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Back from the Brink—Saving the Pallid Manzanita

Its characteristic pale white flowers distinguish Arctostaphylos pallida from other manzanitas. This rare species—listed as endangered by the state and threatened by US EPA—can only be found in small colonies in the East Bay hills. In 2004, FOSC took on the responsibility to save the Oakland populations of this plant in two areas in the watershed. Could habitat restoration return these colonies to health?


Our attempt to answer that question has been fraught with challenges. The tree contractor hired to remove the nonnative canopy that was shading out the manzanitas at Chabot Space and Science Center ended up killing some of the few remaining plants. When we tried to take cuttings to propagate the plants at our nursery, we were blocked by the state Fish and Wildlife Department for fear that the fungal pathogen Phytophthora might infect the new plants and thus be transferred to the wild on transplanting, even though there was no evidence of Phytophthora at the nursery. But our pallids crew and restoration committee kept at it, and with patience, perseverance, and no little gnashing of teeth, has seen the Chabot colony, which had been reduced to a single surviving mature plant, grow to 114! That colony now accounts for 75% of the known seedlings and juvenile plants on public lands.


FOSC continues to steward the two colonies to reduce crowding out by nonnatives and other disturbances so the new plants can mature and reproduce. Like all of our restoration and monitoring efforts, saving the pallid manzanita not only increases the biodiversity of our local ecosystem but it encourages community activism: We can do it. If we don’t, who will?


You can help. In fact, your help is critical. All these efforts take money, if only to pay our staff so they can recruit more volunteers and research the latest scientific and best management practices. Please be generous so the pallids can thrive!