What is the Santa Ana River Woolly Star?
Biologists call it the Eriastrum densifolium sanctorum. The Santa Ana River woolly star is a wild flowering plant. It belongs to the Riversidian Alluvial Fan Sage Scrub community that dominates the Santa Ana River flood plain.
With stems growing 10 to 30 inches tall from a woody base, the plant has a white woolly color with irregularly divided leaves along its stem and blue-lavendar flowers forming slender tubes that radiate open at the top. It blooms every year from late May to mid-August, with peak flowering in June.
Why is it in danger?
The Army Corps of Engineers and the three flood control districts (sponsors) are now building the much-needed Santa Ana River Mainstem Project to protect over three million people from massive flooding in San Bernardino, Riverside, and Orange Counties. A key feature of the project is the Seven Oaks Dam in upper Santa Ana Canyon - about two miles upstream from where the woolly star grows. When completed in 1999, the dam will be more than double the current level of flood protection. In doing so, it will reduce the amount of sand that flows with water in the river and settles in the streambed below.
The woolly star depends on new sand deposits for its survival. The plant first sprouts in this new sand. Since each plant lives an average of only 5 years, seed reproduction by pollination is the basic way the new plants take root in "older" sand.
Over the long term, without new sand deposits, all Santa Ana woolly stars would die. Fortunately, the Santa Ana Project includes a federal and local government commitment to preserving the woolly star.
What is being done to help?
The flood control districts have permanently reserved 764 acres in the Santa Ana River flood plain where the woolly star grows today(see below). The San Bernardino County Flood Control District will manage the "reserve".