Watch Your Step! – San Francisco as a Biodiversity Hotspot by Angie Wu

Lessingia germanorum, or SF lessingia! Found in the dunes of Lobos Creek Valley

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my first month interning with GGNRA’s SF Vegetation Team, it’s that I work in a city like no other – and not just because of its diverse communities, culture, and history. San Francisco, as urban and bustling as it may be, is a biodiversity hotspot due to the presence of a wide range of microclimates, soil types, and unique habitats. Located within the California Floristic Province, San Francisco itself is home to several endemic (meaning found nowhere else in the world) plant and animal species. My office is located at Fort Scott in the Presidio, which itself contains many important natural areas that are home to about a dozen plants considered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service and/or CNPS (California Native Plant Society) to be rare, threatened, or endangered. Thus, in addition to being one of the most iconic cities in America, San Francisco is also home to many unique and rare species that need assistance from people like me and my team to ensure that they have the best chance possible at continuing to thrive in their natural habitats.

Danijela came to a volunteer day at Lobos Creek Valley! We were pulling Cape Ivy from the canopy and ended up with this huge pile of biomass.

Over the past month, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to maintain and restore habitats throughout San Francisco that are important to these rare and threatened plant species. Some plants that I’ve had a chance to interact with so far are the Presidio Manzanita (Arctostaphylos montana spp. ravenii), the SF spine flower (Chorizanthe cuspidata varr. cuspidata), marsh sandwort (Arenaria paludicola), and the SF lessingia (Lessingia germanorum). Because some of these plants – especially when they are not in bloom – are small and often hard to see, I quickly learned to watch where I step as I am working in the parks. Though such rare plants can sometimes be unassuming, they are all important to contributing to SF’s biodiversity, which is arguably one of the things that makes San Francisco such a special city.

In our habitat restoration efforts over the past month, I have been tarping grasses (it ultimately suffocates unwanted grasses), removing non-native vegetation biomass, grubbing roots of invasive plants, and seeding rare ones. In addition, I have been able to volunteer in both the Presidio and Marin Headlands Nursery, where plants are grown from seed or cuttings to be planted at sites throughout GGNRA. I’ve attached some photos of my work as well as some photos of my fellow interns and I spending time together (I love them very much). I have had such an amazing first month and can’t wait to see how the rest of the internship unfolds!

Planting day in the Marin Headlands with the EFTA interns! This is our first time working together out in the field and it was an absolute blast.
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