Large-flowered Fiddleneck

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Large-flowered Fiddleneck

Amsinckia grandiflora

ListedMay 8, 1985
FamilyBoraginaceae (Borage)
DescriptionAnnual with bright green foliage and red-orange, fiddleneck-shaped flowers.
HabitatClay soil on ravine slopes.
ThreatsRestricted range, reduced gene pool, poor reproduction.


Large-flowered fiddleneck, Amsinckia grandiflora, is an annual with bright green foliage covered with coarse, stiff hairs. It produces red-orange flowers arranged in a fiddleneck-shaped flowerhead. The species' reproduction system is considered primitive. Two flower types exist, and it is believed that this leads to decreased fecundity.


Large-flowered fiddleneck grows on a steep, grassy, southwest-facing slope of a small ravine with light-textured clay soil.


The species has been found only in Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Joaquin Counties in California. Development, animal grazing, and reproductive difficulties have reduced numbers throughout the original range. A single population survives on a 0.5-acre (0.2-hectare) site in southwestern San Joaquin County near Livermore. From 1980-84 the population varied in size from 30-70 individuals. The site is on U.S. Department of Energy property used for the testing of chemical high explosives. While plants do not suffer directly from these activities, the construction of an access road may have altered the natural drainage to the plant's detriment.


Large-flowered fiddleneck's restricted range and reduced gene pool have resulted in very low reproductive potential. Because the species is a rather unique representative of its genus, it has been collected frequently by botanists and further collection could jeopardize its survival.

Introduced plants and more aggressive Amsinckia species have invaded the habitat, displacing large-flowered fiddleneck. Controlled burning has been proposed to reduce competition from these other plants, but it is feared that an improperly supervised burn could eradicate the population. The U.S. Department of Defense and Lawrence Livermore Laboratory have authorized controlled burning and will initiate greater protection for the site, although there are currently no plans to end activity at the weapons test site.

Conservation and Recovery

Merely stabilizing the current population will not constitute recovery for the species, since any number of localized threats could render it extinct. One acre (0.4 hectare) of land surrounding the current population has been designated as critical habitat, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended establishing new colonies within the historic range of the species. Researchers have successfully germinated fiddleneck seeds that had been refrigerated, improving the chances that a greenhouse population can be cultivated.

Botanists have identified 160 acres (64 hectares) in San Joaquin County that would provide suitable habitat for expanding or relocating the large-flowered fiddleneck population. The identified habitat area is privately owned, and until it becomes available, active recovery for the species cannot proceed.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
Eastside Federal Building
911 N.E. 11th Ave.
Portland, Oregon 97232-4181
Telephone: (503) 231-6121


Ornduff, R. 1976. "The Reproductive System of Amsinckia grandiflora, a Distylous Species." Systematic Botany 1: 57-66.

Ray, P. M. and H. F. Chisaki. 1957. "Studies on Amsinckia." American Journal of Botany 44: 529-544.