California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

January 2010

CNPS Vegetation Program’s Southern Sierra Nevada Foothills Project

The CNPS Vegetation Program continues to sample, describe and map vegetation in areas that require further detail and understanding to better protect our natural landscapes. From May to September 2008, vegetation program staff sampled vegetation from above the San Joaquin Valley to the southern Sierra Nevada foothills to around 1200 meters in elevation, as well as in parts of the nearby Transverse, Caliente and Temblor Ranges. Field work in the foothills was focused in Madera County south to Tulare and Kern counties. We completed around 850 surveys in the southern foothills using standardized CNPS vegetation protocols, with initial funding from the state Department of Fish and Game. While state funds are now limited, CNPS recently received a generous anonymous donation to enable us to continue this important work. This will include additional vegetation surveys and mapping in a smaller portion of southern foothills during the spring/summer of 2010.

Learning more about southern foothills is important to document the diversity and distinctiveness of plant communities in the region. This includes a high degree of native forb and grass stands that are yet to be fully determined with more sampling, including stands of popcornflower (Plagiobothrys nothofulvus), needlegrass (Nassella spp.), tarweeds (Centromadia, Deinandra, Hemizonia, Holocarpha and Madia spp.), goldfields (Lasthenia spp.), as well as lupines, clovers and poppies of many species (Lupinus, Trifolium, and Eschscholzia spp.). Other vegetation types include the characteristically common oak woodland and chaparral, including blue and interior live oak (Quercus douglasii, Q. wislizeni), buckeye (Aesculus californica), chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum), birchleaf mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus), wedgeleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus cuneatus) and whiteleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos viscida).

We have begun to document chaparral types unique to the region such as tree anemone (Carpenteria californica) and Parry manzantia (Arctostaphylos parryana), and exemplary riparian stands which include sycamore (Platanus racemosa), alder (Alnus rhombifolia), cottonwood (Populus fremontii) and willow (Salix spp.). The very southern part of the region is a key mixing zone of coastal, foothill and desert vegetation that includes interesting desert stands of pricklypoppy (Argemone munita), sagebrush(Artemisia tridentata), desert olive (Forestiera pubescens), winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata), and California broomsage (Lepidospartum squamatum).

If you have keen interest in assessing and protecting resources in this region, we need help -- in accessing private lands, assessing vegetation resources, and financially supporting a larger initiative across the southern foothills.

Update from the State Capitol

The big news (albeit old news) is the State budget – it’s still a mess. After adopting big cuts and temporary revenue increases in 2009, the current year budget (2009/10) is still out of balance by $6.3 billion. In addition, it is estimated that the 2010/11 FY budget will be $14.4 billion in the hole – that’s $20.7 billion together.

Therefore, the Governor proclaimed a fiscal emergency and called the Legislature into special session. The Constitution requires the Legislature to take some type of action within 90 days to address the emergency. To kick start the Legislative deliberations the Governor proposed several actions, many affecting natural resources, e.g., property insurance surcharge for firefighting; Channel Islands oil drilling to fund state parks; and CEQA immunity to create jobs.

The CA Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is the process whereby the public gets to participate and have input to state and local development projects, i.e., CNPS members can identify native plants/habitats damaged and recommend appropriate mitigation. The Governor’s proposal would grant legal immunity to up to 25 construction projects annually for 5 years. An environmental review (EIR) would still be done but no matter the quality of the review or mitigation no enforcement action would be possible.

The State Senate began hearings on the Governor’s proposals last week (1/21/10). CNPS was there with other conservation and environmental justice groups to oppose this assault on one of the prime avenues to protect natural areas and avoid irresponsible land uses. With no risk of being held accountable developers and many local governments will neglect native plant protections and other community values in a rush to create jobs.

However, many studies document that environmental laws do not delay projects or jobs; they in fact improve projects and communities. For this reason labor unions have already started to also voice their opposition to the Governor’s idea.

