California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

May 2015

Monarchs: Exquisite Irony

Plants under Ivanpah solar mirrors: Kara Moore-O'Leary

Mojave milkweed (Asclepias nyctaginifolia) is a rare California native desert plant, and host to Monarch butterfly caterpillars. In 2009, approximately 60% of its California population occurred within a 7,000-acre corner of what was once an intact bajada in northeast Ivanpah Valley, CA.

One year later, the Ivanpah solar energy facility was approved and began construction. After a long campaign, bits of this milkweed population were either transplanted or allowed to remain under and between the facility's solar mirrors, pictured here. 

A resilient, native desert perennial, A. nyctaginifolia has endured much, and its most recent brush with humans finds it hanging on within the solar facility "halos," as their avoidance areas are now officially called. Scientists have found that the persistence of milkweed within the halos is comparable to off-site locations, but plants inside the solar field often have higher rates of herbivory. OK news for the milkweed and great news for the feasting Monarch?

Alas, no. Monitoring at the Ivanpah facility has found that insects, birds, and bats flying too near the site's solar towers suffer the fate of Icarus.

Once a Monarch larva has feasted on milkweed beneath the mirrors, it will complete its metamorphosis from caterpillar to familiar black-orange butterfly. As newly emerged butterflies flutter upward into the desert sunlight they can join hosts of other Monarchs migrating across the desert...or fly into one of three superheated balls of light hovering 450 feet above the desert surface and die.

The Ivanpah Solar facility: Asclepias nyctaginifolia refuge, Monarch caterpillar nursery, and the world's largest bug-zapper; incinerating Monarch butterflies by the thousands each year.

Distant view of Ivanpah project site: Kim Clarke


Monarchs and Milkweed: AB559

Vern Goehring, CNPS Legislative Analyst

photo by Laura Camp

A freshman member of the California State Assembly likes monarch butterflies. And who wouldn't? Assemblymember Patty Lopez has introduced AB 559 regarding monarch butterfly conservation to clarify that the Department of Fish & Wildlife has authority to undertake conservation measures and take action. Monarch butterfly populations have declined ominously in the past 20 years: 50% for the Western/California population and 90% for the Eastern population.

CNPS is pleased to be one of the main groups supporting AB 559. Lopez's bill has already passed the Assembly and is waiting consideration in the Senate. But to answer your first question - who wouldn't like monarch butterflies? Eighteen Assemblymembers voted against AB 559.

As introduced, the bill's language is very basic, but CNPS hopes to add a bit of substance, including some native plant context and best practice guidelines to monarch conservation efforts. While most people know that the monarch caterpillar can only survive on milkweed, many people erroneously believe monarch butterflies also need "Butterfly Bush" (Buddleia spp.) and eucalyptus trees. While monarchs are certainly observed on these non-natives, they are far from ideal for supporting a thriving monarch population.

Monarch caterpillar: R. Kasten Dumroese, US Forest Service

To help strengthen and support AB 559, CNPS is reaching out to others, including Tom Landis, a retired nursery specialist with the U.S. Forest Service, Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates, and The Xerces Society. Landis advocates for public land managers and private landowners to establish "Monarch Waystations" to include abundant local native milkweed and butterfly-friendly nectar plants.

The Xerces Society has provided well researched scientific information including, a recent and as yet unpublished, "Milkweeds, A Conservation Practitioner's Guide." The five most significant causes of Monarch Butterfly decline are easily guessed: 1) loss of overwinter habitat, 2) loss of breeding habitat, 3) disease and parasites, 4) climate change, and 5) pesticide use. Healthy native plant communities can do much to address these challenges and that's what we'd like to establish in AB 559.

The best thing Monarch Butterflies have going for them is - everyone loves monarchs - well, almost everyone.


A Successful 2015 BIG Day of Giving!

BIG day of GivingThank you for helping make CNPS's inaugural participation in the Sacramento Region's BIG Day of Giving 2015 such a success! We achieved our goal of exactly 100 donations and $7500 right at the close of the day's giving marathon at midnight. Donations were received throughout the state and as far away as Utah and Florida, including 20 first time donors to CNPS, and 13 anonymous donations. Donor appreciation "opportunity drawing" recipients were Peggy of Carmichael (also the BIG Day's first donor to CNPS at 1 AM!), who received a CNPS "Native Plants Live Here" garden sign, Kimberly of Auburn who received a copy of CNPS Press's California's Wild Gardens, and JoEllen of Hayward who received a framed wildflower photograph. Thank you to all who participated and made the BIG Day of Giving such a fun and prosperous event for CNPS!


New Field Guide to Manzanitas Released

Field Guide to ManzanitasCalifornia Floristic Province is the heart of manzanita biodiversity, where they are the "rock stars" of woody shrub diversity. Ranging from the Sierra Nevada mountains to coastal bluffs along the Pacific, from temperate rainforests along the North Coast to arid mountain slopes in Southern California, a wealth of manzanita species and subspecies can be found in an astonishing array of environments. The new Field Guide to Manzanitas: California, North America, and Mexico from Michael Kauffman, Tom Parker, and Michael Vasey, with photographs by Jeff Bisbee, includes color photographs, range maps, regional keys, descriptions, a brief history of each species, and selected locations where you can find manzanitas in the field. It is now available at the CNPS Store by clicking here.


Upcoming CNPS Plant Science Workshops

We are working on finalizing details for our 2015 Plant Science Workshops, and have an exciting schedule in the works! More details, pricing, and registration information will be posted very soon on the workshops webpage. Please contact Becky Reilly (), CNPS Events Coordinator, for more information.

Vegetation Rapid Assessment/Relevé
El Portal Community Center, Yosemite National Park
June 3-5

Introduction to Plant Family Identification
Sagehen Field Station, Truckee
July 6-8

Vegetation Mapping
Sacramento Area

Vegetation Rapid Assessment/Relevé
Mid/Late Oct.

CEQA Impact Assessment
Ventura Area
Nov 4-5


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.

Bristlecone Chapter
Field Trip: Mule Springs
Saturday, June 6, 8:30 AM

At the base of the Inyo Mountains south east of Big Pine is a perennial spring surrounded by remarkable plant diversity. We should be able to find plants like Hecastocleis shockleyi, Petalonyx nitidis and Eucnide urens. Some interesting fish reside there as well. We will cover very little ground on foot, but some uneven ground can be expected. Dusty dirt road access. Bring lunch and water. It may get a little warm, so meet at 8:30 at the Glacier View Campground entrance at the junction of 395 and 168 on the north edge of Big Pine. For more information, contact trip leader, Steve Matson (), 760-938-2862.

Redbud Chapter
Field Trip: Yuba Gap
Saturday, June 6, 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM

Leader: Roger McGehee. This area tends to have an early bloom for its elevation. It is also quite varied, with rock outcroppings, meadows, and forests. Last year at this time we found an abundance of wildflowers even though it was a drought year! Hopefully it will provide a good bloom this year as well. Bring snacks, water, sunscreen, mosquito repellant, and rain gear in case we get hit by a thunderstorm. This trip will last about 3 hours. From Auburn or Colfax, take I-80 East, exit Yuba Gap, turn right onto Lake Valley Road, drive about 100 yards and park on the dirt pull-out. Look for Roger's bright red Smart Car. From Nevada City, take Highway 20 to I-80, then head west, toward Sacramento. Then take the Yuba Gap exit, turn left onto Lake Valley Road, drive about 200 yards and park on the dirt pull-out. If you wish to provide or join a carpool, please email Roger () with the town in which you live and he will share your email address with others in your area.

Orange County Chapter
Rare Plant Treasure Hunt: Santa Ana River Basin
Sunday, June 7, 8:00 AM

