The Delphinium bakeri, Milo Baker’s larkspur, named after the professor that discovered the species, was once known from several sites in the California counties of Marin and Sonoma. Gradually population after population has disappeared mainly due to agricultural practices (it is poisonous if eaten by livestock).
The final known wild population was on a roadside affecting no-one’s grazing animals. It is possible some local rancher has a secret patch of the plants that he doesn’t want any pesky Botanist to discover-even though it is entirely his to do what he likes if no-one knows it’s there, or if he doesn’t change the land-use. “This population of the larkspur was only discovered in 1983 ; it may have been there much longer but there are quite a few Delphinium species in the area and no-one else but the herbarium voucher collector noticed that it was different from all the others. Check the UC Berkeley Jepson Herbarium Floristic Interchange website for any facts on who made the collection(s) and where and when. The new North American Flora indicates the plant is already extinct in the wild! “Given its reduction to a single population, the plant has been listed both Federal “Endangered” and California “Rare.”
The Marin County Dept of Public works has EACH YEAR been informed of the presence of the Delphinium, red marks have been put on the road on each side of the population, red tags were put on the roadside marker there actually at the culvert, the resource ecologist of MDPW was shown the site just last year to make sure she knew of the plant’s location. If they had to do road maintenance, and it is true they did have to reduce mudslide debris on the Marshall- Petaluma road , they had a phone or e-mail contact that could have been used to get someone to salvage the plants without delay to save them for re-establishment later.
A researcher from UC Berkeley has been assessing the genetics of the plants and, luckily as it turns out, got permission to collect a limited amount of seed in 2004 before the back-hoe action.
Here is a link to a YouTube video about the efforts to preserve this species.
(text by Doreen L, Smith, rare plants coordinator, Marin Capter CNPS)