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Rare Marin Plant Could Get New Lease on Life

July 6, 2008

By Mark Prado, The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.

Jul. 5–The beleaguered Baker’s larkspur may get a boost from University of California at Berkeley botanists who are growing the only-in-Marin plant in hopes of re-establishing it in the county.

The hapless plant — found nowhere in the world except Marin — has a bad run in recent years after a rare patch was hacked down by county road crews, ripped out by a backhoe clearing a culvert and burned in a fire caused by a traffic accident.

Berkeley botanists took samples of the plants, which grow along the Marshall-Petaluma Road in West Marin, and have grown about 250 of them.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now wants to take some of the purplish plants — which can grow about two feet tall — and establish them on Marin Municipal Water District property.

“There may be suitable sites on water district land,” said Kate Symonds, a staffer with the wildlife service’s Conservation Partnerships Program.

The plants — which bloom April though May — could be ready to go this winter.

“We’d love to be able to find a spot for them,” Symonds said.

In order to thrive, the new site would have to be a north-facing slope, have a canopy of trees and remain moist in summer, she said.

“The (old) site has been burned and that has changed the mircoclimate,” Symonds said. “That site will not be sustainable for Baker’s larkspur in the long run. It’s pretty urgent to find other sites for it.”

The greatest interest is in a site near Soulajule reservoir in West Marin, said Janet

Klein, vegetation ecologist for the water district. The project will not cost the district any money.

Historically, the Baker’s larkspur grew from Coleman Valley in Sonoma County to Tomales, but those populations have vanished.

“Its sounds like a really great idea,” said Alex Forman, water board member. “I’m sure we would all love to participate in preserving an endangered plant.”

Contact Mark Prado via e-mail at mprado@marinij.com

Read more West Marin stories at the IJ’s West Marin section.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.

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