Solar generator, Andalucia - © Robert Sommers 2019

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Native Discovery

A Fallbrook native son made the national news this morning. A biologist in San Francisco, Daniel Gluesenkamp, has discovered a bay area manzanita heretofore long thought extinct. As reported in the Los Angeles Times:

The Franciscan manzanita became extinct in the wild in 1947.
At least that's what everyone thought.
But on Oct. 16, 2009, botanist Daniel Gluesenkamp was driving home to San Francisco from a climate change conference in Sonoma. Others at the event had waxed eloquent about complex engineering solutions and adaptation strategies. Gluesenkamp pushed for the most basic of fixes, he recalled, "things like saving the rare plants today. Find them where they are today and protect them."
Just after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, he said, "something caught my eye. Just a flash of a glimpse. And it looked like a manzanita, in a site where they'd kind of removed some trees from behind it." The shrub was on a traffic island in the middle of a busy highway, part of a billion-dollar-plus construction project aided by federal stimulus funds.
Gluesenkamp, who is executive director of the Calflora database of Golden State plants, drove by three times, trying to get a better glimpse. He eventually called Lew Stringer, an ecologist at the Presidio Trust, who raced across the highway and officially identified the plant.
When he thinks back to his discovery, Gluesenkamp doesn't recall instant elation but, rather, a little bit of dread. The last thing he wanted, he said, was to have environmentalists blamed for derailing an important job-creating infrastructure project.
As it turns out, that didn't happen. Caltrans, which is in charge of the so-called Doyle Drive construction project, had ample money in the budget for environmental mitigation. On a rainy January night in 2010, the manzanita and its 21,000-pound root ball were dug up — a risky proposition with a nearly $200,000 price tag — and moved to the secret site where it grows today.

The manzanita's scientific name is Arctostaphylos franciscana; aficionados of the plant, with its narrow, pointed leaves and bell-shaped flowers, call themselves arctophiles. In the first half of the 20th century, their ranks included some of the most famous botanists in California — women and men whose efforts to protect their passion were brazen, although ultimately unsuccessful.
Botanists believe manzanitas have been evolving for 15 million years. But by the 1920s, the habitat of the Arctostaphylos franciscana had shrunk to just three patches of rapidly developing San Francisco: Mount Davidson and two aging cemeteries.
Laurel Hill Cemetery, the final resting place of Gold Rush pioneers, was the last place the Franciscan manzanita grew in any abundance. In her 1939 classic "Flowering Shrubs of California," horticulturist Lester Rowntree rued the fact that the cemetery was "being regarded impatiently by the folk to whom any land is just so many building lots."
"If they can they will eradicate it as a cemetery and that will be the last of an old San Francisco record," she wrote, "and certainly the last of Arctostaphylos franciscana."

Daniel is a smart guy. I know his father, Eric, a retired doctor, very well. Seem to recall Daniel's promising writing career getting cut a bit short at Fallbrook High School. He was in my gallery a few years ago and impressed me with his intelligence. I am proud of him for his discovery. A pdf written by Dan going into his discovery in detail can be found in the recent issue of The Ardeid, on the Audubon Canyon Ranch website.

Here is a bio of Dan that I gleaned from another website:

Dan Gluesenkamp is the Habitat Protection and Restoration Specialist for Audubon Canyon Ranch and leads in the development, implementation, and evaluation of conservation and restoration projects at ACR preserves.

His work involves experimental evaluation of management techniques, oversight of stewardship activities such as control of invasive alien species, and collaboration with neighboring land owners and agencies to protect ACR lands. Gluesenkamp's research focuses on the factors structuring plant communities, particularly as related to the invasion and spread of introduced species, with work in habitats ranging from desert riparian zones to subalpine Sierran meadows.

Gluesenkamp earned his Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley with research that revealed how populations of native and alien thistles are shaped by plant competition, by insect herbivory, and by effects of habitat productivity on the relative intensity of competition versus herbivory. 


grumpy said...

the world of plants is endlessly fascinating; very interesting post, thanks for bringing this to our attention; and speaking of plants, i do hope The Gnarly Vine can find another home soon.

Anonymous said...

Hi Robert, hope you’re well!

My moles in Fallbrook sent me the blog item you did about the Franciscan manzanita. It’s so flattering, and so fun to see my story up on your cool blog! Yeah, I remember coming into the gallery –actually have tried to drop by a bunch of times, but somehow it hasn’t worked out. Maybe next time.

Finding the manzanita was exactly like finding that Jonnevold as it was being tipped up over into a dumpster. Both were flashes of something on the edge of perception that turned into great saves. So now I am really looking at the roadside when I drive!

Take it easy,