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


Species Descriptions

1.15 Golden paintbrush Castilleja levisecta

Assessment Summary – May 2000

Common name: Golden paintbrush

Scientific name: Castilleja levisecta

Status: Endangered

Reason for Designation: Highly restricted range with loss of nearly half of the historic populations and continued threats from spread of exotic plants

Occurrence: British Columbia

Status history: Designated Threatened in April 1995. Status re-examined and uplisted to Endangered in May 2000. May 2000 assessment based on new quantitative criteria applied to information from the existing 1995 status report

1.15.1 The species

Castilleja levisecta Hooker is a well-delineated taxon as described in the status report (Douglas and Ryan 1995).

Golden paintbrush is a multi-stemmed, erect (10-50 cm) perennial herb from a woody stem-base. The glandular, hairy leaves are alternate and range from entire to 3-lobed further up the stem. The inflorescence is a terminal spike with golden-yellow bracts that conceal the inconspicuous flowers. The dry capsules have many tiny seeds (Douglas et al. 2000; Ryan and Douglas 1995).

1.15.2 Distribution

Golden paintbrushranges from in and near Victoria on southern Vancouver Island and offshore islands to the southern Puget Basin (Figure 6). It is ranked S1 in Washington and is extirpated from Oregon (SH) and southwest Washington (Natureserve 2004).

The historic and current range estimates the former area of occurrence at approximately 300 km² (BC Conservation Data Centre records 2004). The current extent of occurrence is approximately 2-3 km² and recent vegetation surveys show the current area of occupancy is actually about 50,000 – 60,000  (5-6 ha).

Figure 6. Global and Canadian distribution of golden paintbrush
(Global historic distribution on left; Canadian distribution on right with star indicating approximate location of extant populations and triangles indicating extirpated populations)
Figure 6. Global and Canadian distribution of golden paintbrush (Global historic distribution on left; Canadian distribution on right with star indicating approximate location of extant populations and triangles indicating extirpated populations)

1.15.3 Population and distribution trend

The COSEWIC status report describes three extant 'populations' and seven other populations, which have been extirpated or for which there is no recent data (Table 14). One population cited in the status report has subsequently become extirpated leaving only two extant populations.

The COSEWIC status report estimates a total population size of 3,563 plants. Records from 2002 estimate a total of 8,850 although there are differences of opinions regarding this estimate (BC Conservation Data Centre 2004).

Table 14. Population information for golden paintbrush in Canada
PopulationLand TenureData from Status ReportSubsequent Data
DateObserver# PlantsDateObserver# Plants
Alpha IsletProvincial ecological reserve1994Cannings1,0002002
2004
Fairbarns
Penny
2,400
4,000
Trial IslandPopulation occurs on all three land tenures on Trial Island. These consist of provincial lands designated as an ecological reserve, provincial lands leased to a radio-communications corporation, and federal lands managed by Canada Coast Guard1992Douglas2,5602002Fairbarns6,450
Beacon Hill ParkCity of Victoria (designated as an urban park)1991Brayshaw32004Fairbarnsextirpated
Dallas CliffsCity of Victoria (designated as an urban park)1969ClarkextirpatedThis record refers to an extirpated subpopulation belonging to the Beacon Hill Park population
Cedar HillMunicipality of Saanich (apparently on municipal lands now designated as a an urban park)1887Macounextirpatedno subsequent data
so presumed extirpated
Lost Lake
(Blenkinsop L.)
unknown1945Hardyextirpated
Foul Bayunknown1918Carterextirpated
Patricia Bay Hwyunknown1954Melburnextirpated
Sidneyunknown1927Goddardunknown
Wellingtonunknown1898Fletcherunknown

1.15.4 Biotic and abiotic features of habitat

The habitat of golden paintbrush consists of mesic maritime meadows. The COSEWIC status report provides information on ecosystem structure, which has been refined with further vegetation surveys (Fairbarns pers. obs. 2004, Chappell 2004a). These meadows are less than 30 m above sea level. Their soils are over 30 cm deep and remain moist throughout the winter months but dry to the permanent wilting point by late summer. The sites have never been ploughed or hayed, but may have been lightly grazed and probably burned in the past.

Trees are rarely present and their abundance and canopy cover is never great due to the combined effects of wind exposure, salt spray and/or the droughty nature of the shallow soils.

Shrubs are usually absent or sparse although introduced species (Scotch broom [Cytisus scoparius], spurge laurel [Daphne laureola], gorse [Ulex europaeus]) are occasionally abundant. Native species (tall Oregon-grape [Mahonia aquifoilium], snowberry [Symphoricarpos albus]) are frequent but rarely abundant.

A mix of native and introduced species typically dominates the herb layer. The leading native species are forbs (common camas [Camassia quamash], great camas [C. leichtlinii], wild strawberry [Fragaria virginiana], barestem desert-parsely [Lomatium nudicaule], spring gold [L. utriculatum], bracken fern [Pteridium aquilinum], Pacific sanicle [Sanicula crassicaulis], white triteleia [Triteleia hyacinthina]), although a small component of native graminoids (tufted hairgrass [Deschampsia cespitosa], blue wildrye [Elymus glaucus]) may be present.

Introduced grasses (sweet vernal grass [Anthoxanthum odoratum], red fescue [Festuca rubra], Kentucky bluegrass [Poa pratensis], barren fescue [Vulpia bromoides]) and forbs (hairy cat's ear [Hypochaeris radicata], ribwort plantain [Plantago lanceolata], common vetch [Vicia sativa]) are often present, and any of these may dominate at a given site.

Mosses and lichens are usually sparse in extent, but Cladina portentosa and Dicranum scoparium may be moderately abundant.

1.15.5 Annual cycle

The information in the COSEWIC status report has been updated by subsequent study of plants on Trial Island and casual observations of plants on Alpha Islet (Fairbarns in. prep. a.).

Established plants resprout after the summer/fall drought. Buds on the root-crown break dormancy as early as August if there are late summer rains that moisten the soil. The young shoots may develop rapidly as long as temperatures remain high, and a small proportion of fresh shoots were observed flowering as early as mid-October in 2004.

In typical years, however, the soil doesn't become sufficiently moist to trigger bud break until mid-autumn, at which point cool temperatures retard shoot growth. Early shoot growth occurs just above the soil surface and the developing shoots have dense internodes and tiny leaves clustered close to the root crown, which are easily overlooked. Shoot elongation begins in late February or March and shoots usually reach full length by late April or early May. Flowering is coincident with the full development of vegetative growth in late April and early May. Green fruit are abundant in June and most fruit have ripened by late July. Seed dispersal begins in late August and continues until late November or early December.

Golden paintbrush is a root parasite (hemiparasite). The association between this species and related hemiparasites and their hosts is a relatively random process and a broad range of species may be parasitized (Atsatt and Strong 1970).

1.15.6 Biologically limiting factors

Seedlings with cotyledons still attached were not observed in natural environments in three years of study but seedlings were observed in March 2004 in an experimental area near the Trial Island plot. It appears either that germination or early juvenile survivorship is a rare event, only occurring in particularly favourable years. It is hard to determine whether low levels of recruitment are due to low germination rates or high levels of early mortality because the seedlings are extremely small and hard to distinguish from those of other species in the area. The potential for recovery of golden paintbrush appears to be limited by intermittent reproduction.