CNPS: Protecting the Red Mountain Two-Flowered Pea

December, 2016



 Beginners and experts, non-members and members are all welcome at our programs and on our outings.  Almost all of our events are free.  All of our events are made possible by volunteer effort.

Evening Programs

December 14, 2016—Native Plant Show and Tell. Join us for an informal evening sharing photos, artifacts, readings, or food relating to native plants and their habitats. Dana York will discuss botanizing the Castle Crags, Donna Wildearth will share plants she saw in the northern Sierra Nevada this summer, and Greg O’Connell will explore his work monitoring the two-flowered pea. Other surprises are sure to be found this evening.

January 11, 2017 - Explore the Mysterious Marble Mountain Wilderness. Dana York, former botanist for Death Valley National Park and Oregon's Umpqua National Forest, will share some natural wonders of the geologically diverse Marble and Salmon Mountain landscape. The correspondingly diverse flora includes some interesting and beautiful rare plants, such as Subalpine and Silver Firs, Brewer's Spruce, Klamath Genetian, Sticky-leaf Arnica, Howell's Tauschia, and Baker's Globe Mallow. Eye-catching common plants are there too. Beyond the realm of chlorophyll, Dana's virtual trek will lead into on of the many caves in the Marble Mountains.

Field Trips and Plant Walks

The North Coast CNPS chapter does not have any December or January field trips planned, but encourages the community to venture out during the winter months. Northern California provides an opportunity to observe new green life sprout as other green life is going dormant. Also, watch for walks sponsored by other organizations like Friends of the Arcata Marsh, Friends of the Dunes, Redwood Region Audubon Society, Sierra Club, etc. See you in February!

Protecting the Red Mountain Two-Flowered Pea

The two-flowered pea (Lathyrus biflorus) is a diminutive, very rare member of the legume family restricted to about two acres on the slope of Red Mountain, a remote part of Humboldt County some 40 miles southeast of Eureka. The species is one of many rare plant species endemic to “serpentine” soils, derived from old seafloor sediments and typically rich in heavy metals. In this case, the population lies just outside Six Rivers National Forest and in particular, the Lassics Wilderness, designated in 2007 in part to protect the unique flora and geology of the Lassics Mountain Range.

Members of the North Coast Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) became concerned about the species after it was impacted by unauthorized logging in the 1990s. An opportunity finally presented itself in 2004, when the 40-acre parcel supporting nearly the entire species was purchased by several members of the North Coast Chapter. Population monitoring and research were implemented, while options were explored to ensure its future protection and management. 

The two-flowered pea, like many rare plant species, is dependent on periodic disturbance, such as fire, disease or wind damage, to maintain moderately open habitat and suitable growing conditions. Research has indicated the plant requires over-story canopy closure between 55 and 85 percent cover, and when it occurs on south aspects, protection from late summer sun. In that respect the species is very similar to the Lassics lupine (Lupinus constancei), endemic to two peaks in the Lassics, and recently petitioned for listing as endangered under both the Federal and State Endangered Species Acts. One of the primary justifications for seeking endangered listing for the lupine was the demonstrated inability of the U.S. Forest Service to effectively manage crucial habitat for the species in the face of climate change, ongoing forest encroachment, and other threats.  

The logical solution for future protection of two-flowered pea would have been to transfer the property to the Forest Service for addition to the Lassics Wilderness, but the agency’s record in managing the Lassics lupine indicated that was not the best option to ensure future survival of the species. Instead, the parcel sold in 2016, and the proceeds were used to donate a conservation easement to the Northcoast Regional Land Trust, thus protecting key resource values over most of the property. More importantly, a nine acre portion of the property encompassing the population of two-flowered pea became the Red Mountain Two-Flowered Pea Preserve. The conservation easement guarantees our future access to the preserve in perpetuity, in order to manage the pea, including monitoring, research, and habitat restoration. A draft conservation strategy has been prepared to guide those future management activities. Anyone interested in doing research, or assisting in habitat restoration and monitoring, is encouraged to contact the North Coast Chapter of CNPS.  

 Grove's Prairie Field Trip, November 5, 2016 


Along the stream in the old growth Douglas-fir grove at Grove’s Prairie, the bright red remains of the fruit of  Western Burning Bush (Euonymus occidentalis) still decorated its fall-plumaged boughs. Photo: Carol Ralph. 

Subject categories: