I found out today that one of my favorite plants, the Scotts Valley Polygonum, will probably soon be extinct…it may be functionally extinct right now…despite decades of the too typical “protect the land, and everything’s okay” mentality.
This State listed Endangered annual wildflower species only grows within the limits of the City of Scotts Valley; it has just two populations! One population is at the old Santa’s Village site…now known as the Polo Ranch. The site has been slated for a housing development for some time. Years ago, the most important part of that site was protected for this wildflower, along with a host of other rare wildflowers. The set aside was due to collaborations between the landowners with the California Native Plant Society, the City of Scotts Valley, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The deals were cut, and then the waiting commenced for the project to get under way. This summer, years later, I understand that grading for the housing started, but I haven’t heard that any management for this species has commenced, besides protecting the preserved area from the grading equipment. There were 11 plants there this year.
The other population used to span property owned by Scotts Valley High and the Salvation Army. A preserve was set aside when Scotts Valley High was built- mostly the same organizations/people were involved with that collaboration. And, again, years passed before any management took place to help the species for which the preserve was established. There were no Scotts Valley Polygonum plants there this year, nor any on the adjoining Salvation Army property. We are hoping that there are seeds in the seedbank that will come up in other springs to come…when management improves.
As with most species, setting aside conservation areas has not been enough for the Scotts Valley Polygonum. Like so many species, this one evolved in an ecosystem with other native wildflowers, with a diverse pollinator community, with native ants, with native grazers, and without a host of non-native invasive plants. When we isolate the species in small preserves, it is now up to us to manage the grazers and to remove the weeds.
What a shame if this species goes extinct, after so much work…but the work had just begun! I wonder what we might do…?