Sclerocactus glaucus - (J.A. Purpus ex K. Schum.) L. Benson
Colorado Hookless Cactus
Other English Common Names: Uinta Basin Hookless Cactus
Other Common Names: Uinta Basin hookless cactus
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Sclerocactus glaucus (J.A. Purpus ex K. Schum.) L. Benson (TSN 19759)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.832412
Element Code: PDCAC0J0X0
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Cactus Family
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Caryophyllales Cactaceae Sclerocactus
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2003b. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Vol. 4, Magnoliophyta: Caryophyllidae, part 1. Oxford University Press, New York. 559 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B03FNA04HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Sclerocactus glaucus
Taxonomic Comments: This record is for Sclerocactus glaucus in the narrow sense excluding S. wetlandicus and S. brevispinus material, as treated by Heil and Porter in Flora of North America (2003) and by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2007, 2009). Kartesz (1999) treated S. brevispinus as distinct from his S. glaucus but did not address the name Sclerocactus wetlandicus; therefore, it was unclear whether S. wetlandicus was accepted as distinct. Heil and Porter, in Flora of North America (2003), treat Utah populations formerly considered part of Sclerocactus glaucus as the distinct species Sclerocactus wetlandicus, recognizing a more narrow S. glaucus (this record) "known only from Grand Junction area south to near Montrose, Colorado." According to Heil and Porter, "chloroplast DNA data (J. M. Porter et al. 2000) are consistent with F. Hochstätter's (1997) assertion that these represent two taxa. Even so, S. glaucus and S. wetlandicus are morphologically very similar and in the herbarium may be very difficult to discriminate without resorting to scanning electron microscopy (SEM)... The surface of the epidermal cells of S. wetlandicus... is flattened... The cells are convex with a flattened apex, like a hill that was strip mined, lacking the conoidal projection; whereas, those of S. glaucus are rounded." From October 1979 until September 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognized a broader concept of Sclerocactus glaucus (Listed Threatened) than is represented by this record; that concept included S. brevispinus, S. wetlandicus, and S. glaucus sensu stricto material. On 18 September 2007, USFWS proposed to change the taxonomy of Sclerocactus glaucus to recognize these three species as distinct entities on the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants; on 15 September 2009, USFWS published the Final Rule implementing that taxonomic change.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G2G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 25Oct2012
Global Status Last Changed: 25Oct2012
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: This species is endemic to western Colorado. There are over 80 documented element occurrences. Nearly all populations are threatened with habitat destruction or modification from energy development activities, water storage projects, transportation, and residental development. Other ongoing threats include impacts from moss-rock and rip-rap collecting operations, illegal collection and damage by recreational use or livestock trampling. The restricted range and the pervasive nature of threats to its habitat constitute the primary justification for the global rank.
Nation: United States
National Status: N2N3

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Colorado (S2S3)

Other Statuses

U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LT: Listed threatened (11Oct1979)
Comments on USESA: On 18 September 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service "proposed to change the taxonomy of the currently [as of October 11, 1979] threatened Sclerocactus glaucus 'complex' to three distinct species: Sclerocactus brevispinus, S. glaucus, and S. wetlandicus. Because these species make up what was formerly the 'complex,' each will maintain its status of being listed as threatened" (USFWS 2007). On 15 September 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published the Final Rule implementing this taxonomic change. Original listing date of October 11, 1979 is retained for Sclerocactus glaucus in the strict sense, since this name has been on the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants since that date.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R6 - Rocky Mountain

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Known from Delta, Garfield, Mesa, and Montrose counties in Colorado. Estimated range is 3307 square kilometers (1277 square miles), with the northern population covering 505 square kilometers, and the southern population 2802 square kilometers. Values calculated in GIS by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program in 2017 following NatureServe methodology.

Area of Occupancy: 101-2,000 1-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments: The total area occupied by the mapped occurrences is 529 square kilometers (calculated by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program in 2017). Historical and F ranked occurrences are excluded.
 

Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: There are 93 element occurrences; 21 of the occurrences have not been observed in over 20 years or are unrankable (as of 2013).

Population Size Comments: Approximately 23,000 individuals have been documented within the CNHP element occurrence records. However, about 1/3 of the occurrences have very few individuals, and many others are considered historical. The number of documented individuals reported in the 1990 Recovery Plan was approximately 12,000, with an estimated population size of 25,000 individual plants.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Some (13-40)
Viability/Integrity Comments: There are 36 occurrences with an A or B rank.

Overall Threat Impact: Very high - high
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Habitat destruction or modification by development of energy extraction, water storage projects, transportation, and residental facilities constitutes the greatest threat to S. glaucus. This threat is wide-ranging, increasing, and less amenable to mitigation than are the threats of illegal collecting or disturbance by agricultural or recreational activities. The scope and severity of this threat are inferred from numbers of plants known to be impacted by projects such as the TransColorado gas transmission pipeline and Colorado Highway 50 widening, as well as anecdotal observations from field personnel familiar with the species. Cheatgrass (Anisantha tectorum) invasion is also causing considerable degradation of S. glaucus habitat in some areas.

