Cuyamaca Lake Downingia / Center For Plant Conservation
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Plant Profile

Cuyamaca Lake Downingia (Downingia concolor var. brevior)

  • Global Rank: T1 - Critically Imperiled
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Campanulaceae
  • State: CA
  • Nature Serve ID: 148903
  • Lifeform: Forb/herb
  • Date Inducted in National Collection:

The Cuyamaca Lake downingia is a soft stem annual that germinates only when inundated with water when temperatures are cool. Downingias are one of an important and unique suite of plant and animal species that have adapted to thrive only within a vernal (seasonally moist then turning completely dry) pool habitat. In the spring following a normal rainfall year healthy populations of the Cuyamaca Lake downingia produce a blanket of intensely dark blue flowers sometimes giving the appearance of standing water long after the water has gone. The closest relative of this species occurs over 500 miles to the north. In 1886, the outlet from the Cuyamaca Valley was dammed to form a reservoir and later in 1960 altered again to create an artificial fishing lake. The creation of the reservoir and lake eliminated many of the valleys meadows and temporary wetlands, the critical habitat for this uncommon and beautiful native wildflower.

Where is Cuyamaca Lake Downingia (Downingia concolor var. brevior) located in the wild?


The Cuyamaca Lake downingia is restricted to montane meadows and drainages of the Peninsular Ranges of southwestern California that are vernally wet with saturated soil conditions and pools during the rainy wet season. Elevation occurrences range from 4,000 5,000 ft.


Southern California

States & Provinces:

Cuyamaca Lake Downingia can be found in California

Which CPC Partners conserve Cuyamaca Lake Downingia (Downingia concolor var. brevior)?

CPC's Plant Sponsorship Program provides long term stewardship of rare plants in our National Collection. We are so grateful for all our donors who have made the Plant Sponsorship Program so successful. We are in the process of acknowledging all our wonderful plant sponsorship donors on our website. This is a work in progress and will be updated regularly.

Conservation Actions

  • 09/01/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Based on an September 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, San Diego Zoo Global holds 1 accessions of Downingia concolor var. brevior in orthodox seed collection. There are as many as 9618 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 1 seed accessions of Downingia concolor var. brevior from 1 plant occurrences listed in the California Natural Diversity Database. These collections together emcompass 45 maternal plants

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Known from 3 occurrences the Cyamaca Lake area, San Diego County, California. It occurs in meadows and seeps, and vernal pools, where it is threatened by development, altered hydrology, grazing and recreation. The California Native Plant Society (2014) notes that habitat restoration and seed introduction occurred in 1994, and other conservation activities as of 1997.

  • 01/01/2010

Downingia concolor var. brevior is one of eight vernal pool species that are confined to one pool sub-type. Soils supporting pools were never extensive and have been almost completely lost to development. Unique pool sub-types may be at risk for eliminati

  • 01/01/2010

There exist approximately 20 known sites where this species has been observed with the majority and largest populations occurring within the Cuyamaca Valley. CDFG NDDB, 2003

  • 01/01/2010

The Helix Water District, Lake Cuyamaca Recreation and Park District, California Department of Parks and Recreation and the U.S. Forest Services manage about 80% of the land with known remaining populations of this plant species. These agencies, along with the California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, signed a conservation agreement in August 1996 to protect this species. Because of this agreement the Fish and Wildlife Service withdrew a 1994 proposal to list the Cuyamaca Lake downingia. USFWS News Release, February 6, 1997, Fred Roberts and Susan Saul

  • 01/01/2010

Population surveys, assessments, and updating this information into the California Natural Diversity Data Base records (CNDDB) should be initiated. Targeted surveys for populations outside of State Park system.

  • 01/01/2010

Collect, develop and maintain seed collections from the most at risk sites throughout the plants range, especially those populations that are not under the protection and stewardship of the State Park system. Seed germination and horticultural research


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Taxon Downingia concolor var. brevior
Authority McVaugh
Family Campanulaceae
CPC Number 1445
ITIS 527737
Duration Annual
Common Names Cuyamaca Lake Downingia | Maroonspot Calico Flower | maroonspot calicoflower
Associated Scientific Names Downingia concolor var. brevior | Downingia concolor ssp. brevior
Distribution Southern California
State Rank
State State Rank
California S1
Ecological Relationships


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