EDITH A. PURER
San Diego, California
Excerpts Reprinted From
Volume 17, Number 4, Pages 541-550
In general, at about ten centimeters below the surface, the Convolvulus has numerous, branching, whitish, fleshy rhizomes. From the lateral, and sometimes from the terminal buds, there arise short, thin, reddish aerial branches each bearing four or five leaves. Occasionally in the early summer, these aerial branches grow three feet or more in length, dying at the end of the summer season. In addition to the the unusual growth development of this plant, there were in the spring of the year interesting aerial arches, produced by the tips of the rhizomes rising above the surface of the sand, and, as they continue to grow, burying themselves to their former level. It was this phenomenon which prompted a study of the growth behavior of the plant.
The sand spit is exposed to winds from all directions, especially to the prevailing winds which sweep across it from the ocean.
[to be compiled fully at a later time by Robert J. van de Hoek]
The thickness of the arches varies. It is usually the same thickness as the fleshy rhizome, but about one-fifteenth of all arches measured were found to be thinner than the rhizomes from which they developed. ...
No arches could be forced to arch either in the air or in a box. Arches could always be forced under the surface by changing the position of the growing tip form its level in the sand to a lower level. It then grew to its usual level, forming a small arch. Rhizomes with tips raised to the surface or pointing into the air either died or grew down to the previous level. Most arches were formed from terminal buds, but often form lateral buds. Occasionally, red lateral branches arch, the growing tips then bury themselves and later come to the surface with a branch development of five or six leaves. Whenever growing tips from the red lateral arches stayed buried, they contined their growth sa white, fleshy tips. Arches once formed never grow larger. Growth is at the tip of the rhizome. One rhizome, after forming an arch, grew 119 cm. in five months, a remarkably rapid rate.
In Convolvulus the rhizome, being geotropic, seems to become, during certain conditions in which there is a rise in temperature and sufficient moisture, phototropic and rises to the surface. Later, conditions change and it becomes geotropic, growing down to its old level.
[to be compiled fully at a later time by Robert J. van de Hoek]
ŠJuly 13, 2005
The article by Edith Purer is professional, relevant, and up-to-date, even 70 years after it was originally presented in 1935 at professional meetings of the Ecological Soceity of America. The setting, time, place, and mood of the country, when Edith Purer did her ecological research on Beach Morning Glory, was, of course, the Great Depression, with Franklin Roosevelt as President, and just six years before World War II. Interestingly, San Diego was beginning to grow quickly during the 1930s, particularly due to the San Diego Navy Base expansion, even though there was no war. This increase of development resulted in beaches, sand dunes, and salt marshes being greatly altered during this time period in San Diego County. Similarly, in Los Angeles, home development associated with the Hollywood movie industry and urban growth generally, many beaches, sand dunes, and salt marshes of Los Angeles were either altered or destroyed.
During the 1930s, as both a student at USC in Los Angeles and as a teacher at a San Diego High School, with the summer free for research and exploration, she traveled up and down the Pacific coast exploring for wildflowers on beaches. She also witnessed the changes occurring to the coast of California, which are documented in much of her writing during this time period. As a professional research scientist, she also took time to travel to UCLA in Los Angeles to present her research results of the Beach Morning Glory ecology on June 28, 1935. Her study of the Beach Morning Glory lasted three years and it is significant for showing an interest by a woman scientist for coastal ecosystems with all its unusual features of plant ecology. For example, she traveled from Oregon to Baja California, finding Beach Morning Glory in several locations. She focused her USC studies, however, on the Beach Morning Glory in both Los Angeles and San Diego. While conducting her field studies near the small village of Playa del Rey, she used her camera to photograph the flower of a Beach Morning Glory. The photo was taken in May, 1932, and it was published in her 1933 PhD dissertation. It appears to be the earliest known photograph of a Beach Morning Glory on the Los Angeles coast, if not the entire state of California. During this period she took additional photographs of Beach Morning Glory at Silver Strand Beach State Park near San Diego. After completion of her PhD, Dr. Edith Purer studied vernal pools and salt marshes, with her research also having been published in Ecology and Ecological Monographs respectively.
Due to the inspiration of Edith Purer, I have been researching, observing and studying a small population of Beach Morning Glory, which happens to be the last remaining remnant of Beach Morning Glory in all of Los Angeles (both City and County). As fate will have it, the very last individuals of Beach Morning Glory are located on a beach and sand dune, in the City of Los Angeles, adjacent to Del Rey Lagoon in Playa del Rey. The location of this population is just across the street from a city park that is managed by the City of Los Angeles. Surrounding the beach and the park are several homes and businesses of Playa del Rey. Incidentally, this last remnant of Beach Morning Glory is just a short walking distance from the offices of the Ballona Institute.
