SAN FRANCISCO – To an average person, it may just be a drab clump of evergreen leaves indistinguishable from the other plants in the Presidio woods. But the rediscovered San Francisco shrub now has the protection of the federal government.
Officials added the Franciscan manzanitas new status to the federal Endangered Species list Wednesday, meaning anyone who tampers with the plant faces criminal charges and fines.
A single Franciscan manzanita shrub was spotted near a construction site by a botanist driving over the Golden Gate Bridge in 2009. It was previously thought to have been wiped out when one of its last natural habitats was bulldozed in 1947.
Officials and environmentalists called the discovery miraculous.
It was like all the lions in the wild were gone and we thought that there were none left ... and suddenly someone finds a wild pair, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Sarah Swenty said.
After the shrub was replanted in a safer spot in the Presidio Trust, environmental groups sued to provide additional protections, including endangered species status.
Officials have proposed about 300 acres around the city and the Presidio where the ground-hugging shrub can grow again. The plant can also be found in botanical gardens, and hybrid descendants have been sold.