EL PASO, Texas (AP) _ Roses are red, violets are blue. But in the Guadalupe Mountains, they can be yellow too.
Folks in the Lone Star State may sing about the yellow roses, but Monday they crowed about a small colony of yellow violets discovered hanging from a cliff by a park ranger who had lost his way.
The rare flower, dubbed the Viola guadalupensis, or Guadalupe Violet, is eligible for listing as a rare or endangered species, said John Cook, National Park Service Southwest regional director.
The plant was found March 22, 1987. It was verified as a species in June and its discovery was announced Monday at a conference on national parks attended by 350 federal officials, scientists and wildlife preservationists.
″I was hiking up in the mountain alongside of a cliff and it was very foggy,″ Guadalupe Mountains National Park ranger Brent Wauer told a press conference at the gathering. ″I was a bit lost and I noticed on the side of the cliff face a yellow plant that was really not where it was supposed to be.
″There are no cliff plants in the park with yellow flowers,″ he said.
″I knew it was something unusual when I regained my balance, so I went over and looked at it and it was a yellow violet,″ Wauer said.
The one small profusion of 35 individual plants with vibrant yellow flowers grow in crevices on a limestone formation on the east rim of the mountains.
The 86,000-acre park is near the Texas-New Mexico line and about 100 miles east of El Paso.
Wauer said two other species of violet can be found in the park, but they follow the rhyme and are blue.
Violets, despite their name, are known to come in hues other than bluish- purple, including white and yellow.
But this odd-ball violet appears to be a sturdy survivor of the area’s ancient rain forest. Half an inch in diameter with 6- to 12-inch stems, the flower is distinguished by the shape of its leaves, its leaf hairs and its habitat in the pores of limestone.
Wauer and a West Texas botanist believe most of the species disappeared at least 8,000 years ago.
These yellow violets aren’t going to be sitting on window sills anytime soon. The chances of increasing its population are slim.
The violet was found on a steep, shaded cliff face in rugged country of the wilderness park. The cliff measured 45 feet long and 30 feet high.
Wauer and another person are the only people who know the plant’s precise location, a measure taken to protect it.
″To me this plant reflects a purity of nature that we desperately need so that we can constantly go back to examine where we’re going,″ Wauer said. ″We seem to be at war with our planet and if we win that war we’ll lose.″