Rare Flower Discovered In Channel Islands

Mar 22, 2017

A small, delicate looking flower has been discovered for the first time on one of the Channel Islands. What’s known as the White Mallow has been found on Santa Barbara Island, which is part of Channel Islands National Park.

Andrew Yamagiwa is a plant biologist who works in the Channel Islands, and says he noticed some of the white, and pale purple flowers as he was exploring recent plant growth on the island. He consulted with other specialists, and says it took a few weeks to confirm the discovery. Eventually a number of groups of the white mallows were found on Santa Barbara Island.

The white mallows aren’t completely unknown to the islands. But, the last known sighting on Santa Cruz Island was in 1888, and Santa Catalina Island in 1902. Because the plants are so isolated between the islands, Yamagiwa says they could be subspecies. He says it would take genetic testing to conform it.

The big question is why the plants have appeared at this time. They are from a plant family that’s common in desert areas, with seeds that can remain dormant for decades until conditions are just right.

Yamagiwa spends days at a time on Santa Barbara and Anacapa Islands. He’s working for the California Institute of Environmental Studies on a project to restore the native plant habitats for some bird populations hard hit by man-made pollution coming from Southern California.

He says it’s a great time to visit the islands, with so many wildflowers blooming.