California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

November 2012

2012 CNPS Rare Plant Treasure Hunt Survey Results

Rare Plant Treasure Hunters on a backpacking trip in the Desolation Wilderness, searching for the alpine Lewisia longipetala (Rank 1B.3) Photo by Belinda Lo. view larger

The Rare Plant Treasure Hunt recently concluded the 2012 field season and the third year of the program. Rare Plant Treasure Hunters continued to focus on California's deserts, as many areas remain poorly explored by botanists, and renewable energy projects continue to threaten the desert flora. This year, we also focused on U.S. Forest service lands, particularly in the southern and eastern Sierra, where more botanical surveys are needed. Members from almost all CNPS chapters participated in treasure hunts this year and eight chapters had innovative projects of their own. Here we report on the overall project results, as well as some of the highlights from the 2012 season. We look forward to an even more productive 2013 season, adding some great workshops for chapter trip leaders and a new area of focus along the California coast.

Rare Plant Occurrence Data

So far, data on 465 rare plant occurrences were submitted in 2012 with some data yet to be submitted. The program's focus has been on re-locating historical populations as well as searching potential habitat for new populations. Nearly 40 % of occurrences were new populations and nearly 60% of the rare plant populations that were surveyed were CNPS Rank 1B plants, which are rare throughout their entire range and, in many cases, endemic to California. Rank 4 plants, which are rare enough to merit some conservation concern, made up about 25% of the rare plant data. Gathering information on the Rank 4 plants is important, as their threats could increase in the future to the point that more protection is needed.

Much of the data were collected on trips led by CNPS staff in California's deserts and National Forests. However, some volunteers actively searched for and documented rare plant occurrences on their own, and several chapters were very active in documenting rare plants in their local areas. As a result of the efforts of these volunteers and chapters, the RPTH was able work in many different parts of the state. For example, the San Diego Chapter performed surveys on coastal dune annuals, while the East Bay Chapter performed surveys in the Bay Area and Delta region. More details on chapter participation are available in the article on the RPTH Awards.

Rare plant occurrences

Volunteer Participation

On par with participation in previous years, about 170 volunteers came out to participate in the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt this year. These volunteers contributed over 2500 hours to the project, with a few dedicated volunteers contributing around 100 hours each! VolunteersVolunteers were spread fairly evenly between the National Forests, the deserts, and other parts of the state.

While many RPTHers were CNPS members, a number of other groups participated in the project. Members of HabitatWorks, the Desert Survivors Club, Friends of Juniper Flats, the Sierra Club, Marin Municipal Water District, and Rivers for Change were all instrumental in making this a successful season. More details in how each group participated in the project are listed in the article on RPTH Awards.

Highlights from California's Deserts

Re-locating the Panamint daisy - This rare aster is particularly noteworthy, as it is the flower that adorns the CNPS logo. The Panamint daisy (Enceliopsis covillei) is only known from about 10 populations in the Mojave Desert's Panamint Mountains, adjacent to Death Valley. This spring, Rare Plant Treasure Hunters went on a trek to re-locate the type locality of the Panamint daisy. After a long hike in the hot desert (95 degrees in the morning!), when they had nearly given up on their quest, RPTHers caught a glimpse of the daisy's bright yellow flowers. The population at the type locality had not been seen in 121 years, and, except for some insects that had been chewing on the petals, the plants were doing just fine!

Rare Plant Treasure Hunters gearing up for a rare plant hike in the Sonoran Desert's Palo Verde Mountains. Photo by Kim Clark. view larger

The Jacumba Mountains - Rare Plant Treasure Hunters made several trips to this Sonoran Desert mountain range, and were treated with some amazing discoveries. Every stop they made and every canyon they explored yielded more rare plant information, and they came away with data on more than 50 rare plant populations. At the base of the mountains, Duncan Bell recognized an undescribed subspecies of Linanthus! Their documentation of the rare plants in this area was particularly important, given the threats from large-scale wind-energy projects and activity at the U.S.-Mexico border. Unfortunately, the undescribed Linanthus may already be extinct, due to bulldozing at the site for the wind energy project.

Range extension for common plants - Rare Plant Treasure Hunters in the desert gathered important information not only on rare plants, but on some common plants as well. Seven species were recorded for the first time in Imperial County, including Calycoseris parryi, Penstemon spectabilis, Eriodictyon crassifolium, Trifolium wildenovii, Plagiobothrys tenellus, Eriogonum nudum, and Claytonia perfoliata. This is great example of how RPTHers can fill in the gaps in our knowledge of the California Desert beyond just the rare plants!

Highlights from California's National Forests

Sequoia National Forest - Volunteers from several different parts of the state met at the Quaking Aspen Campground for a rare plant survey of Slate Mountain and The Needles. We hiked on the trails of Slate Mountain for a full day, relocating and documenting historical occurrences of the Twisselmann's buckwheat (Eriogonum twisselmannii), which only grows in a small part of the southern Sierra, as well as other plants on the mountain. On day 2 of the trip, we did a short hike to the Needles , an unusual rock formation that is a famous destination for rock climbers. We were looking for the only known population of Shevock's rockcress (Boechera shevockii), and had cause for concern - it was only documented as occurring under the staircase leading to a fire lookout which just recently had burned down. Fortunately, the fire didn't impact this extremely rare plant, and we were able to map a large portion of its extent. Without rock climbing gear, however, we turned back before we reached the edge of the population - perhaps some botanically-inclined climbers will join the RPTH and help us map the rest of the population!

Inyo National Forest - Volunteers from the Creosote Ring subchapter and the Sierra Club visited Horseshoe Meadows, a high-elevation, easily accessible, subalpine meadow, as well as some of the surrounding passes and trails. We were fortunate to be joined by Tim Thomas, who has been studying the region's flora for 30 years. Despite the area's accessibility (a paved road makes the steep climb up the eastern slope of the Sierra to the trailhead), many exciting botanical finds awaited us. We found new and historical locations of Tulare rockcress (Boechera tularensis), field ivesia (Ivesia campetris), and Tulare campion (Silene aperta). Jean Dillingham, a new volunteer, was excited to find a very old occurrence of Sharmith's stickseed (Hackelia sharsmithii), a plant named after her friend Carl Sharsmith.

El Dorado National Forest - Seasonal botanists Belinda Lo and Jade Paget-Seekins helped lead a trip in the Leonardi Falls Botanical Area to map a large population of Sierra blue grass (Poa sierra). This plan was just added to the Rare Plant Inventory two years ago, and at the time was thought to be very rare at the time. Now that its rarity status has garnered it some attention, more populations are being found. Belinda and Jade found about a dozen occurrences just during the 2012 season. The grass prefers to grow on very steep (often more than 45 degree) north-facing slopes, which made for grueling, but rewarding, hike.

CNPS awards dedicated Rare Plant Treasure Hunt volunteers in 2012

Delphinium purpusii, by Clyde Golden
Delphinium purpusii (Rank 1B.3). First place photo in our photo contest, taken by Clyde Golden. view larger

The 2012 Rare Plant Treasure Hunt just wrapped up its field season, and we are happy to announce the winners of the awards in the third year of this exciting initiative. A lot of CNPS chapters, CNPS members, and other groups contributed to the project this year, and we commend them for the great efforts they have made in conserving California's rarest plants. Here we list our award winners and describe how they contributed to the RPTH in 2012. You can find more information on each award winner (as well as great photos and essays) on the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt website.

