California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

May 2011

Go Rare Plant Treasure Hunting on Your Summer Vacation!

Danny Slakey

Many of us are already making plans for our summer vacations throughout California. I, for one, plan to visit a natural waterslide in the El Dorado National Forest, go backpacking with friends near Yosemite National Park, and kayak through the Delta from Sacramento to San Francisco. Incorporating my botanical interests into recreational trips in the past has involved bringing along a species list for the area, carrying a copy of The Jepson Manual and a hand lens, and keying some of the more interesting specimens observed along the way. Now, as project coordinator for the CNPS's Rare Plant Treasure Hunt, I have found an even better way to combine botany with recreation and still have it feel like a vacation: planning and leading a Rare Plant Treasure Hunt! On a Rare Plant Treasure Hunt, we have an opportunity to see some of California's beautiful places while searching for its rarest plants and making a significant contribution to their conservation in the process!

As the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt Coordinator, my job is to support rare plant treasure hunters throughout the state. Before heading out on a rare plant treasure hunt adventure, we check through the Geographic System Information (GIS) layers in the California Natural Diversity Database to see what rare plants are in need of updating in the area we plan to visit. We make maps of historic populations of rare plants - some that haven't been seen in over 20 years - and compile plant identification materials and photos. We also coordinate with land managers to make sure we have permission to search for rare plants on a particular site. Because of the planning and coordinating involved, each trip does require advance notice of a week or more.

If you are interested in combining your summer vacation plans with a treasure hunt for rare plants, please send an email to and tell us how you'd like to get involved. We can add you to the mailing list to be notified of upcoming trips, or help you find a way to incorporate rare plant searches into your upcoming adventures. You can check out upcoming trips on our calendar. Land managers are also encouraged to contact us to get involved in the program – we can help organize groups to meet their rare plant surveying needs.

Retracing the Footsteps of Great California Botanists

Duncan Bell

One of the main objectives of the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt is to search for and update historic occurrences of rare plants. An "occurrence" refers to a population of plants in a single location that could contain a few or hundreds of individual plants. Sometimes searching for historic plant populations involves retracing the footsteps of early intrepid botanists. Most of the early collectors provided very little information about specific locations with their plant collections. GPS (Global Positioning System) units had not yet come on the scene, so it was typical to see only a general location of a recorded collection. Sometimes a short habitat description accompanies the locations in these older collections, but it is certainly not the norm. One of the primary objectives of the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt program is to "re-find" these older rare plant populations, see how they are doing, and return with key information such as the exact GPS location of the population, a thorough habitat description, and population size.

Retracing the footsteps of preceding botanists is not always easy. As an example: Marcus E. Jones was one of California's greatest botanists. He collected tens of thousands of plants, had dozens of plants named after him and personally described many unique plant species. Unfortunately his collection labels are lacking detailed information typically used to track and evaluate plant conservation status in today's world of GPS and GIS (Geographic Information System). Some of his labels simply state "Colorado Desert". In 1924 M. Jones collected Harwood's milkvetch (Astragalus insularis var. harwoodii) and gave his collection location as "Chocolate-Chuckwalla Mountains, Desert Center". This is better than a simple reference like "Colorado Desert", but an interested plant lover, researcher, or land manager would still have to search thousands of acres to find this rather small plant. As daunting as this sounds, it is yet not impossible to find the plants referenced in these older collections. In looking for M. Jones recorded population of Harwood's milkvetch, we were able to make a few good guesses that led us to a rather rugged section of the Chuckwalla Mountains. After a bit of searching around, we eventually found our special plant, which was doing quite well!

Story continued here.

CNPS Children’s Curriculum Proves Very Popular

Josie Crawford

When we first started thinking of developing a curriculum, people told me it would be difficult to get teachers to pick up and use new curriculums. I anticipated arduous hours of marketing that hasn’t turned out to be necessary, as this curriculum has grown legs of its own.

This spring John Muir Laws, supported by a grant from the National Audubon Society, has taught workshops on the curriculum and has distributed over 150 hard copies of it to teachers and outdoor educators throughout the Sierra Nevada region. The teachers who receive the training in turn train other teachers at their schools.

