Skip to main content

San Diego Biologists Find New Populations Of Rare Plant

Biologists have found six new populations of a rare San Diego plant that was thought to be extinct just a few decades ago.

The Orcutt's Spineflower is not particularly impressive. The wiry plant grows low to the ground in sandy coastal soils. Much of its native habitat was wiped out by coastal development. It was widely considered extinct just 25 years ago.

The six new populations were discovered in several North County locations.

Photo credit: California Department Fish and Wildlife

The Orcutt's Spineflower only grows in sandy coastal habitat in this undated photo.

"We want to make sure that each of these populations is protected from trampling. Several of the populations have paths that people have created through the populations in the nature preserves because they want to go visit other areas," said David Hogan, director of the Chaparral Lands Conservancy.

Researchers found the new locations by scouring habitat where the plants could live. The populations range from a handful of plants to thousands and Hogan said it is a crucial part of the county's natural habitat.

"A famous ecologist Aldo Leopold once wrote that the first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. And so we don't know the exact role of these tiny little plants in this precious chaparral ecosystem. Its so crucial that we save all the parts. They're the thread that hold together the tapestry of ecology in San Diego," Hogan said.

Federal officials recognize the short flowering plant as an endangered species.

It only grows in sandy soil along the San Diego coast.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.