Seed Banking Tracy’s beardtongue (Penstemon tracyi), Meeting Target 8 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation

Tracy’s beardtongue.
Tracy’s penstemon, also known as Tracy’s beardtongue, is a very beautiful flower, with dense clusters of long-tubular pink flowers; the whole plant is less than five inches tall. Photo courtesy of Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

Forest Service botanist Mike Friend collects Penstemon tracyi seed, while Christy Wagner records location data.
Forest Service botanist Mike Friend collects Penstemon tracyi seed from one individual into its own seed envelope, while Christy Wagner records location data. Photo by Susan Erwin.

Metamorphic rock outcrops and talus with little vegetation.
Tracy’s penstemon grows on metamorphic rock outcrops and talus with little associated vegetation. Photo by Susan Erwin.

View from the collecting site south to the high Trinity Alps.
View from the collecting site, at 8,600 feet elevation, south to the high Trinity Alps of northern California. Photo by Susan Erwin.

By Larry Stritch and Julie K. Nelson

Tracy’s beardtongue (Penstemon tracyi) is a rare endemic plant species of the Trinity Alps. NatureServe ranks this species as G1, critically imperiled. It is at high risk of extinction due to its limited range, low number of population occurrences, and potential adverse effects resulting from climate change.

The U.S. Forest Service’s rare plants program addresses conservation of rare plants by protecting and conserving species in situ (in place) and ex situ (from place). Ex situ conservation may involve the establishment of living populations at a botanic garden and/or long-term storage of seed. This two-pronged approach to rare plant conservation meets targets 7 and 8 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (PDF, 227 KB).

In 2009, Forest Service botanists collected seed from a single population of Tracy’s beardtongue. Seed collection guidelines were adapted from Falk and Holsinger’s 1991 book, Genetics and Conservation of Rare Plants. To maximize genetic diversity, seed collected from individual plants were placed into separate seed envelopes. Additionally, the population was mapped using GPS. The seeds and documentation were shipped to the Forest Service National Seed Lab in Dry Branch, Georgia for testing and long–term storage.

Short-term results include:

  • Thoroughly documented monitoring revisit to this population of Penstemon tracyi.
  • Information from the National Seed Lab concerning the percentage of live seed.

Long-term results:

  • Safely stored seed of this species that may be used for restoration, genetic testing, or other conservation needs in the future.

Contacts

  • Susan Erwin, 530-623-1753
  • Julie Kierstead Nelson, 530-226-2426