Polemonium chartaceum Mason
Margaret Williams, courtesy of Nevada Native Plant Society
At a Glance
Mason’s Skypilot is also known as Mason’s Jacob’s ladder.
Range: Klamath Ranges, Sweetwater Mountains, White and Inyo Mountains in CA and NV
Habitat Type: Subalpine Forest, Alpine Fell-fields
Estimated Population: Twelve known occurrences in California, one in Nevada
States with Current Habitat
Mason’s sky pilot lives in high alpine zones and is thus very susceptible to the effects of global warming. Given that it is only known to occur currently in 13 locations, it is also highly vulnerable to loss of habitat.
Why Protection is Needed
Mason’s skypilot occurs in isolated populations and only at high altitudes where temperatures and other unique habitat characteristics are changing rapidly.
As global warming increases average temperatures, species have to move to higher and higher elevations to find the cooler temperatures at which they have evolved to survive. For Mason’s skypilot and other species that live in higher elevations, this means getting closer and closer to the top of the mountains – and eventually having no where to go once they live at the peaks.
Being restricted to the highest of elevations in mountains can also create isolated groups of species. When the valleys between peaks no longer offer pathways – due to their warmer temperatures – between groups, it segments them and threatens long-term survival. Plants, which obviously cannot hike to higher grounds, sometimes need many generations of new plants to transport over short distances and can thus be overcome if the warming comes too quickly.
The best way to protect high alpine species such as Mason’s skypilot is to slow or reverse global climate change. The United States – and the world - urgently needs to implement an energy policy that follows the best available science in greenhouse gas emission limits.