Threatened and Endangered Species
There are two plants species of concern - Penstemon clutei (Sunset Crater penstemon) and Phacelia serrata. Both are short-lived wildflowers that are found only on cinder deposits within the San Francisco Volcanic Field. Both grow in many locations within the monument, including the popular Lava Flow Trail. Penstemon clutei seems to be well adapted to fire – seedlings sprout and flowers reappear quickly after forest fires.
One bird species of concern, the northern goshawk, is known to live nearby in Coconino National Forest. This is a bird found across much of the United States and southern Canada, in a wide variety of habitats. In Arizona, goshawks prefer stands of large ponderosa pine trees surrounded by forest. Conditions are probably not right for nesting within the monument, but northern goshawks may rarely fly into the monument in search of prey.
In addition to sensitive species, three unique habitats have been identified within the monument’s volcanic landscape - pioneering vegetation stands isolated in the middle of the lava flows, vegetation islands on deep cinder deposits, and the lower perimeter of lava flows where water seepage may collect. Studies of these areas may reveal secrets of the ecological processes that allow “pioneer” plants to move into harsh habitats and, eventually, to transform them for the other species that follow.
Did You Know?
In the 1960s, astronauts practiced for the first lunar landings on cinder fields in and around Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument