Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 29, 2020


Jeff Miller, (510) 499-9185,

Coastal California Sunflower Is Latest Endangered Species Act Success

Change of Status Proposed for Beach Layia, From Endangered to Threatened

EUREKA, Calif.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed today to change the Endangered Species Act status of beach layia, a small sunflower that grows only in California’s coastal dunes, from endangered to threatened.

The largest populations of beach layia are found on the north coast in Humboldt County, where it grows in 15 locations — mostly around Humboldt Bay — and at Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County. In the central coast there are three small populations on the Monterey peninsula, and there is a small south coast population at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County.

“The lovely beach layia has benefitted immensely from protection under the Endangered Species Act and is headed toward recovery,” said Jeff Miller, a senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Their gorgeous white, yellow and purple flowers now adorn more than 600 acres of our coastal dunes.”

Beach layia was listed as endangered in 1992 because of damage to dunes habitat from human disturbances, particularly from off-road vehicles, agricultural activities, pedestrians and development.

Since a recovery plan was developed for the species in 1998, a significant amount of suitable dune habitat has been protected as preserves and conservation areas. Threats have been reduced, especially by prevention of off-road vehicle driving in the flower’s habitat. Beach layia has responded by increasing in abundance and there are now nine robust populations of the flowers that each had more than one million plants during 2017 surveys.

But beach layia still faces threats, mostly from invasive plants which compete for growing space on open areas of sandy dunes. Invasive plants can also artificially stabilize coastal dunes, disrupting natural dune movement and processes that layia plants depends on. They’re further threatened by livestock grazing, erosion and disturbance from off-road and equestrian recreation, rapid climate change, sea-level rise and pesticide use.

“The future looks better for beach layia, but its survival isn’t secure yet,” said Miller. “There are still many threats to this flower, including from invasive species, climate change and cattle grazing. It could also benefit from reintroducing plants to former sites where it once thrived, to expand its range and resilience.”

An estimated 20% of beach layia occurrences at Point Reyes National Seashore are subject to cattle grazing, which has caused a decline in the flower’s abundance. Livestock trample layia plants and also increase the spread of weeds. The National Park Service is finalizing a plan to continue unsustainable levels of cattle grazing at Point Reyes, over the objections of conservation groups that want to end commercial cattle ranching in the national park.

“There’s no excuse for allowing any cattle grazing in habitat for beach layia and other endangered plants at Point Reyes National Seashore,” said Miller.

Beach layia occurs on the north coast in five areas in Humboldt County, with the largest populations near Humboldt Bay and the mouth of the Mattole River. One of largest populations in size and acreage is at Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County. Former layia populations have been eliminated from San Francisco, Point Pinos in Pacific Grove and two locations in Humboldt County.

Beach layia. Photo courtesy of National Park Service. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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