California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

November 2014

Sonoma and Mendocino County Pygmy Forest: Ecosystem Definition and Mapping Project

At Van Damme State Park pygmy forests of H. pygmaea and P. contorta subsp. bolanderi, occur on poor "Blacklock" soils adjacent to taller, less dwarfed bishop pines (in background)

Mendocino pygmy forests are naturally rare, occurring only on very old elevated marine terraces within 1 to 5 miles from the sea. They have been threatened by development, including clearing for airports, pot farms, and housing, for decades. The unusual vegetation on “The Mendocino ecological staircase” is a result of the inhibiting effect of soils subjected to hundreds of thousands of years of weathering in the cool moist north coastal part of the state. This soil “chronosequence” was made famous by UC Berkley professor Hans Jenny’s work in the 1960’s.

In the classic pygmy forest, pygmy cypress (Hesperocyparis pygmaea), Bolander pine (Pinus contorta subsp. bolanderi), and dwarfed individuals of bishop pine (P. muricata), grow in stunted, old stands, sometimes only a few feet tall, within an assemblage of ericaceous shrubs, fruticose lichens, and mosses - all sharing tolerance of nutrient-poor acidic soils. These stands are in stark contrast to the tall, dark forests of redwood, grand fir, and Douglas-fir on deeper soils just off of the ancient terrace soils.

Similar pygmy forest with H. pygmaea, P. muricata, Vaccinium ovatum, and Arctostaphylos nummularia occurs as far south as Salt Point State Park

For years these pygmy forests were described in a limited range between Fort Bragg south to Albion near the Navarro River in southern Mendocino County. However, similar vegetation, also naturally restricted and threatened by recent development, occurs southward to Salt Point State Park in Sonoma County. These more southerly stands are poorly known and yet contain similarly rare vegetation. Only by collecting data, classifying, and mapping all of these related types of vegetation can we identify how many of these unusual communities there are on these old terraces, know their distribution and abundance, and understand their relationships and conservation value.

Through a multidisciplinary effort lead by California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) staff, local CNPS members, and concerned land managers, this endangered “pygmy” ecosystem has been targeted for a complete vegetation assessment over the next several months.

Left: The range of pygmy and pygmy-like ecosystems on coastal marine terraces from Ft. Bragg southward into N. Sonoma County with inset (right) of how individual sampling areas are prioritized for the project; based on existing soils mapping, field data, location and age of marine terraces, and other corroborating evidence. The "warmer" the color, the higher likelihood of pygmy-like vegetation present.
Although taller, many bishop pine woodlands on poor soils on marine terraces in Sonoma and adjacent Mendocino counties have some of the same characteristic species as the more stunted pygmy forests. The project will be able to determine if such forests are also rare and limited in distribution (northern part of Salt Point State Park).

To kick-off this sampling and mapping effort led by CDFW regional staff, CDFW headquarters staff of the Vegetation Classification and Mapping Program (VegCAMP), and CNPS will be conducting a vegetation sampling training in Mendocino County’s pygmy forest February 9-13, 2015 with help from Teresa Sholars, Professor Emeritus, College of the Redwoods. Please contact Teresa Sholars () or Linda Miller () if you are interested in helping out on this project.


Call for a Vegetation Program Intern or Volunteer

The Vegetation Program is seeking individuals to assist us with various tasks to support statewide vegetation classification and mapping. Tasks include but are not limited to archiving of photos and data and computer entry of vegetation survey data from around the state. Tasks would be carried out in our office in downtown Sacramento. We are open to individuals with a range of skills and abilities, but good organization skills and attention for detail are desired. This is a great way for someone to gain experience and knowledge of California’s diverse flora. Contact Jamie Ratchford at if you would like to find out more.

Call for Car Donations: The Study of Vegetation Occurs on Roads Less Travelled!

The CNPS Vegetation Program is in search of a vehicle for our surveying and mapping forays across the state. Please consider a tax-deductible donation of your 4WD truck or SUV. For more information contact Julie Evens (), CNPS Vegetation Program Director, or call (916) 447-2677.

Even if you don't have a 4WD vehicle, your car donation can still make a difference for CNPS! Through the Center for Car Donations, you can donate your used car, truck, boat, motorcycle, or even tractor and California Native Plant Society will receive the proceeds! Your car does not have to be running to qualify, however it must have an engine and be towable. Call 877-411-3662 to talk with a representative and within 24 hours you will be contacted to have your car picked up at a time and location convenient to you. You will receive a tow receipt when the vehicle is picked up, and thirty days after the vehicle is sold, you will receive an acknowledgement. If your vehicle sells for over $500 you will receive IRS Form 1098 B & C for your taxes. It's really that simple!


Introducing the New and Improved CNPS Store!

Trees and Shrubs of Nevada and Placer CountiesCheck out our new and improved webstore featuring items like our 'Native Plants Live Here' garden sign and our newest publication release from the Redbud Chapter, Trees and Shrubs of Nevada and Placer Counties, California. The perfect place for holiday gift ideas: nature journaling kits for children of all ages, posters, and an abundance of field guides, and resources on native plant gardening.  Look for even more exciting new releases in 2015!


