San Francisco Lessingia

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San Francisco Lessingia

Lessingia germanorum

ListedJune 19, 1997
FamilyCompositae (Asteraceae)
DescriptionAn annual plant with lemon-yellow flowers.
HabitatDune scrub habitats, with blowing sand.
ThreatsHabitat destruction by urban and commercial development, and disturbance by off-road vehicles, pedestrians, and other factors.


The San Francisco lessingia is a slender annual plant with diffusely branched stems, and grows 4-12 in (10-30 cm) tall. The leaves and stems are covered with grayish, loosely interwoven hairs. The disk flowers of the composite inflorescence are tubular shaped, and are colored lemon-yellow with a brownish or purplish band. The florets are clustered into heads that are solitary at the ends of small branches. The seeds are attached to a long fibrous, parachute-like pappus.


The San Francisco lessingia occurs in dune scrub habitats, particularly remnant sand dunes and terraces in open areas with blowing sand. It occurs over an elevational range of 80-300 ft (24-91 m). It is associated with the San Francisco spine flower (Chorizanthe cuspidata ), California broom (Lotus scoparius ), yellow bush lupine (Lupinus arboreus ), and Chamisso's bush lupine (Lupinus chamissonis ).


The San Francisco lessingia is a locally evolved (or endemic) species of the northern San Francisco peninsula in California.


Historically, the San Francisco lessingia occurred in dune scrub habitats throughout the San Francisco peninsula. It is now restricted to the Presidio area (five populations), and near the base of San Bruno Mountain (one population). Natural habitats of the northern San Francisco peninsula have undergone extensive loss and degradation as a result of human activities, particularly urbanization. By 1984, more than 90% of the natural habitats of the northern part of the peninsula had been disturbed or converted. This ecological damage caused by intensive commercial and residential development has been the major threat to the endangered San Francisco lessingia. These threats are ongoing. Other threats include bulldozing, sand quarrying, fertilizer use, ecological damage caused by invasive alien plants, and trampling by off-road vehicles, pedestrians, and trail bicycles. The total area of all known populations of the San Francisco lessingia is less than 2 acres (0.8 hectare). The number of individuals varies from year to year, but from 1980 to 1989 the annual total in the Presidio populations was fewer than 1,500, while that on San Bruno Mountain was 1,600 to 1,800 individuals. The populations of the San Francisco lessingia within the Presidio are managed by the National Park Service. The population on San Bruno Mountain is jointly owned by Daly City and a private landowner.

Conservation and Recovery

Five of the six surviving populations of the San Francisco lessingia are located on the Presidio, which is managed as a national recreation area by the National Park Service. However, there are threats to the rare plant associated with recreational use of this area and other factors. In addition to the San Francisco lessingia being listed as a federally endangered species, the State of California Fish and Game Commission has listed it as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act and the California Native Plant Protection Act. However, these statutes do not fully prohibit the destruction of the plants or their habitat, because only 10 days notice of such destructive activity is required (so that a "rescue" operation can be undertaken, if possible). Conservation of the San Francisco lessingia requires that its best critical habitats be designated as ecological reserves. This can be done by designating land already owned by a government agency, by acquiring private land, or by negotiating conservation easements. Research into the biology and ecological needs of the endangered plant is also needed in order to develop effective ways of managing and conserving its habitat.


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

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office
Federal Building
2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2605
Sacramento, California 95825-1846
Telephone: (916) 414-6600
Fax: (916) 460-4619


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 19 June 1997. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Endangered Status for the Plant Lessingia germanorum (San Francisco Lessingia) from California." Federal Register 62 (118): 33368-33374.

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San Francisco Lessingia

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San Francisco Lessingia