Tag Archive for: Franciscan Manzanita

Saturday, March 5, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm:
Although there are over 100 species and subspecies of manzanita, until 2009, it was thought that San Francisco’s own manzanita, the Franciscan Manzanita, had gone extinct.
The Franciscan manzanita is a subtly charming flowering shrub found nowhere else on Earth. Its tragic history is filled with heroic acts by botanists striving to keep the species alive. In 1906, the specimens first used to identify the species were rescued from the California Academy of Sciences as fires driven by the San Francisco earthquake ravaged the Academy’s collections. In 1947 a famous botanist stood in front of earth-moving equipment to wrest the last known wild plants from a construction site. The plants were sent to a botanical garden, and no one found the plant in the wild again. The Franciscan Manzanita was rediscovered in the wild in 2009, has since been listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, and there are now over 30 Franciscan Manzanita plantings alive on the Presidio Bluffs!

Join the Wild Equity Institute to learn more about the endangered Franciscan Manzanita, it’s ecology, and what the National Park Service and other conservationists are doing to protect this magnificent species. We’ll be joined by Michael Vasey and Tom Parker, co-authors of Field Guide to Manzanitas.

You can watch a short documentary about the recovery of the Franciscan Manzanita here.

Meet us at North Baker Beach Parking Lot off of Battery Chamberlin Road. From there, we will hike north along the Pacific bluffs and through the manzanita’s critical habitat. Once we reach the Golden Gate Bridge, we’ll pour some Manzanita drinks (apple juice and champagne) and make a toast to the survival of this wonderful species! In the spirit of resource conservation, please bring a reusable cup if you wish to participate!

We’ll also have books, t-shirt, and water bottles for sale.

Hope to see you there!

The Franciscan Manzanita

Moving Day!


Contact:  Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989

Final Franciscan Manzanita Critical Habitat Announced,
Creates First Ever Habitat Recovery Opportunities in San Francisco County

Designation sets the stage for a collaborative recovery planning process
to Bring San Francisco’s “Miracle Manzanita” Back from the Brink of Extinction

SAN FRANCISCO— In a major advancement in one of San Francisco’s most important biological discoveries, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will announce tomorrow the final critical habitat designation for the Franciscan Manzanita. The designation includes approximately 200 acres of land that provide the best, and possibly last opportunity to bring San Francisco’s namesake manzanita back from the brink of extinction.

The last wild Franciscan Manzanita—but not for long!


Map © Bay Nature Magazine.

“Species with critical habitat designations are twice as likely to recover as those without,” said Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “This announcement will help us all bring this incredible story to a happy ending: a fully recovered species no longer needs protection under the Endangered Species Act, just as we’ve done with our Bald Eagle, Brown Pelican, and Steller Sea Lion populations.”

Under the Endangered Species Act, the protection of a species’ “critical habitat” is closely tied to the ultimate recovery of the species. Because much of the Franciscan Manzanita’s historic habitats have been destroyed by unsustainable development, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s critical habitat designation emphasizes areas that are suitable for reintroduction or the establishment of new populations that have suitable habitat characteristics.

The final critical habitat designation includes five areas within the Presidio Trust (Fort Point, Fort Point Rock, World War II Memorial, Immigrant Point, & Inspiration Point) and six areas within San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and other lands (Corona Heights, Twin Peaks, Mount Davidson, Diamond Heights, McLaren Park, & Bayview Park).  

In the largest change from the critical habitat proposal released earlier this year, the Fish and Wildlife Service removed all areas of Bernal Heights Park from the critical habitat designation. San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department had allowed the park to become “highly degraded” by unsustainably high use, making it impossible for conservation efforts to succeed at that park.

The Fish and Wildlife Service also excluded areas that do not contain habitat for the species, such as roads, gun batteries and 1.4 acres of forest in the Presidio; heavily degraded off-leash dog play areas at Corona Heights; and areas in Diamond Heights, Bayview and McLaren Parks that do not have needed habitat conditions for the Franciscan Manzanita.

Today’s announcement also addressed some myths about critical habitat. It stated that critical habitat designations only affect federal activities: private landowners therefore will have no additional regulatory constraints unless they attempt to conduct federal projects on their lands. It also reaffirmed the scientific basis for designating portions of Mount Davidson as critical habitat, finding that appropriate geologic and soil conditions exist there for the species to thrive.

“Now is our opportunity to show the world that great cities can thrive without destroying indigenous plants and animals,” said Plater. “By collaborating with educational institutions, fish and wildlife agencies, and conservation groups, San Francisco can demonstrate that it is truly committed to sustainability for all.”


