Species Profile

Gray's Desert-parsley

Scientific Name: Lomatium grayi
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
COSEWIC Range: British Columbia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2008
COSEWIC Status: Threatened
COSEWIC Status Criteria: D2
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: A highly restricted perennial herb with a small population found on only two sites on the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. The presence of invasive species such as Scotch Broom reduces the quality of the fragile habitat and grazing deer and sheep likely restrict the species’ ability to expand beyond its limited area of occupancy.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Threatened in November 2008.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2011-02-04

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Taxonomy | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents


Two varieties of Gray’s Desert-parsley are recognized: the typical variety grayi and the variety depauperatum. Since the species is represented in Canada only by the variety grayi, the name Gray’s Desert-parsley is used here without specifying the variety.



Gray’s Desert-parsley is a large herbaceous perennial with fluffy, finely divided bluish green foliage. It has a basal tuft of leaves that can stand 20 to 40 cm high and reach 40 to 50 cm in diameter in the most vigorous specimens. The stems, which branch from the base, carry parsley-type, yellow-flowered flat-topped flower clusters. These flowering stems are 40 to 60 cm tall and exceed the foliage. The smooth fruits are up to 15 mm long and have a pair of wings that facilitate dispersal.


Distribution and Population

Gray’s Desert-parsley is restricted to northwest North America, occurring mainly in an area between the Cascade Range/Sierra Nevada, in the west, and the Rocky Mountains, in the east, from Washington State in the north to New Mexico in the south. In Canada, it has been observed only on the Gulf Islands in southern British Columbia. The province currently has two known populations 17.5 km apart. These populations, established on Saltspring and Galiano islands north of Victoria, are the only occurrences of the species on the coast and west of the Cascades. According to the most recent surveys, conducted in 2002, the Gray’s Desert-parsley populations on Galiano Island and Saltspring Island had 240 and 1650 individuals respectively. Population trends of these two small occurrences are unknown, since intensive studies did not occur before this first inventory. The extreme terrain makes it unlikely that human impacts have reduced populations in the past, other than through domestic grazing animals. Slight degradation of the habitat is possible through the increase of introduced species.



Gray’s Desert-parsley is a plant of dry, stony sites and often of shallow, fast-draining soils. The two occurrences in the Gulf Islands are both on very steep southwest-facing rock walls where the plants grow on narrow, inaccessible ledges, in cracks in the rock, and in small pockets of soil surrounded by rock. Most of this habitat is open, but there are also portions where Gray’s Desert-parsley is found under scattered stunted trees or shrubs. Similar habitats are available elsewhere in the Gulf Islands and on southern Vancouver Island, but there are no other known occurrences in the area.



In the Canadian populations, germination takes place in early spring, and flowering occurs between late April and late May. It is believed that the plant takes one to several years to produce flowers and that individuals often do not flower in consecutive years. The plant produces 1 to 20 umbels, which have either male flowers or a combination of male flowers and flowers that have both male and female organs. Each umbel contains several hundred flowers, but only some of the hermaphroditic flowers will mature and separate into two achenes, dry fruits that each contain a single seed and have a pair of wings. Seeds mature between early and mid-July. At the same time, the foliage is yellowing and starts drying off by the end of July as the plant enters summer dormancy. Dried leaves are in evidence into the fall, and long dead leaf stalks are persistent to the next season. Plants usually live five to seven years. Pollinators have not been identified but are thought to be bees, based on studies in the United States. The mode of seed dispersal has not been reported, but in the Canadian cliff populations of the Gulf Islands, wind dispersal over short distances is assumed to occur. Gray’s Desert-parsley is drought-tolerant, which allows it to survive on sheer south-facing rock walls in its Canadian habitats, where summer precipitation totals only 75 mm.



The exclusive occurrence on inaccessible terrain suggests that grazing by native deer and sheep returned to the wild is a major limitation for the species to spread into other suitable but readily accessible habitats. The few plants found within reach of grazing animals were all young or in poor condition. Cultivated plants were consumed by mice, rats and Eastern Cottontail Rabbits. Long-distance seed dispersal across non-habitat areas is also likely to be a limiting factor. Barriers to seed dispersal may be limiting colonization away from these two populations, especially if one assumes that the species depends on the cliff habitats where reduced herbivory and less shading by tall vegetation occur. Similar cliffs are present throughout the Gulf Islands and on adjacent southern Vancouver Island, but they are separated by expanses of forest and/or marine waters. Potential threats could be the increase of invasive plants. A number of non-native species, such as Scotch Broom, have been observed on Gray’s Desert-parsley sites and could reduce the quality of the fragile habitat. Recreational rock climbing on Saltspring Island could be another potentially significant threat to Gray’s Desert-parsley. This activity occurs within the limits of this population and requires close monitoring. On Galiano Island, residences and gardens are located directly above the vertical cliffs where Gray’s Desert-parsley grows in crevices and on ledges of the sandstone. This may make a large proportion of the population vulnerable to any dumping of materials, such as garden clippings, over the edge of the cliffs. Collecting for horticultural purposes could be a potential future threat for this attractive plant, with its finely dissected foliage and bright yellow umbels.



Federal Protection

The Gray's Desert-parsley is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Gray’s Desert-parsley is not protected under any provincial legislation in British Columbia. However, the smaller of the two populations, on Saltspring Island, is protected under the Canada National Parks Act because it is located in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Gray's Desert-parsley (Lomatium grayi) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Team

Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team

  • Conan Webb - Chair/Contact - Parks Canada
    Phone: 250-478-5153  Send Email



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

7 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Gray's Desert-parsley (2009-11-25)

    A highly restricted perennial herb with a small population found on only two sites on the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. The presence of invasive species such as Scotch Broom reduces the quality of the fragile habitat and grazing deer and sheep likely restrict the species’ ability to expand beyond its limited area of occupancy.

Recovery Strategies


COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2009 (2009-08-28)

    2009 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species, December 2009 (2009-12-17)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by March 1, 2010 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 1, 2011 for species undergoing extended consultations.
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