Conservation & Research
June 19, 2021

Rare & Endangered

By Heather Schneider

The island barberry is one of the most endangered plants in California. Once known from Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and Anacapa Islands, the entire wild distribution of this species now exists as just 10 genetically distinct individuals in a handful of remote locations on Santa Cruz Island. For several years, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden has been working with partners to understand, protect and restore this rare and imperiled shrub. In early 2020, Garden staff, in collaboration with partners from The Nature Conservancy and Wildlands Conservation Science, traveled across Santa Cruz Island via helicopter and cut through thick brush and poison oak to collect cuttings from island barberry plants for propagation in our nursery. Since this species no longer produces seeds in the wild, these cuttings will be used to increase the diversity of living collections at the Garden and at partner institutions. Once full grown, these plants will also provide material for future restoration and reintroduction efforts on Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and Anacapa Islands. When visiting the Garden, one can find specimens of this State and Federally Endangered plant in the rare plant display that hugs the Pritzlaff Conservation Center, near the Porter Trail, and in the Arroyo Section.

Garden staff carefully collected cuttings from wild island barberry collections, tagging each stem in the field with a unique number so that we can track its fate. 
Island barberry (Berberis pinnata ssp. insularis)
Sean Carson (SBBG Rare Plant Technician) and John Knapp (The Nature Conservancy) navigate through thick brush to access island
Island barberry cuttings were treated with rooting hormone and stuck in perlite to promote root development. 
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