California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

May 2013

What Having Your Feet on the Ground Can Reveal

Carex scirpoidea ssp. pseudoscirpoidea - click to view largerField surveys and assessments by the CNPS Vegetation Program contribute to our understanding of California vegetation, and they also allow us to gain new and exciting information about rare plant and animal species. Recently, CNPS staff identified two rare taxa, the Western single-spiked sedge (California Rare Plant Rank 2.2) and the Coast horned lizard (CDFW-Species of Special Concern), during field sampling. The Western single-spiked sedge was found as a dominant plant in a small patch of wet meadow near Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains. Upon making a collection of the plant, the staminate inflorescence, as seen in this photo, was thought to be unidentifiable. However, with the help of the Carex Working Group, the specimen was verified as Carex scirpoidea ssp. pseudoscirpoidea. This subspecies had not been previously recorded south of Kings Canyon National Park, and its bioregion was thought to extend only as far south as Sequoia National Forest. The collection will be sent to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden herbarium where it will be housed and used for the verification of other possible populations of the species in the Transverse Ranges or Southern Sierras. This range extension confirms the importance of additional ground-based meadow assessments in this region, and likely new species or range extensions could continue to be discovered there.

Coast horned lizard, Phrynosoma blainvillii - click to view largerIn 2011, a Coast horned lizard, Phrynosoma blainvillii, wandered into a small survey plot where CNPS was sampling grasslands. Such a prehistoric looking animal deserved numerous photographs, and being botanists, it wasn’t until we were back in the office that we realized it was a horned lizard. The taxonomy of horned lizards has gone through numerous revisions, including lumping and splitting (a familiar concept to those who are getting used to the new Jepson Manual), and while the name may change in the future, this was the first recorded occurrence of the animal in Madera County. Though the historical ranges of many plant and animal species covered the extent of the San Joaquin Valley, the available habitat has become quite fractured, making the documentation of this lizard significant!

Finding rare species in new places, like the ones described above, is one of the highlights of field botany. At CNPS, we know that field sampling can reveal hidden surprises and provide important information for habitat conservation. We hope that by keeping our boots on the ground, the California flora and fauna will be better understood, protected, and continue to amaze future generations.

CNPS Vegetation Program Chapter Workshops

Rangeland WorkshopThe CNPS Vegetation and Education Programs have teamed up again this spring to provide a variety of workshops including the topics of vernal pool plant taxonomy, rangeland biodiversity in grasslands, and sampling of rare plant communities. Don’t miss out on additional workshops this summer and fall with the Vegetation Program and local chapters across the state. Click here for more details.

The CNPS Vegetation Program recently held a chapter-based Rare Plant Communities workshop at the Redbud Chapter at Hell's Half Acre near Grass Valley. Hell’s Half Acre is a special bit of botanical heaven in the Sierra Nevada foothills where acres of brilliant wildflowers bloom in the spring. 

CNPS Redbud Chapter members learn the relevé methods of vegetation sampling during a Rare Vegetation Communities workshop at Hell’s Half Acre in Nevada County. Surrounded by gray pine and oak forest, Hell’s Half Acre is a distinctive open habitat sometimes called “Mehrten Meadow”.  The forest openings are formed by shallow soils underlain with hard volcanic mudflows, or lahar. Geologists call this Mehrten Formation, and others call them “lava caps”.  Due to the cement-like layer and gentle slopes, rainfall collects in shallow depressions before slowly draining off or evaporating in spring. 

The vegetation sampling here is helping to document a richness of meadow communities and uncommon assemblages of the sub-shrub Nevada City buckwheat (Eriogonum prattenianum var. prattenianum) and colorful herbs including narrowleaf onion (Allium amplectens), Ramm’s madia (Jensia rammii), and valley checkerbloom (Sidalcea hartwegii).

Vegetation Reports Available

Carrizo Veg MapVegetation Program staff have recently completed a variety of reports including a Fen Vegetation Conservation Assessment, Carrizo Plain National Monument Vegetation Mapping and Assessment, and the Great Valley Vegetation Classification. Click here to read more.

Seeking Volunteers for Watersheds and Plants Fieldwork

We are seeking volunteers to help with fieldwork for a pilot project to support assessments of vegetation and watersheds conditions in California’s National Forests. We will be sampling in high elevation rare plant communities on Forest Service lands for three weeks in the late summer. If you can devote at least two days in the field, we would appreciate you volunteering with us. Please contact Kendra Sikes, Vegetation Ecologist, with your interest.

