Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. palustris
|North Coast bird's-beak, Point Reyes bird's beak, salt marsh bird's-beak|
|(Behr) Chuang & Heckard|
|Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.|
The following Participating Institutions are custodians for this species in the CPC National Collection:
Rae Selling Berry Seed Bank & Plant Conservation Programs
The conservation of Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. palustris is fully sponsored.
Edward Guerrant, Ph.D. contributed to this Plant Profile.
The Point Reyes bird's-beak (Codylanthus maritimus ssp. palustris) is only found on the coastal beaches of northern California and Oregon. It was once found from Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo County, California (about 200 miles south of San Francisco) to as far north as Tillamook County, Oregon. It is now found in scattered salt marshes from San Francisco Bay, CA to Tillamook County, OR, however, most populations are clustered around Coos Bay, Oregon and Humboldt Bay, California. Of the remaining populations, most are dangerously small and occur on private land. Since they are found on private land, many populations will not be protected even if the Point Reyes bird's-beak receives state Endangered listing in Oregon.
Off Road Vehicle (ORV) use is the primary threat at it destroys Point Reyes bird's-beak's sensitive habitat. Off-road vehicles (ORV's) destroy plants and alter the habitat by creating deep ruts in the sand (see photo). Conservation of the few healthy populations in Oregon and Humboldt Bay, CA is critical to for the survival of this small annual.
Distribution & Occurrence
Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. palustris grows just above the high tide level in salt marshes scattered along the Pacific coast. It is found growing in a sandy substrate covered by a layer of organic silt with more than 70% vegetation cover. Associated species include: Salicornia virginica (Pickleweed), Polygonum Distichlis spicata (salt grass), and Jaumea carnosa (fleshy jaumea). The soil salinity is high, often 34-55 ppt (parts per thousand).
CA: Beaches of northern California
| In Oregon as of 1991: 18 sites (Kaye 1991). Colony size ranged from 30 individuals to 500,000. At each site, Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. palustris was found in dense patches or as well dispersed individuals. These patterns may be due to the patchy availability of suitable habitat and seed dispersal by water.
In California as of 2001: 50 sites "presumed extant." However, many sites have not been visited since the early 1980's, so their current status is unknown. Population numbers range from a few to as many as 300,000 (CNDD 2001).
Conservation, Ecology & Research
Point Reyes bird's-beak plants are hemiparasites. They derive some of their energy from photosynthesis but also acquire resources through underground root connections with other plants. Under favorable conditions in the greenhouse, the plants do not need a host to survive. However, in the wild, they probably do need a host. While salt marsh bird's beak appears to lack host specificity, its natural hosts are most likely Salicornia virginica, Distichlis, spicata, Limonium californicum, Deschapsia cespitosa, and Jaumea carnosa (Kaye et al. 1991). In a greenhouse environment Helianthus annuus is a successful host (Chuang and Heckard 1971). It is unknown how soon after germination the plant establishes a root-connection with the host. (Dunn 1987 on BLM web page & Kaye 1991).
Point Reyes bird's-beak flowers are white with a pink/purple lower lip and purplish-green foliage. Yellow-lipped flowers and green foliage are occasionally found. Scientists believe this trait difference is due to the suppression of purple pigment production (Mathis 2001).
Water Pollution (Meinke 1982) and oil spills (CNDD 2001).
ORV use kills salt marsh vegetation including Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. palustris and its host species. They also reduce vegetative cover, a h
Habitat and ecological requirements of the species were studied to assist in future restoration activities. Distribution suggests that the species occupies sites with relatively high salinity (25-30 ppt), and that the specific location in marine estuaries is at the upper edge of low sandy marsh. Light disturbance with some open habitat facilitates establishment (Kaye 1991).
Genetic analysis (using RAPD markers) of white and purple flowered populations found in Coos Bay Oregon to determine genetic variation within and between 6 populations was conducted by Victoria Mathis, a student at Gold Beach High School, Oregon. Her poster was presented at Northwest Scientific Association 2001 Annual Meetings held at Humboldt University, Arcata, CA.
Flower dissection revealed that of Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. maritimus (a related species from southern California) is capable of self-fertilization. The pollen to ovule ratio is in the range expected for self-pollinating species. (Kaye 1991)
Seeds of Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. maritimus (found in Southern California) require six weeks of cold storage and fresh water for germination (Kaye 1991).
Yearly monitoring at Coos Bay site from 1993 to 2001 (at least) (Brian 2001).
An interagency conservation strategy was prepared in 1995 but not finalized for sites located in Coos Bay (Brian 2001).
Barricades to redirect traffic and restrict ORV usage of the land have been erected at various sites (Brian 2001).
Some sites in California fenced to exclude cattle grazing (CNDD 2001).
Seed from 6 locations banked at The Berry Botanic Garden.
Monitor known populations to detect population trends (Kaye et al. 1991).
Limit ORV use at known sites (Kaye et al. 1991).
Determine if Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. palustris can re-colonize disturbed areas (Rittenhouse 1999).
Distribute seeds to nearby areas of suitable habitat as seeds do not travel long distances on their own (Brian 2001).
Reintroduce seeds to areas where the species has been extirpated or to other sites where habitat is suitable (Brian 2001).
Determine optimal germination procedures.
Determine propagation and reintroduction protocols.
Meinke, R.J. 1982. Threatened and Endangered Vascular Plants of Oregon: An Illustrated Guide. Portland, Oregon: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Region 1. 326p.