Astragalus tricarinatus A.Gray is a federally-listed short lived perennial herb endemic to southern California. Its primary habitat is along the ecotone of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts in the San Bernardino and Little San Bernardino Mountains between 390 and 1525 m. Discovery of this species' upland habitat has prompted research into the ecology of populations across its range, as the life history and threats may be different from those of the previously-known wash populations. Our study sought to further document A. tricarinatus distribution and abundance within its range, as well as quantify impacts to its growth and reproductive efforts associated with co-occurring native and invasive plant species. We mapped all known localities in our study area on aerial imagery then used this to visually recognize its typical edaphic habitat and identify new potential sites. Where A. tricarinatus was found, we established plots in which plant size, the number of reproductive structures, and microhabitat characteristics were recorded. Two new occurrences (defined here as >1 km away from known localities) were recorded within its existing range as well as a previously undocumented locality between two known occurrences containing an estimated 2600 plants. Most plants were found on south and east aspects, and on slopes ranging from 30–45°. We found that increases in invasive cover correlated with a decrease in production of reproductive structures. As a federally-listed species occurring in steep, remote habitats with few threats, these findings suggesting an association between invasive species presence and reduced reproductive structures should be further investigated experimentally, as they affect population dynamics and conservation of this species.
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Vol. 65 • No. 4