Environment

Biologists discover new flora on Santa Barbara Island

'White mallow' not thought to have existed there

CHANNEL ISLANDS - The recent rains have created a gorgeous wildflower landscape on the Channel Islands, and along with the first day of spring, came a lovely surprise in the form of a newly discovered flowering plant.

Yellow blossoms, white island morning glory, purple blue dicks, and orange island poppy plants are in full bloom on the islands, but it's one particular flower growing on Santa Barbara Island that has biologists jumping with joy.

The white mallow, or Eremalche Exilis, was discovered by biologists during a recent expedition to the island. The small and delicate flowering plant was not previously known to have existed there. The only known existence of the white mallow was on Santa Cruz Island in 1888 and Santa Catalina Island in 1902.


Scientists believe a big reason for the white mallow's surprising reveal is due to the prolific rain this year. They believe the rains may have acted as a trigger, along with the level and intensity of sunlight and other weather elements, that contributed to the sprouting of the otherwise dormant seeds.

Mallow is from a desert plant family known to have seeds that lie dormant for long periods of time, sometimes for decades, before breaking the soil surface and springing to life, according to Channel Islands National Park.

Biologists located white mallow at five different spots on the island, mostly in disturbed grassland areas.

While the public is able to visit Santa Barbara Island, the smallest and least visited island within the Channel Islands National Park, damages to the landing dock caused by high surf in 2016 have resulted in the island's closure--at least for the time being.



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