Unfortunately, this unique coastal native plant, endemic to foredunes and beaches, has become rare and defacto "endangered" and as a consequence, is sliding toward local extinction, since it is no longer abundant or common, as it once was from the 1800s to the 1950s. These last few individuals of Beach Morning Glory in Playa del Rey were once part of a vibrant population that stretched continuously for 30 miles from Malibu and Santa Monica to Redondo Beach and Long Beach. There are no other populations of Beach Morning Glory found on the beaches of these coastal cities. Of course, the rocky dune-less Palos Verdes Peninsula never had Beach Morning Glory. In fact, there are no other known Beach Morning Glory populations until one reaches Ventura County or San Diego County, because it is also extinct in Orange County. Historically, the only known location in Orange County was Balboa Beach in Newport, where it sadly has been locally extinct for some time. Consequently, if these individuals from the foredunes of Toe's Beach are eliminated there will be no other plants in all of Los Angeles County and Orange County. These last individuals sit squarely in the center of a proposed condominium development on private property. Incidentally, this private property is contiguous to Dockweiler Beach State Park, which is currently managed for the state of California by the County of Los Angeles.
Elsewhere in California, Beach Morning Glory has also been losing ground and declining in abundance. For example, in San Francisco County, Beach Morning Glory was abundant, onlly 100 years ago, but is now extinct according to the comprehensive study by Peter Raven (Howell, Raven, and Rubtzoff (1958). In San Diego County, Beach Morning Glory has also declined tremendously. In Monterey County, Beach Morning Glory has also declined due to development near the beaches. And similarly, in Santa Cruz County, development on the coast has caused its decline. Both Ventura and Santa Barbara County have also lost many populations of Beach Morning Glory, due to vacation home and residences being built on the foredunes and coastal strand in those counties. North of San Francisco on the California coast, Beach Morning Glory has fared somewhat better. However, the future there also looks bleak as more people want to live and play close to the beach and coast. The long term picture for the Beach Morning Glory is one of sliding toward extinction quickly in southern California but declining more slowly in northern California.
Here in Los Angeles, there are some people that think Beach Morning Glory could grow on the sand dunes at LAX Airport. Unfortunately, the LAX Airport Dunes are too stabilized with very little wind action moving the sand grains. Therefore, it is not good habitat for Beach Morning Glory. In additon, a great deal of the LAX sand dune is back-dune (leeward dunes) with prairie meadow-like habitat which is also too stabilized for Beach Morning Glory. However, if the coastal strand (foredunes), west of the LAX Sand Dune and below Vista del Mar Avenue, on Dockweiler Beach State Park was not raked, this area of State Park would accumulate sand and pioneer plant succession-like habitat would become established quickly, and this would become excellent habitat for the Beach Morning Glory within a few years. As you can see from this brief explanation, sand dunes are not a simple ecosystem. There are actually many microhabitats within a sand dune system, beginning near the seashore and extending inland for extensive distances. Another way to look at the situation is that LAX Airport Sand Dunes are further from the sea today due to the many groins and jetties built into the sea, so that the maritime effects of salt spray, fog, are changed, just enough, that the habitat requirements are no longer suitable for Beach Morning Glory.
This drastic turn of events in the geography of southern California beaches is a result of over-development and human modification, and it makes this population in Playa del Rey of Beach Morning Glory even more substantive for preservation and ecological restoration of this fairly natural beach and sand dune in the City of Los Angeles. The citizens of the City and those in its suburb of Playa del Rey need to take note of this situation and attempt to protect the sand dune in which this last remaining population of Beach Morning Glory occurs. In 2004-2005, citizen-community awareness has increased and it appears that there is hope for preservation of the Toes Sunset Beach Sand Dune. On the other hand, if this small dune in Playa del Rey is destroyed, it means the extinction of Beach Morning Glory would be sadly completed, not just for the City of Los Angeles, but for an entire County as well. Of course, this would be an ecological tragedy and environmental nightmare for Los Angeles, especially for a native plant that had been considered by experts at the California Native Plant Society as abundant and common, only a few years ago.