Short-term Trend: Unknown
Short-term Trend Comments: In 2007 the BLM and the Denver Botanic Gardens established demographic monitoring plots at four sites; Power Line Road, Escalante Canyon, Escalante Canyon Picnic Area, and Pyramid Rock. In 2009 a monitoring site was established at Atwell Gulch.

Long-term Trend: Unknown
Long-term Trend Comments: There is insufficient data to characterize long-term trends for S. glaucus.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: Known from Delta, Garfield, Mesa, and Montrose counties in Colorado. Estimated range is 3307 square kilometers (1277 square miles), with the northern population covering 505 square kilometers, and the southern population 2802 square kilometers. Values calculated in GIS by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program in 2017 following NatureServe methodology.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States CO

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CO Delta (08029), Garfield (08045), Mesa (08077), Montrose (08085)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
14 Colorado headwaters-Plateau (14010005)+, North Fork Gunnison (14020004)+*, Lower Gunnison (14020005)+, Uncompahange (14020006)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A squat, globular, spiny succulent. Each mature stem is 3-12 cm tall , 4-9 cm wide, although during the driest part of the year the stem may shrink to below ground-level. Central spines are straight (hookless). The plants are inconspicuous except when in flower (April-May), when showy, fragrant, pink to magenta flowers appear at the top of the stem.
General Description: A squat, globular, spiny succulent. Each mature stem is 3-12 cm tall, 4-9 cm wide; the largest observed was 24 cm tall x 14 cm wide (DeYoung 2010). However, during the driest part of the year the stem may shrink to below ground-level. Central spines are straight (hookless). The plants are inconspicuous except when in flower (April-May), when showy, fragrant, pink to magenta flowers appear at the top of the stem.
Technical Description: Low growing, ovoid to globular; stems usually solitary, 3-12 cm long and 4-9 cm in diameter. Spines slightly or not at all obscuring the stem; radial spines, white, 6-8 per areole; central spines reddish brown to black, straight (rarely hooked), 1-3 per areole. Flowers funnel-shaped, 3-5 cm x 4-5 cm, fragrant, pink (rarely pale pink). Fruits barrel shaped, not regularly dehiscent, 9-22 x 8-12 mm, dry, with a few membranous scales. Seeds black, 1.5 x 2.5 mm, testa with rounded papillae (FNA 2003).


Diagnostic Characteristics: Distinguished from other Sclerocactus species by the presence of unhooked central spines, although this character is variable. Flowers pink to magenta. Restricted to western Colorado.
Reproduction Comments: Reproduction is predominantly sexual, although individuals may sprout multiple stems. Flowering occurs in April-May, and fruits mature in May-June. The species appears to be predominantely outcrossing but is marginally self-compatible. Ants and gravity appear to be the primary dispersal mechanisms (Peggy Lyon pers comm. 1998). Seed dispersal may be a limiting factor in the distribution of Sclerocactus glaucus.
Ecology Comments: There is almost no quantitative information available on the life-history characteristics, demographics, or community interactions of Sclerocactus glaucus. Although no long-term demographic data is available, field observations suggest that plants may live for 10-20 years in good conditions (Ellen Mayo, Peggy Lyon pers. comm.) Population size may vary widely between years (Jim Ferguson, pers. comm.). Plants are typically sparsely distributed even in larger populations. Stems may fluctuate in size according to seasonal moisture availability, shrinking below the soil surface in dry times. Predation by a cactus borer beetle has been observed in Colorado populations, and may be very heavy in a localized area. Some herbivory by rodents has also been observed.
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Desert, Forest/Woodland, Shrubland/chaparral, Woodland - Conifer
Habitat Comments: Populations occur primarily on alluvial benches along the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers and their tributaries. Sclerocactus glaucus generally occurs on gravelly, or rocky surfaces on river terrace deposits and lower mesa slopes. Exposures vary, but S. glaucus is more abundant on south-facing slopes. Soils are usually coarse, gravelly river alluvium above the river flood plains usually consisting of Mancos shale with volcanic cobbles and pebbles on the surface. Elevations range from 1200-2000 m. Associated vegetation is typically desert scrub dominated by shadscale (Atriplex confertifolia), galleta (Hilaria jamesii), black-sage (Artemisia nova), and Indian rice grass (Stipa hymenoides). Other important species include two similar spherical or cylindrical cactus species, strawberry hedgehog cactus ( Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. melanacanthus) and Simpson's pincushion cactus (Pediocactus simpsonii). Other important species in the plant community include the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia polyacantha), winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata), yucca (Yucca harrimaniae), snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae), low rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus), sand dropseed (Sporobolus cryptandrus), and Salina wildrye (Elymus salinus) (USFWS 1990, Scheck 1994). Fire is not typically characteristic of S. glaucus habitat, but areas with large infestations of cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) may build up sufficient fuel to carry fire into S. glaucus populations.  
Exposed, gravel-covered, clay hills, saltbush or sagebrush flats, or pinyon-juniper woodlands; 1400-2000 m (Flora of North America Editorial Committee 2003).

