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Rare & Endangered Plants

Seven rare serpentine plants of San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties receive federal protection

The Blazing Star, March/April 1995

Seven rare serpentine plants of San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties receive federal protection Serpentine-rich soils have long been known in our area to provide some of the best spring color displays. This is because the Mediteranean annual grasses cannot tolerate the low calcium and high magnesium of serpentine soils and therefore don't compete with the native annuals that were once so plentiful in our state. Unfortunately, we have been losing these serpentine grasslands to housing, highways and other development, with the result that we have endangered some rare species, some of which now exist only in one location.

While the state passed legislation two years ago to protect these species, the federal government has added their protection as of early this month. While the listings impose few direct restrictions on private land owners, they provide much tougher protection for the plants on public land, or on private lands where acitvities require federal permits.

Dudleya setchellii at Coyote RidgeIncluded in the listing are the Santa Clara Valley dudleya (Dudleya setchellii), Metcalf canyon jewelflower (Streptanthus albidus ssp. albidus), Coyote ceanothus (Ceanothus ferrisae), all from Santa Clara County; and the fountain thistle (Cirsium fontinale var. fontinale), San Mateo woolly sunflower (Eriophyllum latilobum), white-rayed pentachaeta (Pentachaeta bellidiflora), and the Marin western flax (Hesperolinon congestum), all from San Mateo County. In addition one plant from San Francisco was listed (the Clarkia franciscana), and two from Marin, the Tiburon jewelflower and Pennell's birdbeak.

Thanks to the Rare plant committee for their earlier work on these species, and particularly to members Toni Corelli, Zoe Chandik, and Sara Timby for petitioning for their protection.

hand holding seed packetThe Blazing StarMay/June 2014

By Justen Whittall

On Sunday, March 2nd, 2014, the federally-endangered Metcalf Canyon Jewelflower (Streptanthus albidus ssp. albidus) was reintroduced to Tulare Hill in southern Santa Clara County. Approximately 16,000 seeds were sown in four locations on Tulare Hill, an isolated serpentine grassland nestled between Santa Teresa Blvd. and Monterey Hwy. The property is owned by Santa Clara County Parks and the Silicon Valley Land Conservancy who are partners in the reintroduction. Seeds will also be planted near existing populations at the Motorcycle County Park atop Metcalf Rd. on March 4th, 2014 as controls and to supplement those existing populations.

This historic population of jewelflower at Tulare Hill declined primarily due to overgrazing by cattle. No jewelflowers have persisted at Tulare Hill since 1980 when the remaining population was extirpated by residential development.

A modified grazing regime and improved understanding of the jewelflower’s biology have been a collaborative effort ...

Read more (PDF).

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