Huachuca Water Umbel - Illustration by Bill Singleton


Huachuca Water Umbel

Lilaeopsis schaffneriana spp. recurva



Lilaeopsis schaffneriana spp. recurva is a herbaceous, semi-aquatic perennial. It has bright green leaves that are hollow and cylindrical, and grow straight up from creeping roots. The leaves are often one to two inches high, but may reach up to eight inches in favorable conditions.1 Three to ten small flowers appear on umbels rising from the root.2 Lilaeopsis reproduces both sexually through the flowers, and asexually through the root.

The water umbel is found between 4,000 and 6,500 feet in cienegas, springs, and other healthy riverine systems.2 The water umbel appears to benefit from intermediate flooding to inhibit competition.3 The plant is usually found in water with a depth of two to six inches.

The Huachuca water umbel has been documented in twenty-three sites in Santa Cruz, Cochise, and Pima Counties, Arizona, and in Sonora, Mexico.4 It is no longer found in six of the sites, and the seventeen left occur on the San Pedro River, Santa Cruz River, Rio Yaqui, and Rio Sonora.3 The water umbel may expand into optimal habitat conditions in southeastern Arizona or northern Mexico.

On January 6, 1997, the Huachuca water umbel was listed as endangered. In July of 1999, critical habitat was designated for the species in Cochise and Santa Cruz counties.

The Huachuca water umbel in Pima County:
The umbel was once found near Tucson. In July of 1855, a man named Julius Froebel wrote of the Santa Cruz river just outside of Tucson, "...rapid brook, clear as crystal, and full of aquatic plants, fish, and tortoises of various kinds, flowed through a small meadow covered with shrubs."3 The conditions Froebel described no longer exist near Tucson. As much as 85­95 percent of the riparian habitat has been lost in Arizona over the past 100 years and up to 85 percent of Arizona's plants and animals are negatively affected by this loss of riparian habitat.5

In Pima County, the water umbel was last seen in the Empire Gulch in the Empire-Cienega allotment, by Dr. Peter Warren in 1996.4 While a return visit did not produce any umbel sightings, potential habitat is prevalent along Cienega Creek.4 Recently, the Huachuca water umbel was found in a small patch along Cienega Creek in the county reserve and in Bingham Cienega Natural Preserve.

With development of the Pima County Native Plant Nursery, the Huachuca water umbel may be grown for re-establishment to suitable sites.



1. National Wildlife Refuge Service Files/Species Accounts. August 30, 1999. Lilaeopsis schaffneriana spp. recurva, Huachuca water umbel.

2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1998. Threatened Species of Arizona. Arizona Ecological Field Service Office, Phoenix, AZ. pp 13-14.

3. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1999. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for the Huachuca Water Umbel, a Plant." Federal Register. Volume 64, Number 132.

4. Roller, Tricia. 1998. "The Huachuca Water Umbel." The Arizona Riparian Council. Vloume 11, Number 2.

5. Water Resources and the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. July 1999.

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