Terlingua Creek Cat's Eye
(Cryptantha crassipes)

Other Scientific Names: None

Other Common Names: Terlingua Creek cryptantha

Status: Federal and State Endangered

Global Rank: G1

State Rank: S1

Global Location: Terlingua Creek cat's-eye only grows in a very small area of southern Brewster County in West Texas.

Description: Terlingua Creek cat's-eye is a perennial with a woody stem base and grows to 30 cm tall. The plant has a light gray appearance due to the many hairs on its 3-6 cm long leaves, which are very narrow (2-7 mm wide) and spoon- to teardrop-shaped. Most of the leaves are located near the base of the stem, and those that are located on the upper stem are smaller. The flowers form dense clusters 2-8 cm long and 1-2.5 cm wide at the tips of stems or from where the upper leaves come out of the stem. Each individual flower has a tube 8-9 mm long topped with 5 white petals and a bumpy yellow center. The fruit is composed of a group of four small (2.8-3.8 mm long), oval- to triangular-shaped seeds, each of which is slightly bumpy on one side and smooth (or barely uneven) on the other side.

Terlingua Creek cat's-eye has very narrow, teardrop-shaped leaves, which mostly occur near the base of the stem, but some occur further up. The flowers form dense clusters.

Terlingua Creek cat's-eye flowers have five white petals and a bumpy yellow center. Image courtesy of John Wells, The Field Lab.

Similar Species: Palmer's cat's-eye (Cryptantha palmeri) bears its flowers more scattered along a central stem rather than the typically dense cluster of flowers capping Terlingua Creek cat's-eye's stem. The leaves along these floral stalks are also more abundant than the Terlingua Creek cat's-eye. Payson's cryptantha (Cryptantha paysonii) has a 12-14 mm long floral tube, 2.7-3 mm long seed, and a seed surface that is minutely wrinkled or warty on all sides. Furthermore, Payson's cryptantha flowers form dense clusters at the end of the floral stalks, but also smaller secondary clusters below the main clusters. Although Havard's wild buckwheat (Eriogonum havardii) occurs in the same vicinity as Terlingua Creek cat's-eye, differentiating between the two species should not be problematic when flowers or fruit are present. When only leaves and stem are present, Havard's wild buckwheat can be distinguished from Terlingua Creek cat's-eye by its shorter, oval-shaped leaves (1-5 cm long, 2-10 mm wide) that grow only at the plant's base.

The leaves and flowers of Palmer's cat's-eye are more abundant along the central stem. Image courtesy of Robert Sivinski.

Payson's cryptantha flowers form smaller clusters near the top of the floral stalks and larger clusters at the top of the stalks. Image courtesy of Robert Sivinski.

Havard's wild buckwheat has shorter, oval-shaped leaves that grow only at the plant's base. Image courtesy of Patrick Alexander.

Habitat: Terlingua Creek cat's-eye grows on almost seemingly barren, low hills of chalky limestone and gypsum-laced clays.

Life Cycle Events: Flowering occurs March to June, and subsequent fruits emerge in April to July.

Survey Season: Terlingua Creek cat's-eye is most easily visible while in flower March to June, but easily identifiable throughout the year.

Comments: Bentonite mining occurs in the Terlingua Creek cat's-eye general habitat and poses a potential threat to this extremely geographically and habitat limited species. Fencing has been erected around at least one population to decrease the combined impact of off-road vehicles and absentee private landowners (Warnock 2012).

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