Orcutt's Bird's-beak - Center For Plant Conservation
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Plant Profile

Orcutt's Bird's-beak (Dicranostegia orcuttiana)

Photo Credit: Lee Ripma
  • Global Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Orobanchaceae
  • State: CA
  • Nature Serve ID: 140438
  • Date Inducted in National Collection:

Orcutt's bird's beak is an annual herb that is native to coastal sage scrub communities within California and Baja California. They are hemiparasitic, inserting slender projections into the roots of host plants to obtain some of their nutritional requirements, while also photosynthesizing to produce their own energy. The plant grows to a maximum of half a meter in height, characterized by its green to reddish-green coloring. Each flower may grow up to 2.5 centimeters long and is enclosed by leaflike structures. This species is significantly threatened by urbanization, yielding approximately 6-20 extant occurrences (CNPS 2001). This species has been listed as critically imperiled since 1990, and may be headed towards possible extirpation within California as resources continue to be limited by urban growth and development.

Where is Orcutt's Bird's-beak (Dicranostegia orcuttiana) located in the wild?


Coastal sage scrub habitat


Found only in the watersheds of the Sweetwater River and the Tijuana River in southern San Diego County and northern Baja Mexico.

States & Provinces:

Orcutt's Bird's-beak can be found in California

Which CPC Partners conserve Orcutt's Bird's-beak (Dicranostegia orcuttiana)?

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

Katie Heineperson
  • 05/07/2021
  • Propagation Research

In our 2021 seed bulking experiment of Orcutt’s birds beak, (Dicranostegia orcuttiana), we initially had high germination in all treatment groups but vegetative growth is now strongest in raised beds in the treatment group: compost enhanced soil plant with the host plant Jojoba. Treatments include a factorial design of soil = potting mix only or compost enhanced & host = no host, Sagebrush host, Jojoba host.

Katie Heineman
  • 01/29/2021
  • Propagation Research

At the San Diego Zoo Native Plant Seed Bank, our plant propagator Tobin Weatherson has been working to develop a successful seed bulking strategy for rare, hemiparasitic annual Orcutt's Bird's beak (Dicranostegia orcuttiana). Last summer, we conducted a pot experiment in which we grew 200 plants in three treatments (with and without a host plant) and under high and low watering regimes. While we found that the Dicranostegia seedlings in host post had higher survivorship than plants without hosts, no plants ultimately produced seed. This month (January 2021), we started a new experiment in garden beds, in hopes that this setting more closely mirrors their natural environment. We have six treatments including three host plant treatments (no host, host = California sagebrush, host = Jojoba) and two soil substrates (a standard potting mix with sunshine #4, perlite, vermiculate and a soil mix from a supply that contains compost).

  • 09/01/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Based on an September 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, San Diego Zoo Global holds 3 accessions of Dicranostegia orcuttiana in orthodox seed collection. There are as many as 162105 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 3 seed accessions of Dicranostegia orcuttiana from 2 plant occurrences listed in the California Natural Diversity Database. These collections together emcompass 298 maternal plants

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Cordylanthus orcuttianus is known from six to twenty extant occurrences in San Diego County, California, and Baja California, Mexico. Status and abundance information from Mexico is not availabe. Urbanization is a serious threat to this species.

Tobin Weatherson 04/25/2019

Does anyone in the CPC Network have experience cultivating Dicranostegia orcuttiana or other Orobanchaceae for the purpose of seed production?

I have had difficulty getting this species to produce seeds in pots and any advice would be greatly appreciated. 


Taxon Dicranostegia orcuttiana
Authority (Gray) Pennell
Family Orobanchaceae
CPC Number 6190
ITIS 834156
Common Names Orcutt Bird's-beak
Associated Scientific Names Cordylanthus orcuttianus | Dicranostegia orcuttiana
Distribution Found only in the watersheds of the Sweetwater River and the Tijuana River in southern San Diego County and northern Baja Mexico.
State Rank
State State Rank
California S1
Ecological Relationships

Hemiparasitic. Host plants are common coastal sage scrub shrubs.

Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Leaf-cutting bees Anthidium placidum Not Specified Link
Leaf-cutting bees Ashmeadiella Not Specified Link
Leaf-cutting bees Dianthidium Not Specified Link
Sweat bees Halictus impavidus Not Specified Link
Leaf-cutting bees Heriades Not Specified Link
Masked bees Hylaeus Not Specified Link
Leaf-cutting bees Megachile spinotulata Not Specified Link
Bumble bees Bombus crotchii Floral Visitor Link

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