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Recovery Strategy for Multi-Species at Risk in Maritime Meadows associated with Garry Oak Ecosystems in Canada (Proposed)


Species Descriptions

1.13 Bear's-foot sanicle sanicula arctopoides

Assessment Summary – May 2001

Common name: bear's-foot sanicle

Scientific name: Sanicula arctopoides

Status: Endangered

Reason for Designation: Highly restricted geographically with only five populations present within a major urban centre and on adjacent small islands where habitat losses continue and major risks are posed by exotic plants.

Occurrence: British Columbia

Status history: Designated Endangered in May 2001.

1.13.1 The species

Sanicula arctopoides Hooker and Arn. Is a well-delineated taxon as described in the status report (Donovan and Douglas 2000). Kartesz (1994) does not recognize any intraspecific taxa within this species.

Bear's foot sanicle is a tap rooted perennial with prostrate or ascending branches (5-30 cm long). Basal leaves form a rosette and are irregularly toothed, somewhat succulent and often yellowish. Stem leaves are reduced. The inflorescence is several to many compact umbels with bright yellow corollas surrounded by a distinct involucel. The seeds are egg-shaped schizocarps with hooked prickles. Bear's foot sanicle is distinguished from other sanicle species by its prostrate growth habit and conspicuous involucels (Douglas et al. 1998a; Donovan and Douglas 2001).

1.13.2 Distribution

Bear's-foot sanicle ranges from southern Vancouver Island, south along the Pacific coast to central California (figure 4). The Canadian populations are disjunct, by about 150 km, from the next nearest populations on the west coast of central Washington State. The species is ranked S1 in Washington and SNR in California and Oregon (Natureserve 2004).

In Canada, bear's-foot sanicle is restricted to a small area in and near Victoria, British Columbia. The historical and current range encompassed a narrow coastal fringe about 100 km long but only about 50 m wide, hence the extent of occurrence never exceeded about 5 km². The COSEWIC status report estimates the area of occupancy to be 3,614 . The combined area of populations subsequently documented at Rocky Point and on Discovery and Mary Tod Islands covers less than 200 . The extirpated populations at Chain Island, Cadboro Bay, Clover Point, Beacon Hill and Foul Bay are unlikely to have covered more than 1,000 . From this data, the current area of occupancy in Canada is estimated at 3,814 , down from a historic value of as much as 4,814 .

Figure 4. Global and Canadian distribution of bear's-foot sanicle
(Global distribution on left; Canadian distribution on right with extant populations shown as stars, extirpated populations as triangles)
Figure 4. Global and Canadian distribution of bear's-foot sanicle (Global distribution on left; Canadian distribution on right with extant populations shown as stars, extirpated populations as triangles)

1.13.3 Population and distribution trend

The COSEWIC status report describes five extant populations, one population with an 'unknown' status, and four extirpated populations (Donovan and Douglas 2000). Four new populations have been documented since this report and another extirpated population at Cattle Point has been confirmed. There are now nine known, extant populations of bear's-foot sanicle and it appears that 3-4 populations have become extirpated (Table 12).

Table 12. Population information for bear's-foot sanicle in Canada
PopulationLand TenureData from Status ReportSubsequent Data
DateObserver# PlantsDateObserver# Plants
Alpha IsletProvincial ecological reserve1999Donovan & Douglas52no subsequent data
Trial IslandPopulation occurs on provincial lands designated as an ecological reserve, provincial lands leased to a radio-communications corporation, and federal lands managed by Canada Coast Guard1999Donovan & Penny6,015no subsequent data
Harling PointPrivate property designated a National Historic Site1999Donovan & Douglas812002Fairbarns50-70 in flower
Saxe PointMunicipality of Esquimalt (designated as a an urban park)1999Donovan1,145no subsequent data
Bentinck IslandFederal lands managed by Department of National Defence1999Donovan & Penny712002Fairbarns3
Discovery IslandProvincial Parknot reported2002Fairbarns12
Mary Tod IslandMunicipality of Oak Bay (zoned for park use)2001Douglas~ 100
Swordfish IslandFederal lands managed by Department of National Defence2003Fairbarns6
Church PointFederal lands managed by Department of National Defence2002-3Fairbarns10
Cattle PointMunicipality of Oak Bay (designated as an urban park)2003Fairbarnsextirpated
Foul BayUnknown1942HardyextirpatedMay be same as Harling Point population (see above)
Cadboro BayUnknown1913Taylorno subsequent data
Clover PointCity of Victoria (designated as an urban park)1913Macoun
Beacon HillCity of Victoria (designated as an urban park)1938Eastham
Chain IslandProvincial ecological reserve1897Andersonunknown2002FairbarnsExtirpated