CNPS Chapters

Individuals from many CNPS Chapters participated in the RPTH this year, but a few chapters led the way in organizing treasure hunts. This year's top chapter was the Creosote Ring subchapter of the Bristlecone Chapter. Kathy LaShure of Creosote Ring led many trips this year, some with other chapter members, and some with her two-person team, "The Red Jeepsters". They were able to find many new and historical occurrences of southern Sierra endemics this year, and their work will help with the proposed downranking of field ivesia (Ivesia campestris) from rank 1B to Rank 4. The San Diego Chapter took second place this year, with their second consecutive season of dune annual surveys in San Diego area State Parks and County Parks. Frank Landis, who heads up the program, told us about the great need for data on these highly-threatened plants. Their populations can fluctuate widely from year to year, and the data gathered by San Diego CNPS will help State Parks to successfully manage rare plant populations in the face of increasing threats. The San Gabriel Mountains Chapter took third place this year. They documented a number of occurrences during their field work for the Lily Springs Area Survey, which was completed this year. They also documented many of the known occurrences of their chapter logo, the Mt. Gleason paintbrush (Castilleja gleasoni) in their "Paintbrush Quest". Kathy LaShure and Frank Landis were also honored for their outstanding leadership both receiving awards for Most Trips Led.

Acmispon prostratus, by Frank Landis
Acmispon prostratus (Rank 1B.1). One of the rare dune annuals documented by the San Diego Chapter. Photo by Frank Landis. view larger

The Mount Lassen and East Bay Chapters were also awarded for the significant contributions they made to the project. Ron Coley of the Mount Lassen Chapter organized and led many surveys, in which he followed in the footsteps of the great botanist Vern Oswald. Heath Bartosh of East Bay CNPS organized the chapter's second year of its "Adopt a Rare Plant Program", and the chapter submitted data on East Bay plants from their 2011 surveys.

Individual Awards

The top award for an individual treasure hunter went to Belinda Lo, a seasonal botanist with the El Dorado National Forest. Even though Belinda was busy surveying for rare plants, she attended many Rare Plant Treasure Hunt trips throughout the year and led many of her own. Belinda made an outstanding contribution to the trips she attended, with her knowledge of the El Dorado County flora. Clyde Golden took second place, for his surveys on rare plants of the southern Sierra. Clyde has been a dedicated volunteer since the RPTH began in 2010, and we are grateful for all the work he has done on the project. James Roberts of the San Diego chapter was the volunteer who attended the most organized trips, and we thank him for all the work he did on the dune annual rare plant surveys. Tom Persons of HabitatWorks received the award for the most volunteer hours - he attended 4 RPTH camping trips in the California deserts, and brought with him a great deal of experience as a talented naturalist. Tim Thomas attended several trips in the California deserts and the eastern Sierra, and brought with him 30 years of experience in the botany of these regions. We thank Tim for his significant contribution to the RPTH.

Photo Contest

The photo contest was close, but Clyde Golden, the second place individual RPTHer, took the first place photo, a stunning close-up of rose-flowered larkspur (Delphinium purpusii). Will Spangler of Rivers for Change took second place with his photo of treasure hunters standing in Delta waters and examining populations of several tiny rare plants that are endemic to Delta mud flats. Ron Coley took third place with his beautiful close-up of woolly rose-mallow (Hibiscus lasiocarpos var. occidentalis). View the pictures online!

Essay Contest

Will Spangler's essay, "Rivers for Change hunts for treasure plants" accompanied his 2nd place photo , and took the prize of top essay! Will recounted his experience as a leader of a trip in the Delta, in which RPTHers kayaked spent a full day kayaking through the Delta in search of rare plants! Read the essay here. Jane Strong took second place with her essay on her Chapter's project, "The Paintbrush Quest". Former RPTH Coordinator Amber Swanson took third place, with her essay on her experiences on a Mojave Desert RPTH.

