San Nicolas Island: Planting Thorny Natives

To date, Channel Islands Restoration has installed 2600 nursery-grown native plants on San Nicolas Island with several thousand more to go! Starting in December, our first volunteer planting crew put in plants that would augment habitat for the Island Night Lizard. This species is endemic to only three of the eight 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 thorny plants grow in impenetrable thickets that protect lizards from predators. The plantings have also been designed to help control erosion. 

Volunteers wore heavy leather gloves and handled these thorny species mindfully, using hand tools such as tongs to gently position the cactus. CIR propagated these native plants from seed in the island nursery that was rebuilt by CIR staff and volunteers in 2012. Our latest round of plant propagation was performed under contract with the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and a Navy contractor. 

CIR nursery manager Sheri Mayta and our dedicated SNI field team of volunteers including: Carol Gravelle, Doreen Jones, and Dennis Kulzer have been tending the nursery and watching over the plants as they matured. Now that they are being planted in lizard habitat, our field team has expanded to include Kelle Green and Jon Huber, and will help to keep them watered and weeded as they become established. CIR staff and volunteers will be kept busy planting and caring for these precious island plants in the coming months. Watch for upcoming volunteer announcements!