A Leda Ministreak butterfly on an Arizona eryngo plant
A water pump draws groundwater in Tuscon.
The San Pedro River near Palominas, Arizona
Dried Arizona eryngo
Amid it all, the lovely Arizona eryngo lingers on the edge of extinction. Yue Li, a research scientist with the University of Arizona and the Arizona–Sonora Desert Museum, has studied the plant extensively. “The eryngo is unique in that it occupies only the toughest wetlands,” he says. “But it is also among the most vulnerable because the water tables are already on the margins. So the decline of the eryngo indicates that a certain type of wetland is disappearing. We know that’s happening over the entire Southwest because of what we’ve been doing—pumping water for our own needs.”
Still, Li isn’t convinced that listing the eryngo as endangered is the answer. He fears it might simply pit everyone with a stake in the river against one other, without ensuring the plant’s survival. “What we really need,” he says, “is the political will to restore this population.”
And the resolve to save its river home as well.
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