By Ashley Ottombrino-Haworth, April 2018
This spring, staff and volunteers from the Institute for Applied Ecology and US Fish and Wildlife Service teamed up to plant over 4100 Willamette daisy starts at Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, 10 miles west of Salem, Oregon. Twenty-three total volunteers helped plant for this two-day field trip. The reason: to help restore the endangered Willamette daisy, a small endangered wildflower. Fortunately, the weather was ideal, and the two days were filled with great conversation and many laughs!
Willamette daisy (Erigeron decumbens) is one of our rarest Willamette Valley prairie species, and is federally recognized as endangered. It’s the only species of Erigeron with pink-purple flowers occurring in Willamette Valley prairies. Similar-looking Hall’s aster (Symphyotrichum hallii) co-occurs with Willamette daisy, but has red stems and white to pale-violet flowers.
This species struggles for survival due to loss of habitat and reproductive challenges. Willamette daisy flowers often produce very small quantities of viable seed, which can be a barrier to natural population growth and successful propagation in the greenhouse. There are only a few natural populations remaining, hanging on at some of the Willamette Valley’s prairie habitat remnants. Approximately 50 known populations remain. However, once seedlings are established and outplanted in suitable habitat, survival rates are relatively high, so we have high hopes for the plants at Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge.
We will be conducting a region-wide inventory of all remaining populations this spring/summer. The results from that will facilitate decisions about conservation and restoration of this species and its habitat. While unlikely, if you think you have Willamette daisy on your land, contact IAE for identification confirmation (best during flowering period), and if confirmed, we will add the site to our geodatabase.