We will be surveying areas of the Santa Ana River watershed in a focused attempt to relocate some rare plants that were formerly recorded in this region, but have not been seen in several decades. Our two main target species are: Eriastrum densifolium ssp. sanctorum - Santa Ana River woolly-star, U.S Endangered, CRPR 1B.1; Abronia villosa var. aurita - Yellow hairy sand verbena, CRPR 1B.1. The Eriastrum has not been recorded in OC since 1929, but there are recent records from as near as Norco, just ten miles upstream. The Abronia occupies a similar habitat and adds a second rare species to the survey. With some luck, we might even uncover a population of the locally rare Eriogonum thurberi, which was recorded at Horseshoe bend as recently as 1979. This is a full day in the field, searching for specific taxa. We will have fun and learn a great deal, but there is a good to better chance that we will not find these plants. Bring trail shoes, hat, sunscreen, water, camera, tablet, and pencil/pen. Field guide, lunch and snacks as desired. Infrequent water or restrooms. Physical Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous. Plant Intensity: High. Time: All day, but come for what you can. If you are interested in participating, please send an email to leader Ron Vanderhoff () so that we can plan properly. Meet 8 am in the MacDonald's parking lot in the Savi Ranch Center at 22322 Old Canal Rd, Yorba Linda (on the N side of Hwy 91 at Yorba Linda Blvd).

Mount Lassen Chapter
Field Trip: Butterfly Valley Botanical Area
Saturday, June 13, 8:30 AM

Meet at Chico Park & Ride west lot (Hwys 32/99) at 8:30 or Mt. Hough Ranger Station, 39696 State Highway 70, Quincy, CA 95971 at 10 AM. See the Forest Service's page on Butterfly Valley Botanical Area here. Leaders: Gerry Ingco 530-893-5123 and Linnea Hanson 530-345-6229.

Milo Baker Chapter
Field Trip: Coleman Valley Road Serpentine area and Ocean Song Grassland
Sunday, June 14, 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM

We will look at this unique serpentine area along Coleman Valley Road for several unique rare plants. Then we will continue into Ocean Song Farm to look at Coastal Prairie, including their efforts to restore remnant prairie on the property and experimental plots for control of velvetgrass (Holcus lanatus). This trip is a great way to see some uncommon plants, great examples of native prairie, and beautiful views from Ocean Song. We have provided a pdf plant list. Meet at 9:15 a.m. at the south end of the Hwy 12 Park and Ride across from SR Vet's Hall to carpool. Or at 10a.m. on Coleman Valley Rd 4.6 miles from Occidental at the site of the serpentine. After 1.8 miles from Occidental, Coleman Valley Rd. takes a sharp right jog and goes fairly steeply down hill (If you go straight you will end up on Joy Rd following a ridge-top). After a steep uphill grade, you will come out of the woods into the open where there is a wide pull off on the right and a steep embankment on the left. Park there. Bring hat, sunscreen, lunch, water, and sturdy shoes.

San Diego Chapter
Program Meeting: Cuyamaca Rancho State Park Reforestation Project
Tuesday, June 16, 7:00 PM

Plant ID and sales 7:00-7:30, program begins at 7:30 PM. Speakers - Mike Wells and Lisa Gonzales-Kramer. The Cuyamaca Rancho State Park (CRSP) Reforestation Project is a California State Parks initiative to restore the native mixed conifer forest in CRSP, 98% of which was burned by the catastrophic Cedar Fire in 2003. The fire intensity was so great that conifers within the park experienced greater than 95% mortality. Without active reforestation, site conversion to shade-intolerant brush and exotic annuals was likely to be permanent. Conifer forest has become a vanishing habitat in San Diego County. Between 2002 and 2007, over 51% of the montane Mixed Conifer Forest (MCF) in San Diego County was burned by wildfires. Prior to the Cedar Fire, CRSP held approximately 20% of the MCF habitat in the County. In 2007, the Colorado Desert District of CSP initiated a mixed conifer forest restoration project to re-establish native conifer trees at CRSP. The project consists of planting 2,530 acres of formerly forested lands in a mosaic of patches that will become centers for seed dispersal, and are expected to restore the larger conifer forest. The restored habitat will provide important protected areas for a wide variety of native and special-status species which were found in CRSP prior to the fire. IMPORTANT NOTE: On Thursday, June 18th, CSP staff are offering to all CNPS members a post-meeting field tour to view selected CRSP reforestation plots and to answer any additional questions. If you may be interested in attending this field tour, please send an email message to Lisa.Gonzales-Kramer (). Room 101 or 104, Casa del Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego.