CNPS is partnering with others to ensure a coordinated campaign against this ill conceived scheme. Contacting legislators will be a key element to any plan. To help us lay the ground for CNPS' efforts please let us know if you, your chapter, or someone in you chapter has a relationship with a local legislator. It does not need to be a longstanding or personally close relationship. Contact Greg Suba ( or Vern Goehring ( Stay tuned for information on how you and you local chapter can help.

Proposed CEQA Exemptions

Governor Schwarzenegger’s administration has proposed a bill that would allow CEQA exemptions on up to 100 projects – including private developments. Read more here

The Re-discovery of the Franciscan manzanitas (Arctostaphylos franciscana)

The Franciscan manzanita (Arctostaphylos franciscana) is an evergreen shrub that was historically known from three locations of maritime chaparral habitat in the city of San Francisco. Last documented in 1947, it was considered extinct for more than 60 years.

Despite numerous searches and attempts at re-discovery, there was little hope of finding Franciscan manzanita in the wild (however, plants exist in cultivation). That all changed last October when local ecologist, Daniel Gluesenkamp, spotted a manzanita plant growing in a median strip along Doyle Drive in the Presidio, within the footprint of a high-profile road widening project. Examination of the plant by local botanists and manzanita experts confirmed, to much surprise and excitement, that the plant is likely a mature Franciscan manzanita. Further research, including a count of the plant’s chromosomes, is needed to fully confirm the plant’s identity. Subsequent searches of the surrounding area failed to document additional individuals.

The re-discovery of a species thought to be extinct for more than 60 years is truly a rare and spectacular event. However, the re-discovery of a single plant in the middle of a road construction project is far from an ideal situation.

Currently, a collaborative effort of representatives from state and federal agencies, botanic gardens, and universities is under way to draft a plan that defines the best way to conserve the Franciscan manzanita.

Additionally, in December of 2009, CNPS signed on as a co-petitioner along with the Center for Biological Diversity to the Wild Equity Institute’s emergency petition to list the Franciscan manzanita as an endangered species under the Federal Endangered Species Act.

For more information on the Franciscan manzanita, its re-discovery, conservation efforts, and a copy of the emergency listing petition please visit:

For a recent San Francisco Chronicle article on the Franciscan manzanita please visit:

Sustainability Through Nature- A CNPS Native Plant Landscape Symposium, February 20, 2010

The Channel Islands Chapter of the California Native Plant Society has been holding native plant sales and answering questions for about 20 years. With the surge in interest in growing natives for sustainability, water conservation, bringing wildlife into the garden and pure enjoyment, we have more questions than a handful of volunteers can answer. On February 20, 2010 we will present an all day Native Plant Landscape Symposium. The event will be in the newly renovated and super-high-tech Camarillo Ranch House Barn, Camarillo, California from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. We are bringing together some of the most knowledgeable and dynamic speakers in Southern California for a day of sharing knowledge, creative ideas and beautiful photographs.

This symposium will delight those new to growing native plants as well as the experienced horticulturist! Topics for the day will include native plant choices for the home landscape, watering, wildland interface, designing for wildlife, landscape design for fire resistance, landscape maintenance, integrating natives with non-native plants, landscaping under oak trees, lawn replacements and permaculture.

The sponsorship of Camarillo Ranch House Foundation and Nopalito Native Plant Nursery have helped to make this possible. The generosity of these organizations is much appreciated.

Native plant gardening and sustainable landscaping books authored by Carol Bornstein, Bart O’Brien, and Owen Dell will be onsite for sale and autograph along with many other books of interest. Beverages, snacks, and lunch will be provided. Spanish translation will be available.

