Dwarf Nightshade at Crater Lake National Park
Park Science, Vol. 3, No. 4
Summer 1983, pp. 22
National Park Service
Dept. of Interior
Editor’s Note: The following article is taken from a report to Resource Management Specialist Mark Forbes, Crater Lake NP, by Ron and Joy Mastrogiuseppe. The full report, with literature cited, is available from the Park.
On a recent autumn visit to the Crater Peak Burn of August 1978, Ron Mastrogiuseppe and John White confirmed the presence of colonies of dwarf nightshade, Chamaesaracha nana A. Gray in the portion of burn which crowned-out in Shasta red firs and exposed the volcanic substrate on the steep southwestern slope. A member of the nightshade family, Solonaceae, the plant is locally rare in the Crater Lake NP area.
Dwarf nightshade is adapted to well-drained, dry, sandy, or gravelly volcanic substrates, and may be favored by certain kinds of disturbances. Its general geographic distribution ranges from south central Oregon southward into the Lake Tahoe Region of east central California. from approximately 5.000 to 8,500 feet elevation.
Other notable members of the Solonaceae include potato, tomato, tobacco, and the pepper.
Mastrogiuseppes’ report discusses at some length a revisionary study of the genusChamaesaracha, recommending that dwarf nightshade be called Leucophysalis nana(Gray) Averett, making it a natural, closely related genus restricted to desert regions of the southwestern U.S.
They also describe searches of herbaria within the Pacific Northwest to determine if any voucher specimens exist from within or near Crater Lake NP. (A voucher specimen is one that has been verified and placed in a permanent collection as a standard against which new finds may be checked.) The park collection includes only one sheet displaying two small nonflowering plants, collected by Elmer Ivan Applegate on July 24. 1934. on a dry slope of Bald Crater in the northwestern portion of the park. No other vouchers are known, except for a possible sighting within the old Greyback Burn (by Richard Brown in 1982) and a specimen collected by Joy Mastrogiuseppe on Aug. 14, 1978 in the middle strip of the old fire road along the southeastern flank of Crater Peak.
The report describes other searches and the species’ general distribution and concludes that “disturbance may be the key in the general perpetuation of dwarf nightshade.” This is presented as a hypothesis only, with more evidence required for substantiation.
The Mastrogiuseppes recommend that Leucophysalis nana be placed on the Watchlist of the Oregon Rare and Endangered Plant Project.
* * *
Ron Mastrogiuseppe is plant ecologist at Redwoods NP, Joy is with the Marion Ownbey Herbarium, Department of Botany, Washington State University.