Rare Bush Back from Brink of Extinction

Ecological discovery made due to Doyle Drive reconstruction

By Jackson West
|  Tuesday, Nov 17, 2009  |  Updated 1:45 PM PDT
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Rare Bush Back from Brink of Extinction

Tom Check

The berries and leaves of the Manzanita are edible, but it will be a while before Francsican Manzanita clones are producing fruit for the table.

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With it's signature knobby branches, papery bark, evergreen leaves and delicious berries, the Manzanita is a treasure that has fed and comforted Californians for time immemorial.

And while clearing land ahead of the Doyle Drive retrofit, botanists may have found the rarest Manzanita of them all -- the Franciscan Manzanita (Arctostaphylos franciscana), long considered extinct.

The last wild Raven Manzanita, the Franciscan Manzanita's ancestor, rests in a secret location nearby in the Presidio, and has been successfully cloned.

While the botanists await genetic confirmation, plans are already afoot to transplant the specimen and take cuttings in order to grow more.

Local botanists Mike Vasey and Tom Parker of San Francisco State University have been on the hunt for rare and endangered branches of the Arctostaphylos family tree for years, most recently trying to figure out if an Inner Richmond specimen was a Franciscan.

Don't worry, North Bay commuters -- it doesn't seem as if the find will delay Doyle Drive work, so you'll still be getting your new freeway.

Photo by Tom Check.

Jackson West wants a cutting to plant in the vacant tree well under his window.

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