CNPS Membership Makes a Great Green Gift!

Bay Nature magazineDo you know someone who appreciates native plants and relishes the variety of breathtaking landscapes we enjoy in California? Maybe your neighbor is an avid water-wise gardener, your niece is studying plant biology at university, or your father-in-law has albums of wildflower photos he has taken over the years. Stumped as to what to get them for the holidays? A membership in CNPS makes a great gift! In addition to plant sales, seminars, gardening workshops, field hikes, evening programs, and conservation efforts driven by 34 CNPS chapters throughout California and Baja, CNPS members enjoy discounts at nearly 40 nurseries and garden stores across the state. Click this link to see a list of all CNPS membership benefits, including subscription discounts to Bay Nature and Pacific Horticulture, discounted environmental consulting, and landscape design services. It's easy to give a gift membership. Simply fill out the online membership form and provide the name and address of your recipient in the "Comments" field. You can't give a greener gift! 


CNPS 2015 Conservation Conference Silent Auction Donations

CNPS 2015Do you have artwork, books, wine, botanical supplies, gardening accessories, vacation getaways, camping gear, jewerly, professional services, or any other items of beauty, value, or interest that you would like to donate to the Silent Auction at the CNPS 2015 Conservation Conference in January? If so, please download and fill out the Auction Donor Form (PDF). Proceeds from the silent auction go to support the CNPS Conservation Program. Nothing to donate but time? Consider joining the Silent Auction Committee and soliciting donations or volunteering at the conference. Email with your auction donation questions or to volunteer!


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. Even more events from CNPS chapters and partners can be viewed on the Horticulture Events Calendar.

Santa Clara Valley Chapter
GWN: Harvesting Your Native Plants for Many Uses
Monday, December 1, 7:00 - 8:30 PM

Join us for a talk explaining the relationship of California native plants to indigenous peoples and how these plants can be used today. John Kipping will tell us how native plants can be used for food, medicine, and material sources, especially for basketry. Mr. Kipping will demonstrate Pomo style coiled weaving. His talk will include a display of specimens, books and artifacts. He will also show us how to make manzanita cider. Milpitas Library, 160 N Main Street, Milpitas.

South Coast Chapter
Annual Potluck Desserts and Open Slide Show
Monday, December 1, 7:30 PM

Bring your favorite plant photos and desserts to share! Put your best plant and expedition photos on a thumb drive to show them on the big screen in our annual member slide show. South Coast Botanic Garden, 26300 Crenshaw Blvd, Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA 90274.

Yerba Buena Chapter
Annual Members' Slides and Potluck Supper
Thursday, December 4, 2014

Join our annual year-end informal members' potluck dinner and slide show. Please bring your favorite slides or digital images and your favorite dish or beverage to share. There will be no restaurant dinner or plant identification workshop preceding this meeting. Whether you are a photographer or a plant fan, come for an enjoyable evening of delicious food and great pictures. The potluck starts at 6:30 and the slides start at 7:30. Email Kipp McMichael at or call 510-759-3178 for information about showing your pictures. Recreation Room, Francisco County Fair Building, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

Bristlecone Chapter
Deadline for Mary DeDecker Botanical Grant Applications
Friday, December 5

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 $1,000 each for expenses and are asked to present their results to the Bristlecone Chapter either at a regular meeting or in the chapter newsletter. All applicants will be notified of the committee’s decision by the end of January. More information and application:

Santa Cruz County Chapter
Field Trip: Hike to Chalk Mountain
Saturday, December 6, 9:30 AM - 2:30 PM

Hike to Chalk Mountain 1609’ with Deanna Giuliano. Enjoy spectacular panoramic views and amazing redwoods on the way up to a coastal scrub habitat. Strenuous elevation gain of about 1500’, 4 miles round trip. Bring water, layers, sunscreen, hat and a lunch. Meet at Westside New Leaf parking lot, 1101 Fair Ave., Santa Cruz. Heavy rain cancels. Please contact Deanna Giuliano for any questions or to RSVP (trip is limited to 15 people), 831 278-2699.

Shasta Chapter
Field Trip: Middle Creek Trail
Saturday, December 6, 9:00 AM

This will be a four mile round trip hike on Middle Creek Trail, from Hwy 299 to Old Shasta and back. Fairly easy paved trail with some steep spots. The trail roughly follows Middle Creek and will pass the place where the infamous Ruggles Brothers robbed a stage coach. We will see typical chaparral and riparian plants. Meet at the intersection of Hwy 299 and Iron Mountain Road at 9 AM. Dogs on leash are okay for this outing. Rain cancels. For more information call David Ledger at 530-355-8542.

Mount Lassen Chapter
Field Trip: Middle Bidwell Park, Chico
Sunday, December 7, 10:00 AM

Meet at the Middle Park Trailhead where Centennial Ave. and Chico Canyon Rd. join at their east ends. Bring water, lunch and wear cool weather gear. We will walk for about a mile along the south side of Chico Creek crossing the footbridge at the golf course and continue along the north side to the start of the Yahi trail. Our objective will be to search for mushrooms to identify along this primarily wooded walk. Rain cancels. Leaders: Gerry Ingco (530) 893-5123 and Wes Dempsey (530) 342-2293.