The California Department of Education website also directs viewers to the CNPS website to download the curriculum. We now get 10-15 requests for the curriculum per week. What’s more, the curriculum has been downloaded more than 300 times since we put it on the web. People have said it is just what they have been looking for, and that they are excited to put it to use. CNPS Chapter leaders have begun to use sections of it when they take children out on excursions. To our surprise, even a local radio station KVMR announced a nature journaling workshop for kids on the Yuba River. And I had nothing to do with it!

The CNPS Curriculum Opening the World through Nature Journaling, by John Muir Laws and Emily Breunig, is available to download for free on our website here. The development of the curriculum project was funded by a grant from the Jiji Foundation.

CNPS 2012 Conference Dates and Links

January 12-14, 2012

Workshops Jan 11-12

Public Engagement Day Jan 14

San Diego

Call for Abstracts closes Aug 4
Early Registration opens in July

Keynote speakers: Dr. Peter Raven and Dr. Bruce Pavlik
Opportunities for Students including special Student Session, discounts, fee waivers and travel stipends, networking events, and more. 
So many ways to be involved!
*Note that Volunteers receive a $75 rebate after working 8 hours or more!

CNPS Training Workshops

Contact Josie Crawford for more information. Further details are available at

June 7-9
Vegetation Rapid Assessment/Relevé
Ocean Song, Sonoma County
Instructors: Julie Evens, Deborah Stout
One evening lecture and two field days
Fees: CNPS members $325; Non-members $350
Fees include camping for two nights at gorgeous location and use of facility.

Sept 22-24
Legends of the Fall: Exploring the Clandestine Flora of Early Fall in the Eastern Mojave Desert
UC Granite Mountains Desert Research Station
Instructors: Jim Andre and Tasha La Doux
One evening lecture and two field days.
Fees: CNPS members $435; Non-members $460
Price includes lodging and all meals at the research station.

Note that some details, including price and exact locations, are subject to change. Updates will be posted on the Education Program Training Workshop webpage as they become known.

Chapter Events

A Sampling from Around the State

Bristlecone Chapter
Bodie Hills Field Trip with Friends of the Inyo
Sunday, June 5, 8:30 AM

Come on out for an all day floral adventure in the Bodie Hills. Let’s see what’s in bloom in this mélange of the floras of the Sierra Nevada and the Great Basin high desert. This will be an all-day hike, moderate to strenuous, so please bring plenty of water, a lunch, snacks, and sunscreen, hat, hiking shoes, etc.  Meet at the end of the pavement at Highway 270 (the road to Bodie State Park) to carpool, 8:30am. Don’t forget your hand lenses! Leader Drew Foster. Call Drew at (805) 405-7577 for more information.
Field Trip to Blackrock Meadows
Saturday, June 11, 8:45 AM - noon 
In July 2007 the Bristlecone Chapter of CNPS formally requested DWP and Inyo County to modify groundwater management in the Blackrock area due to degradation of rare alkali meadow habitat. Come on this trip to see what an official, Inyo County Water Department-certified pumping impact looks like, as well as an example of very successful groundwater management! We will explore an area from the Fort Independence reservation north to 8-mile Ranch/Blackrock hatchery area. 4x4 not necessary but high clearance never hurts. Meet at Fort Independence travel plaza/casino parking lot at 8:45AM. Bring water, snacks, hat, and sunscreen. Trip will end by noon. Leader: Daniel Pritchett. For more information contact Daniel at 873-8943.
Field Trip/Work Day: Highway Clean-Up
Sunday, June 12, 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Meet at the intersection of Highway 395 and Pine Creek Rd., west of 395, at 9.00 AM. We will try to be done by 1:00 PM. Leader: Scott Hetzler. For more information contact Scott at (760) 873-8392. 
Field Trip/Work Day: Devil’s Postpile / Rainbow Falls
Saturday, June 25, 9:00 AM
This will be a work day to help remove cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) from Devils Postpile National Monument and surrounding areas. We will hike from the Rainbow Falls trailhead to areas of known infestations. Bring your gloves and some garbage bags. Wear long pants and layers. Meet at Minaret Vista at 9:00 am to carpool. Contact Holly Alpert at 760-709-2212 or 

