the stamens do not protrude beyond the petals. The elongated-egg shaped, blackish brown seeds tend to be iridescent, and are 1.5 to 2 mm long with 6 to 12 fine ridges or corrugations (Harrington 1954).

Look Alikes: Not likely to be confused with other taxa. P. submutica's small rosette of reddish leaves, minute cream flowers, and specific habitat are distinctive.

Phenology: Vegetative growth probably begins in early April (O'Kane 1987). Flowering occurs in late April to late June, and fruiting occurs from mid-May to late June (Colorado Natural Heritage Program 2012).

[+] Habitat

Habitat of Phacelia submutica by Gina Glenne
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Habitat of Phacelia submutica by Peggy Lyon
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Occurs on steep slopes and ridge-tops on xeric sites in chocolate-brown or gray clay adobe badlands of Western Colorado which often have high shrink-swell potential (large cracks in the soil). The species is adapted to grow only in very early pioneer habitats with sparse vegetation cover (Scheck 1994). The species occurs on Atwell Gulch and Shire Members of Wasatch Formation (O'Kane 1987). Associated species are Grindelia fastigiata, Sarcobatus vermiculatus, Atriplex confertifolia, Eriogonum gordonii, Monolepis nuttalliana, Oenothera caespitosa, Astragalus flavus, Helianthus sp., Lepidium sp., Chenopodium sp., Rumex sp., Cymopterus planosus, Sitanion hystrix, Ceratocephala testiculata, Lactuca serriola, Euphorbia fendleri, Asceplias cryptoceras, Mentzelia sp., Thelypodiopsis sp., Oryzopsis hymenoides, Bromus tectorum, Sphaeralcea coccinea, Gutierrezia sarothrae (O'Kane 1987). Other rare species occuring in the area are Sclerocactus glaucus and Astragalus debequaeus.

Elevation Range: 5,003 - 6,542 feet (1,525 - 1,994 meters)

[+] Distribution

Distribution of Phacelia submutica in Colorado
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Colorado endemic: Yes
Global range: Phacelia scopulina var. submutica is endemic to Colorado and known only from Garfield and Mesa counties.  Estimated range is 356 square kilometers, calculated in GIS by drawing a minimum convex polygon around the known occurrences.  Previous reports from Arizona were erroneous. 

[+] Threats and Management Issues

Summary results of an analysis of the status of Phacelia submutica based on several ranking factors. This species was concluded to be “weakly conserved”. From Rondeau et al. 2011.
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Oil and gas development is considered to be the primary threat to the species at this time (Rondeau et al. 2011). Phacelia submutica is inherently vulnerable to habitat loss by virtue of it being restricted to barren and semi-barren habitat on specific members of the Wasatch geological formation that has a limited distribution within the Piceance Basin. This area has high amounts of gas reserves and has historically been impacted by activities associated with resource extraction. Current and future levels of resource extraction activity are likely to be substantial. Activities that lead to significant soil disturbance, or progressive soil erosion, would likely eliminate or sharply reduce the seed bank, which appears to be the mechanism by which populations survive. Therefore, all actions that cause significant disturbances, including mechanized vehicle traffic and livestock grazing, are threats. Phacelia submutica has evolved in habitats where interspecies competitive pressures are very low, and evidence suggests that weed infestations are potentially a significant threat. It is likely to be palatable to non-selective herbivores, such as livestock and some species of wildlife and arthropods, but the potential magnitude of the impact is not known. Some evidence suggests that livestock grazing, which includes disturbance as well as herbivory, may be a threat to some occurrences (Ladyman 2003).

