SOS for Finicky Native

By Lisa Owens Viani

In 2016, restoration managers with The Nature Conservancy discovered that western sycamores planted along the Sacramento River had hybridized with the non-native London plane tree. The native sycamore is “kind of a messy tree,” says project manager Ryan Luster. “The branches break off and create cavities that wildlife love to use.” Concerns about the tree’s status first arose in the 1990s when the California Department of Fish and Wildlife found only 17 sycamore stands larger than 10 acres in size across the state. Growing new trees from seed is a concern due to the fact that the seed may have already been hybridized, and growing from cuttings is not as easy as using willow or dogwood cuttings. “They are more finicky,” says Matt Quinn, ecologist with H.T. Harvey & Associates. “The conditions need to be just right.”

Editor’s Error: The photograph on p. 3 depicts a Bewick’s wren (not Benwick).

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About the author

Lisa Owens Viani is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental, science, land use, and design topics. She writes for several national magazines including Landscape Architecture Magazine, ICON and Architecture, and has written for Estuary for many years. She is the co-founder of the nonprofit Raptors Are The Solution,, which educates people about the role of birds of prey in the ecosystem and how rodenticides in the food web are affecting them.

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