So, How Much Does it Cost to Care For an 'Extinct' Plant For 10 Years?

Franciscan Manzanita.jpeg
© California Academy of Sciences
Which costs more: Nurturing a super-rare plant or sending a kid to college?
Earlier this week, SF Weekly wrote about how amazingly well everything had gone in the hastily planned relocation of the Presidio's Franciscan Manzanita -- a plant no one had seen in the wild since 1947 until it turned up right in the middle of the planned route for the billion-dollar Doyle Drive highway project.

Caltrans footed the bill for moving the nine-by-10 foot bush -- which weighed 21,000 pounds and required many man hours, cranes, highway closures, flatbeds, and, of course, suffered from rain delays. The cost hovered between $65,000 and $80,000.

As well as paying for the relocation of the plant -- which has been listed as "extinct in the wild" until November's discovery -- Caltrans also agreed to pay for its upkeep for the next 10 years. We got to wondering -- what's it cost to nurture and maintain an "extinct" plant for a decade? Now we know:

Caltrans landscape architect Dave Yam told us it's probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $65,000. That covers watering, weeding, and funds to cover expert botanists' fees if one ever has to be rushed out to administer to the plant at a moment's notice.

Much of the most intensive care is being administered now, in the 10 days after the plant was relocated from the barren outcrop between two highway roads it had called home for the past 40 to 50 years. Yam says that the plant suffered "minimal root loss" -- and this is no accident. Joey Monteleone is the western project manager at Environmental Design, which executed the uprooting, movement, and replanting of the Franciscan Manzanita. "Given the politics involved in this project," he notes, "We oversized the root ball by quite a bit." That's one of the reasons it weighed 10 and-a-half tons.

Yam described Caltrans paying for the upkeep of the plant -- even after it now sits on Presidio Trust-owned land -- as the "right thing to do." Fair enough. But it's also worth noting that the cost to Caltrans of $65,000 would cover about 10 minutes of work on the Doyle Drive project -- whch turned out to have not been delayed at all by the discovery of a rare plant on its route.

So, in the end, everybody wins.

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