After almost nine weeks of reading and writing about Tidestrom’s lupine, an endangered plant species found on the California coast, I took a trip to visit the plant that has been the subject of my fellowship project. I left the heat of the central valley in California and drove to the coast where I met with a species expert to talk Tidestrom’s lupine recovery. Tidestrom’s lupine is a small, unassuming, flowering plant that grows on sand dunes. In the spring and early summer, it has beautiful blueish purple flowers but the rest of the year it can be easy to miss among the various shades of green of native plants on a dune. I unfortunately missed flowering season but with the help of the expert’s trained eye was able to spot several Tidestrom’s lupine plants and learned how to differentiate it from other lupine species. The species expert, a local biologist in the area, showed me restoration projects that were underway that involved removing invasive species and planting Tidestrom’s lupine and other native dune plants. Ground squirrels and deer will eat Tidestrom’s lupine leaves and flowers, so wire cages are being placed over the plants to protect them from herbivory. These efforts have helped keep populations of Tidestrom’s lupine stable and will likely be necessary until population numbers increase to a point that the species can withstand some loss from herbivory each year.
The opportunity to see Tidestrom’s lupine, its habitat, and the threats it is facing was invaluable. I had talked with species experts over the phone and on Teams calls but walking around the dunes with an expert who was extremely knowledgeable about the species and the plant communities in that area provided me context and insight that I couldn’t have gotten remotely. This field visit reinforced the importance of getting in the field and consulting with species experts.
Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP
Location: Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office