Upcoming CNPS Workshops

Further details on all workshops are available here. Contact Josie Crawford for more information.

Ecology of Edible and Medicinal Natives
Instructors: Alicia Funk and Farrell Cunningham
Nevada City
July 24, 2013

elderberriesThis classroom and field course will give participants the knowledge of how to combine available science, traditional knowledge and current interest in wild foods as a basis for instruction in the sustainable use of native plants. The classroom section will focus on the scientific information supporting native plants for food and health, as well as top priorities for additional research and an overview of sustainability issues. Participants will receive hands-on demonstrations of current processing methods of edible and medicinal native plants and sample recipes. The field portion will be conducted at 3,000’ in the Sierra Nevada region, near Nevada City, California, with views of Donner Summit and the Yuba River, and will focus on identifying edible and medicinal natives in the field and reviewing uses within traditional, Native American ecology. Registration opens soon!

Cost: CNPS members $175 Non-members $200.

Vegetation Rapid Assessment
Instructors: Julie Evens and Jennifer Buck-Diaz
Location TBA
Date TBD September 2013

Workshop announcement coming soon!


Details and registration for all workshops:

Chapter Events - A Sampling from Around the State

To connect to your local chapter, or to find other events in your region, see this page for a list and map of CNPS chapters.

Kern County Chapter

Field Trip: Piute Mountains with Alison Sheehey
Saturday, June 1, 7:45 AM

Contact: Lucy Clark; RSVP Deadline: 8PM, May 30, 2013. Please join us for the first in a memory trip to the Piutes with Nature Ali herself as our guide. We will take Saddle Springs Road, which leads through grassland, chaparral, pinyon-juniper woodland (the burnt remnants of the Piute Cypress Botanical Area), and ponderosa/Jeffrey pine forest. Ali reports the temp drops about 20 degrees along the trip, as we go up to Piute Peak! The entire roadside along the 15 miles of travel is worthy of botanizing. Birds and butterflies are a bonus. Rare plants along the route include the Streptanthus cordatus var piutensis (Piute jewel flower); Eriogonum breedlovei var breedlovei (Piute buckwheat); Delphinium inopinum (unexpected larkspur); Hesperocyparsis nevadensis (Piute cypress); Calochortus palmeri (Palmer’s mariposa lily) and Perideridia pringlei (adobe yampah). This will be an all-day trip. There is no potable water, so bring plenty! Learn more about the area at this link. Saddle Springs Road turns off Bodfish-Caliente Road (Lake Isabella Blvd). It is a rough narrow road that has few turnouts, so carpooling is mandatory. High-clearance vehicles are required. If you have a high-clearance vehicle and will bring it, please let Lucy know, so we can provide a ride for all who want to join us. See the chapter website for further trip details.

El Dorado Chapter

Field Trip: Little Bald Mountain, Georgetown Ranger District
Saturday, June 1, 9:30 AM

The original date for this hike was later. It has been changed to take advantage of the early season. The first part of the day we will visit Little Bald Mountain near Georgetown, to see serpentine plant species. Walking distance is only about two miles, but on a rough rocky road. Plant highlights here are Packera layneae (Layne’s butterweed), Allium sanbornii var. sanbornii or A. sanbornii var. congdonii. There will be a plant list available. Afterwards, if people are still interested and want to stay out longer we can join Tom Petersen, local writer and hiking trail enthusiast. He will lead us on an approximately 2 to 3 mile round trip within the old Bottle Hill Ditch. We will be traveling to the site on an unimproved, native surfaced, forest road. A high-clearance vehicle is best. Meeting Time and Meeting Place: 9:30 AM at the Georgetown Library on South Street. Duration: 6 hours to all day, depending on interest. Level of Difficulty: Moderate. We will be walking on a rocky dirt road; and later in an old water ditch along a north facing slope. Poison oak is a possibility. What to Bring: appropriate shoes, lunch, water, sunscreen, and hat. Contact Information: If you have questions, email Annie Walker. An RSVP is not necessary.

