U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Sacramento Fish & Wildlife OfficeServing the people, conserving the fish, wildlife, and plants of California

A Unit Of The Pacific Southwest Region

Site Visit Insights: A Mixed Bouquet of Jewleflowers

November 4, 2019

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Photo of
Biologists from the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency, Creekside Science, Valley Water, Santa Clara University and USFWS. Photo Credit: Nora Papian/USFWS
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Photo of a herd tule elk running
Tule elk are endemic to the Central Valley of California and are adapted to living in open and dry habitat. Photo Credit: Nora Papian/USFWS.
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Photo of grasshopper nibbling on jewelflower
A grasshopper nibbles on a most beautiful jewelflower petal. Photo by Ellie DeMarse/USFWS.
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Photo of Metcalf Canyon jewelflower
Metcalf Canyon jewelflowers have white flowers but can interbreed with most beautiful jewelflower to create pale pink flowers. Photo Credit: Ellie DeMarse/USFWS.

Site visits are critical to helping Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (SFWO) biologists learn more about species and their habitats. The trips often take them into areas most people do not have a chance to explore, including public and privately-owned restricted sites, as well as some remote and hard-to-reach areas. “Site visit Insights” provides a behind-the-scenes perspective of wildlife biology, featuring photographs and interesting discoveries and happenings SFWO biologists experience in the field.

Wildlife Biologists:
Ellie DeMarse, Nora Papian, and Joseph Terry, Senior Biologist; Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office

Site visit location: Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve, Santa Clara County, California

What was the purpose of the site visit?
We went to the Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve to review the occurrences of Metcalf Canyon jewelflower and most beautiful jewelflower during their blooming periods, as well as review the challenges of managing these plants on the preserve. The Metcalf Canyon jewelflower is a federally listed endangered plant known to live only in Santa Clara County, while the most beautiful jewelflower has a wider distribution in the San Francisco Bay Area and Central California. These jewelflowers only overlap on the Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve, and they can interbreed where they co-occur. Both species are protected in the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan, and one goal of the conservation plan is to increase the population and range of the Metcalf Canyon jewelflower so it can be removed from the endangered species list. However, it is difficult to monitor and manage the Metcalf Canyon jewelflower where it hybridizes with the most beautiful jewelflower.

Where did you go?
The 1,859-acre Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve in Santa Clara County is managed by the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority. The long-term management plan for Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve conserves and restores habitat for species included in the HCP, such as the threatened Bay checkerspot butterfly, California red-legged frog, California tiger salamander, the endangered Metcalf Canyon jewelflower and Santa Clara Valley dudleya.

What partners were you working with and what is the nature of SFWO’s partnership with them?
The visit was led by Creekside Science and the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency, which manages the implementation of the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan. Other participants included botanists from Valley Water and a professor from Santa Clara University who is studying the jewelflowers. Together, we worked to develop research questions that could provide information to the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency on how to better monitor and manage the jewelflowers.

What did you learn from this site visit that you didn’t know before?
Intermixed populations of the jewelflowers create major identification and management challenges. Normally, biologists monitor groups of a single plant species over time to determine whether if populations are declining, increasing or stable. Currently, the only way to distinguish between the two jewelflowers is by flower color: Metcalf Canyon jewelflowers are generally white while most beautiful jewelflowers are generally pink. Most jewelflower groups at Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve include plants whose flowers range from white to pale pink to dark pink. For example, we saw a group of jewelflowers with mostly pink flowers, but one plant had white flowers. We don't know how to classify individual plants by flower color alone, but research into the underlying genetics that control flower color may provide a way to determine the species of each individual plant.

What surprises did you encounter during the site visit?
Although we were at Coyote Ridge to look at plants, we saw a herd of tule elk! Tule elk are native to California and only found in the Central Valley. Tule elk are smaller than North American elk and live in more open and dry environments. The elk herd was fairly large with 36 adults and 10 calves, including seven adults with antlers. The Coyote Ridge preserve is part of one of the last remaining wildlife corridors linking the Diablo Range to the Santa Cruz Mountains, making it an important location for the elk.

Last updated: November 4, 2019