For further information, please contact CNPS Channel Islands Chapter Horticulture Chair, Patt McDaniel (805) 646-9948 or For full details and registration go to

New Manual of California Vegetation

The long-awaited second edition of A Manual of California Vegetation, written by John O. Sawyer, Todd Keeler-Wolf, and Julie Evens, has been released recently. This book replaces the original manual published in 1995. Vegetation classification has come a long way since then with this widely expanded second edition. This reference book is of interest to native plant enthusiasts and is an absolute must-have for botanists, consultants, and land use planners. The Manual contains descriptions of over 480 vegetation types. Each description is one to several pages long, containing details about habitat, life history traits, fire and other disturbance characteristics, regional distribution, and management themes. We are in the process of raising funds to utilize the data in an online format. If you are interested in contributing to the project via new data or support for getting pictures and information online, please contact Julie Evens at, and please purchase your own copy via the CNPS website by clicking

The Rare Plant Treasure Hunt: A Grand Opportunity for Rare Plant Science and Conservation

California is a truly spectacular place for botanists, especially for those of us interested in rare plants. The CNPS Rare Plant Inventory has continually tracked the conservation status of California’s rare flora since 1974. Today, over 2200 of California’s plants (approximately 30% of the native flora) are considered rare by CNPS. Additionally, the state’s natural heritage program, the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB), has kept detailed location and natural history information on each rare plant location (known as element occurrences) since the early 1980’s.

Unfortunately, many of California’s rare plant occurrences have not seen (or documented) in decades. A query of December 2009 CNDDB data indicated that over 12,000 rare plant occurrences (nearly 40% of almost 30,000 known occurrences) statewide have not been seen in the past 20 years. Furthermore, over 3,400 (approx. 11%) of these occurrences have not been seen in at least 50 years.

Up-to-date information on rare plants and their habitats is needed to inform conservation actions and to aid planning efforts.

The Rare Plant Treasure Hunt is a new statewide effort, initiated by the Rare Plant and Education Programs, to update information on California’s rare plants. This spring, summer, and fall, professional and amateur botanists will team together to conduct searches for historical and new occurrences of rare plants.

As part of this project, CNPS received funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to conduct surveys for rare plants on BLM lands in the Mojave Desert and Carrizo Plain. Recent rains should make for a good wildflower year and an excellent opportunity to search for rare plants in these regions. We will be organizing numerous field trips this spring in the Mojave Desert and Carrizo Plain. If you are interested in participating in these field trips or would like more information please contact

There has never been a better time to search for, study, appreciate and update the vital information needed to conserve California’s rare plants. We need your help!

For more information on this project and how to become involved, please visit

Grasslands Initiative

CNPS will continue to embark on our grasslands initiative through monitoring, describing and mapping of herbaceous vegetation. Through small grants from NRCS and TNC, we will be focusing efforts in the Central Valley and Carrizo Plain. Our goals include a pilot project to categorize and map 5,000-10,000 acres of forb- and grass-dominated landscapes. This hopefully will lead us to more collaboration including local landowners and land trusts, as well as better understanding and management of grasslands that are grazed. If you are interested in the grasslands and southern foothills projects, please contact Jennifer Buck or Kendra Sikes at or

Education News

Three CNPS workshops in March:
For details and online registration go to

March 1-5, 2010
Dunes, Wetlands, and Coastal Scrub Volcanoes: An Introduction to the Plants and Habitats
of San Quintin, Baja California

Instructors: Sula Vanderplank and Jon Rebman.

Three days of field trips out of San Quintin, interspersed with lectures, and a day of travel between San Diego and San Quintin, on each side of the workshop. Bus travel will be arranged between San Diego and San Quintin and is included in the price. The workshop price includes 4 nights in hotels but does not include meals

Course Description: Although well-known to be the 'agricultural valley' of Baja California, San Quintín still has several biodiversity treasures hidden in its midst. This workshop on the flora will visit the pristine salt marshes of the bay (amongst the largest on the pacific coast), explore extensive intact dune systems, and look at the unique coastal sage scrub community on the volcanic substrates. Discussion topics will include some of the conservation challenges in an area that is rapidly being developed, and whose rich natural resources are often under enormous pressure from exploitation.
$720 CNPS members and $745 non-members

Mar. 25-27, 2010
Rare Plants and Habitats of Eastern San Luis Obispo County.
Instructors: David Keil, Deborah Hillyard, Kevin Merk.

First evening presentation followed by two field days.