Project Partners

We would like to thank all of our partner organizations that participated in the RPTH and helped make for a successful 2012 field season. HabitatWorks, a volunteer organization committed to habitat stewardship projects throughout Southern California, contributed to many of the California Desert trips this year and brought in many people new to the project and the desert. The Desert Survivors, a group of desert lovers from all over California, also came out for several trips this year. Many of the club members are strong botanists and were a great help to the project. The Marin Municipal Water District teamed up with Marin Chapter members to lead several trips on Mt. Tamalpais this year. They were able to bring out over 50 volunteers and documented many new and historical occurrences on the mountain this year. Rivers for Change made it their goal to paddle 12 California rivers from source to sea in an effort to bring awareness to the threats they face. As part of this project, Rivers for Change members John Dye and Will Spangler helped lead and organize a survey for rare plants in the Delta, and even provided RPTHers with some great rental kayaks. Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation's mission is to connect outdoor adventurers with scientists who are in need of data. This year, they connected us with several volunteers who were adventuring around the state, including the folks at Rivers for Change! Friends of Juniper Flats participated in a desert trip this year. Their mission is to preserve, protect, and restore the natural and cultural values of the Juniper Flats, Arrastre Canyon, and Grapevine Canyon areas for future generations by supporting BLM efforts to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the area.

Project Supporters

All of this great work could not happen without the generous support of project funders. This year, the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt was funded by grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Bureau of Land Management for work done in the southern California deserts. We thank the U.S.D.A. Forest Service for supporting the project on California's National Forests where many rare plant populations are in need of updating. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden was a partner/subcontractor on the desert project providing the eagle-eyed super-botanist Duncan Bell to lead trips with CNPS coordinator, Kim Clark, and allowing the project to have a "home base" in southern California. The California Department of Fish and Game also supported the project by providing office space for CNPS staff, covering computing and printing costs, and prioritizing entry of rare plant data from the desert into the California Natural Diversity Database.


The Life List, Part Two

Sanvitalia abertii - Duncan BellA “life-list” is a term often used by naturalists to refer to all the different species they have identified. Earlier this year field botanist Duncan Bell contributed an essay on some of his memorable “Life-lister” discoveries, and is back to share some of the fascinating finds he made over the summer.

This summer out in the desert the weather got quite wild. Large monsoonal storms repeatedly hammered down on the desert washing out many roads and re-landscaping many geological features. One of the nice consequences of these massive storms was the life that it brought to the desert. While exploring out there I came across many more species that I had never seen before and thought I would share a few.

Continue to photo essay here.

Mary DeDecker Botanical Grant Applications Due December 10

In the Eastern Sierras - Nick JensenIn 2001, the Bristlecone Chapter established a grant program as a fitting tribute to Mary DeDecker, a renowned local botanist and founding member of the chapter. Grants for research and projects that increase the understanding and appreciation of native plants and ecosystems in the Eastern Sierra are available to graduate students, college students, and primary and secondary students (K-12). Research projects need not be academic or scholarly but must be relevant to the native plants of the northern Mojave Desert, Sierra Nevada, and Great Basin portions of eastern California. Applications must include written support from a major advisor or teacher. Grant recipients receive up to $1000 each for expenses and are asked to present their results to the Bristlecone Chapter either at a regular meeting or in the chapter newsletter. Deadline is December 10, 2012. All applicants will be notified of the committee’s decision by January 28, 2013. For more information about the Mary DeDecker Botanical Grant Program, click here.

Three New Additions to the CNPS Nature Journaling Repertoire!

A Child's Field Guide Example1. If you downloaded the CNPS children's curriculum, Opening the World through Nature Journaling, before Sept 27, 2012, we now have the much improved 2nd edition with many great additions, including an engaging poetry section, available for free download here.

2. We have developed a Field Guide extension, called Open World Field Guides, where you can take nature journaling to the next level by compiling a field guide to a local habitat with your group or class and posting it on our great new website where others can view it. There is a Google map that will show the locations of all the field guides posted. (This is a brand new program and we have just two field guides posted at the moment but they are both wonderful.) There are instructions in the Extension part of the 2nd Edition of Opening the World through Nature Journaling and on the website.  

3. New products for the young and young at heart are now available for sale through the CNPS Store: The Nature Journaling Kit, containing a CNPS Nature Journal, backpack, ruler, and magnifying lens.

