Tiffany Knight, PhD, associate professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, chose Tidestrom's lupine as a research project because "it is endangered and yet has close relatives that are doing just fine. There's even a lupine in the northern California, the yellow bush lupine, that is really common and, in fact, is expanding its range. It's all the way up into Canada and it's been introduced to New Zealand and is doing well enough to be considered invasive there.
"So you have these lupines that are performing very differently and the basic ecological question is why? What makes some species vulnerable and others not?"
Eleanor Pardini, PhD, a research scientist in biology, points out that Point Reyes has 49 rare plant species and several groups of plants that have a suite of rare to common or even invasive species a perfect setup for ecological research.
Knight, who is studying several different groups of plants at Point Reyes, says northern California is a biodiversity hotspot even by global standards.
Life on the down low
Tidestrom's lupine (Lupinus tidestromii), which is named after the botanist Ivar Tidestrom, doesn't look much like the ornamental lupines found in gardens (or featured in Monty's Pythons "Dennis Moore," the sketch where the eccentric highwayman demands coach passengers hand over their lupines.)
Instead of standing tall, Tidestrom's flowering stalks lie on the sand. The species looks like a lupine with its sails reefed and the hatches battened down for a big blow.
From a coldly practical point of view, the lupine would seem to be inviting consumption by displaying its fetching fruits so enticingly on the sand.
But Knight says the plant's slouchy morphology makes sense, given its habitat.
"It's a terrific morphology for a plant that is living in an early succession sand dun
|Contact: Diana Lutz|
Washington University in St. Louis