In 2009 Dr. Daniel Gluesenkamp rediscovered the Franciscan manzanita, presumed extinct in the wild for over 60 years, while exiting the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. This subtly charming flowering shrub was only known from San Francisco, but it was tragically lost despite heroic acts by botanists striving to keep the species alive. In a last act of desperation, in 1947 botanists stood in front of earth-moving equipment to wrest the last known wild plants from a construction site. The plants were sent to a botanical garden, and no one found the plant in the wild again: until Dr. Gluesenkamp’s miraculous discovery.

The individual plant was subsequently moved to a more secure location in the Presidio to avoid disturbance from the ongoing construction of the Doyle Drive project. While the individual plant was saved from immediate threat, no formal protection was provided to ensure the entire species recovered.

The Wild Equity Institute therefore petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the species under the Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service agreed, protecting the plant as endangered and proposing to protect its critical habitats in 2012. The full story of the plant’s rediscovery and path toward recovery is available here.

The Endangered Species Act requires creation of a binding recovery plan for the species; it prioritizes federal funding for the species’ recovery efforts; and it ensures that the species’ critical habitats, both those currently occupied and those that are needed for reintroduction, are protected. Together, these protections have made the statute the most successful conservation law in the world.

For more information about the Franciscan Manzanita, please visit our website at wildequity.org.

The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.




This weekend was one of the busiest in San Francisco history. In addition to all the festivities throughout the city, the Franciscan Manzanita was officially listed under the Endangered Species Act along with a proposal for several acres of critical habitat and, of course, we threw one big party to celebrate.

© David Burban

Thank you to all who came out on Friday to share the love for the Manzanita, support the work of Wild Equity Institute, and celebrate this historical moment in the environmental movement!

Many familiar friends and new faces joined us to party, wish a hopeful recovery for the Franciscan Manzanita, and give a big “Thank You” to the lead organizations that helped make it happen.

“The Franciscana,” our signature elixir, good food, music, dancing and great company all made for one amazing Manzanita celebration! We listened to great tunes from DJ Justice, who kept the dance party going all night long. We learned a new dance move, “the Manzanita,” from volunteer Leah Thompson, who accompanied it with a video (below), made exclusively for the celebration by Kirra Swenerton.

Leah Thompson, our dance performer for the night. ©David Burban

DJ Justice picking out the hot jams! ©David Burban

We had the pleasure of listening to a live performance by Kristin Plater, a very talented musician from New York. She also led us in singing “Happy Birthday” to the Franciscan Manzanita before we cut the birthday cake!

Kristin Plater singing for us and the Manzanita. ©David Burban

Many people had the lucky opportunity to meet, and take pictures with a very special guest, a close relative of the Franciscan Manzanita, the Mt. Tam Manzanita (Arctostaphylos hookeri)! We also had two guest speakers, Brett Hall, State Board President from The California Native Plant Society and Mike Vasey, Biology Professor from San Francisco State University. Videos to come real soon!

photos ©David Burban

Of course, we could not have rocked this celebration without the help of our wonderful volunteers, you know who you are. So thank you to everyone who provided a hand in the party planning! Visit our Facebook page for more pictures of the celebration.

photos ©David Burban

We have many more events coming up real soon! Be sure to RSVP for our Big Year Bike Ride next week, Saturday, October 20th from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm. Sign-up for a Wild Equity account, visit our calendar, RSVP and join the Wild Equity fun!

After the amazing discovery of the Franciscan manzanita in the Presidio, the Wild Equity Institute filed a petition under the Endangered Species Act to ensure that the long-term recovery planning process for the species was conducted using the best recovery tools available.

As part of the short-term plans to protect the individual plant, biologists from several agencies determined the plant should be moved to a more secure site within the Presidio. This video documents some of the work done on the project.

Now that the move is complete, long-term recovery planning for the species—in addition to the work to save this individual plant—will now move forward.

In preparation of tonight’s celebration for the Franciscan Manzanita, the Wild Equity Institute has compiled the remarkable story of this little plant’s most recent history. It is a genuine Endangered Species Act success story, one that we hope will inspire us all. And there is no better day to share this story than today, the day the plant formally receives federal Endangered Species Act protection nearly 70 years after it was mistakenly deemed extinct in the wild.

The Process.

Rare plants do not receive automatic protection simply because they are on federal lands. And the Franciscan manzanita was worse than rare—it was presumed extinct in the wild, and extinct species receive no protection at all.

