More than 100 years later, researchers have discovered many plants never seen on the island before.
Matt Guilliams, a botanist at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, studies and catalogs the region’s plant biodiversity. At the garden's Herbarium -- a library for preserved plant specimens -- Guilliams shows off a specimen of seaside cistanthe that he collected this year.
Guilliams says he was on uninhabited San Nicolas Island looking around when he spotted a long-stemmed plant with bright purple flowers.
"As a person with basically a deep love of California plants, I’ve always got my eyes open, and as we were walking around on the landscape, you can’t help but notice something that’s new,” he says.
Seaside cistanthe was previously known to grow on the other Channel Islands, in the Los Angeles basin and northwestern Baja California. But it had never been seen on San Nicolas Island until this past spring.