|CATALINA'S ENDEMIC PLANTS
Catalina endemic plants are species that occur naturally on Santa Catalina Island and nowhere else in the world. A restricted (endemic) island distribution may result from the gradual elimination of a species on the mainland and its persistence on the isolated island(s), where the threat of extinction may be less.
Catalina ironwood (Lyonothamnus floribundus floribundus)
The Catalina ironwood is a relict species that had a widespread distribution in the Western United States during the Miocene period based on fossil material dating back at least 6 million years ago. Scientists suggest that the ironwood was eliminated from the mainland United States due to climatic changes occurring during the late Miocene and early Pliocene that resulted in a drier climate with less summer rainfall.
Catalina Island mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus traskiae)
The federally endangered Catalina Island mountain mahogany is considered to be one of the rarest trees in North America. It has been rare as long as its existence has been known. The species was first discovered in 1897 by biologist Luella Blanche Trask, who came across a single population of 40 individuals in an area today known as Wild Boar Gully. Today, approximately 8 individuals are found in the wild, a decline attributed to browsing by feral animals on the Island.
St. Catherine’s lace (Eriogonum giganteum var. giganteum)
The endemic St. Catherine’s Lace, a species of buckwheat, is considered a "giant" on Catalina Island. Reaching up to 8 feet in height, it dwarfs its much smaller close relatives on the mainland and on the other Channel Islands. Its white blooms slowly turn russet color through the summer.
Catalina live-forever (Dudleya hassei)
This hardy succulent can be found on steep cliffs and rocky outcrops on the bluffs of Santa Catalina Island. In the spring and early summer, the live-forever’s beautiful flowers are frequented by hummingbirds and other pollinators.
Catalina manzanita (Arctostaphylos catalinae)
Only the smallest insects are able to enter the manzanita’s tiny flowers to reach the pollen and nectar. Its fruit resemble tiny apples, and although it has a similar flavor, it consists mostly of seeds.
Island bush mallow (Malacothamnus fasciculatus var. catalinensis)
Long considered the same species as the California mainland bush mallow, the Catalina variety was reclassified in 2011 in The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California, from the University of California Press, as a separate and distinct species unique to Catalina Island.
Santa Catalina bedstraw (Galium catalinense catalinense)
This perennial herb is found on coastal bluffs and inland on rocky canyon slopes. This species of bedstraw forms woody shrubs whereas most species are smaller, non-woody herbs.
Updated 10/11/20112, John Clark, Ph.D., Catalina Island Conservancy Senior Plant Biologist
|OTHER PLANTS NATIVE TO CATALINA
Toyon or California Holly
Also called Christmas berry, because the clusters of holly-like berries remain red through the Christmas season.
Prunus ilicifolia ssp. lyonii
The large-pitted fruit is not particularly tasty, but was still an important fresh fruit of the Catalina indians. Used today as an ornamental tree for landscaping.
The plant's sticky lemony residue was also used by the Catalina indians for a refreshing drink.
Used in landscaping as a native ground cover for shady areas. Extremely fragrant.
*Santa Catalina Island is home to 6-9 endemic plant species. The range is explained by the fact that plant taxonomy is a changing science. As new research leads to greater understanding of plant species, classifications and names sometimes change.
Descriptions by The Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden. Illustrations by Cindy Spring.