California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

April 2012

Wildflower Displays at Table Mountain

Julie M. Evens, Vegetation Program Director
North Table Mountain is one of the many table mountains within the Sierra Foothills of California where wildflower displays are vivid this time of year. From March to April and sometimes into May, you will find various colorful plant associations occurring on the tables. These tablelands have formed as basalt lava flows that filled in ancient river beds many millions of years ago. The volcanic lava rocks have weathered more slowly than the surrounding surfaces over time and appear as distinctive and sinuous mesa tops. 

Across these mesa tops, you will find spring displays of different plants, including upland and vernal pool associations of sky lupines, paintbrushes and owl’s clovers, poppies, brodiaeas, Sierra mock stonecrop, clovers, goldfields, and grasses. Other tree, shrub and herb types are found along seasonal streams and clinging to the steep rocky sides, including buckeye and oak woodlands.

You will find these tablelands at North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve near Oroville in Butte County, as well as other locations such as Table Mountain at New Melones Dam near Jamestown and Sonora in Tuolumne County, and at Kennedy, Big and Little Table Mountains including McKenzie Preserve at Table Mountain in Madera and Fresno counties.

Watersheds of the National Forests

Kendra Sikes, Vegetation Ecologist
Upon producing a nationwide classification of the condition of watersheds in the National Forests, the U.S. Forest Service intends to prioritize restoration and research efforts at the watershed level. “Watersheds” are an intrinsic unit of the landscape defined by topography; they display ecosystem connectivity through the flow of surface and underground water. The level of watershed used for the classification within the National Forests is, on average, 10,000 to 40,000 acres in size, and each Forest is made up of dozens of watersheds that can be aggregated to a Watershed Sub-Basin or Basin level.

The initial classification of watershed condition was based on multiple indicators including the condition of riparian and wetland vegetation, and the presence of invasive species. CNPS has recently received funding to add to the knowledge of plants and habitats at the watershed level through this initiative. We are beginning to plan pilot fieldwork for June in San Bernardino National Forest, July in Plumas National Forest, and potentially other forests/dates to be determined. We are interested in coordinating with volunteers to help us collect basic data for documenting watershed condition with respect to plants/habitats. Volunteers would need to meet us during the week on location for training on methods. If interested in participating, please contact Kendra Sikes, Vegetation Ecologist.

Grasslands Update

Jennifer Buck-Diaz, Vegetation Ecologist
It sure is turning out to be an interesting season for California’s annual plants! Though not much rain fell over the winter, a wet spring is finally allowing some germination to occur in the Great Valley and the Carrizo Plain. This year, the CNPS Vegetation Program is continuing to sample and describe annual grasslands under a Conservation Innovation Grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.  

We’re making it a priority to revisit plots that we previously sampled in 2010, to begin capturing the variation in plant species found across different years. We are re-visiting many sites in the Carrizo Plain and the southern San Joaquin Valley, which received over 7 inches of rain in 2010 as compared to little more than 3 inches of rain this year, and are finding a stark difference between years. Ongoing studies will help us to understand the variation in annual plant communities to better describe the full diversity of vegetation in these important habitats.

Future actions will involve collaboration with partners to conserve and restore a representation of California grasslands and provide education about the values of grassland habitats. If you want more information about grasslands in California, visit our website here or contact Jennifer Buck-Diaz.

What is a Fen?

Kendra Sikes, Vegetation Ecologist
Fens, a rare habitat type in California, have been a focus of study for the CNPS Vegetation Program in collaboration with the US Forest Service and others. Fens are a type of peatland. Peat is partially decomposed plant matter (like the dried peat found at garden centers), and it forms in wetlands that remain saturated with water for most of the year. A peatland has a stable environment where peat has continued to form over time until this organic material, lacking the mineral component of most soil, is the primary substrate for plants to grow in. Most people are more familiar with the term “bog”, which are peatlands found in climates of high rainfall. In California, the peatlands are formed where groundwater (not rainfall) is the primary source of water saturation, and therefore they are technically fens.  

One of the best known peat-forming plants is sphagnum moss (Sphagnum spp.). It grows in acidic peatlands including some fens in California. CNPS has collected three different species of sphagnums and more than 25 other moss species while working in fens. However, lots of vascular plants grow in fens too, especially sedges (Carex spp.) and rushes (Juncus spp.). Even some woody plants, like lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta ssp. muricata), Labrador tea (Rhododendron columbianum) and willows (Salix spp.), can grow in fens. The nutrient poor environment of some fens is also habitat for interesting carnivorous plants such as sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) and California pitcher plant (Darlingtonia californica). A variety of other plants, animals and plant associations occur in fens, and some of these are described in recent vegetation reports where we have sampled fen vegetation, including for the Lake Tahoe Basin, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Sequoia National Forest and other locations.

Upcoming CNPS Workshops

For full announcements, workshop descriptions, and registration, please go to

Hell Hole FenMay 15-17, 2012
Measuring and Monitoring Plant Populations
John Willoughby
Coal Oil Point Reserve, UC Santa Barbara

Using classroom and field exercises, the workshop will focus on the role of plant population monitoring for adaptive management. Topics cover principles of sampling and several sampling designs, field techniques for measuring vegetation, analyzing monitoring data and presenting results. Three full days.
COST: CNPS members $395, Non-members $420.
Registration and full description available here.