Course Description: Overview and field studies of rare plants and vegetation of eastern San Luis Obispo County. Emphasis on field identification, habitat characteristics, conservation status, and management concerns. Potential stops include sites in the Carrizo Plain, Temblor Range, Caliente Range, eastern La Panza Mts., Cuyama Valley, etc, depending on phenology, mud, and logistics. $310 CNPS members and $335 non-members.

Mar. 29-31, 2010
Vegetation Rapid Assessment, Carrizo Plain.
Instructors: Todd Keeler-Wolf and Julie Evens.
Three-day combination of field exercises and lectures.

Course Description: The California Native Plant Society (CNPS), the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), present a Vegetation Rapid Assessment workshop in the Carrizo Plain. The course will be a combination of lecture and field exercises in vegetation sampling. The course will focus on collecting data using the CNPS Rapid Assessment protocol. We will discuss applications of fine-scale vegetation sampling, classification and mapping, how to document rare natural communities, and how vegetation information fits into planning documents. $395 CNPS members and $420 non-members.

For details and online registration go to

Chapter Events

A Sampling from Around the State

Mount Lassen Chapter
Lost Arboretum walk, Sunday, Feb 7, in lower Bidwell Park, 1 p.m.
Meet in the Cedar Grove parking area next to Chico Creek Nature Center, 1968 E. Eighth St. Easy, one-mile stroll through the 1888 California Board of Forestry plant introduction and nursery station to see many fine specimens of American persimmon, Italian cypress, Japanese zelkova, cork oak, black ash, and many other woody plants. Leader: Wes at 530-342-2293.

CSU Chico Campus Tree Tour, Friday, Feb. 26. 10 a.m. Meet in the parking lot in front of Bidwell Mansion State Park for a 90-minute tour of about 30 of the trees in the CSU-Mansion Arboretum. Other tours will follow at two-week intervals and will cover over 100 of the woody plants. Leaders: Gerry at 530-893-5123 and Wes.

Marin Chapter
Cascade Canyon, Elliot Preserve, Fairfax, Sunday, February 7, 10 a.m.

One of Joe Kohn's favorite early-season wildflower walks was to the Cascade Canyon Waterfalls in the Elliot Preserve. This is a great spot for Aristolochia californica (Dutchman’s pipevine), Pedicularis densiflora (Indian warrior), and maybe if we’re lucky, Fritillaria affinis var. affinis (mission bells) along with eating lunch at a lovely, raging waterfall. Meet at 9:45 am to carpool at Cascade Park, at the start of Cascade Dr (about .5 miles south of Sir Francis Drake on Fairfax-Bolinas Dr.) For further information, contact Stacey Pogorzelski at (415) 314-5801.

Early Flowers at Chimney Rock, Wednesday, February 24, 10 a.m.
Mid-February is the official unofficial start of wildflower season in Marin, and the yearly walk at Chimney Rock has yielded in recent years as few as 15 and as many as 65 different species of wildflowers in bloom. We’ll also see hundreds of elephant seals, and should be able to witness more than a few battles between 1000-pound males trying to impress their potential female mates.

As we do every year, we’ll be meeting up with David Herlocker of the Marin County Open Space District at the Chimney Rock parking area, which is located in outer Point Reyes, near the end of Sir Francis Drake, a mile or so before reaching the Lighthouse. And remember, even if it’s warm and sunny when you leave home, it could be, and probably will be, cold and foggy and very windy at Chimney Rock! For further information, contact Stacey Pogorzelski at (415) 314-5801.

For Chapter Events in your area, please visit the CNPS Chapters section



Photo Credits

  • CNPS Vegetation Program
  • Franciscan Manzanita, Rick York and CNPS
  • Layia munzii in the Carrizo Plain, Nick Jensen
  • CNPS Education Program, Josie Crawford
  • Nick Jensen, Vern Goehring, Julie Evens, Suzanne Harmon, Josie Crawford, Greg Suba, Tara Hansen, Jack Tracey, Stacey Flowerdew, and Cari Porter
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