CPC Plant Profile: Saltmarsh Bird's-beak
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Plant Profile

Saltmarsh Bird's-beak (Chloropyron maritimum ssp. maritimus)

This shot shows the plants in situ. Photo Credit: Gregory B. Noe
Description
  • Global Rank: T1 - Critically Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Orobanchaceae
  • State: CA
  • Nature Serve ID: 150113
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 02/10/1987

Unlike the other annual plants of the coastal salt marsh, Chloropyron maritimus ssp. maritimus is a hemiparasite. This is an uncommon feature in southern California salt marshes and makes this plant truly unique. It's purple stems and bright white flowers provide color to the salt marsh long after all the other annuals have set seed and died. It is a hemiparasite on grasses such as Distichlis spicata and Monanthochloe littoralis. Chloropyron maritimus ssp. maritimus is also known to play a role in the life cycles of threatened and endangered moths.

Participating Institutions
Updates
  • 10/16/2020
  • Genetic Research

A study by Helenurm and Parsons (1997) evaluated the genetic consequences of a reintroduction of this plant to Sweetwater Marsh (San Diego County, California)

  • 10/16/2020
  • Genetic Research

A partnership between the USGS and the San Diego Natural History Museum is sponsoring genetic work performed by Dr. Elizabeth Milano on 6 rare plant species in San Diego County (including Chloropyron). The project aims to provide a reference point for the current status of genetic diversity and hopes to inform future preservation and restoration efforts. Results expected in 2018.

  • 10/16/2020
  • Seed Collection

In 2017, SDZG made 3 maternal line seed collections of Chloropyron maritimum spp. maritimum. These large collections aimed to capture the breadth of genetic diversity at the Tijuana Slough population, the Sweetwater Marsh population, and the San Diego River population in Ocean Beach.

  • 09/01/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Based on an September 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden holds 14 accessions of Chloropyron maritimum subsp. maritimum in orthodox seed collection. There are as many as 44473 seeds of this species in their collection - although some may have been used for curation testing or sent to back up.

  • 09/01/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Based on an September 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, San Diego Zoo Global holds 5 accessions of Chloropyron maritimum subsp. maritimum in orthodox seed collection. There are as many as 344126 seeds of this species in their collection - although some may have been used for curation testing or sent to back up.

  • 09/01/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Based on an September 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, California Botanic Garden holds 6 accessions of Chloropyron maritimum subsp. maritimum in orthodox seed collection. There are as many as 60562 seeds of this species in their collection - although some may have been used for curation testing or sent to back up.

  • 08/05/2020
  • Seed Collection

Based on an August 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, San Diego Zoo Global has collected 7 seed accessions of Chloropyron maritimum subsp. maritimum from 4 plant occurrences listed in the California Natural Diversity Database. These collections together emcompass 1019 maternal plants

  • 08/05/2020
  • Seed Collection

Based on an August 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden has collected 14 seed accessions of Chloropyron maritimum subsp. maritimum from 7 plant occurrences listed in the California Natural Diversity Database. These collections together emcompass 617 maternal plants

  • 08/05/2020
  • Seed Collection

Based on an August 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, California Botanic Garden has collected 2 seed accessions of Chloropyron maritimum subsp. maritimum from 2 plant occurrences listed in the California Natural Diversity Database. These collections together emcompass 320 maternal plants

Joe Davitt
  • 11/21/2017

In 2017, SDZG made 3 maternal line seed collections of Chloropyron maritimum spp. maritimum. These large collections aimed to capture the breadth of genetic diversity at the Tijuana Slough population, the Sweetwater Marsh population, and the San Diego River population in Ocean Beach.

Joe Davitt
  • 11/21/2017

A partnership between the USGS and the San Diego Natural History Museum is sponsoring genetic work performed by Dr. Elizabeth Milano on 6 rare plant species in San Diego County (including Chloropyron). The project aims to provide a reference point for the current status of genetic diversity and hopes to inform future preservation and restoration efforts. Results expected in 2018.

Joe Davitt
  • 11/21/2017

USFWS 2009 makes no mention of a large population located on City of San Diego land in what would be the San Diego River marsh in Ocean Beach. I believe this would increase the total number of populations to 8 (4 in San Diego County).

Joe Davitt
  • 11/21/2017

Per the USFWS 2009 5- year review (USFWS 2009): Chloropyron maritimum subsp. maritimum is currently known to persist in 7 coastal salt marshes: San Diego County at Tijuana Estuary (separated into Border Field State Park and Tijuana Slough NWR), Naval Radar Receiving Facility (NRRF), and Sweet water Marsh Unit of San Diego Bay NWR; Orange County at Upper Newport Bay (State) Ecological Reserve; Ventura County at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Magu; Santa Barbara County at Carpinteria Salt Marsh; San Luis Obispo County at Morro Bay.

