The Trail to Recovery: Dwarf Bearclaw Poppy
By Jacqueline Russell, Public Affairs Specialist and Stephanie Taylor, Wildlife Biologist
The dwarf bearclaw poppy (Arctomecon humilis) is a rare and endangered plant that is endemic to Washington County, Utah, and is one of the few plants that can thrive on bare, or crust covered gypsum soils. It is a small herb that is found mostly in washes and canyons and is named for its jagged, three-lobed leaves, which resemble bear claws. The dwarf bearclaw poppy was federally-listed as endangered in 1979 under the Endangered Species Act and is continuously threatened by the detrimental effects of ground disturbances. Ground disturbances, like the destruction of soil crusts, allows for non-native invasive species to out compete endemic species. Soil compaction can destroy delicate root systems, plants, and vital seed banks.
The Bearclaw Poppy Trail System is a network of mountain bike trails located along the red rocks mesas of the St. George Field Office and is closed to equestrian and all motorized use. The Bearclaw Poppy Trail System runs through dwarf bearclaw poppy habitat, so it is crucial that bikers and hikers stay on the trail to avoid unintentional damage to sensitive soils. The trail is also within an area of Critical Environmental Concern, which was established to protect the poppy and the soils it needs to thrive.
In keeping with our commitment to recover and protect the poppy, and to keep these popular trails open to the public, added protection was needed along the trails to ensure that the poppies can successfully coexist with a popular mountain biking trail. To accomplish this, we enlisted the help of volunteers in a Utah Conservation Corps (UCC) crew earlier this spring.