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Menzies Wallflower

ErysiumLan Pickart 512Menzies' wallflower (Erysimum menziesii), with its distinguishing yellow clustered flowers, can be found on semistable dunes of the Humboldt Bay area.

Identifying Characteristics:  
Menzies’ wallflower, one of several species of wallflower growing along the coast of California, was first collected from coastal dunes in the Monterey area by Archibald Menzies during the Vancouver expedition from 1782 to 1794.  The taxonomy of Menzies’ wallflower was revised in 1992, when four subspecies were recognized, including E. m. ssp. eurekense (Humboldt Bay wallflower), E. m. ssp. menziesii (Menzies’ wallflower), E. m. ssp. yadonii (Yadon’s wallflower), and finally E. m. ssp. concinnum (curly wallflower), previously considered to be a separate species.  As such, Erysimum menziesii ssp. concinnum was not covered under the Endangered listing. After the Jepson Manual was updated in 2012, the revision was abandoned because of improper procedures, but genetic work is in progress to clarify the taxonomy. 
 
Menzies’ wallflower is a low, succulent, short-lived perennial member of the mustard family (Brassicaceae).  Like other wallflowers in the genus, Menzies’ wallflower produces dense clusters of bright yellow flowers in the winter and early spring (February to April).  
 
Current Geographic Range:  
Menzies’ wallflower is known from 16 or more sites, scattered within four dune systems in northern and central California:  Humboldt Bay in Humboldt County, Ten Mile River in Mendocino County, the Marina Dunes at Monterey Bay, and the Monterey Peninsula in Monterey County.  
 
Life History:  
The life history of the Humboldt Bay population of wallflowers is referred to as semelparous (monocarpic) perennial, meaning that it flowers and produces fruit only once during its life, after which it dies.  The wallflower forms a basal rosette of leaves that may persist for up to 8 years before flowering.  Blooming typically occurs from March through April, although it may begin as early as January.  The species is self-compatible, but also reproduces by outcrossing.  The Humboldt Bay population is pollinated by a solitary bee species.  The fruits mature by mid-June, but the seeds remain attached to the fruit walls after dehiscence.  The seeds disperse over a long period. The majority of seeds fall directly below the maternal plant, resulting in this plant's patchy distribution. However, a second dispersal mode occurs when winter storm events that dislodge the entire plant, scattering seeds by way of a tumbling action.  Germination follows the first rains in fall or early winter.  Plants produce numerous seeds, but the wallflower does not have a persistent seed bank, and the survival rate for seedlings is very low.  Reproduction may also be hindered by infestation by a fungus that causes white rust disease in the Humboldt Bay population.
 
General Habitat Characteristics: 
The Menzies' wallflower occurs in semistable dunes, usually in low native vegetation known as "dune mat" dominated in our area by beach bursage, beach sagewort, dune goldenrod, coast buckwheat, beach pea, and sand-dune bluegrass.  European beachgrass, yellow lupine and iceplant are common non-native, invasive species that encroach on Menzies' wallflower habitat.  
 
Population and Habitat Status: 
The total population of Humboldt Bay wallflowers was estimated at over 50,000 plants in 2006, representing a substantial increase since initial estimates of about 20,000 in 1989.   Much of the increase is correlated with extensive restoration work and invasive plant removal conducted since 1988.  
 
Threats:  
In other parts of its range, Menzies’ wallflower remains threatened by invasive species encroachment, deer predation, recreational impacts and sand mining. Overall, the risk to the Humboldt Bay wallflower population appears to have decreased, while the risk to the other populations has stayed the same or increased. 
 

  

Last Updated: May 14, 2013
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