Discovery of rare manzanita spawns research, cloning

The discovery of a plant long thought to be extinct led to the cultivation of cloned specimens and kick-started up to a year of federal research.

A botanist spotted a Franciscan manzanita growing in October in an area that was being cleared to make way for the Doyle Drive construction project.

The species was thought to be extinct in the wild for more than 70 years, although cultivated specimens are grown by botanists and gardeners.

The hefty plant and tons of soil around its roots were replanted in a protected Presidio location at a cost of roughly $175,000.

Cuttings from the plant and branches that touched the ground and grew roots are “putting on some nice new growth” at nursery-style locations throughout the Bay Area, Presidio Nursery official Brianna Schaefer said.

“The genetics of this plant probably haven’t been seen before,” Schaefer said.

The discovery revived efforts to protect the species under the federal Endangered Species Act. The efforts stalled in the 1970s because the species was considered extinct.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will spend up to a year reviewing and conducting research before determining whether the plant will join a federal list of endangered species, agency spokeswoman Sarah Swenty said.


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