Rare Posey County plant makes federal endangered list

Short's bladderpod

A rare plant that only grows in three states in the Midwest is now listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Short’s Bladderpod, a member of the mustard family, can only be found in certain parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and along a stretch of gravel road in Posey County, Indiana.

This plant is so rare, that there isn’t much known about. No one has studied it enough to write about it. Its germination and growth patterns leave botanists scratching their heads. Even finding a picture of it proved rather difficult.

Still, it exists in southern Indiana and it is listed as an endangered species.

“[Short’s Bladderpod] is somewhat of a mystery. It’s not exactly natural,” says Mike Homoya from the Department of Natural Resources. “We’re not sure if the environment is historically conducive for it to be there [in Posey County] or if it was somehow introduced to the site. But, it doesn’t act like a weedy plant that spreads, it is isolated in Indiana to that one spot.”

The environment in Posey County where the Short’s bladderpod grows is not like the areas in Tennessee and Kentucky. In those two states the ground is very rocky. In Posey County, the plant is growing in clay next to a gravel road. The plant requires full sun, but exists in an area that is shaded from time to time.

The plant was first discovered in Posey County in 1941 by the state’s first forester, Charles Deam. Short’s bladderpod wasn’t cataloged again until 1985 when it was found in the exact same location 44 years later. State foresters have been watching it ever since.

“It’s been on the state’s endangered list since the list was created in 1978,” says Homoya. “It was just added to the federal list a couple of weeks ago.”

Having a plant on the endangered list is ok, but it isn’t the same as having an animal on the endangered list. With animals, certain penalties, including fines and jail time, can be applied if a person is caught poaching, killing, or even injuring it an endangered animal.

“The only prohibition [with a plant] is it cannot be commercially germinated or sold,” says Homoya. “And any federally funded project would have to take the plant into consideration.”

So if a planned project using federal dollars could potentially flood the area where an endangered plant is known to survive, that would have to be taken into account. However, it would not be enough to stop a project all together.

If the plant grows on private property, nothing can be done to prevent its eradication.

According to Homoya, the federal government has provided some funding for local officials to search for certain species currently listed or under consideration for listing on the endangered list. However, he is unaware of any future funding regarding the plant for Indiana to help with any additional research of study.

For now, the only thing Indiana officials can do is to continue to monitor the growth of Short’s bladderpod in its isolated location in Posey County. The same will likely be done in Tennessee and Kentucky.


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