Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 5, 2016

Contact:  David Imper,
Cynthia Elkins, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 888-2239,

State Protection Sought for Rare Alpine Flower in Northwest California

EUREKA, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity and an independent expert filed a state petition today to protect the Lassics lupine, a rare mountain wildflower that is now restricted to fewer than four acres in Humboldt and Trinity counties. The petition to protect the lupine under the California Endangered Species Act — which follows a January petition seeking U.S. Endangered Species Act protections for the flower — documents alarming population declines due to climate change and other threats, with recent surveys showing the flower is on the brink of extinction.

Lassics lupine
Photo by David Imper. Photos are available for media use.

“The Lassics lupine symbolizes the unique beauty and diversity of the Lassic mountains, but regrettably it is also now the most endangered plant in northwest California,” said David Imper, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service botanist and leading researcher of the flower.

Found only in the Six Rivers National Forest, the Lassics lupine has bright pink flowers that stand in stark contrast to the steep, barren slopes where it grows atop Mount Lassic and Red Lassic, relying on winter snow and cool summer temperatures to survive. Its habitat has been dramatically reduced by climate change and fire suppression, which have allowed surrounding forest and chaparral to encroach into its habitat. The changes in vegetation also appear to have increased the number of small mammals that eat its seeds. The number of individual plants is now so low that a single event — such as last year’s fire — could prove catastrophic.

Surveys estimate the Lassics lupine’s population fluctuated between 500 and 1,000 plants from 2005 to 2014, but the number dropped dramatically last spring following two of the driest and warmest years on record. The Lassic fire burned the area in July and August 2015, and subsequent surveys estimated that 60 or fewer individuals survived. But initial surveys this spring showed the damage at one lupine colony was even worse than expected, and the only other remaining colony may have been entirely lost. 

“The failure of the U.S. Forest Service to take action to save the Lassics lupine has helped push it to the very brink of extinction,” said Cynthia Elkins, a Center spokesperson. “We urge the California Fish and Game Commission to step in and protect this unique plant for future generations, before it’s too late.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Go back