Economic Attributes
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Economic Comments: The primary economic use of Sclerocactus glaucus is as a prized addition to the collections of professional and amateur cactus growers. As a rare endemic, the species has been and will likely continue to be of particular value to collectors. There are no known medicinal uses for this species, and it is unlikely to have a major economic impact in its own right.
Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: A natural occurrence of one or more plants.
Separation Barriers: Unsuitable habitat or altered areas or markedly distinct landscape features such as ridges, roads, or rivers. Unsuitable habitat may also be created by heavy infestations of cheatgrass which appear to inhibit or prevent seedling establishment (DeYoung 2010).
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 2 km
Separation Justification: Separation distances are influenced by the tendency of S. glaucus populations to be highly variable in space and time. Apparently unoccupied habit is very likely to contain individuals at a later date while the previously occupied habitat may be empty. Although landscape features such as ridges, rivers, or roads may be classed as unsuitable habitat, it is not known if these do in fact constitute barriers to pollen dispersal. The primary pollinators are thought to cross rivers and roads and are not separated into sub-populations by these barriers.
Date: 21Dec2010
Author: Karin Decker; rev. J. Handwerk (2010)
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 14Feb2014
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Handwerk and Lyon (1998), rev. Handwerk, J. (2003), rev. Handwerk, J. (2006); rev. Handwerk, J. (2010); rev. Handwerk, J. (2012); rev. Handwerk, J. (2014); rev. Handwerk, J. (2017);
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 24Nov2014
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Handwerk, J.; rev. Panjabi, Susan

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Ackerfield, J. 2012. The Flora of Colorado. Colorado State University Herbarium. 433 pp.


  • Benson, L. 1982. The Cacti of the United States and Canada. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. 1044 pp.

  • Dawson, C. 2009. Personal communication with Colorado Natural Heritage Program staff regarding BLM rare plant monitoring in Colorado.

  • Denver Botanic Gardens. 2008. Demographic monitoring of Sclerocactus glaucus, an Endemic Species of western Colorado. Population Monitoring 2007-2008. Technical Report to Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of Interior.

  • Ecology Consultants, Inc. 1978. An illustrated guide to the proposed threatened and endangered plant species in Colorado. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lakewood, CO. 114 pp.

  • 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.

  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2003b. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Vol. 4, Magnoliophyta: Caryophyllidae, part 1. Oxford University Press, New York. 559 pp.

  • Heil, K.D., and J.M. Porter. 1994. Sclerocactus (Cactaceae): A revision. Haseltonia 2:20-46.

  • Hochstatter, F. 1997. The genus Sclerocactus (Cactaceae) - Part 4. Cact. Succ. J. Gr. Brit. 15: 74-81.

  • 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.

  • Mayo, E. 2009. USFWS communication with Colorado Natural Heritage Program staff.

  • Neale, J.R. and M. DePrenger-Levin. 2010. Demographic monitoring of Sclerocactus glaucus,an endemic species of western Colorado. Population Monitoring 2007-2010
    Technical Report to Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of Interior. Prepared by Denver Botanic Gardens.

  • 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. 1988. Colorado's Rare Flora. Great Basin Naturalist. 48(4):434-484.

  • O'Kane, S.L. 1988. Colorado's rare flora. Great Basin Naturalist 48(4): 434-484.

  • Peterson, J.S. 1982 Plant species of special concern. Unpublished manuscript.

  • Peterson, S.J. 1982. Threatened and endangered plants of Colorado. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Denver, CO. 35 pp.

  • Porter, J. M., M. S. Kinney, and K. D. Heil. 2000. Relationships between Sclerocactus and Toumeya (Cactaceae) based on chloroplast trnL-trnF sequences. Haseltonia 7: 8-23.

  • Robertson, E. 2009. Center for Native Ecosystems personal communication with Colorado Natural Heritage Program staff.

  • 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.

  • Scheck, C. 1994. Special Status Plants Handbook Glenwood Springs Resource Area. Unpublished report prepared for the Bureau of Land Management, Glenwood Springs, CO.

  • Scheck, C. 1994. Special Status Plants Handbook Glenwood Springs Resource Area. Unpublished report prepared for the Bureau of Land Management, Glenwood Springs, CO.

  • Schneider, A. 2013. Wildflowers, Ferns, and Trees of the Four Corners Regions of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. Accessed on-line at http://www.swcoloradowildflowers.com.

  • Smithsonian Institution. 1980. Draft abstracts on rare plants. Unpublished. Perhaps 100 individual abstracts.

  • 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). 2007. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-month Finding on a Petition To List Sclerocactus brevispinus (Pariette cactus) as an Endangered or Threatened Species; Taxonomic Change From Sclerocactus glaucus to Sclerocactus brevispinus, S. glaucus, and S. wetlandicus. Federal Register 72(180): 53211-53222.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 2009. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Taxonomic Change of Sclerocactus Glaucus to Three Separate Species. Federal Register 74(177): 47112-47117.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1990. Recovery Plan for Sclerocactus glaucus.

  • 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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