Hell Hole FenMay 23-24, 2012
Rare Plant Survey Protocols - A Scientific Approach
Taught by Heath Bartosh, Aaron Sims, with a lecture by Roxanne Bittman
Mount Diablo and environs, Contra Costa County

This classroom and field course is designed to approach rare plant surveys using the best scientific information available. This scientific approach is built on conducting proper background review and literature searches, evaluating ecological information, assessing annual phenology, appropriate study design based on the scale of the survey area, survey execution, and adequate documentation of rare plant populations encountered.
Cost: CNPS members $310, Non-members $335.
Registration and full description available here.


Bridgeport, South Yuba RiverJune 19-21, 2012
Mountain Riparian Plants
Taught by Stew Winchester
South and Middle Forks of the Yuba River: from foothills to headwater tributaries

This will be 2.5 day field course on riparian plant identification and ecology for the intermediate level botanists ecologists, resource managers, and others interested in learning to identify riparian vegetation of the foothills and mountains. Participants should have an understanding of plant terminology and basic plant identification skills.
Cost: CNPS members $325, Non-members $350. Camping will be additional.
Registration and full description will be available soon, here.


July 10-12
Vegetation Rapid Assessment and Relevé protocols
Taught by Todd Keeler-Wolf and Jennifer Buck-Diaz
Sedgwick Reserve, Santa Inez

Hell Hole FenThe course will be a combination of lecture and field exercises in vegetation sampling with a focus on collecting data using the CNPS-DFG combined vegetation rapid assessment/ relevé method. 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. Evening lecture on Jul 10, followed by two days in the field.
Cost: Members $325, Non-members $350.
Registration will open soon.


Chapter Events

North Coast Chapter
Spring Wildflower Show and Native Plant Sale
Friday through Sunday, May 4-6

Show hours: Friday 1:00-5:00 PM, Saturday 10:00 AM-5:00 PM, and Sunday 10 AM-4:00 PM at the Manila Community Center, 1611 Peninsula Drive, Manila. Native Plant Sale hours: Saturday 10:00 AM-4:00PM and Sunday 10:00 AM-4:00 PM. For event itinerary, see chapter website. For further information call (707) 826-0259 or (707) 822-2015.

Orange County Chapter

Orange County Native Plant Garden Tour
Saturday, May 5 10:00 AM- 5:00 PM

Once again, OC-CNPS is sponsoring a free, one-day self-guided tour of gardens featuring all or mostly native plants all around Orange County. Registration is required to get the actual addresses, which will be e-mailed during the week before the tour. Fill out the form below to register via the web. For more details, including garden descriptions, photos, and general locations, see this link

Willis Linn Jepson Chapter
Spring Plant Sale
Saturday, May 5 9:00 AM-3:00 PM

Perennials, trees, shrubs, and groundcovers for a drought tolerant, wildlife friendly and attractive garden. Benicia Community Garden, corner of Military and E. 2nd Street, downtown Benicia. (1400 E. 2nd Street.) Parking is available at the Heritage Church parking lot. A Benicia Community Garden workshop on irrigation will be ongoing all day and open to all. A sale plant list in pdf is available here. For more information, call (707) 747-5815.

Bristlecone Chapter
Field Trip: Sawmill Road, Greenhorn Mountains
Saturday, May 12, 9:00 AM

Led by Jane McEwen, this is a Creosote Ring Sub-Chapter event. The highlights of this trip in the Greenhorn Mountains include driving through several plant communities, from Grey Pines and Oaks up into Pines, Firs and Cedars, exploring a mountain meadow, and driving down Sawmill Road with spectacular views of Lake Isabella. We will leave Inyokern Post Office parking area at 9:00 am. For the full driving itinerary, see A plant list for the area along Rancheria Road is available on the CNPS Kern County Chapter website. Contact Jane McEwan for details.

Highway 395 Cleanup
Saturday, May 20, 9:00 AM

Leader: Scott Hetzler. 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. For more information contact Scott at (760) 873-8392.

Channel Islands Chapter
Walk/Tour: Figueroa Mountain Flower Search
Saturday, May 12, 9:30 AM

Leader: Lynn Watson. Enjoy the late blooms of Figueroa Mountain with Lynn Watson. Figueroa Mountain has a unique flora, including serpentine endemic species and often has great wildflower displays. For itinerary and directions, see or call Lynn at 683-0454.

El Dorado Chapter
Program Meeting: "How the Heck Do I Start My Native Plant Garden?"
Tuesday, May 15, 6:30 PM

The first half-hour is for plant identification, workgroups and socializing. The Program will start at 7 p.m. El Dorado Chapter of the California Native Plant Society presents landscape designer Marcia Scott, who has been practicing in El Dorado County for 12 years. She holds a degree in Landscape Architecture from UC Berkeley, and previously worked in the S.F. Bay Area for 18 years. In the past year Marcia designed gardens using more than 2000 CA Native Plants. She will explain in simple terms how to start a successful garden using California Native plants. The meeting location is at the El Dorado Public Library, 345 Fair Lane, Placerville.

Contributors and Photo Credits

  • Julie M. Evens
  • Kendra Sikes
  • Jennifer Buck-Diaz
  • Josie Crawford
  • Stacey Flowerdew
  • Mark Naftzger
  • Julie M. Evens- N. Table Mountain in Butte County
  • Jennifer Buck-Diaz - A plot sampled in the Carrizo Plain, April 2010/2012
  • Kendra Sikes - Hell Hole Fen, El Dorado County
  • Photo courtesy of John Willoughby
  • Stacey Flowerdew -Fritillaria liliacea, Fragrant Fritillary
  • John Coale- Bridgeport on the South Yuba River, Nevada County
  • Josie Crawford - Workshop Participants


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