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An Inconvenient Plant 

One of the world's rarest plants grows in the Presidio. Plans are under way to save it — and ax thousands of trees in the process.

Wednesday, Apr 16 2008
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Page 5 of 5

And then Parker made his next suggestion: As soon as you have a viable population, flip your lighter and burn them all.

"Nobody likes to hear that," he explains. "But the only way they reproduce is for the seeds to be stimulated by chemicals from smoke. That's their normal way of doing things." Padlocking the Presidio Fire Department's doors during an electrical storm could do wonders for the Raven's manzanita, he notes, only half-seriously.

For obvious reasons, wildfires are not encouraged in the Presidio, nor is the wanton immolation of rare plants. So, it seems the species will always be tied to humans, reproducing only when and where it sees fit — and that's if scientists are lucky enough to establish viable populations.

Back atop the bluff, Chassé shivers in the howling wind and peeks down at the manzanita, which is illuminated by the last rays of the setting sun. "It's a symbol, and as the last of its kind, it's a powerful symbol," he says. "It's a symbol of saving an ancient species and hope for the future."

Night fell, and Chassé hopscotched the poison oak in semidarkness. He mounted his bicycle again and pedaled home. Almost imperceptibly, the mother plant continued to quake in the wind. It had, improbably enough, survived one more day.

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Bio:
Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

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