So when the Franciscan manzanita was rediscovered in the the Presidio Parkway’s construction footprint, CalTrans could have destroyed it without any legal consequence, particularly since the project had already been approved through CEQA and NEPA.

It was only through a coordinated effort of multiple parties that this outcome was avoided. One of the parties that played a role in this was the Wild Equity Institute, which, along with the California Native Plant Society and the Center for Biological Diversity, filed an emergency administrative petition to list the plant as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

A petition is not a lawsuit—it is a formal, legal request to protect the species, combined with the best available science that demonstrates how the species meets the criteria for listing under law. The Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed this petition and determined that the petition presented substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing this species may be warranted: a decision it made unilaterally and without litigation.

Shortly thereafter, the Service wrote a rule to protect the plant, but the rule became buried in the federal rulemaking process, somewhere between the Service’s regional office in Sacramento and the Federal Register’s publishing office in DC. When that happened, Wild Equity worked with San Francisco’s local and federal politicians to get the process moving again.

While a lawsuit ultimately was filed as a part of this work, it was not fully briefed, because the suit caught the attention of agency insiders with the power to take the written rule and send it to the Federal Register for printing. That simple act was all the species needed for it to finally receive full protection under law. Once that happened the case was voluntarily dismissed.

The Priority.

It is hard to imagine a more pressing conservation priority than the last known wild plant of an entire species that is ‘in the way’ of a multi-billion dollar construction project connecting San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge. Nonetheless, some critics—typically unsophisticated or uninformed, but occasionally spiteful—have suggested that the plant is undeserving of protection. the most spiteful criticisms suggest that Franciscan Manzanita protection prevents some other deserving conservation priority from being achieved.

Unlike these commentators, the Fish and Wildlife Service has always considered the Franciscan manzanita to be a top-tier conservation concern: in 1980 the Service ranked it a Category 1 conservation concern, losing out on formal protection only because it was thought extinct in the wild.

But even if it were true that other species deserve higher priority than the Franciscan Manzanita, the assertion that protecting the Manzanita negatively affected the Service’s other conservation priorities is not true. The Service was able to use this species’ remarkable story to secure specific funding to process the listing rule. No one has ever suggested that this listing rule took funding away from the protection of any other species in need.

Other uninformed criticisms suggest that recovery planning will never occur for this species, because no private entity or local government will spend the funds to do it. But the Federal government creates recovery plans for listed species, not local governments or private entities: therefore, the argument that entities like San Francisco’s Natural Areas Program will not aid recovery because it is inept or underfunded is simply non sequitur.

Moreover, when Dr. Peter Baye drafted the official federal recovery plan for Coastal Plants of the Northern San Francisco Peninsula about a decade ago, he included recovery recommendations for the Franciscan manzanita, one of the many acts of prescience in his remarkable career. Much of the investment needed for recovery planning has thus already been done.

The Plant.

Perhaps the most uninformed—and surprisingly heartless—criticism is that the Franciscan Manzanita is a “weak” species, unable to survive in the limited habitats where it was found. In fact, the recovery plan states that the species is “easily cultivated,” “thrives on neglect after established on a wide range of substrates,” has “good soil adaptability,” and “sets viable seed that can be propagated,” all of which indicates the species is perfectly capable of thriving if left to its own devices. The historic record also indicates that franciscana was a robust species: until it was deliberately destroyed by urban development. It exists today because of the heroic acts by some of California’s greatest botanists who saved specimens from imminent destruction: and because developers just happened to miss a spot.

The Promise.

The Endangered Species Act listing will give botanists the best tools ever adopted by any nation to recover Arctostaphylos franciscana, and with so many Arctostaphylos experts in the Bay Area, we are confident it will recover and one day be delisted like the Brown Pelican, the Bald Eagle, and dozens of other Endangered Species Act success stories.

On October 5th, the Franciscan Manzanita will officially get federal protection under the Endangered Species Act! We’re hosting a party that day to celebrate this giant leap forward for plantkind, and you can help us make this the greatest manzanita party ever by:

· Inviting our members and supporters to the celebration
· Setting-up and tearing-down on Oct. 5
· Delivering food and party favors to the venue
· Welcoming people at the door
· Distributing flyers
· Serving food and drinks
· DJ’ing
· Photography and videography on Oct. 5
· And more!

Contact Roxanne at rramirez@wildequity.org or (415) 347-6518 if you want to help us party!

Cheers to the protection of the Franciscan Manzanita!