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Recovery Plan for Upland Species of the San Joaquin Valley, California
Contents . Introduction . Species accounts . Recovery . Stepdown . Implementation . References . Appendix

6. Tejon Poppy(Eschscholzia lemmonii ssp. kernensis)

Taxonomy.-- Both this taxon and the next are members of the poppy family (Papaveraceae). Tejon poppy was initially given the name Eschscholzia caespitosa ssp. kernensis basd on a specimen from the "Tejon Hills, 2 miles northwest of Tejon Ranch headquarters, Kern County" (Munz 1958, p. 91). However, Tejon poppy has more characters in common with Lemmons poppy (Eschscholzia lemmonii ssp. lemmonii) than with tufted poppy (Eschscholzia caespitosa), and thus Clark (1986) renamed Tejon poppy E. lemmonii ssp. kernensis.

Description.-- Tejon poppy reaches a maximum height of 30 centimeters (12 inches). The deeply-divided leaves are mostly clustered at the base of the plant (Figure 23). Each flowering stem is taller than the leaves and bears a single erect, hairless bud that develops into a showy, orange flower. Tejon poppy lacks a rim-like appendage below the flower. The fruit is elongated and contains many tiny, rough seeds. Unlike Tejon poppy, Lemmons poppy has nodding, hairy buds and California poppy (E. californica) has a conspicuous, flared rim beneath the flower. Tufted poppy has smaller, yellow flowers and smoother seeds (Munz and Keck 1959, Clark 1986, 1993).

Figure 23
Figure 23. Illustration of Tejon poppy.

Historical Distribution.-- Tejon poppy is restricted to Kern County. Based on literature reports and collections, the taxon occurred historically in six areas in the low hills that surround the southern tip of the San Joaquin Valley (Figure 24). Twisselmann (1967) noted that in the Tejon Hills, this taxon occurred between Chanac and Tejon Canyons. Other historical locations were Dry Bog Knoll in Adobe Canyon (between Bakersfield and Woody), "mesas east of Bakersfield" (Twisselmann 1967, p. 240), Comanche Point (Twisselmann 1969), Elk Hills, Pleito Hills (CDFG 1995), and near Maricopa (Skinner and Pavlik 1994).

Current Distribution.-- Tejon poppy is known to remain extant at Elk Hills (Enterprise Advisory Services, Inc. in litt. 1998). The other historical populations may be extant but have not been revisited in 3 or more decades.

Figure 24
Figure 24. Distribution of Tejon poppy (Eschscholzia lemmonii ssp. ssp. kernensis).

Life History and Habitat.-- This annual herb flowers from March to April (Skinner and Pavlik 1994). Details of the life history are not known, but Tejon poppy populations are conspicuous only in years of above-average precipitation (Twisselmann 1967). Tejon poppy grows on adobe clay soils in sparsely-vegetated grasslands between 250 and 600 meters (800 and 2,000 feet) in elevation (Munz and Keck 1959, Twisselmann 1967, 1969, CDFG 1995). At Comanche Point, Tejon poppy was observed in association with Kern brodiaea (Brodiaea terrestris ssp. kernensis), Sunset lupine (Lupinus microcarpus var. horizontalis), and Comanche Point layia (Twisselmann 1969).

Reasons for Decline.-- Tejon poppy has always been rare by virtue of its restricted range and soil affinities. Twisselmann (1967, p. 240) described it as "normally scarce." Except for Elk Hills, all the areas in which it occurred are on private land, but none have been subject to urban or industrial development.

Threats to Survival.-- Potential threats to Tejon poppy include competition from exotic plants, overgrazing (Skinner and Pavlik 1994), and future residential development.

Conservation Efforts.-- This taxon has not been the focus of conservation measures, nor have any of the historical areas of occurrence been protected for other rare species. However, the U.S. Department of Energy sponsored floristic surveys that led to the discovery of four colonies of Tejon poppy at Elk Hills in 1997 (Enterprise Advisory Services, Inc. 1998). Occidental Petroleum is continuing the floristic surveys at Elk Hills, which may reveal additional populations in the area (J. Hinshaw pers. comm.).

Conservation Strategy.-- To ensure the long-term conservation of Tejon poppy, the strategy is to protect at least five populations representing the full geographic range of the taxon. Protected areas should be natural land in blocks of at least 65 hectares (160 acres) and should contain a minimum of 1,000 individuals to reduce the likelihood of extinction from intrinsic or random processes. Historical locations for Tejon poppy must be searched to determine if the subspecies is extant and what site-specific threat it may face. Any extant populations should be protected from identified threats. If Tejon poppy remains extant at Comanche Point, it could be protected in conjunction with Bakersfield cactus and Comanche Point layia. Monitoring is necessary to determine whether the populations are self-sustaining. When surveys have been completed, or at a maximum within 10 years of recovery plan approval, the status of Tejon poppy should be reevaluated.

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