Gaillardia aristata Pursh
Basis for Listing
Gaillardia aristata grows throughout the northern Great Plains and the Pacific Northwest (populations in the Southwest and northeastern North America are believed to have escaped from introduced populations). It reaches the far eastern edge of its natural range in northwestern Minnesota, where it is distributed mostly at the east edge of the Glacial Lake Agassiz lake plain, in the interbeach zone (Minnesota DNR 2005). Gaillardia aristata has been found at approximately 30 locations, half of which were observed before 1980 and the other half after 1980. Because of its limited geographic distribution and threats to its prairie habitat, particularly gravel quarrying, G. aristata was listed as a special concern species in Minnesota in 1996.
Gaillardia aristata is a showy, taprooted perennial plant with yellow and red/purple flower heads. It grows to about 60 cm (2.0 ft.) tall. The leaves are rough to the touch, about 5-15 cm (2.0-5.9 in.) long (including the leaf stalk), and 2.5 cm (0.98 in.) wide. They are arranged along the stem and at the base of the plant. The leaf is basically lance-shaped but can be wider at the tip than at the base. It may have a smooth edge or be toothed or lobed. The flowerheads are solitary at the end of long (20-35 cm; 7.9-13.8 in.) peduncles (stalks). Flowers are arranged in sunflower-like heads of ray flowers (the outer ring of petal-like flowers) and disk flowers (center of the 'sunflower'). The ray flowers are yellow or yellow and red/purple. The showy 'petal' of the ray flower is 1-3 cm (0.4-1.2 in.) long and has 3 lobes at the tip. The disk flowers are red/purple or purple-tipped, and the disk is 1.5-3 cm (0.59-1.18 in.) across. The achenes (fruits) are 4 mm (0.16 in.) long, covered with hairs, and with 8 aristate (ending in a stiff, bristle-like point) scales around the top (Great Plains Flora Association 1986; Strother 2006).
Gaillardia aristata primarily grows in northern dry prairie. This herbaceous, open plant community is grass-dominated and occurs on droughty soils. Typical grass species include Schizachyrium scoparium var. scoparium (little bluestem) and Hesperostipa spartea (porcupine grass). Forb cover is sparse to patchy and of variable species composition, although Symphyotrichum sericeum (silky aster) and Artemisia spp. (sage species) are frequent associates. Shrub cover is also sparse to patchy and tends to include only low-growing semi-shrubs (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 2005). Gaillardia aristata has also been found to co-occur with three other rare species, Senecio canus (gray ragwort), Orobanche fasciculata (clustered broomrape), and O. ludoviciana (Louisiana broomrape).
Biology / Life History
It is probable that G. aristata is pollinated primarily by insects, and it seems likely that reproduction is accomplished only or primarily through seeds. Given the hairs and pointed scales on the achenes, these are likely transported long distances by animals, etc. Gaillardia aristata is popular in the horticultural trade because it can be grown easily from seed, is drought tolerant, and has showy flowers. Many of the ornamental varieties are actually a hybrid cross of G. aristata and G. pulchella (rose-ring gaillardia).
Conservation / Management
Gaillardia aristata is rarely grazed by livestock although it is believed that it may actually increase with grazing pressure (Sedivec and Barker 1997). Since it has been found in disturbed habitats along roadsides, railroad tracks, and near gravel pits, it seems likely that it can tolerate some level of disturbance. However, wholesale destruction of habitat (such as in a mined area) is one of the most serious threats to dry prairie habitats in northwest Minnesota and thus to G. aristata. Since the species occurs in fire-maintained habitats (dry prairies), a regimen of prescribed burning would likely benefit the species.
Conservation Efforts in Minnesota
Gaillardia aristata is protected on a number of conservation lands, including four Scientific and Natural Areas, one State Park, three Wildlife Management Areas, one Waterfowl Production Area, and several areas owned by The Nature Conservancy. Some of these areas are being actively managed to perpetuate the prairie habitats; however, no known conservation efforts have been undertaken to specifically manage for G. aristata within these areas.
References and Additional Information
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 2005. Field guide to the native plant communities of Minnesota: the prairie parkland and tallgrass aspen parklands provinces. Ecological Land Classification Program, Minnesota County Biological Survey, and Natural Heritage and Nongame Research Program. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, St. Paul, Minnesota. 362 pp.
Sedivec, K. K., and W. T. Barker. 1997. Selected North Dakota and Minnesota range plants. North Dakota State University Extension Service, North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota. 270 pp.
Strother, J. L. 2006. Gaillardia. Pages 421-426 in Flora of North America Editorial Committee, editors. Flora of North America north of Mexico. Volume 21. Oxford University Press, New York, New York.
The Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence. 1,402 pp.
Van Bruggen, T. 1985. The vascular plants of South Dakota. Second Edition. Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa. 476 pp.