Species Profile

Branched Phacelia

Scientific Name: Phacelia ramosissima
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: British Columbia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2005
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered


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Quick Links: | Taxonomy | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

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Taxonomy

Since the species is represented in Canada by only the ramosissima variety (Phacelia ramosissima var. ramosissima), the name “Branched Phacelia is used here without the variety being specified.

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Description

Branched Phacelia is a perennial herb with prostrate to weakly ascending stems 0.5 to 1.5 m long. The stem leaves, 10 to 20 cm long and 3 to 10 cm wide, are alternating. The stems and leaves are glandular-hairy. The lavender, pale cream, or sometimes white flowers form a dense, fiddlehead-shaped terminal cluster. The fruits are capsules that contain 8 to 12 seeds. In British Columbia, Branched Phacelia may be confused with silverleaf phacelia, which is also found in the southern Okanagan Valley. However, the two species can be easily distinguished by their leaves: silverleaf phacelia has simple leaves, while the leaves of Branched Phacelia have cleft and toothed lobes.

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Distribution and Population

Branched Phacelia occurs in western North America, from the Okanagan Valley in south-central British Columbia south through Washington and Oregon to Nevada and southern California. In British Columbia, Branched Phacelia has been found at 12 sites on the slopes of Mount Kruger, near Osoyoos, in the southern Okanagan Valley. Branched Phacelia has likely always been rare in British Columbia, since the province is at the northern extent of the species’ range and its distribution is limited to a specialized habitat. The total Canadian population of Branched Phacelia consists of three separate populations, all on Mount Kruger in the southern Okanagan Valley. One of the populations is on the west slope, the second is on the north slope, and the third population (which has eight subpopulations) is on the east slope. Two additional subpopulations that were on the east slope have been extirpated. The total number of plants in the three extant populations is under 700. Population trends are unknown because there have been no monitoring studies on the species since it was first reported in 1986.

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Habitat

The Canadian populations occur on the slopes of Mount Kruger, in southern British Columbia. This area of the southern Okanagan Valley is one of the most populated and developed in the British Columbia interior. Branched Phacelia is restricted to a narrow band of extremely dry talus and rock debris at the base of usually calcareous cliffs and rock outcrops. Vegetation at these sites is often sparse due to the harsh conditions.

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Biology

Little information is available on the biology of Branched Phacelia. However, it is known that the species is a perennial that is well adapted to growing in areas with little precipitation during the growing season. Below-ground moisture, which is replenished each winter, is apparently sufficient for vegetative growth and flower and seed production. The plant is a heliotrope, with its flowers turning to face the sun throughout the day. Bees are known to be major pollinators of Branched Phacelia in California and are probably also important in the southern Okanagan Valley, where plants grow close enough to each other for effective pollen transfer. The plants produce a large quantity of seeds. Short-range dispersal is likely by small birds or mammals and, in some cases, by downslope movement of seeds.

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Threats

In general, the natural habitats in the Okanagan Valley where this species is found have shown a marked decline during recent years due to various land developments. The land has been found suitable for orchard, vineyard, golf course, housing, and industrial development. The South Okanagan is currently experiencing the fastest population growth in the province. In British Columbia, Branched Phacelia is therefore subject to continued habitat loss. Branched Phacelia is limited to talus slopes in the southern Okanagan Valley and therefore has a highly restricted distribution in Canada. Mining exploration and urban development in the Mount Kruger area are both major threats to the Canadian population. The destruction of two known subpopulations was the result of these activities.

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Branched Phacelia is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Branched Phacelia is not protected under any provincial legislation in British Columbia. However, one population (on the west slope of Mount Kruger) and one subpopulation (on the east slope) occur within the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area and are therefore protected under the British Columbia Park Act.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Branched Phacelia (Phacelia ramosissima var. ramosissima) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

8 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Branched Phacelia Phacelia ramosissima in Canada (2005)

    Branched phacelia (Phacelia ramosissima) is a member of a genus of about 150 species, occurring mostly in western North America and Mexico. Eight of these species occur in British Columbia and 11 in Canada. Since only a single variety (var. ramosissima) is found in Canada the species is referred to simply as P. ramosissima in the report except where required for clarity to distinguish the species in Canada from variants in the United States.

COSEWIC Assessments

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Branched Phacelia (2005)

    A geographically highly restricted perennial known only from three small populations numbering fewer than 1,000 plants subject to continued habitat loss and population decline from urban expansion and mining activities.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Branched Phacelia (Phacelia ramosissima var. ramosissima) in Canada (2012)

    The Branched Phacelia was listed on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) as Endangered in August 2006. In the spirit of cooperation of the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, the Government of British Columbia has given permission to the Government of Canada to adopt the “Recovery strategy for the Branched Phacelia (Phacelia ramosissima var. ramosissima) in British Columbia” under Section 44 of the Species at Risk Act. As the competent minister under SARA, the federal Minister of the Environment has included an addition (Part 1) which completes the SARA requirements for this recovery strategy, and excludes the section on Socio-Economic Considerations. Socio-economic factors are not part of the consideration process for federal recovery strategies developed under SARA. These factors are kept isolated from this strategic phase of recovery planning. The British Columbia Ministry of Environment led the development of the attached recovery strategy for the species (Part 2) in cooperation with Environment Canada.

Orders

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2005 (2005)

    2005 Annual Report to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: November 2005 (2005)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.