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Reintroduction of the extinct Malheur wire-lettuce
New population creation
Stephanomeria malheurensis seedlings growing at OSU
Outplanting Stephanomeria malheurensis
Outplanted Stephanomeria malheurensis seedling at Dunes
Left: Growing Stephanomeria malheurensis in the greenhouse yard.  Middle: Watering in transplanted S. malheurensis seedling at the Dunes site in southeastern Oregon. Right: Newly transplanted  S. malheurensis plant at the Narrows site. Photos by Melissa Carr (left), Charles Wooldridge (center) and Brian Basor (right).  If downloading images from this website, please credit the photographer.

Project goal
To promote recovery of Malheur wire-lettuce by reestablishing the single known population of this species, creating new populations in managed sites containing appropriate habitat, and bulking seeds for seed bank storage and use in future recovery efforts.

Project duration
2006 - present

Stephanomeria malheurensis, a southeastern Oregon endemic, is known from a single location in Harney County. Because of its limited range, the species is extremely vulnerable to extinction. Only recently discovered in 1966 by Dr. Leslie Gottlieb, Malheur wire-lettuce was listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 1982, and by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) in 1989. However, by 1985 botanists were unable to locate any individuals of S. malheurensis at the site where it was discovered, and this species was considered extinct in the wild.  Luckily, Malheur wire-lettuce seeds had been collected by Dr. Gottlieb and sent to the Berry Botanic Garden (BBG) for storage at their seed bank facility, making recovery efforts possible for this rare species. A Recovery Plan (pdf document, 3.8 MB) specifying actions needed to recover this extremely rare species, including recommendations for creating new populations, was issued by USFWS in 1991. 
The first reintroduction attempt was initiated in 1987.  One thousand S. malheurensis rosettes were transplanted into the original site in early spring of that year.  The reintroduced population persisted in annually decreasing numbers, and by 2004 the species had once again disappeared from the site and was considered extinct in the wild.  In 2006, a Malheur wire-lettuce working group was formed to plan and implement recovery efforts for this species.  Members included representatives from ODA, USFWS, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), BBG, and the Native Plant Society of Oregon (NPSO).  The group decided to focus efforts on reintroducing Malheur wire-lettuce into its original location (referred to as Narrows), establishing a second population at a new site (referred to as Dunes), and bulking seed for future recovery work.  

ODA, in cooperation with USFWS and the BLM, began implementing recovery actions in 2007.  During the first year of this project, BBG generously provided germination and cultivation expertise (having grown the Malheur wire-lettuce seedlings used in 1987).  They also conducted seed germination studies and contributed a portion of the cultivated plants and bulked seed. 
2007 accomplishments:
  • Refined seed germination and seedling cultivation methodology
  • Outplanted 863 transplants at the Narrows and Dunes sites
  • Monitored transplants throughout the growing season
  • Established seed banks at each site: transplants produced an estimated 3500 seeds at Narrows and approximately 800 seeds at Dunes
  • Bulked over 22,000 seeds from 40 maternal lines for use in future recovery efforts
  • Initiated a direct sowing pilot study
2008 accomplishments:
  • Continued population establishment efforts by outplanting 1200 transplants at the Narrows and Dunes sites
  • Monitored transplant survival and reproduction, as well as recruitment from seed either produced by 2007 transplants or directly sown in 2007
  • Greatly improved transplant reproduction rates at both sites (overall percentage of transplants that reproduced was 57% in 2008, compared to 12% in 2007)
  • Fortified seed banks at both sites: Narrows transplants produced an estimated 27,000 seeds, and Dunes transplants produced an estimated 16,000 seeds
  • Bulked over 23,000 new seeds from 66 maternal lines to be used in continuing recovery work
  • Located reproductive plants recruited from seed produced by 2007 transplants at Narrows

Future work
ODA plans to continue working towards the recovery of the imperiled Malheur wire-lettuce.  If funding is available, we propose to:
  • Continue reintroducing Malheur wire-lettuce seedlings annually at Narrows in order to reestablish the only known (and currently presumed extinct) population of this species
  • Continue introducing Malheur wire-lettuce seedlings annually at the Dunes site in order to establish a second population of this extremely rare species on administratively protected land
  • Monitor Narrows reintroduction site and Dunes introduction site for transplant reproduction and new recruitment
  • Identify additional sites located on administratively protected land for establishment of new Malheur wire-lettuce populations
  • Establish and monitor additional new populations of Malheur wire-lettuce on administratively protected lands
  • Continue bulking Malheur wire-lettuce seeds to use in ongoing recovery efforts, as well as to increase and replace the number of stored seeds of this endangered species in order to maintain an adequate safeguard against extinction
  • Continue exploring direct seed sowing as an alternative method for new population establishment

2007 Malheur wirelettuce (Stephanomeria malheurensis) recovery efforts (pdf document, 3.5 MB)
Malheur wirelettuce (Stephanomeria malheurensis) reintroduction and seed bulking: 2008 recovery efforts (pdf document, 2.8 MB)
For more information about this species, visit the Malheur wire-lettuce plant profile.