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Creating a new population of Cook's desert parsley
First steps toward recovery
Cook's desert parsley plants in greenhouse
Volunteers collecting field data
Seeds setting on Cook's desert parsley plant
Left: Cook's desert parsley plants growing in greenhouse facilities at Oregon State University. Middle: Diligent volunteers brave prune-foot conditions to gather phenology data. Right: First signs of seed set becoming evident on a plant growing on the edge of a rocky vernal pool. Photos by Ian Silvernail. If downloading pictures from this website, please credit the photographer.

Project goals
To promote the recovery of Cook’s desert parsley by:
  • Developing seed germination and greenhouse cultivation protocols
  • Comparing soil chemical and hydrologic properties and plant morphologic and phenologic variables between the two unique population centers
  • Creating a new population on permanently protected public land

Project duration
2005 - present

Background
Cook’s desert parsley (Lomatium cookii), a rare member the carrot family (Apiaceae), occurs in two meta-population centers in Southwest Oregon. This species faces many threats, the most prominent being development, off-road vehicle use and the resulting alteration of hydrologic regime, mining, invasive species, and fire suppression and the resulting woody plant encroachment. In response to these threats and the potential for irrevocable loss of habitat and genetic integrity, ODA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) both list L. cookii as endangered. A draft recovery plan (pdf document, 5.30 MB) specifying actions needed to recover this species, including the creation of a new population, was issued by USFWS in 2006.

Summary
  • Seed germination and greenhouse cultivation protocols: Seed was collected from four populations, two in each of the two metapopulation centers, in June of 2006 and 2007. In order to determine the proper conditions for ex situ germination, all possible combinations of two seed sources, five periods of cold-moist stratification and two post-stratification alternating temperature regimes were examined. These studies demonstrated that seeds require at least 8 weeks of cold-moist stratification at 4ºC to germinate, with no differences in germination rates between populations or post-stratification temperature regimes. Maximum germination was achieved after 12 weeks of cold-moist stratification. Four periods of after-ripening are being tested in 2007; results are soon to come.
     
    Seedlings produced during the germination studies described above were then used to examine the effects of four substrates and two fertilizer regimes on survival and growth of plants from both meta-populations. The four substrates examined include two different nursery media and two composed primarily of field-harvested soil (one containing soil from the Illinois Valley, the other soil from the Rogue Valley). Above-ground height and biomass and below-ground biomass were evaluated as response variables to determine optimum conditions for growth. Percent mortality was also monitored. A second season of growth is currently underway and conclusions relating growth conditions and plant response will be reached shortly.  
     
  • Comparison of plant morphology and phenology between populations: At two populations, a variety of phenologic variables were monitored, including emergence, initiation of flowering, initiation of seed set, initiation of senescence, and initiation of seed dispersal. Results indicated that, subject to the conditions present in 2007, plants in the Rogue Valley populations developed approximately 3 weeks earlier than those in the Illinois Valley populations.  
     
    In greenhouse facilities, vegetative characteristics are being examined for two growth seasons for plants in their native soil and plants in the soil of the distant population center. Measurement of numerous vegetative morphological characteristics will elucidate the relationship between plant vegetative morphology and substrate. This is of particular interest because of the differences in soil properties between the two meta-population centers. In addition, a variety of floral morphological traits were examined in situ at the same populations represented in the greenhouse studies.  
     
  • Comparison of soil properties between metapopulations: Soil samples were analyzed once every two weeks from emergence until senescence for volumetric water content. Data from this study will improve our understanding of the relationship between soil water content and plant phenology.  
     
    Since soils at the examined Illinois Valley populations are serpentine-influenced and those in the Rogue Valley are not, numerous soil chemistry properties will be evaluated. This information will provide an important baseline for the evaluation of vegetative morphology data when seed sources and native substrates are combined in various ways.

Future work
Upon project completion, plants cultivated in the greenhouse trials described above will be utilized to establish a new population of Cook's desert parsley in the Illinois Valley in early spring of 2008. Consistent monitoring of this new population will further our understanding of the efficacy of outplanting as a potential recovery tool for the inimitable Lomatium cookii.
 
For more information about this species, visit the Cook's desert parsley plant profile.