The U.S. has decided to rename the plant as endangered species. Fish and Wildlife Service has been considering naming this plant an endangered species, as humans are destroying their habitats.
The endangered species listing was proposed by the USFWS on Monday. They stated that their proposal was based upon the "best available status."
Chris Best, a USFWS Botanist in Texas, stated that prostrate milkweed's flowers attract and support native pollinators, including large bees, wasps, as well as serving as a host plant to monarch butterflies.
Best stated, "Unfortunately, the species is negatively affected by competition from introduced buffelgrass... and increased development within its native Tamaulipan bushland habitat."
Humans are also responsible for reducing the resource. The agency stated that root-plowing and border security and enforcement activities as well as energy development and road and utility construction have all contributed to habitat loss and degradation.
The service proposed almost 700 acres of habitats to help save the plant in eight areas within Starr and Zapata county near the Rio Grande. These areas were chosen because they are important for species conservation.
Currently, only 24 populations of this plant remain in these counties. 19 of them are rated in poor condition according to the Center for Biological Diversity. This organization has pushed for protection.
Monarch butterflies rely on milkweeds to provide food for their larvae. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, they also provide nectar in large quantities to bees as well as tarantula hawks.
Michael Robinson, the representative of the organization, stated that he hopes Endangered Species Act protection will preserve South Texas' prostrate milkweed for future generations. "This remarkable plant has long held a sunny spot in difficult landscapes. But it is being driven to the brink of extinction due to human development. Federal action is essential."
The Federal Register published the proposed rule on Tuesday. People can make comments until April 18.
Prostrate milkweed protection is a long-held goal of environmentalists. In 2007, there was a petition to declare the plant endangered. The USFWS found that the petition contained substantial information and suggested that listing might be appropriate in 2009.
Bee conservation efforts could be aided by protecting the milkweed.
In 2020, scientists determined that climate changes are killing bumblebees. They also found that the probability of a bumblebee colony surviving in one location in North America or Europe has fallen by an average 30% in just one generation.
According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Texas saw a decline in honey production and bee colonies last year. According to the service, the huge winter storm that struck Texas in 2021 caused wildflower blooms to be delayed and killed bees in South Texas because they weren't accustomed to the freezing temperatures. The bees were also affected by a lack in rain.