San Benito evening primrose. Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.
San Benito evening primrose. Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.

On May 29, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the San Benito evening primrose (Camissonia benitensis) from the endangered species list. The small California endemic plant with bright yellow flowers was once believed to be endangered, but is now found more commonly in the Diablo mountain range in San Benito County, edging into Monterey and Fresno counties. 

According to a public notice, the agency will consider public comments during a 60-day period set to end July 31. Information on how to submit comments is available at by searching under docket number FWS–R8–ES–2019–0065.

“Whenever we can propose the delisting of a species due to ESA-inspired partnerships and improved science is a good day,” said fish and wildlife Director Aurelia Skip in a recent press release. “Thanks to the efforts of the Bureau of Land Management [BLM] over the course of three decades, our scientific understanding of the San Benito evening primrose has improved and habitat for the plant has been restored and protected.”  

Fish and wildlife first listed the San Benito evening primrose as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1985 because of ongoing threats imposed by motorized recreation and commercial mining. The agency listed off-road vehicle impacts to the habitat as the primary threat. At that time, the plant was documented in only nine locations in a small area of San Benito County. 

Annual surveys for the species have found it in over 100 areas in San Benito, Monterey and Fresno counties. The primary threats to the species at the time of listing no longer endanger the plant’s survival in its natural habitats. 

The San Benito evening primrose, which grows on serpentine soil, was discovered by Peter H. Raven in San Benito County near Clear Creek in 1960, giving it the species name benitensis. It is an annual plant that grows to about four inches. It blooms in April and May, and flowers open at night. 

According to fish and wildlife, “The majority of the known Camissonia benitensis sites occur on the relatively more stabilized alluvial flats and terraces; however, some occurrences of the species are at the base of slopes where there is a greater potential for deposition of material moving from above (debris flows). There are currently less than 427 acres of suitable habitat for Camissonia benitensis known throughout its range (Bureau 2005a, 2005b). In any given year, the Bureau estimates that 10 to 15 percent (approximately 50 acres) of this suitable habitat is occupied by the species.” See more natural history here. 

Todd Lemein, botanist with the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, worked on the delisting proposal. He told BenitoLink that several factors are involved when it comes to delisting a species. For plants, Lemein said the agency considers the number of individuals and dispersal of the species, soil conditions and seed banks. All these were found favorable for the primrose to be taken off the list. 

Most of the occurrences of the plant are on BLM land and will be monitored after delisting. Little is found on private land, so the agency feels confident the plant can be monitored. Cat Darst, assistant field supervisor with the Ventura office, said BLM will monitor the area including Clear Creek recreational area for changes that could occur if the area is reopened for recreational use. The area is open for limited use as dangerous conditions were found, including the presence of asbestos.

In response to the delisting of the San Benito evening primrose, BLM Public Affairs Officer Serena Baker said, “the Bureau of Land Management supports conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed delisting of the San Benito evening primrose, in our pursuit of our multiple-use mission. BLM Central Coast Field Office staff share in the achievement to recover this endangered species, which is the culmination of 35 years of planning, protection, restoration, survey, monitoring and scientific research.”


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Carmel has a BA in Natural Sciences/Biodiversity Stewardship from San Jose State University and an AA in Communications Studies from West Valley Community College and she reports on science and the environment....