Federal and State Listed Species of Texas:
Slender rushpea

Distribution

Current

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Distribution map of Slender rushpea (Hoffmannseggia tenella).

Scientific Name
Hoffmannseggia tenella
Other Scientific Names
None
Other Common Names
None
Status
Federally and State Endangered
Global Rank
G1
State Rank
S1

Global Location

Slender rushpea is only known from the Texas Coastal Bend in Kleberg and Nueces counties.

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Description

Slender rushpea is a perennial plant (8-20 cm tall) with horizontal stems that fan out from a woody taproot. Each winter the spineless, non-sticky stems die back and the taproot goes dormant. Leaf arrangement is intricate and compact. Arising from a longer, main stalk are two to three pairs of short stems opposite one another and a single short stem at the tip. Five to seven pairs of leaflets sprout from these shorter stems, and are also opposite one another. The underside of the tiny (2-5.5 mm long), oval leaflets are coated with a sparse layer of hair. Five green, leaf-like structures cup the base of the five egg-shaped petals, which range in color from yellow-pink, reddish-orange, to rose. These green, leaf-like structures are covered with a microscopic, but thick layer of hair. The straight, bean-like fruit pods contain 2-4 green-black seeds.

Slender rushpea has horizontal stems and straight, bean-like fruit pods. Notice the leaf arrangement: five to seven pairs of leaflets (10-14 leaflets) cluster along five to seven short stems (these shorter stems are mostly hidden by the leaflets in the image), which branch off of a longer, main stem.

Credit: Jackie Poole - Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept.

Slender rushpea has spineless, non-sticky stems and salmon-colored flowers.

Credit: Alice Hempel

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Similar Species

Slender rushpea is one of the many plants in the legume family, as revealed by the bean-like fruit and intricate leaf arrangement. Several other legumes resemble slender rushpea in Texas. Dwarf nicker (Hoffmannseggia drummondii) is a small shrub-like plant, which stands slightly taller (15-30 cm) than slender rushpea, and has crescent-moon shaped fruit pods. Hairs on the younger stems of dwarf nicker are greenish-yellow and capped with a brownish-red bead. Indian rushpea (Hoffmannseggia glauca) is an erect plant with yellow flowers and numerous sticky, red hairs. Netleaf bundleflower (Desmanthus reticulatus) and virgate bundleflower (Desmanthus virgatus) have tiny white linear flowers clustered closely, like a dandelion puffball. And finally, tornillo (Prosopis reptans) has a similar leaf arrangement to slender rushpea, but the stems have paired spines.

Tornillo has paired spines.

Credit: Jackie Poole - Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept.

Virgate bundleflower has tiny white linear flowers clustered closely, somewhat like a dandelion puffball.

Credit: O. M. Montiel

Dwarf nicker has crescent-moon shaped fruit pods.

Credit: Bill Carr

Indian rushpea is an erect plant with yellow flowers and numerous sticky, red hairs.

Credit: Russ Kleinman - Western NM Univ. Dept. of Natural Sciences/Dale A. Zimmerman Herbarium

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Floral Characters

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Leaf Characters

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Habitat

Slender rushpea occurs in openings amongst mesquite and other woody plants that have invaded short-grass coastal prairie remnants.

Habitat of slender rushpea.

Credit: Alice Hempel

Life Cycle Events

Flowering occurs from April to November. Flowers are only open mid-day for a few hours.

Survey Season

Slender rushpea is most visible when in bloom April through November.

Comments

As with many species that reside in South Texas, slender rushpea is negatively affected by competition with one or more non-native, invasive grass species. One study has shown that germination and establishment of slender rushpea decreases by 92% when Kleberg bluestem (Dicanthium annulatum) is planted with slender rushpea (Pressly 2002). This reduction may be due to Kleberg bluestem’s ability to more efficiently use nutrients and water compared to slender rushpea.