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Kelso Creek Monkeyflower

Mimulus shevockii

Audubon protects critical habitat up Cyrus Canyon

In 2006, after years of being good land stewards, the Sprague Family offered Audubon another significant piece of their land holdings in Cyrus Canyon. Audubon purchased then transferred the land to the Bureau of Land Management to protect this unique 1660-acre parcel of juniper woodland and upper Sonoran grassland in perpetuity. Because of its proximity to the only known population of Kelso Creek Monkeyflower (Mimulus shevockii) in the Kern River Valley, staff at Audubon speculated that this diminutive beauty would be found on Sprague land in this canyon.

Botanical surveys conducted this spring by BLM contractors not only found thousands of individuals of this species on the land but also a hybrid between M. shevockii and its closest cousin M. androsaceus. This finding is exciting because it is possible that the Kelso Creek Monkeyflower may actually have evolved from Cyrus Canyon and spread southward to other locations in the Kern and Kelso Valleys.

Audubon is pleased that this highly restricted species is now protected in this location through its efforts. "This is fantastic news, the size of this population exceeds our expectations," proclaimed Reed Tollefson, Manager of Audubon's Kern River Preserve. "We are really pleased to work with BLM and appreciate the help of our anonymous donor in protecting this important land for the monkeyflower and other sensitive species that occupy this land."

"It is amazing how successful Audubon has been in protecting so many rare species with strategic land acquisitions," said Alison Sheehey, Audubon Kern River Preserve . "Every time I take a walk on parcels protected by Audubon, I discover new plants, animals or archeological treasures that may have been lost forever without the foresight of land managers such as Reed Tollefson and our partners."


Family: Phrymaceae (recently moved out of Scrophulariaceae)

Description: Annual,  Annual, 2–12 cm, leaf 3–10 mm, corolla tube-throat 8–12 mm, upper lip appearing 4-lobed (lateral pair small), maroon-purple, lower lip appearing as 1 lobe, notched, yellow with maroon dots at base

Habitat: Joshua Tree Woodland, Pinyon-Juniper Woodland, desert washes, sandy granitic or metamorphic soils.

Bloom Period: March to April (few have been found blooming in February and May when temperature and rainfall are optimum).

Range: Just six to ten colonies in Kern, Kelso Creek, and Kelso Valleys in Kern County, California.

Found only in the Kern River and Kelso Valleys, , Alison Sheehey discovered two new populations of this flower this year.

For over 100 years Audubon has been protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences.



Photos courtesy Alison Sheehey ©

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