Native plants growing at the San Nicolas Island nursery include needle grass, box thorn, and island sage brush.

Channel Islands Restoration will plant 8,000 natives on San Nicolas Island starting in December.  CIR grew the plants in the island nursery that was rebuilt by CIR staff and volunteers in 2012.  This latest round of plant propagation was done under contract with the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and a Navy contractor.  CIR nursery manager Sheri Mayta has been tending plants in the nursery since spring, and they are almost ready to be planted.

Half of the plants will augment habitat for the Island Night Lizard, which is endemic to just three of the Channel Islands.  The lizard was recently removed from the endangered species list because of conservation efforts led by the Navy on San Nicolas and San Clemente Islands and by the Park Service on Santa Barbara Island.  Navy staff on San Nicolas have designed a project to enhance the habitat of the lizard by planting species the lizard is known to favor.  This includes California box thorn and two species of native cactus.  In the wild, these plants grow in impenetrable thickets that protect the lizards from predators.   CIR staff and volunteers will be planting these thorny plants in lizard habitat.  The plantings have also been designed to help control erosion.

Two species of cactus (prickly pear and Cholla) growing in the San Nicolas Island nursery.

The remainder of the plants will be installed where several wind generators are being constructed. The generators will provide a renewable energy source for a portion of the islands electricity needs, and the native plants will help control erosion where the towers are installed.

CIR staff and volunteers will be kept very busy planting and caring for these precious island plants in the coming months. Watch for upcoming volunteer announcements!