EPIC joined a coalition with seven other organizations to file a petition last week with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking Endangered Species Act protection for silvery phacelia, a rare plant that grows on a 130-mile stretch of coast from Coos and Curry counties in southern Oregon to Del Norte County in northern California. The flowering plant is at risk of extinction due to off-road vehicles, development and nonnative beach grass. There are fewer than 30 surviving populations of the silver-leaved plant.
“Silvery phacelia is a unique part of the natural heritage of our coast but we could lose it forever if we aren’t careful. Endangered Species Act protection is the best hope for protecting this beautiful plant for future generations,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.
The range of silvery phacelia extends from just north of Bandon, Ore., south to Crescent City, Calif. It grows on sand dunes where it is at risk of being crushed by off-road vehicles. It is also threatened by development on private lands as well as at Bandon State Natural Area where a proposed land exchange would carve out 280 acres of currently protected land to build a golf course. Another threat is competition from nonnative plants like European beach grass and gorse.
“Protecting silvery phacelia will not only ensure a future for this one plant species, but will also help safeguard our coastal environment for the quiet enjoyment of humans and for other rare species,” said Doug Heiken, conservation and restoration coordinator at Oregon Wild.
“Our organization is proud to support this important effort to secure legal protections for a disappearing species whose continued existence is threatened by inappropriate off-road vehicle and development activities,” said EPIC executive director Gary Graham Hughes.
Silvery phacelia is in the Forget-Me-Not family of flowering plants and grows to be 18 inches tall. It has white flowers that are a rich source of nectar and pollen for native bees. The number of bees and variety of bee species in dune vegetation is higher in places where phacelia grows. Its silvery hairs, an adaptation to the harsh coastal environment, keep salt off its leaves, decrease water loss and reflect excess light. The name “Phacelia” is from the Greek “phakelos” meaning cluster, for its lovely clustered flowers; and the Latin “argentea” meaning “silvery,” for the appearance of the leaves. Silvery phacelia blooms from March to September.
The petitioning groups are the Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Wild, Friends of Del Norte, Oregon Coast Alliance, the Native Plant Society of Oregon, the California Native Plant Society, the Environmental Protection Information Center, and the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center.
Silvery phacelia grows on federal public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management including the New River Area of Critical Environmental Concern, Floras Lake, Four Mile Creek, Lost Lake, and Ophir Dunes in Oregon. It is also found on state lands including Lone Ranch State Beach, Bandon State Natural Area, Pistol River State Park, Humbug Mountain State Park, and Cape Blanco State Park in Oregon, and at Tolowa Dunes State Park in California. It also grows on some private lands along the very immediate coast.