Los Angeles/Santa Monica Mountains Chapter
Program Meeting: Re-Wilding a Schoolyard Habitat
Tuesday, December 9, 7:30 PM

Two years ago volunteers and students created a 25,000 square foot native plant garden at Walgrove Elementary in Venice. Native plants representing several southern California habitats are now in the ground and thriving. Zara Bennett and Emiko Kuwata who were key movers and shakers for the project will update us on the progress to date and plans for the future. Zara Bennett is a schoolyard greening activist and heads up Team Walgrove. Emiko Kuwata is Walgrove Elementary parent who has been a key player in seeing this project to fruition. First United Methodist Church, 1008 11th Street, Santa Monica.

North Coast Chapter
Native Plant Show and Tell!
Wednesday, December 10, 7:30 PM

Join us for an informal evening sharing photos, artifacts, readings, or food relating to native plants and their habitats. Short presentations will include Stephanie Kline sharing rare plant discoveries at work, Michael Kauffmann exploring Nevada’s Pine Forest Range as well as Jane Cipra and Donna Wildearth sharing summer adventures. We will also feature a new twist – test your native plant knowledge in the "Carol & Jenny's Winter Plant Challenge" - where you will be challenged to match the plant skeleton with the photo of the blooming plant. More coming soon! If you want to share, contact Michael at . Six Rivers Masonic Lodge, 251 Bayside Rd., Arcata.

San Diego Chapter
Work Party: Old Town State Park Native Plant Garden
Saturday, December 13, 1:00 - 3:00 PM

In December the Eurasian weeds start to come up before the CA native annuals emerge, so it is our chance to whack them down, and we will. We also will be planting thirty 1-gal deergrass to fill in where foot and vehicle traffic last year caused setbacks. Every year the landscape becomes more complete by our persistence and TLC. The Native Plant Landscape illustrates many of the regional plants that enabled Native Americans to thrive for millennia before European contact. The site is at the west end of Old Town, at the corner of Taylor and Congress Streets. If you come by public transit, cross at the Taylor St. signal and enter by the adobe Old Town sign. If you drive, park at the CalTrans lot for free across Taylor street, and walk to the same corner at Congress and Taylor to enter by the sign. Have sun protection and water, and bring gloves, spade, hoe, and rake if you have them, or share ours. Questions? Contact Kay at .

San Gabriel Mountains Chapter
Eaton Canyon Nature Walk
Sunday, December 14, 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. Eaton Canyon Nature Center, 1750 N Altadena Dr, Pasadena, CA 91107.

Dorothy King Young Chapter
Annual Chapter Potluck
Sunday, December 14, 1:00 PM

Lunch begins at noon. Please bring a dish to share, your own liquid refreshment, dishes and utensils. There will be a brief annual meeting and election at 1 PM. Presentation by Renee Pasquinelli, Senior Environmental Scientist with State Parks in the Mendocino District, begins at 1:15 PM. Greenwood Community Center, 6075 S Highway 1, Elk, CA 95432.

Orange County Chapter
It's Your Turn!
Thursday, December 18, 7:30 PM

Share some favorite photos of native plants, wildlife, habitats, or gardens—local, California, or anywhere in the world. Keep it to five minutes to make sure that everyone gets a turn, and that we get home before midnight. (Someone will be holding a stopwatch and cracking the whip!) The techie stuff: Digital photos must be in a standard digital photo format: .jpg, .png, or .psd. Video presentations must be in a standard video format: .mov (preferred), .avi, .wmv, or .mpeg. (Windows users: please do NOT submit these files in an autoexec [.exe] file!) The board members will provide a festive spread on the hospitality table, but if you have a special treat that you would like to share, feel free to bring it along. Our book sales table will be well stocked for that last minute holiday shopping and our new T-shirt! Duck Club, 15 Riparian View, Irvine, CA 92612.

San Luis Obispo Chapter
Field Trip: Hidden Beauty of Montana de Oro
Saturday, December 20, 8:30 AM

We will meet at the Montana de Oro Visitors’ Center located just beyond the entrance to Spooner’s Cove, walk inland along Islay Canyon, then hike up the Barranca Trail, joining the Hazard Peak Trail to the top, and finally back to the Visitors’ Center. We will see different plant communities from riparian, to oak woodland, and coastal sage scrub. This is a moderately strenuous nine mile hike with 1,000 ft. elevation gain and will take a minimum of four hours to complete. Rain or threat of rain cancels. Montana de Oro State Park, 3550 Pecho Valley Rd, Los Osos, CA 93402. Bring water and snacks. Sturdy shoes, sunscreen, hats, and jackets are recommended. For more info, contact Bill Waycott, (805) 459-2103.


Contributors and Photo Credits

  • Todd Keeler-Wolf
  • Diana Hickson
  • Teresa Sholars
  • Gordon Leppig
  • Julie Evans
  • Jennifer Buck-Diaz
  • Jamie Ratchford
  • Deidre Kennelly
  • Stacey Flowerdew
  • Mark Naftzger
  • Photos courtesy CDFW



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