Santa Clara Valley Chapter
Chapter Service Outing: Crystal Springs Watershed
Saturday, June 20, 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM

Join Don Thomas on a walk and weed to see fountain thistle in the Crystal Springs Watershed, normally closed to the public. This plant is endemic to the San Francisco Peninsula, and most of the populations occur in the Crystal Springs Watershed. We will visit a small fountain thistle population in the Watershed near Polhemus Rd, where coyote brush is invading the serpentine riparian habitat. This stop will include a short work session to remove the coyote brush. Tools will be provided. We will then drive a short distance to a serpentine seep population of fountain thistle where there is an opportunity to see leopard lilies (Lilium pardalinum) in bloom. There is also an optional trip to see a third, larger fountain thistle colony near Lower Crystal Springs Reservoir. We will walk less than two miles in total. Trip limited to 25 participants. For more info, or to RSVP, contact Don Thomas (), (408) 828-4044.

North Coast Chapter
Rare Plant Treasure Hunt: Trinity Monkeyflower
Saturday, June 20, 9:00 AM

Once again the North Coast Chapter of CNPS is partnering with Six Rivers National Forest to search for a rare plant. We will head up Highway 299 to about 4,000 ft elevation in the Horse Mountain Botanical Area of Six Rivers National Forest. We will visit a site where the recently described Trinity Monkeyflower was seen last year and then attempt of find additional occurrences in the vicinity. Be prepared for short hikes off gravel roads and for changeable, mountain weather. Bring boots, lunch, water, hats, and sunscreen. Meet at 9:00 a.m. at Pacific Union School (3001 Janes Rd, Arcata) to carpool. Contact John McRae at 707-441-3513 for information, to say you are coming, and to tell him if you can bring a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.

Sierra Foothills Chapter
Field Trip: Pilot Peak
Saturday, June 20, 9:00 AM

Leaders: Barry and Judy Brekling. Hiking: about 3 mi with 700 ft elevation gain. Much of the Pilot Peak area burned in the Rim fire, so we should see some interesting plants. We'll see how the tiny, rare Yosemite Woolly Sunflower, Eriphyllum nubigenum, has fared after the fire. Meet at 9:00 AM in the Groveland Library parking lot (next to Mary Lavaroni Park on Main St, Hwy 120). For more information, contact Barry and Judy () at (209) 878-3041.

Marin Chapter
Restoration: Ring Mountain
Saturday, June 27, 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Come help restore the native grasslands in this special preserve. We will continue to remove noxious weeds and take care of the native plants that were planted this past winter. For more information, see this article. Location: Ring Mountain Phyllis Ellman Trailhead parking. For directions and more information on Ring Mountain click here. Contact: Sarah Minnick () .

Channel Islands Chapter
Rare Plant Treasure Hunt: Topatopa Mountains
Saturday - Sunday, June 27-28

Join leader David Magney and CNPS for this rare plant treasure hunt backpacking trip to the top of the Topatopa Mountains in the Los Padres National Forest. Clinopodium mimuloides has not been observed in this area for over 100 years, and it is time to see if we can find it again and record its condition. Access is restricted to the trailhead, at the east end of the Nordhoff Ridge Forest Service Road, which can only be driven by four-wheel-drive vehicles, by permission only by the Los Padres National Forest. We will backpack in and camp overnight somewhere along the trail. This will be a fairly strenuous hike (carrying a backpack for wilderness camping certainly makes hiking more strenous), and mostly above 5,000 feet in elevation. Bring lots of water, food for four meals, lug-soled hiking boots/shoes, sleeping bag (and backpack tent if you like), sunscreen, a hat, and a camera. To RSVP and for further information, email David Magney (). Those driving 4WD to the top must RSVP by 12 June 2015 to secure a permit. To download the pdf trip description click here.


Contributors and Photo Credits

  • Greg Suba
  • Vern Goehring
  • Michael Kauffmann
  • Becky Reilly
  • Stacey Flowerdew
  • Mark Naftzger
  • Plants under Ivanpah solar mirrors - Kara Moore-O'Leary
  • Monarch butterfly - Laura Camp
  • Monarch Caterpillar - R. Kasten Dumroese, US Forest Service
  • Workshop participants - Josie Crawford



Copyright © 1999-2019 California Native Plant Society. All rights reserved. Contact Us | Privacy