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Out-of-Place Plant Species Discovered in Santa Monica Mountains

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Whisker Brush | Tony Valois/National Park Service

Whisker Brush | Tony Valois/National Park Service
Last week, a team of National Park Service botanist were surveying for sensitive and endagnered species near Sandstone Peak, the tallest point in the Santa Monica Mountains, when they came upon something out of place. It was whisker brush (Leptosiphon ciliatus), which is typically found at higher elevations in the Sierras, not in Southern California, even around 3,000 feet elevation. "It's totally a shock to find something new when you weren't looking for it," exclaimed Tony Valois, a biological science field technician, who made the discovery. The Santa Monica Mountains are some of the most rigorously combed through mountains in the region for botanists. Considering that, Valois said to discover the plant out of it's normal ecological range is "really spectacular."

The miniature plant is an annual herb that is native to California and the Western U.S, according to the non-profit Calflora. It tends to grow in dry open areas between 5,000 to 7,000 feet elevation and blooms between April and July.

While the discovery increases the ecologcail diversity of the mountain range, it probably won't be the last. "The Santa Monicas are so diverse floristically," Valois explained, pointing out other recent discoveries. In April, a tiny white western pearlwort (photo below), typical to mountains east and south of Los Angeles, and an un-identified Gilia was also recently found on a rocky volcanic outcrop.

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White Western Pearlwort | Photo by Tony Valois/National Park Service