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Rare Coastal Wildflower Added to Endangered List

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vandenberg-Vandenberg monkeyflower | Photo: John Chestnut/California Native Plant Society/Flickr/Creative Commons Licensemonkeyflower-8-25-14-thumb-600x421-79515, by klxadm

One of California's rarest wildflowers is being added to the federal list of Endangered species this week, reports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Vandenberg monkeyflower, an annual flowering herb found in just nine locations in Santa Barbara County, faces extinction due to competition from invasive plants, wildfire, and climate change, among other things.

Restricted to patchily vegetated areas of loose, sandy soil on Burton Mesa near the Vandenberg Air Force Base, the Vandenberg monkeyflower (Diplacus vandenbergensis) is especially threatened by invasive veldt grass, which threatens to fill up the bare soil the monkeyflower depends on for its seeds to germinate.

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As an annual plant, Vandenberg monkeyflower germinates, flowers, sets seed, and dies in a single year, making good germination habitat crucial for the survival of the species.

Though the majority of suitable remaining habitat for the monkeyflower is on either protected state or federal lands, USFWS sees development as an additional threat to the plant. Residential developments near the plant's habitat bring with them the greater risk of introduction of invasive species, fire, and illegal off-road vehicle use in the plant's habitat, as well as possible damage from new utility corridors.

The monkeyflower will officially join the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants when the USFWS's rule is published in the Federal Record on Tuesday.

The listing comes as part of a massive 2011 legal settlement between USFWS and the Center for Biological Diversity in which USFWS agreed to speed decisions on more than 700 species currently candidates for potential protection under ESA.

"Protection for the monkeyflower is great news because the Endangered Species Act has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the plants and animals under its care," said CBD's Jeff Miller, "so it will ensure this little yellow flower is safeguarded from the big threats it's facing."

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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