Nipomo Mesa lupine is a state and federally listed endangered plant in the pea family . It is a small, annual herb that typically blooms from March through May. Nipomo Mesa lupine is endemic to California, and the species is found only in southwestern San Luis Obispo County within the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Complex. Located in the middle of this dunes complex is the Guadalupe-Nipomo Wildlife Refuge. Which hosts and protects, not only the Nipomo Mesa lupine, but 120 other rare plants and animals. There is currently only one existing population of Nipomo Mesa lupine and it is comprised of three separate occurrences that are located at least a quarter of a mile from each other. Only one of these is a natural occurrence and the other two are the result of successful outplanting efforts aimed at recovering the species.
The species requires coastal dune scrub habitat. Coastal development, habitat degradation and
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.
Learn more about climate change are its primary threats. A recovery plan for the species was finalized in 2021. Management efforts, including habitat restoration and invasive weed removal, research projects, and other ongoing efforts to protect coastal scrub habitat from development are currently underway to prevent extinction of this species.
Location in Taxonomic Tree
Nipomo Mesa lupine is restricted to coastal dune scrub habitat. Coastal dune scrub plant communities are characterized by several native species including mock heather, silver dune lupine, deerweed, and seacliff buckwheat. Coastal dune scrub communities are distributed geographically further inland from the beach, open sand, and active dune sheets, which is why a greater diversity of plant species can establish within them. Nipomo Mesa lupine requires sandy soils and relatively open areas within coastal dune scrub vegetation. It is a poor competitor and as such will not be able to compete for resources as well as other species.
Invasive, nonnative perennial veldt grass is one of the most eminent threats to Nipomo Mesa lupine because it prevents essential sand movements from the wind and prematurely stabilizes the dunes. Veldt grass also fills in the open gaps where Nipomo Mesa lupine occurs and changes the composition of the sandy soils by contributing nitrogen and other nutrients to the soils. For these reasons, veldt grass removal and management are some of the highest priorities for Nipomo Mesa lupine recovery.
Nipomo Mesa lupine is a relatively small low, spreading herb that can reach up to 8 inches tall. The leaves of this species are compound with five to seven leaflets per leaf that radiate out from a central point. It flowers in the early spring and produces ten flowers per inflorescence (flower cluster), with healthy individuals being able to produce ten or more inflorescences. The flowers are symmetrical and have five petals per flower.
The stem and leaves of this species are a pale, sage green color. The leaves and stems are also succulent (thicker and fleshier than normal), and they are covered with soft, downy hairs. both succulence and pubescence are adaptations to prevent water loss and desiccation from the harsh, strong winds of the dune environment. The flower petals are typically purple to lavender in color.
Nipomo Mesa lupine seeds germinate in the late autumn or early spring. Germination is thought to be triggered by the first adequate rainfall event that results in saturation of the soils and sufficient uptake of water by the dry dormant seeds. After germination, plants begin vegetative growth and will form its first succulent, compound leaves. Flowering typically begins in March and continues through May. Not much is known about Nipomo Mesa lupine reproduction; researchers believe it capable of a combination of self-pollination and outcrossing via pollinators, although specific pollinators for the species have not yet been identified. Its long peapod-like fruits begin to form in April and continue through June. Mature fruits will split open and drop the mature, ripe seeds. Individual plants can continue to produce fruits until conditions are no longer suitable and the plant dies. Each fruit has about three to five seeds and these will germinate at the onset of the next rainy season, continuing the annual life cycle.
Nipomo Mesa lupine is a narrow endemic. Its entire range is restricted to an area along the Central Coast of California that is less than 5.2 square kilometers or two square miles in size. The species occurs only within southwestern San Luis Obispo County within the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes. It requires coastal dune scrub habitat unique to this region. The species’ range is mostly surrounded by development and conservation of all remaining coastal dune scrub is a high priority for its conservation.
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