Catalog Number: US 4293
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Original publication and alleged type specimen examined
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): E. L. Greene
Year Collected: 1886
Locality: California, United States, North America
Comments: Rocky serpentine slopes and outcrops in grassland communities.
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 1 - 5
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N1 - Critically Imperiled
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G1 - Critically Imperiled
Reasons: Narrowly endemic to a small area on the Tiburon Peninsula of Marin County, California. There are 2 known populations; they occur within 3 km of each other and occupy a total area of less than 1 square km. Pedestrian traffic and non-native grasses are threats. The species requires a seed bank to survive.
Global Short Term Trend: Decline of 10-30%
Comments: Population numbers tend to fluctuate (1990 - 800, 1993 - 1350+, 1997 - 500), but area of occupancy is shrinking due to encroachment of urban development on the edges of the two populations.
Global Long Term Trend: Decline of 30-70%
Comments: Although never a widely distributed species, nearly all available habitat has been impacted by threats. Without proper management this species will further decline.
Degree of Threat: Medium
Comments: Currently the area receives low-level recreational day use (walking) and has a high occurrence of Mediterranean non-native grasses in adjacent microhabitats. Prior to 1997, habitat loss/alteration was the primary threat and may again be in the future. This taxon occurs in a restricted habitat (serpentine outcrops) in a very small area (< 1000 acres), however, all of its current habitat is on protected property. Large scale development probably destroyed all habitat outside of its current range. Currently, there are no plans to develop the protected property(s) however, this has not been true in the past. Prior to 1997 and again in 2002, discussions occurred over developing all or a portion of the property. (In 2002, it was construction of an emergency tower).
Streptanthus niger is an endangered species within the family Brassicaceae. Like other genus members, this herb has wavy petal margins with perimeter calluses that discourage larval herbivory. This plant is endemic to the Tiburon Peninsula of Northern California, and occurs at elevations below 150 m on serpentine grasslands. The common name for this species is Tiburon Jewelflower or Black Jewelflower. This annual herb blooms in May and June and displays dark purple sepals. The etymology of this genus scientific name derives from the Greek word streptanthus, meaning twisted flower, with reference to the notable wavy margins of the petals. The species name niger relates to the color of the seeds being black, although an alternate account cites the dark color of the petals as the source of the appellation.
Streptanthus niger is an annual herb attaining a height of 20 to 70 centimeters. The plant architecture may manifest as simple-stemmed or branching in the upper part. Lower portions of the stems are smooth and practically hairless. This self-pollinated plant has dark purple, almost black, flower petals; moreover, the petals have a purple claw and a white blade with a purple midvein. The zig-zag inflorescence pattern is an identifying characteristic; furthermore, the flower is almost closed at its throat. Sepals measure five to seven mm. The characteristic wavy petal margins have calluses that inhibit larval herbivory. The leaves of S. niger appear in a basal manifestation and measure less than nine centimeters in length; leaves are generally oblanceolate in shape, and may appear as coarsely dentate or short-lobed. Chromosomal characterization is 2n=28.
Distribution and habitat
There are only two known colonies of Tiburon Jewelflower, both of which occur on the Tiburon Peninsula, with a separation of about three km. One of the populations is in the vicinity of the historic Old St. Hilary's Church. The Federal Register listing document noted that S. niger occurs only on grasslands above shallow serpentine soils involving gentle to moderate southwestern facing slopes. The listing statement further notes that: "Serpentine soils are derived from ultramafic rocks such as serpentinite, dunite, and peridotite, which are found in discontinuous outcrops in the...Coast Ranges". According to the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Service: "species such as Tiburon jewelflower have adapted to serpentine soils and require them to survive".
The Tiburon Jewelflower was first collected by Edward L. Greene in the year 1886 at the site of Old Saint Hilary's Church on the Tiburon Peninsula. Streptanthus niger was designated as endangered by the state of California in the year 1990 and listed by the U.S. federal government five years later. By 1998 a Species Recovery Plan had been prepared to provide more specific protection measures for this endangered dicotyledon. For each of the two known colonies, the population has varied between 25 and 2000 over recent years, indicating the precariousness of the species. The California Native Plant Society has placed S. niger on List 1B (rare or endangered throughout its range).
- Kruckeberg & Morrison 1983 Madroño 30:230–244
- Marinero Estates Environmental Impact Report, Tiburon, California, Earth Metrics Inc., prepared for the city of Tiburon, Ca (1989)
- Jepson Manual, University of California Press (1993)
- Flora of North America: ssp. niger
- Federal Register: February 3, 1995 (Volume 60, Number 23) [Page 6671-6685]
- Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office profile for Streptanthus niger
- Recovery Plan for Serpentine Soil Species of the San Francisco Bay Area U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1998)
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: The FNA (vol. 7, 2010) treatment accepts Streptanthus niger as a subspecies of S. glandulosus.
To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!