Northern California Botanists to Present a Symposium

On January 14-15, 2013, Northern California Botanists will present a two-day symposium titled: From the Redwoods to the Sagebrush: Botany Ranging Far and Wide at California State University, Chico, plus a third day of workshops / field trips. Also included: a poster session, reception, banquet, keynote speaker. Student stipends available. For a detailed program and registration information, see:

Upcoming CNPS Vegetation Mapping Workshop

veg mappingCNPS Vegetation Mapping Workshop
UC Berkeley and Mount Tamalpais
Jan 16-18, 2013

Join the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and Aerial Information Services (AIS) for a three-day, vegetation mapping workshop. This workshop is a combination of field and computer exercises in fine-scale vegetation mapping. Participants should have an initial understanding of the subject matter and of GIS.

Cost: CNPS Members $620; Non-members $645
Details and Registration:

2013 CNPS Training Workshop Schedule

Upcoming CNPS Workshops:

  • Jan. 16–18, Vegetation Mapping, Todd Keeler-Wolf, Julie Evens, and John Menke, Berkeley
  • Mar. 20–23, Conducting Rare Plant Surveys, Heath Bartosh and Aaron Sims, Concord area
  • Apr. 15–17, Vernal Pool Plant Taxonomy, Carol Witham and Jennifer Buck-Diaz, UC Davis and Central Valley vernal pools
  • Apr. 13–20, Guadalupe Island Flora, Steve Junak and Alan Harper, Guadalupe Island (dates could change to the following week)
  • Apr. 23–24, California Rangeland Biodiversity, Jennifer Buck-Diaz, Merced
  • May 7–9, Measuring and Monitoring Plant Populations, John Willoughby, Bodega Bay
  • Jun. 11–13, Riparian Ecology and Restoration, Bruce Orr and Amy Merrill, Cosumnes River and various sites in Marin County.
  • May 20-22, Riparian Plants of Southern California, David Magney, Casitas Springs, Ventura County
  • Sep. 3–5, Vegetation Rapid Assessment, Julie Evens, location TBD (somewhere in the Sierras)

For details and registration go to

Chapter Events

Shasta Chapter

Fall Colors Field Trip
Saturday, December 1, 9:00 AM
Join Jay & Terri Thesken on a fieldtrip to see late Fall colors. The location will be determined on the day of the hike, depending on colors. Prepare for a 3- to 5-mile hike. We will meet at 9 AM in the Redding City Hall parking lot, on the back (south) side of the building, next to Parkview Avenue. City Hall is at 777 Cypress Avenue—just west of the Cypress Avenue bridge over the Sacramento River. Heavy rain cancels. Bring lunch. No dogs, please. Call Jay or Terri Thesken for details at 221-0906.

Santa Cruz Chapter

Habitat Restoration Team, Quail Hollow Ranch County Park
Saturday, December 1 and 15, 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

We are a volunteer group working to restore native habitat in the parks and protected lands in Santa Cruz County. Our program provides an opportunity for people to learn about the natural systems that surround them while helping to restore special and wild places. No prior work experience is necessary, just show up at the park. We welcome individual volunteers from 8 to 80 years old, as well as special group projects. Wear comfortable layered clothing, bring something to drink, and lots of enthusiasm! We work rain or shine, but if things get particularly unpleasant, we call it a day. Tools provided; bring gloves. Contact: Linda Brodman 831.462.4041.

Monterey Bay Chapter

French Broom Weed Bash, Point Lobos State Reserve
Saturday, December 1, 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM

East Side of Point Lobos State Reserve- Meet in Carmel at the Rio Rd. Park n’ Ride. Join us on these 1st Saturday of the month visits to the beautiful Monterey pine forest on the east side of Point Lobos. We’ll use several techniques to remove French broom and help restore this area that wants to thrive with native plants. Meet at 1pm in Carmel at the Rio Rd. Park n’ Ride (across from the Chevron Gas Station). All supplies provided. Bring a friend, water, and a snack. Contact Bruce Delgado for more info.

