City Cast

A Fragile Desert Flower Seeks Endangered Status

Scott Dickensheets
Scott Dickensheets
Posted on August 8
Photo of a white-margined penstemon flower

Already scarce, the white-margined penstemon is facing greater threats — possibly extinction. (Patrick Donnelly/Center for Biological Diversity)

Fun flora fact: Fully one-quarter of plant species that live in the Mojave Desert live only in the Mojave Desert. One of them is the white-margined penstemon, which only grows in four American counties: one each in Arizona and California, and, in Nevada, Nye and Clark counties. That small area of viability makes the penstemon vulnerable to extinction — a condition that various human endeavors are making worse — which is why this year the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the feds to list it as endangered.

How Many?

A 2021 study of the plant's population concluded that there were almost 34,000 penstemon in Clark County.

Local Threats

There’s long been talk of building a second, cargo-oriented airport to serve Southern Nevada. Where? The Ivanpah Valley, near Primm. Were that to happen, it “could wipe out much of the flower’s Clark County population.” The rest could be threatened by urban sprawl. Meanwhile, proposed solar and power-line facilities in Nye County might trash the flower’s other Nevada stronghold. Other threats include off-roading and livestock grazing.

Doomed Anyway?

Even without large-scale development in the flower’s habitat, a 2021 study commissioned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found a 50% chance of extinction for the wildflower in the next 50 years due to climate change and habitat destruction.”

Hey Las Vegas

Want to know what's happening in Las Vegas? Sign up for our free newsletter, Hey Las Vegas. Packed with local news, curated event recs, local life hacks, and more, it's your daily toolkit for getting the most out of the city you love.