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Pollination habits of endangered Texas rice revealed to help preservation
Date:7/15/2008

A type of wild rice that only grows in a small stretch of the San Marcos River is likely so rare because it plays the sexual reproduction game poorly, a study led by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin has revealed.

The first study of breeding habits of this endangered, aquatic grass (Zizania texana) found that the pollen of Texas wild-rice can only travel about 30 inches away from a parent plant. If pollen doesn't land on a receptive female flower within that distance, no seeds will be produced. No seeds means no new plants to replenish a population that faces other survival threats.

"It would be great to introduce more of these plants into the San Marcos River so that we can build up its population, said Flo Oxley, conservation director at the Wildflower Center, and lead author of the study.

"This information will be useful when reintroduction efforts begin, because we now know that lots of new plants must be planted close together in order for seeds to be produced."

The findings were published in June in The Southwestern Naturalist journal of the Southwestern Association of Naturalists, and shared with staff at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for federally listed species conservation. Texas has about 25 percent of the plant biodiversity nationally, including 23 endangered and five threatened plant species.

Texas wild-rice prefers the clean, clear water of the San Marcos River and is not found anywhere else. The plant spends most of its life submerged, emerging only to flower. Recreation on the river can stir up sediments that prevent sunlight from reaching the plants, and swimmers, tubers and canoers often submerge the plants' flowers so they can't pollinate. This foot traffic isn't expected to go away soon, and the flow of u
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Contact: Barbra Rodriguez
brodriguez@wildflower.org
512-232-0105
University of Texas at Austin
Source:Eurekalert  

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