Mount Lassen Chapter

Field Trip: Upper North Fork Feather River & Caribou Road
Sunday, June 2, 8:30 AM

Meet at Chico Park & Ride west lot (Hwys 32/99) at 8:30 am. Bring lunch, water, sun/insect protection, hiking gear, and money for ride sharing. We will drive a total distance of 65 miles, one way. Mostly we will be driving Hwy 70 along the scenic Feather River Canyon to the Caribou Arm of the river where we will make roadside stops. We expect to see Shasta lilies and lady’s slipper orchids where small streams cross the road. The road ends at P.G & E nostalgic 1920’s town site and power house. The hike is three-miles round trip. The trail is level but not maintained and may be overgrown. The river is crossed twice on foot-bridges. We are hoping for show of cascading white-water. OPTION: Some folks may rather see the areas natural features from the paved road. Do not take children on this trail. Leaders: Gerry Ingco 530-893-5123, Wes Dempsey 530-342-2293.

Bristlecone Chapter

CNPS Highway clean-up
Sunday, June 9, 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.

East Bay Chapter

Field Trip: Mount Diablo Falls Trail, Middle Trail
Sunday, June 9, 9:30 AM - 3:30 PM

This is a moderate round trip of 5 miles, with 1200 feet elevation gain on the way out. It will be mostly downhill on the return trip, and we expect to be out 5-7 hours. Bring lunch and at least 1.5 liters of water. We will start on Clayton Oaks trail, and proceed from there to Bruce Lee Spring trail, lower Donner trail, and on to Wasserman and Falls trails.

Expect to see Coyote mint (Monardella douglasii) and tincture plant (Collinsia tinctoria) in flower, along with several paintbrush species, several Clarkia species, Sedum radiatum, Campanula exigua, Indian Pink (Silene californica), Chaparral pea (Pickeringia montana), California milkweed (Asclepias californica), Phacelia spp., maybe Mount Diablo Jewelflower, and lots of common species. We should arrive back at the parking lot around 3-4 PM. See the chapter website for directions and further details.

Los Angeles/Santa Monica Mountains Chapter

Evening Program: Rewilding Walgrove Elementary School - The Making of a Schoolyard Habitat in Venice, CA
Tuesday, June 11, 7:30 - 9:00 PM

Capitalizing on the removal of 6 bungalows from the school site, Team Walgrove seized this opportunity to remove asphalt and to replace it with an ensemble of habitat islands representing several of Southern California’s native plant communities. Zara Bennett, former professor of French turned schoolyard greening activist, will discuss the collaborative process that has led to the creation of Walgrove’s schoolyard habitat — from conception to build day.

In many ways, the Walgrove experience is representative of that of many Los Angeles Unified School District schools who decide to green their campus through community-led initiatives. This story of an ambitious project led by three mothers—and supported by countless partners — illustrates the process of schoolyard greening in the LAUSD, as well as the key components of a successful green team at the school site. Bennett will sketch out the Walgrove model, as well as the critical phases of the Wildlands’ planning, design, and future maintenance. First United Methodist Church, 1008 11th Street, Santa Monica.

Santa Cruz Chapter

Field Trip: Loma Prieta with Randall Morgan
Sunday, June 23 10 AM - 12 PM

Our largest and most diverse expanse of "northern mixed chaparral", a community with more shrub species than any other in this area, many in full bloom. Also a completely different assortment of flowering herbs, some that occur nowhere else in this county. We will stray into Santa Clara County for the best highlights, however, choice items like Stream Orchid, Clarkia breweri, a rare Ceanothus, a rare Hoita, etc. This is also a primo area for locally rare birds that like to stick to the high ridges. Should be perfect time of year for just about everything. Mostly easy hike unless you want to continue up to the summit. Meet at the summit of Old San Jose Rd. at the intersection of Hwy. 35. Bring water and layered clothing.


Contributors and Photo Credits

  • Jennifer Buck-Diaz
  • Sara M. Taylor
  • Kendra Sikes
  • Julie Evens
  • Deborah Stout
  • Josie Crawford
  • Stacey Flowerdew
  • Mark Naftzger
  • Sara M. Taylor - Carex specimen
  • Rebecca Crowe - Coast horned lizard, Phrynosoma blainvillii
  • Melissa Mooney - Rangeland Workshop Participants
  • Cyndi Brinkhurst - Rare Vegetation Communities workshop at Hell’s Half Acre
  • Sample Vegetation Map
  • Alicia Funk - Elderberries


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