[+] References

    • Ackerfield, J. 2012. The Flora of Colorado. Colorado State University Herbarium. 433 pp.
    • Burt, Julie. 1995. Status report for Phacelia submutica. Unpublished report prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Fort Collins, CO.
    • Colorado Natural Heritage Program and The Nature Conservancy. 2008 (August). A Biodiversity Scorecard for Colorado. Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Colorado State University, Fort Collins and The Nature Conservancy, Boulder. Unpublished report to The Nature Conservancy. 133 pp.
    • Colorado Natural Heritage Program. 2003. Biological Conservation Datasystem. Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO.
    • Elliott, B. A., S. Spackman Panjabi, B. Kurzel, B. Neely, R. Rondeau, M. Ewing. 2009. Recommended Best Management Practices for Plants of Concern. Practices developed to reduce the impacts of oil and gas development activities to plants of concern. Unpublished report prepared by the Rare Plant Conservation Initiative for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
    • Glenne, G. 2008. Personal communication with Dr. J. Kartesz regarding the taxonomy of Eriogonum pelinophilum and Phacelia submutica.
    • Halse, R. R. 1981. Taxonomy of Phacelia sect. Miltitzia (Hydrophyllaceae). Madrono Vol. 28 (3):121-132.
    • Harrington, H.D. 1954. Manual of the plants of Colorado. Sage Press, Chicago. 666 pp.
    • Howell, J. T. 1944. A revision of Phacelia section Miltitzia. Proceedings of the California Academy of Science. 25(15):357-376.
    • Ireland, T. 2002. Candidate and listing priority assignment form: Phacelia submutica. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Grand Junction, Colorado.
    • Johnson, B. 2001. Boilogical Assessment and Biological Evaluation for Phacelia submutica. Unpublished report prepaired for the White River National Forest, Glenwood Springs, Colorado. USDA Forest Service, Gunnison, CO.
    • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
    • Ladyman, J.A.R. (2003, December 19). Phacelia scopulina (A. Nels) J.T. Howell var. submutica (J.T. Howell) Halse (Debeque phacelia): a technical conservation assessment. [Online]. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region. Available: [March 2006].
    • Neely, B., S. Panjabi, E. Lane, P. Lewis, C. Dawson, A. Kratz, B. Kurzel, T. Hogan, J. Handwerk, S. Krishnan, J. Neale, and N. Ripley. 2009. Colorado Rare Plant Conservation Strategy, Developed by the Colorado Rare Plant conservation Initiative. The Nature Conservancy, Boulder, Colorado, 117 pp.
    • O'Kane, S. L. 1987. Status Report for Phacelia submutica. Unpublished report prepared for the Colorado Natural Areas Program, Denver, CO.
    • Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Artists. 2009. RARE Imperiled Plants of Colorado, a traveling art exhibition. Exhibition catalogue developed by the Denver Botanic Gardens and Steamboat Art Museum.
    • Rondeau, R., K. Decker, J. Handwerk, J. Siemers, L. Grunau, and C. Pague. 2011. The state of Colorado's biodiversity 2011. Prepared for The Nature Conservancy. Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado.
    • Scheck, C. 1994. Special Status Plants Handbook Glenwood Springs Resource Area. Unpublished report prepared for the Bureau of Land Management, Glenwood Springs, CO.
    • Spackman, S., B. Jennings, J. Coles, C. Dawson, M. Minton, A. Kratz, and C. Spurrier. 1997. Colorado rare plant field guide. Prepared for Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by Colorado Natural Heritage Program.
    • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 2004. Species assessment and listing priority assignment form. Phacelia submutica. 9 pp.
    • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 2010. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Listing Ipomopsis polyantha (Pagosa Skyrocket) as Endangered Throughout Its Range, and Listing Penstemon debilis (Parachute Beardtougue) and Phacelia submutica (DeBeque Phacelia) as Threatened Throughout Their Range. Proposed Rule. Federal Register 75(120):35721-35746.
    • USDA, NRCS. 2013. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
    • Weber, W. A. and R. C. Wittmann. 2012. Colorado Flora, Western Slope, A Field Guide to the Vascular Plants, Fourth Edition. Boulder, Colorado. 532 pp.

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