Local organization helps protect endangered plant near Del Mar
By Kristina Houck
A Mount Laguna-based organization is helping preserve a critically endangered plant that grows in only five places on the planet — all within a few miles of Del Mar.
In an effort to expand the most endangered population, The Chaparral Lands Conservancy collected short-leaved dudleya brevifolia seeds on June 25 at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Extension.
“Every population that’s left occurs at a protected park, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re protected,” said David Hogan, director of The Chaparral Lands Conservancy. “The population at Torrey Pines Extension, even though it’s at Torrey Pines Reserve, a protected park, is the most critically endangered of all of the five populations because of trampling.”
The Chaparral Lands Conservancy will plant the collected seeds in a nursery to try and expand the population. In addition, the organization aims to protect the current population by installing fencing and signs, and educating the public about the dangers of off-trail walking.
Hogan, who founded the conservancy in 2009 to restore endangered habitat populations in San Diego County, noted the organization found only 13 plants at the site this year, down from 20 in 2012.
“The population is so low right now that we’re worried about it persisting at all,” said Hogan, a Solana Beach native.
“We’re trying to emphasize to people it is so critical at Torrey Pines and other natural preserves to stay on designated trails, because those trails were fenced or routed where they are for a reason — to protect resources,” Hogan said. “Even though it may not seem like any one person is doing damage leaving the trail, the affects of that one person plus the next 100 people that do the same thing can be very significant.”
The fact that most people have never heard of the plant is even more reason to preserve it, Hogan said.
“We have no idea of knowing whether any particular plant could provide critical medical material for use,” Hogan said. “If you’re working on your car and you come across some small, obscure part that you’ve never seen before, you don’t throw it away because you don’t know what it is. You assume that it’s important and you save it.”
The Torrey Pines Association awarded a nearly $14,000 grant for the project, which is expected to cost about $33,000 in total. The work is part of The Chaparral Lands Conservancy’s Rarest Plants Project, which also includes work to establish new populations of Orcutt’s spineflower, the only other San Diego County native plant more endangered than the dudleya, Hogan said. The Orcutt’s spineflower also grows at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Extension.
“The Torrey Pines Association is generously supporting our work to save and expand the rarest population of the dudleya at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Extension in Del Mar Heights,” Hogan said. “I’m really excited about the relationship … There are so many rare plants and animals that are concentrated at Torrey Pines.”
For more information on The Chaparral Lands Conservancy, visit www.chaparralconservancy.org.
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