Sierra Foothills Chapter
Calaveras Big Trees
Sunday, June 5, 9:30 AM

This is a favorite destination where we’ll see harlequin lupine (Lupinus stiversii), a leafless form of white-veined wintergreen (Pyrola picta), Washington lily (Lilium washingtonianum), phantom orchid (Cephalanthera austiniae), and Stebbins’ lomatium (Lomatium stebbinsii). Leader: Steve Stocking. Level: Easy. Meet at 9:30AM in the park, at the picnic area on the creek behind Jack Knight Hall.
Note: There is an entrance fee to enter the park. For more info contact

Shuteye Peak, Sierra National Forest
Saturday, June 11
In the spotlight for this trip is the Shuteye Peak fawn lily (E. pluriflorum). This rare species was discovered by Joanna Clines in 1988. It is endemic to the Chiquito Ridge area of Madera County, and grows in a stunning subalpine setting with 360 degree views of the High Sierra and the coast ranges on a clear day. If we’re lucky the rare Kellogg’s lewisia (Lewisia kelloggii ssp. kelloggii) may be in bloom as well. We’ll need to carpool in high clearance 4WD vehicles.
Prepare for a long day, as it takes an hour or more to get to Shuteye Peak from Oakhurst. Space is limited to 25, so please RSVP at To carpool from Sonora: Meet Pat Stone at 7:30AM in front of the Tesoro Gas Station on Highway 108 in Jamestown. Carpooling from Oakhurst: Meet Joanna in Oakhurst at 9:30AM Specific location information and other details provided when you RSVP at
Long John Meadow
Saturday, June 25

This meadow near Cherry Lake, Stanislaus National Forest, underwent a gully rehab project two years ago. The meadow has been fenced to allow time to heal with amazing results. If time allows, we’ll also visit nearby John’s Meadow and Boggy Meadow for more botanical highlights. Leader: Scott Brush. Level: Moderate. Carpooling from Sonora: Meet at 8:30AM at the back of the parking lot between the Sonora McDonalds and the new Kohl’s, on Mono Way, in the Junction Shopping Center, in East Sonora. Carpooling from Groveland: Meet 8:30AM at the Groveland Library parking lot. Both groups will meet at about 9:30 at the intersection of Cottonwood Road and ForestRoad 3N01S, just east of Reed Creek. RSVP or contact for more info.

Dorothy King Young Chapter
Wildflowers at the Point Arena Lighthouse
Saturday, June 11, 2011, 10 AM

Join Lori Hubbart in exploring the wildflowers of the coastal bluffs around the Lighthouse. Meet in the Lighthouse parking lot.
Local Lichens- A talk by Julia Larke
Thursday, June 16, 6 PM
Lichens come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and can be found just about everywhere, from the driest deserts to the frigid arctic tundra. hat the heck are they? Find out from lichen enthusiast, Julia! Location: Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, 18220 North Highway One, Fort Bragg.

Los Angeles/Santa Monica Mountains Chapter
Reimagining the California Lawn, Presented by Bart O'Brien
Tuesday, June 14, 7:30 - 9:30 PM

How to create a beautiful California "lawn" that is both efficient of resources and water-conserving! Bart O'Brien, Carol Bornstein and David Fross have produced an outstanding guide for those seeking alternatives to concrete, fake turf, overwatered and overfed grasses and high water bills. Books will be available at the meeting for purchase and signing. Bart O'Brien is a noted horticulturist and Director of Special Projects at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. Location: First United Methodist Church, 1008 11th St, Santa Monica.

For Chapter Events in your area, please visit the CNPS Website at


Photo Credits

  • Danny Slakey - Rare plant treasure hunter Jessie Olson counts individual Big-scale balsamroot (Balsamorhiza macrolepis var. macrolepis) plants on a recent treasure hunt at Lynch Canyon Open Space Preserve.
  • Amber Swanson- The rare Mentzelia puberula re-discovered.
  • Jim Andre, Mountain Scene

  • Danny Slakey, Duncan Bell, Josie Crawford, Amber Swanson, Stacey Flowerdew, Mark Naftzger, and countless CNPS volunteers.
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