As reported by VirginIslandsDailyNews.com, “After 14 years of trying, one of St. Croix’s rare plants — Agave eggersiana — has been made a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. Agave eggersiana is an aloe-like plant native only to St. Croix.

“While it sounds like a victory, the designation offers none of the protections that actually being listed would provide a threatened or endangered species. It does, however, open the door for the Virgin Islands to use some of the federal money it gets each year to protect endangered and threatened species on the rare plant.”

Basically, the federal government does not have the money to formally list the species, and there are other species that are a higher priority for protection, Jaclyn Lopez, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said.

In the Virgin Islands, there are 14 species listed under the Endangered Species Act, and the territory gets $53,000 a year to help fund recovery efforts for those species. “The agave is not one of those species yet, but it is eligible for a cut of that $53,000,” said Renata Platenberg, endangered species coordinator at the V.I. Fish and Wildlife Division. “Once a species is on a candidate list, then you can start spending federal funds on it.”

Historically, all of the endangered species money has gone to the leatherback turtle protection program at Sandy Point, St. Croix. Platenberg said this year the money will fund three initiatives:

• Sea turtle monitoring on St. Thomas and St. Croix.

• Developing a local recovery plan for the Virgin Islands tree boa.

• Restoring habitat on Protestant Cay for the St. Croix ground lizard and the Agave eggersiana.

The plant currently is reproduced and distributed by St. George Village Botanical Garden for conservation and private landscaping. The National Park Service has planted several at Buck Island Reef National Monument and about a dozen at Salt River Bay National Historic Park and Ecological Preserve. “We’re working to make sure that the colony survives,” said Joel Tutein, St. Croix superintendent for the National Park Service.

VirginIslandsDailyNews reports that “Agave eggersiana takes about 15 years to mature. It blooms once — extending yellow flowers off a thick stalk — drops its seeds and then dies.

“According to the Center for Biological Diversity, there are about 450 adult Agave eggersiana plants on St. Croix, but 97 percent of them are on private property and are not protected from development.”

(photo courtesy of vi.locallygrown.net/market)