844. Protected Plants

The first plant to bloom in the dunes each year spends much of its life inside a wire cage. You can see Menzies’ wallflowers right off the boardwalk in open, shifting sands. You’ll recognize it by its clusters of bright yellow four-petaled flowers and, in early spring, the chicken-wire cages. Retired State Park Environmental Scientist Lorrie Madison. MADISON: The deer adore the flowers and the seed pods, so every winter we have to go through and create little cages that we put over a few plants in each population and stake in to protect them, and then once they’ve gone to seed we take off the cages. NARRATOR: This flower is listed as a state and federal endangered species. Asilomar is one of only ten known sites in the world where Menzies’ wallflower still grows. MADISON: These plants are specially adapted to coastal environments. A lot of the endangered plants occur on the coast, and that’s precisely where humans migrate to. We’ve invaded their habitat. That’s the primary cause for endangerment and then second to that would be exotic plants, which humans have usually introduced. NARRATOR: A third cause for endangerment is hybridization. Hybrid plants can develop when insect pollinators, like bees, move from non-native plants to native ones and transfer genetic information between them. A “mutant” lupine has developed this way, a cross between the endangered Tidestrom's and the silver bush lupines. State Park resource staff and volunteers are removing both the non-native and hybrid lupines to give the Tidestrom’s lupine a chance to survive. An outreach effort to neighbors is underway to reduce the threat from adjacent properties.