Stebbins' Morning Glory
(Calystegia stebbinsii )
Description: Stebbins' morning glory is a perennial herb with a vine like habit, supporting itself by growing along the ground or climbing on other vegetation. Stems can be up to 3 feet or 1 meter long. It is a member of the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae). The flowers are white and they have the typical flaring funnel shape of other morning glory flowers. The leaves however are very distinctive. They part into many lobes somewhat like the fingers on a hand (palmately lobed). These "hands" can have up to 7 or even 9 "fingers", each about 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) long. Beneath each flower are two leaf-like bracts. The fruits are capsules that are golden in color and hold numerous small dark seeds. When the capsules open they are cup-shaped and face upward. It is not uncommon to see exposed seeds resting in the capsules long after the capsules have matured.
Distribution: This species is known from two areas, western Eldorado County and western Nevada County. In Eldorado County the distribution extends from Salmon Falls on the South Fork American River south to Cameron Park on Highway 50. This is an area with soils derived from the unusual rock type, gabbro, which imparts to the soil its unusual chemistry. In Nevada County the distribution of the species is very localized, southwest of Grass Valley also associated with gabbro. BLM managed habitat occurs primarily at Salmon Falls and on a recently cooperatively acquired parcel in Cameron Park. A handful of plants have also been found on public land in Nevada County.
Habitat: Clearings in the distinctive chaparral that develops on gabbro. This species is particularly evident after a chaparral fire when most shrub canopies have been killed. Fires appear to stimulate germination of the seed in the soil. Associated species include whiteleaf manzanita, lemmon's ceanothus, sonoma sage, pitcher sage, Red Hills soaproot, Roderick's ceanothus, Layne's butterweed.
Flowering Period: May-June.
Similar Plants: Although a number of morning glories have similar flowers, none in California have a similar leaf shape.
Status: Federal Endangered, California State Endangered, California Native Plant Society List 1B