Xyris montana Ries
Montane Yellow-eyed Grass
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Basis for Listing
Xyris montana is endemic to North America primarily occurring as an Atlantic Coastal Plain species with local distributions occurring westerly to northwestern Minnesota. Since first documented in the state in 1970 from a boggy lake habitat in St. Louis County, this species has been recorded from Beltrami, Koochiching, Itasca, Lake, and Cook counties. Approximately 65% of the known occurrences are from central Lake County. Although difficult to determine what actually constitutes individual populations, it is estimated that 3-4 dozen populations have now been documented in the state. However, most of these populations have not been revisited since their initial observations. Xyris montana was listed as a special concern species in Minnesota in 1984.
Xyris montana is a cespitose (growing in tufts) perennial that is 5-30 cm (2.0-11.8 in.) tall. The leaves are mostly basal, long and linear (<2 mm (0.008 in.) wide), and the flowers are borne in a single, compact head atop a long scape. The lateral sepals are straight with a scarious keel that is either entire or finely toothed at the apex. The petals are yellow and apparently open in the morning (Kral 2000).
Xyris montana primarily occurs in sunny, acidic, peaty habitats. These include the Sphagnum spp. (sphagnum moss) shores and mats of bog lakes and bog ponds; boggy pools, puddles and depressions in fens (typically near water bodies); and water tracks of larger peatland complexes. Most of the known occurrences for this species in Minnesota are from smaller and often isolated (from each other) boggy ponds and fens. Associated plant species include Lycopodiella inundata (bog clubmoss), Scheuchzeria palustris (Scheuchzeria), Rhynchospora alba (white beak rush), and R. fusca (sooty-colored beak rush).
Biology / Life History
Xyris montana is a perennial herb. It apparently has no nectaries and is either pollinated by wind or by pollen feeding insects such as bees and flies (Kral 2000). The species reproduces by seed.
Conservation / Management
Other than becoming a little more successful in determining where this species may occur and estimating its abundance, populations are not currently being further assessed. Well-designed monitoring efforts are necessary in order to better understand species ecology and how populations are responding to management activities and a changing environment. The potential threats to X. montana include outright destruction of habitat and physical, chemical, or hydrological alterations of habitat conditions. Many populations are in boggy areas where people typically do not recreate. However, these saturated, peaty substrates are readily disturbed and mucked up when visited, which is a concern. Bog lakes are also often managed as brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) fisheries or used for bait leech harvesting. This can alter the existing aquatic ecosystem and result in recreational impacts to sensitive habitats near landings and fishable shorelines and pond edge habitats where X. montana often occurs.
Conservation Efforts in Minnesota
While most populations of X. montana occur on state and federal land, less than 20% of them occur in areas formally protected and designated as Scientific and Natural Areas or the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.