My last field monitoring and inspection on July 13, 2005, at Toe's Sunset Beach in Playa del Rey, showed one individual of Beach Morning Glory to have a total of 21 aerial growth nodes with about 5 leaves per node. Earlier in the spring this same plant had 3 flowers. Currently, this single plant has a total of approximately 105 leaves, which are spread by rhizomatous growth out over approximately an area of 175 square feet (15 feet by 15 feet). This plant is the largest individual of a handful of plants that make up the small population that is found only on the foredunes and dune crest habitat. The lee side of the sand dune and the meadowy depression behind the dune has no Beach Morning Glory, as it is too protected from the sea-breezes which this plant thrives on. Again, these few plants are all that remain of Beach Morning Glory in the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles. At California statehood in 1850, Beach Morning Glory is predicted to have had a nearly continuous distribution 50-70 miles on the coast of Los Angeles County, from Long Beach to Malibu. Alarmingly, the few plants of Beach Morning Glory on the Toe's Sunset Beach of Playa del Rey are all that remain in Los Angeles.
According to Edith Purer, LeRoy Abrams (Stanford University Botanist) collected Beach Morning Glory at Port Ballona in 1901. I have verified this fact by also seeing this herbarium specimen at the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) in San Francisco. It should be noted that in 1902, just one year after LeRoy Abrams botanized at Port Ballona, the name of Port Ballona was changed to Playa del Rey. In addition, I have seen another CAS herbarium specimen from Playa del Rey that was collected by Samuel Parish in 1917. Thus, we can surmise that the Beach Morning Glory was continuously present (extant in botanical jargon) from 1901 to 1917. However, in May, 1932, Edith Purer photographed a Beach Morning Glory in Playa del Rey, with an exquisite flower, so that we can positively extend the date of being extant for an additional 15 years. At that point in time therefore, we can surmise that Beach Morning Glory was cotinuously present from 1901 to 1932 in Playa del Rey, a total of 31 years. But then in 1978, I observed Beach Morning Glory at Playa del Rey, while a student of California State University at Northridge (CSUN). I also noted it several times during the early 1980s, while still a student at CSUN. Then, in 1998, I began to intensely monitor native plants and animals in the greater Ballona wetlands ecosystem, at which time I again documented Beach Morning Glory in Playa del Rey on the foredunes of Toe's Sunset Beach. That was seven years ago and now my current observations in July, 2005, show it to still be present in Playa del Rey.
During this time, between 1901 and 2005, Beach Morning Glory has had its scientific name changed due to earlier nomenclature and research of its morphology and evolution. In 1959, Philip Munz still had it in the genus Convolvulus, just as earlier botanists such as LeRoy Abrams and Willis Jepson had done. However, a few years later, Munz (1968) changed it to the genus Calystegia due to earlier research by Robert Brown and Edward Lee Greene, which was adopted by Philip Munz. A few years later, Munz (1974) reaffirmed this new genus, as has the new Jepson Manual, so today, it goes by the name of Calystegia soldanella (L.) Greene.
Essentially, we can surmise that Beach Morning Glory must have been extant from 1901 to 2005, an extended period of 104 years. What a shame if this 104 year documented history of Beach Morning Glory in Playa del Rey, formerly Port Ballona, is allowed to come to an end because of a large condominium complex that is planned to be built on the beach directly over the delicate and beautiful Beach Morning Glory population. As a biologist, geographer, and naturalist, I can state that this would be a biodiversity nightmare for Los Angeles. Especially, if one considers that there was once a widespread population that covered the beaches for 30+ miles from Redondo Beach to Santa Monica. It is scientifically accurate to state that Beach Morning Glory was present on the Los Angeles coast for centuries, if not for many millenia. And now, this plant is dangerously close to the brink of local extinction and extirpation, both in the City and County of Los Angeles.
In conclusion, the fascinating study by Edith Purer on the unusual growth form of Beach Morning Glory was published in a "first-rate" professional scientific journal called Ecology. It is a peer-reviewed journal by some of the finest minds in biology, zoology, botany, geography, and ecology. These scientists were members of the Ecological Society of America (ESA). It is truly significant that Dr. Edith Purer published an article on Beach Morning Glory in this journal, considering that it was the Great Depression and that "Ecology" was a male-dominated science, not to mention the overall difficulty of being a woman scientist in any era. This knowledge also elevates the importance of saving the last remnant of Beach Morning Glory in Los Angeles, where Doctor Purer began her studies of sand dunes of Playa del Rey at USC 75 years ago.