Joe Davitt
  • 11/21/2017

The species is most threatened by the spread of invasive weeds, altered hydrology, sea level rise (climate change), and in some populations by trampling from humans and pets. Limonium species, Carpobrotus, and many different invasive grasses pose the largest and most immediate risk to the southern populations, in my opinion. These species have the potential to completely alter habitat, forming thick mats or thatch. Because Chloropyron is a hemiparasite, we must insure that host plants are not affected by these invasive species as well.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Restricted to specific habitats within remnant coastal salt marshes scattered from northern Baja California, Mexico to southern California. Salt marsh habitat was never extensive in this range, and most has been modified or distroyed by filling and other activities.

Meghan Fellows
  • 01/01/2010

Agricultural and urban development Off-road vehicles Sea level rise Exotic species Collection Bike path construction Hydrologic shifts

Meghan Fellows
  • 01/01/2010

There are five sites each with one population, population size varies year to year.

Meghan Fellows
  • 01/01/2010

A study by Helenurm and Parsons (1997) evaluated the genetic consequences of a reintroduction of this plant to Sweetwater Marsh (San Diego County, California)

Meghan Fellows
  • 01/01/2010

Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. maritimus is managed within the salt marsh ecosystem. Salt marshes are considered wetlands and therefore have a high level of protection from urban development. In the southern California landscape, salt marshes remain some of the last areas of undeveloped coastal lands because of their wetland status. There are a number of exotic species that invade the habitats where C. m. maritimus occurs, including Parapholis incurva and Polypogon monospleinsis. Noe and Zedler (2001) showed that as much as 92% of the germinating plants in the C. m. maritimus habitat can be exotic species.

Meghan Fellows
  • 01/01/2010

Research into reintroduction and restoration that would establish sustainable populations at least three more sites would allow the delisting of this species. The populations in Mexico need to be surveyed and studied. Management in the U.S. should also focus on providing the necessary habitat for C. m. maritimus' pollinators (Parsons and Zedler 1997).

Meghan Fellows
  • 01/01/2010

A representative sample from the populations in Mexico should be included in an ex situ collection.

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Chloropyron maritimum ssp. maritimus
Authority Nutt. ex Benth
Family Orobanchaceae
CPC Number 1054
ITIS 834234
USDA
Common Names salt marsh bird's-beak
Associated Scientific Names Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. maritimus | Chloropyron maritimum ssp. maritimum | Chloropyron maritimum ssp. maritimus | Cordylanthus maritimus
Distribution Southern California and Northern Baja California, Mexico
State Rank
State State Rank
California S1
Habitat

This subspecies is an inhabitant of the coastal salt marshes, however this plant is rarely discovered very far from the highest high tide elevations, usually on the upper ecotonal edge with the surrounding habitat (coastal scrub, housing developments). Other nearby species include its hosts, Distichlis spicata, Monanthochloe littoralis, and Salicornia subterminalis and Frankenia grandifolia. This region of the salt marsh is also known for its salt pannes, which are areas of the salt marsh devoid of vegetation, probably as a result of their high surface soil salinities (160 ppt). There are usually Chloropyron plants in the islands of vegetation in the middle of these salt deserts as well as around the edges.

Ecological Relationships

Plant ecological relationships are with its host species, Monanthochloe littoralis and Distichlis spicata. Animal ecological relationships are with the ground nesting bees (Bombus spp.), pollinators. Tiger beetles are also known from habitat that supports this species.

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Bees
Long-horned bees Melissodes tepida timberlakei Confirmed Pollinator Link
Bumble bees Bombus californicus Confirmed Pollinator Link
Bumble bees Bombus crotchii Confirmed Pollinator Link
Bumble bees Bombus sonorus Confirmed Pollinator Link
Cellophane bees Colletes Confirmed Pollinator Link
Sweat bees Dialictus Confirmed Pollinator Link
Leaf-cutting bees Anthidium edwardsii Confirmed Pollinator Link
Leaf-cutting bees Anthidium palliventre Confirmed Pollinator Link
Bumble bees Bombus pennsylvanicus sonorous Confirmed Pollinator Link
Leaf-cutting bees Anthidium edwardsii Confirmed Pollinator Link
Long-horned bees Melissodes tepida Confirmed Pollinator Link

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