North Coast Chapter

Film Screening: A Wild American Forest
Thursday, December 6, 7:00 PM

A Wild American Forest, a film about the Klamath Mountain Region. Spend an evening reveling in the diversity and history of our mountain "backyard." UC Davis ecologist Dr. Susan Harrison will augment the movie with a discussion of her work in the serpentines and in re-sampling plots laid out by R. H. Whittaker in the 1960's in the Siskiyou Mts. Sponsored by Northcoast Environmental Center, CNPS, Natural History Museum, Back Country Press, and Geos Institute. 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Arcata Playhouse, 1251 9th St. Admission $3-$5 sliding scale; beer, wine, cider, and snacks available for a donation.

Native Plant Show & Tell
December 12, Wednesday, 7:00 p.m

An informal evening for anyone to share photos, artifacts, readings, or food relating to native plants and their habitats. Contributors will include Ned Forsyth showing many years of record shots of Mt. St. Helena, Jenny Hanson and Elaine Allison sharing botanical fun from Upper Klamath Lake, Rita Zito showing a few floral summer spectacles, Carol Ralph sharing botanical moments in Europe, and someone sharing scenes from the Sanger Lake and Youngs Valley field trip. If you would like to contribute, contact Dave Imper at 444-2756. At the Six Rivers Masonic Lodge, 251 Bayside Rd., Arcata. Refreshments at 7:00 p.m.; Botanical FAQ's at 7:15 p.m., and program at 7:30 p.m.

San Gabriel Mountains

Second Sunday Eaton Canyon Plant Walk
Sunday, December 9, 9:00 AM

Meet in front of Eaton Canyon Nature Center at 9:00 a.m. Then go on a leisurely walk, about 2 hours, through the native plant garden that surrounds the Center and into the nearby wild areas. The walk is different each time — what's leafing out, flowering, in seed, etc., determines what your leader will talk about — and different leaders bring different points of view.

Los Angeles/Santa Monica Mountains Chapter
Program Meeting: The California Phenology Project
Tuesday, December 11, 7:30 - 9:00 PM

The California Phenology Project (CPP) is the first regional effort to assess the effects of climate change on California's diverse landscapes. Open to participation by people from all walks of life, the CPP is a science and education program that coordinates activities across California's National Parks, the UC Natural Reserve System, and backyards and schoolyards region wide. Come meet the UCSB phenology group to learn about this exciting project and how the CNPS is getting involved. First United Methodist Church, Santa Monica. See for more info.

San Luis Obispo Chapter

Fungal Foray, Cambria
Saturday, December 15, 9:00 AM

On this easy 3 mile field trip we will be looking for mushrooms growing in the Monterey pine forests of Cambria. Meet at the Cambria Vets Hall at 9 a.m., or to carpool from SLO: meet at the San Luis Obispo Vets Hall parking area on Grand Avenue at 8 a.m. How to get there: Traveling north on Hwy 1, take a right at the stop light at Cambria Road, Cambria, go one block to Main Street and take a left and then a left again into the Cambria Vets Hall parking lot. There is no public restroom here. Bring water, your field guides, and a mushroom basket for you may want to collect some edible varieties. For additional information e-mail David Krause or Bill Waycott.

Contributors and Photo Credits

  • Josie Crawford
  • Danny Slakey
  • Duncan Bell
  • Kim Clark
  • Stacey Flowerdew
  • Mark Naftzger
  • Belinda Lo - Rare Plant Treasure Hunters in the Desolation Wilderness
  • Clyde Golden - Kern County Larkspur, Delphinium purpusii (Rank 1B.3)
  • Duncan Bell - Sanvitalia abertii (Rank 2.2)
  • Nick Jensen - Paintbrush in the Eastern Sierras
  • A middle school student's field guide example


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