Protect Rare Plants

Rare Plant Rescue

We work to conserve California’s native plants at all levels of biological organization – from genes to ecosystems. Our scientists work together to tackle complex conservation challenges, with a goal of preventing extinction and fostering recovery in the wild. This work takes us to unique and diverse habitats throughout the state, from the Central Coast, to the Channel Islands, to the Sierra Nevada mountains, and beyond. Click here to see a list of our projects and research interests.

Protecting California’s Rarest Plants

photo of jolon clarkia - Heather SchneiderJolon clarkia is a plant in need of attention. Although it was previously reported from more than 20 locations in Monterey County, most of those occurrences had not been seen in more than a half-century or longer until the Garden’s rare plant team took an interest in 2017. The Garden’s Rare Plant Biologist has now determined that this plant is much rarer than previously believed – occupying just five of its previously reported locations. Further complicating the story is another co-occurring rare plant, Lewis’ clarkia, which is a look-alike for Jolon clarkia. Garden scientists are actively monitoring wild populations, searching for new locations, making conservation seed collections, and conducting greenhouse research to help understand, protect, and eventually restore this rare, endemic plant.

Comprehensive, Collaborative Conservation

Rainbow on Santa Cruz IslandCalifornia’s Channel Islands, sometimes called America’s Galapagos, are home to many rare and endemic plants and animals. In an effort to conserve and recover some of the rarest plants on the islands, the Garden is leading a comprehensive, collaborative project to recover 14 listed plant species on seven of the eight Channel Islands. This multi-year effort brings conservation full circle, starting with field-based surveys and monitoring; providing for long-term conservation via seed banking; propagating seeds and plants for restoration; and putting plants and seeds back on the islands to augment existing populations and reintroduce those that have been lost. This effort will have immense implications for the long-term survival of these rare plants, helping to ensure that none goes extinct.

An Insurance Policy Against Extinction

image of rare plant seeds taken by Sean CarsonA conservation seed bank is the first line of defense against plant extinction and a proven conservation tool to safeguard wild plant populations. Making living collections such as this is often one of the first steps for future conservation actions, research, and restoration activities. While some seeds can last for years in the soil, preserving seeds in a seed bank can extend their life by decades or longer.

Our Conservation Seed Bank currently houses more than 700 collections, representing more than 200 different kinds of plants. The seeds stored in our Conservation Seed Bank were collected from a broad geographic area, from California’s Central Coast to the Eastern Sierra Nevada to Baja California, Mexico, with special emphasis on rare plants from the California Channel Islands. The Garden is a Center for Plant Conservation (CPC) Participating Institution, and we are active members in California Plant Rescue (CaPR) and the California Biodiversity Initiative