There is no indication of the past total number of plants in Canada. The COSEWIC status report estimates a total population size of 7,364 plants, although this includes both flowering and non-flowering individuals. The newly documented occurrences add slightly to the total estimated population. Unfortunately, there is no accurate estimate of the reproductive population, the criterion that COSEWIC uses to rank species.

1.13.4 Biotic and abiotic features of habitat

The habitat of bear's-foot sanicle consists of dry maritime meadows. The following information on ecosystem structure is from the COSEWIC status report supplemented by recent vegetation sampling (Fairbarns pers. obs. 2004). These meadows are less than 10 m above sea level. Their soils are over 15 cm deep and remain moist throughout the winter months but dry to the permanent wilting point by late spring. The sites have never been ploughed or hayed, but some have been lightly grazed by livestock and most probably burned in the past.

Trees are not present due to wind exposure, salt spray and the extreme droughty nature of the shallow soils. The same environmental stresses usually preclude the presence of shrubs, although small amounts of salal (Gaultheria shallon), Nootka rose (Rosa nutkana) and/or the alien Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) are occasionally present.

The herb layer is typically dominated by a mix of native and introduced species. The leading native species are forbs (Puget Sound gumweed [Grindelia integrifolia], thrift [Armeria maritima], field chickweed [Cerastium arvense], small-flowered birds-foot trefoil [Lotus micranthus], Spanish clover [Lotus unifoliolatus], white triteleia [Triteleia hyacinthina], slender plantain [Plantago elongata], dwarf owl-clover [Triphysaria pusilla]), although a small component of native graminoids (California oatgrass [Danthonia californica], many-flowered wood-rush [Luzula multiflora], beach bluegrass [Poa confinis]) may be present.

Introduced grasses (rip-gut brome [Bromus rigidus], soft brome [B. hordeaceus], hedgehog dogtail [Cynosurus echinatus], red fescue [Festuca rubra], early hairgrass [Aira praecox], fescues [Vulpia spp.]) and forbs (hairy cat's ear [Hypochaeris radicata], ribwort plantain [Plantago lanceolata], small-flowered catchfly [Silene gallica], small hop-clover [Trifolium dubium]) are often present, and any of these may dominate at a given site.

Mosses and lichens are usually sparse in extent, but Dicranum scoparium, Racomitrium canescens, Homalothecium sp. and Cladonia portentosa are often present.

1.13.5 Annual cycle

The COSEWIC status report provides little information on the annual cycle of bear's-foot sanicle although subsequent research has added pertinent information (Fairbarns in. prep. c.).

Germination occurs in January or February depending on weather events and site characteristics. Seedling mortality is low initially, with most juveniles developing 1-3 true leaves before the onset of the summer drought. Most populations are so dense that the survival of individual plants over the summer dormant season can't be determined. The dense nature of populations of this monocarpic perennial species suggests that survivorship through the first drought season is relatively high.

Established plants re-sprout after the summer/fall drought. Fresh rosettes appear as early as September if there are late summer rains which moisten the soil. In typical years shoot dormancy does not break until October or early November. Plants grow slowly through the winter and begin to die back by May. Most shoots are dead by June although a few large non-reproductive rosettes may not die back completely until early July.

Flower buds are usually evident by mid-February and flowering peaks in March or early April. Green fruit are evident by mid-May and fruit ripen in June. Fruit are shed slowly and many plants retain up to 20% of their fruit until October. Most of the barbed fruit are dispersed when animals brush against the plants but some fruit are dispersed when the dead shoots they are attached to snap off and tumble away.