Today's posting is on rare wild gardens. Wednesday I had the pleasure of accompanying biologist Rick Riefner to visit a unique mima mound habitat and to see one of the four known populations of the rare Eryngium pendletonense (Pendleton button celery). With us were State Park Natural Resource staff Lana Nguyen and David Pryor, and biologist David Bramlet.
Our first stop was at the mima mound site situated on a small parcel of remnant open space between a group of high end condominiums and San Clemente State Beach Campground. Mima mounds are frequently associated with vernal pools and I learned that because of an impervious hard pan subsoil and ponding between mounds during good rain years, these site are often refuges for rare plants and animals which have adapted over eons to colonize and survive in these rare and isolated environments.
Here at this site introduced non-native grasses have covered all of the mounds and some of the moister valley regions connecting the mounds. Rick and Dave did find a few vernal pool indicator species and there was discussion and enthusiasm for a potential restoration project. Asleep under the aggressive and dominating grasses might survive a viable seed bank waiting for the necessary open habitat to be created. Could a healthy mima mound habitat be resurrected?
Next we drove just a bit south to San Onofre State Beach. Here we checked on a population of the very rare Eryngium pendletonense (Pendleton button celery). According to Rick and the CNPS website this is the northern most of only four places in the world where this plant grows.
Here we also visited a mitigation site where the military is attempting to restore and create vernal pool habitat. Eryngium seem to be having nothing to do with the vernal pools but are pretty happy in the protected seasonally moist swales nearby. We did get to see the miraculous and fascinating fairy shrimp who like their floral ecological relations can survive for decades in the dried soils waiting for sufficient ponding for them to restart their tiny short lives. More information and a better photo here.
While happy campers and surfers enjoy the beautiful beach below I was happy to spend time with these good folks who are helping to care for our regions rich biological resources. Not a bad gig though.
Michael Wall - Hemet, CA