The hillsides may be alive with the sound of music, but the shores of Lake Tahoe are trumpeting the return of summer with a native plant that ONLY exists on the shores of this wondrous alpine lake. It’s the Tahoe Yellow Cress or as scientists like to call it “Rorippa subumbellata.”
What Is Tahoe Yellow Cress
This unique low-growing, herbaceous perennial plant is in the mustard family & found only along the sandy enclaves of Tahoe. Its leaves are fleshy, oblong-shaped and pinnately lobed, resembling a feather while its flowers are yellow with small, plump, round fruits. These plants are so delicate that boat wakes and even stepping on them can kill it.
With It Being So Delicate Why Is It Not In The Endangered Species Act?
So, you might be wondering why isn’t this plant on the list of endangered species? Well, it comes down to the partnerships of local & private groups committed to conserving the plant’s unique ecosystem, thereby eliminating the need for federal regulation. Back in 2014 during an on-the-ground survey, biologists found the species thriving at 36 of the 49 habitat sites they studied. Talk about an uplifting story! Does that mean the hard work is over? Hardly. It’s up to us as stewards of the lake to make sure this native one-of-a kind plant can be enjoyed by future generations.
What To Do If You See This Amazing Flower
As you may have noticed, we’ve had a BIG snow year which means the waters are bursting at the shores. These high-water lake levels have also inundated the Tahoe Yellow Cress’ habitat, raising concerns for the plant’s limited distribution & small population sizes. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy for us to help conserve these plants.
- First, watch your step. Avoid walking on any shoreline vegetation, and keep Fido under control.
- Second, make sure to launch and land your kayak, paddleboard, or any boat away – far far away – from all shoreline vegetation.
- Third, don’t enter the fenced areas to get a better look.
Following these simple rules, you’ll help make sure that this special Tahoe perennial will thrive.
For those that want to learn more about this plant, be sure to visit the Tahoe Yellow Cress website.
The Lake Tahoe Water Trail is a Sierra Business Council sustainable recreation tourism project. Learn more about SBC's innovative social, environmental and economic development projects in the Sierra Nevada at www.sierrabusiness.org.