BLM California News.bytes 
News.bytes Extra, issue 575

Endangered Wallflower Brings Color Splashes to the Dunes

Brilliant yellow Humboldt Bay wallflower
As springtime unfolds across California, wildflower enthusiasts are planning trips to the deserts, forests and foothills to find annual splashes of color across the landscape.  Most won't consider the coastal sand dunes, but some of these areas also have a spring show to offer.
The Ma-le'l Dunes, managed by the BLM Arcata Field Office on the North Coast, provides habitat for the Humboldt Bay wallflower, a federally-listed endangered species.  The plants bloom before heavy rains set in, and this is a good time to see them.

Brilliant yellow Humboldt Bay wallflower blooms stand out against the muted colors of the dunes.
Brilliant yellow Humboldt Bay wallflower blooms stand out against the muted colors of the dunes.

Staff in the Arcata Field Office have been working for years to restore dune habitats and their native plant and animal communities.

Humboldt Bay and its surrounding areas constitute a unique and fragile ecosystem. The 34-mile stretch of coastline encompasses an array of habitats that support a diverse group of plant and animal species ranging from dune obligates such as endangered beach layia (Layia carnosa) and Humboldt Bay wallflower (Erysimum menziesii ssp. eurekense), to transient inhabitants including gray fox and skunks.
The foredunes that parallel the beach are a prevailing physical feature of the dunes.  The foredunes are typified by varying environmental conditions and receive the brunt of storms as they come ashore.   Living in this sometimes turbulent realm is a diverse assemblage of plants called the dune mat that are adapted to survive nutrient poor soils and harsh maritime environmental conditions.  Despite these adaptations, invasive plants such as European beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria) threaten to displace this unique plant community by disrupting natural dune processes.

A fisheye lens view of this dune plant.
A fisheye lens view of this dune plant.

The Arcata Field Office (AFO) is committed to dune restoration by eradicating invasive, nonnative vegetation and monitoring rare and endangered native plant species. The AFO is focusing restoration work on the Ma-le’l Dunes, the Mike Thompson-South Spit Cooperative Management Area, and the Samoa Dunes Endangered Plant Protection Area.
Those planning to visit the dunes should contact the Arcata Field Office, (707) 825-2300, to check on conditions.

 -- Jennifer Wheeler, Botanist, BLM Arcata Field Office (April 2013)

BLM California News.bytes, issue 575 -- To subscribe to News.bytes, send an e-mail to: OR visit our News.bytes subscription page.