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Climbing high to save a threatened West Coast plant

Scientists plan to resurrect liveforevers from extinction after a devastating fire

By
2:06pm, October 3, 2014
Santa Monica Mountains

RESURRECTING LIVEFOREVERS  A 2013 fire in the western Santa Monica Mountains left parts of the landscape charred and a rare plant species on the brink of extinction.

Protruding from a cliff face, a diminutive desert plant peered across a sapphire channel as flames charred the earth hundreds of feet below. The remote pinnacle should have protected the onlooker, as it had in the past, but the blaze was too hot. This time, the mountain burned, and the tiny succulent, known as Verity’s liveforever, wilted and died.

As the May 2013 Camarillo Springs fire cooked 98 square kilometers of coastal valley just northwest of Los Angeles, it almost wiped out the Verity’s liveforever, a dudleya succulent once abundant among the western Santa Monica Mountains.

This wasn’t the first time human actions caused problems for a dudleya (pronounced like the name Dudley with an “uh” on the end). Of the 45 or so dudleya species spread across the western United States and Mexico, nearly a quarter are threatened or endangered. The destruction has assumed many forms, from classic threats such as suburban development to imported colonies of hungry bunnies.

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