Fellow Story

Jesus seeks protection for rare California daisy

Maria Jesus, in collaboration with the Center for Biological Diversity and California Native plant Society (CNPS), has petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Fish and Game Commission to protect the rare Inyo rock daisy, currently imperiled by gold mining claims. 

“This sweet little flower is incredibly rare, and nearly every population is found on mining claims,” said botanist Maria Jesus, who is a 2019 Switzer Fellow, the petition’s primary author and recently completed field surveys documenting the plants’ current range. “These protections will ensure that the daisies aren’t bulldozed out of existence. We’re in an extinction crisis and we can’t afford to lose another species.”

The Inyo rock daisy is a rare wildflower found only at the highest elevations of the southern Inyo Mountains, between the Eastern Sierra and Death Valley National Park in California. It lives on ancient carbonate bedrock that possibly holds submicroscopic gold, and now a large-scale gold mining project is proposed in one of the few places the rock daisy occurs, Conglomerate Mesa.

Maria's work and the petition to protect the daisy were featured in an LA Times story describing her field work and how she got hooked on protecting this rare plant. 

The first time she laid eyes on Perityle inyoensis, [Jesus] was hooked.

“It was all by itself on a cliff on a scorching summer day,” she recalled, “luring pollinating wasps into service with its brilliant yellow flowers.”

“Right then and there,” she added with a proud smile, “I vowed to do everything in my power to ensure its survival.”

Read the full LA Times story here, and learn more about the petition in this Center for Biological Diversity press release

“It is a sad day when one of our precious wildflowers requires the protection of the Endangered Species Act,” said CNPS Conservation Program Director and Switzer Fellow Nick Jensen in the press release. “That said, I think we have the opportunity to safeguard this species before mining brings it to the brink of extinction.”