PORTLAND, Ore.— Following a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed today to protect the sand dune phacelia as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Just 26 populations of this rare plant remain in the coastal dunes of southern Oregon and northern California.
The Service also proposed to designate 252 acres of critical habitat in Coos and Curry Counties in Oregon and Del Norte County in California.
“This is encouraging progress for this beautiful plant that exists only in Oregon and California’s fragile coastal sandy dunes,” said Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the Center. “The sand dune phacelia simply can’t survive without Endangered Species Act protections. This proposal is a hopeful and long-overdue step toward making sure this species doesn’t disappear.”
The sand dune phacelia is threatened by off-road vehicles, invasive species like European beech grass and gorse, and climate change-driven sea-level rise. Its small population size makes it even more susceptible to these stressors.
The sand dune phacelia is in the Forget-Me-Not family of flowering plants and grows to be 18 inches tall. Its white flowers are a rich source of nectar and pollen for native bees. The number and variety of bee species in dune vegetation are higher in places where phacelia grows. The plant’s silvery hairs — which are an adaptation to the harsh coastal environment — keep salt off its leaves, decrease water loss and reflect excess light.
The name “Phacelia” is from the Greek “phakelos,” meaning cluster, for its lovely, clustered flowers, and the Latin “argentea,” meaning “silvery,” for the appearance of the leaves. The sand dune phacelia blooms from March to September.
The Center’s lawsuit against the Service sought to force the agency to make timely evaluations and protection decisions for 241 plant and animal species thought to be trending toward extinction, including the sand dune phacelia.
The lawsuit followed a 2014 petition to protect the species. That petition was filed by the Center and seven other conservation groups: Oregon Wild, Friends of Del Norte, Oregon Coast Alliance, the Native Plant Society of Oregon, the California Native Plant Society, the Environmental Protection Information Center and the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center.