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Red Mountain stonecrop
Sedum eastwoodiae

General Information

Official Status: Candidate, the Red Mountain stonecrop is a candidate for federally listing under the Endangered Species Act.  Listed as Endangered in California (1982).

Date Candidate Status Approved: Red Mountain stonecrop has been a candidate for federal listing since the original Smithsonian Report on Endangered and Threatened Species of the United States, submitted in 1975; Federal Register  40 FR 27824.  Federal listing for this species has been precluded to date by higher priority listing actions.

Critical Habitat: Critical habitat has not been designated for Red Mountain stonecrop.

Recovery Plan: A Recovery Plan has not been prepared for the Red Mountain stonecrop.

Red Mountain stonecrop, Photo Credit: Dave Imper USFWS

Red Mountain stonecrop

Photo Credit: Dave Imper, USFWS

arrow button Photo Gallery for Red Mountain Stonecrop

Identifying Characteristics:

The Red Mountain stonecrop is perennial succulent member of the stonecrop family (Crassulaceae).  Nathaniel Britton first described this taxon as Gormania eastwoodiae in 1903, based on specimens from Red Mountain, Mendocino County, California which were collected by Alice Eastwood, famous early California botanist.  The matte-forming plant is fibrous rooted with a stout branched rootstock.  Rosettes of thick fleshy leaves arise from the rootstocks, with axillary offsets and eventually a single upright terminal floriferus stem generally less than a foot in height.  The very succulent, usually quite red basal and stem leaves are round to notched at the top, and up to an inch or more in length.  The leaves on the reproductive shoots range up to 0.7 inches long, with a truncate or rounded base.  Blooms are composed of 10-26 pink to dark red flowers, with light red to purple anthers.  Subtle differences in leaf shape and plant coloration distinguish this species among members of genus Sedum.

Current Geographic Range:

The entire known distribution of Red Mountain stonecrop occurs in the vicinity of Red Mountain, near the town of Leggett, Mendocino County, California.  The distribution of this species on public lands was mapped in 2003, at which time 25 of the 27 habitat polygons documented on Red Mountain were located within the Red Mountain Area of Critical Environmental Concern, owned and managed by the Bureau of land Management (BLM).  The remaining two polygons are located on lands owned by mining concerns.  Additional undocumented occurrences undoubtedly exist on the adjacent private lands.  Based on aerial photograph interpretation, we expect BLM owns on the order of 90% of the occupied habitat for this species.  The Red Mountain site is quite remote and surrounded by private property.  Permission is necessary from surrounding landowners in order to access the area.   

Life History:

Little is known about the specific life history and reproductive ecology of Red Mountain stonecrop.  The species reproduces either by seeds or vegetatively by means of rootstocks and rosettes which become separated from the parent plant.  Flowers appear in May to July.  After bearing fruits the floriferus stems die back.  Further growth may occur from the offsets, which may take root and become separate plants.  The plant overwinters with above-ground foliage intact, although reduced in size.  Due to its fleshy foliage, the species is able go long periods without moisture, and therefore it tolerates very dry rocky sites.

General Habitat Characteristics:

Red Mountain stonecrop is referred to as a serpentine endemic, typically found on steep, rocky, dry and exposed outcrops and cliffs in lower montane coniferous forests between 1,900 and 4,100 feet in elevation.  Average slope angle is greater than 100%.  Soils are derived from ultramafic rocks, rich in iron and other heavy metals, but generally low in nutrients.  Vegetation generally includes an open tree layer (average 6% cover) including scattered Jeffrey pine, sugar pine, incense cedar, knobcone pine, western white pine or Sargent cypress, and an open shrub layer (average 19% cover) composed of viscid manzanita, huckleberry oak, California coffeeberry, ceanothus, dwarf silk tassel, and a few others.  The herbaceous layer may include the rare or endangered McDonald’s rockcress and Red Mountain buckwheat, and a few other herbs such as falcate onion and lomatium.

Population and Habitat Status:

The Red Mountain Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) was mapped in 2003, to gather baseline data on the species’ distribution and population, and provide the basis for a more accurate baseline estimate of the population, to be conducted pending available funds and staffing. No accurate distribution maps or current population estimates existed prior to that survey.  Twenty-five occupied polygons encompassing an estimated 30 acres were mapped within an area of about 4 square miles, ranging in size from less than 0.25 acre to nearly 10 acres.  Two polygons are known to occur on adjacent private lands, and probably encompass less than one acre.  Although preliminary, the field data suggested the total population of Red Mountain stonecrop may range as high as 23,000 plants.  The above estimates of occupied habitat and population do not include potential habitat located on the steep slope above Cedar Creek and on private lands in the vicinity.  These unsurveyed areas are not expected to contribute more than 10-20 percent to the estimate of total occupied habitat and population.

