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My article on a rare, East Bay hills plant posted today in Oakland Local. I originally fell in love with the pallid manzanita as a kid, while playing at my best friend’s house on Manzanita Drive. The red bark was smooth to the touch and bushy leaves would yield pink blooms in the winter. In the spring, the fertilized flowers would grow into what poet Gary Snyder called “little apples”:

What I didn’t realize then was that the migration of the human species has largely displaced the pallid manzanitas. As Oaklanders built their homes, they’d raze whole colonies, or chop stray plants down for fear of fire. The pallids that remain—some 1,200 total in the East Bay hills and also the world—struggle in an increasingly shaded landscape. What residents may not realize is that the Oakland hills have not always grown into a green jungle, but frequently burned and regenerated as a largely sun-lit region.

In the article, I mention the efforts of the Friends of Sausal Creek, who have ventured into the far reaches of Joaquin Miller Park to find and restore this rare chaparral. They regularly host events where volunteers tend to Oakland’s many ecosystems, improving trails, tracking trout, monitor birds, collecting seeds and caring for native plants. Their work cultivating pallid manzanita at Big Trees has been a successful experiment so far. It also requires constant maintenance. A FOSC map shows the status of the Big Trees pallids as of April, 2010:

Oakland’s backyard needs weeding and trimming just like any green space. Future plans to propagate pallid manzanitas is underway at Chabot Space & Science Center, in partnership with the City of Oakland and the Wildfire Prevention District. They have plans to begin carving a sunny place for pallids very soon.

If you’d like to check out a thriving patch of the endangered chaparral, check out the Huckleberry Trail off Grizzly Peak. You’ll find them a few yards down the path. Take a left up a small incline and you’ll find yourself bathed in sunlight and surrounded in pallid manzanita splendor.