Nuttall’s lotus (Acmispon prostratus) is a plant of coastal dunes – a low sprawling plant that hugs the ground as if to keep the sand beneath from blowing away. The flowers are small, but showy, with bright yellow petals streaked and spotted with clear red.
Nuttall’s lotus is native to a slender strip of coastal strand habitat between Oceanside and northern Baja California. This habitat is seriously threatened by encroaching development, recreational activities and military use. As a consequence Nuttall’s lotus is one of several sand dune plants that are facing extirpation in San Diego County.
A small population of Nuttall’s lotus survives in the West Basin of San Elijo Lagoon, between the railroad tracks and Coast Highway. If you drive Coast Highway regularly, you may have have noticed a fence enclosing four acres just east of the road where it crosses San Elijo Lagoon. This marks an on-going restoration project of the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy to protect and enhance the dune habitat for sand-loving species such as Nuttall’s lotus, legless lizards, snowy plovers and least terns.