Red Mountain stonecrop was monitored between 1987 and 2002 by Dr. Michael Baad, retired professor, Sacramento State University.  His study focused on population trends over time. The monitoring involved permanent plots located at four study sites, in which individual plants were periodically mapped, measured, and classified as to reproductive class.  The past monitoring indicated relatively stable populations from year to year.  Seedling success and inflorescence production varied more than matte coverage over the 16 years of the study.  The Service intends to continue this monitoring in some form, in order to detect patterns in vegetation change from fire exclusion. 

The primary threat to Red Mountain stonecrop is surface mining for chromium and nickel.  Virtually the entire distribution of the species is owned by mining interests, or is covered by existing mining claims, although none are currently active.  Some 76 mining claims are held within the Red Mountain ACEC, covering the entire area occupied by the Red Mountain buckwheat.  Surface mining would inevitably destroy habitat suitability for this species.   Future mining will depend on the changing economic feasibility and demand for heavy metals.  Although the ACEC was withdrawn from mineral materials sales in 1989, it remains open to entry for locatable or leasable minerals under the 1872 Mining Law.  The designation as an ACEC requires BLM review and approve a plan of operations for all mining activities.  While future mining likely would not impact the entire population, habitat fragmentation can have genetic-related implications, in terms of isolation and declining effective population size. 

Red Mountain stonecrop may also threatened by tree and shrub encroachment into its habitat due to fire exclusion, at least in the long term.   Michael Baad, formerly with Sacramento State University, recognized the threat from vegetation encroachment to at least 3 rare plants known from Red Mountain, including the stonecrop, Red Mountain buckwheat (Eriogonum kelloggii; also a candidate) and McDonald’s rockcress (Arabis macdonaldiana; listed as endangered).  He attributed suppressed reproductive output in Red Mountain buckwheat and McDonald’s rockcress at one site to ongoing conifer invasion following fire about 40 years ago.  The rate at which habitat becomes unsuitable for these species without fire is not known.  In general, habitat located on rocky ridge tops with little woody vegetation will likely be affected at a slower rate than habitat located on deeper soils in more sheltered sites. 

Although Baad’s monitoring plot data for Red Mountain stonecrop did not demonstrate an impact from encroaching vegetation, the plots appear generally located in relatively open habitat probably not as sensitive to rapid successional changes over the 18 year monitoring history.  Clearly, the rate at which habitat becomes unsuitable in absence of fire varies across the landscape.  In absence of fire, the populations of Red Mountain stonecrop located on rocky ridge tops and with little woody vegetation may be relatively stable, but populations situated on deeper soils in more sheltered sites are clearly more vulnerable to shading by competing vegetation. 

Where Red Mountain stonecrop occurs in semi-forested habitat on private lands, it is also subject to impact by logging operations, such as disturbance from cable logging.

Robert Clausen revised the taxonomy of the group in the early 1970’s, and indicated he observed a high rate of mortality in Red Mountain stonecrop, with some appearing diseased.  Others have observed mortality, and evidence of stem-borer insects.  Clausen also indicated the stonecrop tended to occur in areas that were logged and burned up to 20 years prior. 
Conservation Needs:

BLM designation of 6,895 acres as the Red Mountain ACEC and Research Natural Area in 1984 has helped focused management direction toward conservation of the unique botanical and soils values, old growth forest, raptor habitat and anadromous fishery.  Annual visits are conducted by BLM staff to ensure that no new road construction occurs.   Most of the occupied or suitable habitat for Red Mountain stonecrop in the vicinity of the Red Mountain ACEC was recommended for acquisition in the current Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the area.  The RMP also excludes livestock grazing and offroad vehicle use from the ACEC.

BLM and/or USFWS personnel generally visit the Red Mountain site on an annual basis to conduct a general reconnaissance and assess the status of the species.  Given the remote nature of Red Mountain, the restricted access and current low susceptibility to human impacts, and relatively stable nature of the habitat from an ecological standpoint, the past frequency of monitoring is considered adequate to detect any significant threats, due to unauthorized mining impacts.   However, the monitoring protocol previously employed for life history studies should be assessed to determine its adequacy for representing the variation in Red Mountain stonecrop habitat across Red Mountain, particularly with respect to susceptibility to habitat modification as a result of fire exclusion.  In addition, the methods should be modified to enable characterization of the rate of successional changes, and need for fire in maintaining vegetation in suitable condition. 
Related Documents:
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Last updated: April 11, 2011

Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office, 1655 Heindon Road, Arcata, California 95521, USA
Tel: (707) 822.7201 Fax: (707) 822.8411