California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

February 2016

President Establishes Three New Desert National Monuments

Castle Mountains

Last week President Obama designated three new National Monuments that will provide added conservation protection to 1.8 million acres of California's desert habitats. The newly created Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains National Monuments are to be managed by the National Park Service to protect each area's outstanding natural, cultural, and historic values.

Presidential Proclamations for the new monuments, available in the links above, provide descriptions - including outstanding botanical values, administrative goals, and planning requirements specific to each new National Park unit. Detailed maps for all three monuments are available via this webpage posted by the Center for Biological Diversity. This great news for the desert comes during the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service. What better time to celebrate our national treasures and explore California's deserts!


CNPS Working to Save Desert Trees

After seven years of planning, The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is nearing completion of the federal portion of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP Phase I). While overall the plan has been improved through the multi-stakeholder effort, serious conservation issues must still be resolved before BLM issues their final Record of Decision. Among them, approximately 526,000 acres remain designated as "Unallocated Lands," meaning they have not been identified for either energy development or conservation within the Plan. The Plan needs stricter assurances to prevent future energy development on unallocated lands.

Stately blue palo verde (Parkinsonia florida) and ironwood (Olneya tesota) trees standing at the foot of the Palen Mountains. Photo by Greg Suba.

Another outstanding issue, and one which CNPS has raised from the start, is the designation of dense microphyll woodlands as energy development focus areas (DFAs) in the Plan's preferred alternative. Microphyll woodlands are places where desert trees like blue palo verde, ironwood, smoketree, mesquite, and desert willow provide essential habitat to a suite of wildlife species, especially to both resident and migratory bird species. CNPS, along with Audubon California, submitted a formal letter of protest to BLM advocating the removal of important desert wash woodlands from proposed DFAs. We recommend that BLM redesignate these places as conservation areas.

To illustrate the importance and beauty of these areas, CNPS visited key microphyll woodlands along I-10, west of Blythe, CA (in Areas 1, 2, and 3 shown on the map below), and took images and video footage to share with BLM and the public.

Four areas of dense microphyll woodlands within Preferred Alternative Riverside East DFA.

Here are two examples illustrating the unique habitat value these woodlands provide relative to their desert surroundings.

Area 2
In Area 2, desert washes less than 90 feet wide were not mapped during the DRECP because of budget constraints. The majority of the washes shown in this video are between 10-30 feet wide and rich in ironwood and blue palo verde trees. According to the DRECP, wash woodlands within a development area, regardless of width, will require either 200-foot avoidance buffers or 5:1 compensatory mitigation. Either scenario greatly complicates the siting of solar projects in Area 2 because of the overall density of wash woodlands that applicants would encounter. 

Area 3
Standing between Palen Dry Lake and the Palen-McCoy Wilderness Area are 3,300 acres of outstanding ironwood and blue palo verde woodlands. These dune woodlands (shown in videos here and here) are surrounded on all sides by existing and proposed conservation lands. In both examples, the natural beauty and vital ecological functions of these special places are basic reasons for removing them as proposed development areas.

The BLM is expected to issue a Final Record of Decision for the DRECP sometime during the spring of 2016. Efforts to create a companion private lands portion of the DRECP, aka DRECP Phase II, remain on-going though the future of Phase II remains uncertain.


CNPS Online Inventory - 2016 User Survey

The CNPS Rare Plant Program is seeking your input to help improve upon, and direct priority fixes and new implementations for, the CNPS Online Inventory, Version 8. The survey will also help us develop a long overdue Q&A page for our website.

Please take the time to fill out this survey of the Online Inventory before February 29th.

It should only take about 15 minutes or less of your time and the results will be very important for us in order to make your user experience more convenient and valuable. We want you to get the best out of the CNPS Online Inventory and take your feedback very seriously.

Thank you greatly for your time and please share the link to this survey with everyone you know who uses the CNPS Online Inventory!


Upcoming CNPS Plant Science Workshops

The CNPS Education Program is gearing up for another year of exciting plant science training workshops! Full details and registration will be posted at as it becomes available, or contact Becky Reilly at for more information.

Rare Plant Survey Protocols - Register *Deadline March 6
March 14-15, Oxnard & Malibu
Taught by Heath Bartosh, Senior Botanist, Nomad Ecology; Aaron Sims, Rare Plant Botanist, CNPS; plus a guest lecture from Kristi Lazar, California Department of Fish & Wildlife

Measuring & Monitoring Plant Populations - Register
April 3-6, Desert Studies Center, Zzyzx (Western Mojave)
Taught by John Willoughby, Independent Ecological Consultant

Introduction to Plant Identification, Northern CA - Register
May 3-5, Dye Creek Preserve, Los Molinos
Taught by Josie Crawford, Botanist

Wetland & Riparian Plant Identification - 
May 18-20, Taft Gardens, Ojai
Taught by David Magney, Botanist/Certified Arborist

Vegetation Rapid Assessment/Relevé
July 19-21, White Mountains
Taught by Julie Evens, Vegetation Program Director, CNPS; Jennifer Buck-Diaz, Vegetation Ecologist, CNPS

Vegetation Mapping
Summer 2016 (TBA), SF Bay Area
Taught by Julie Evens, Vegetation Program Director, CNPS; Todd Keeler-Wolf, Senior Vegetation Ecologist, VegCAMP Program, CDFW; John Menke, Senior Vegetation Mapping Specialist, AIS

Introduction to Plant Identification, Southern CA
Dates, exact location, and instructor TBA

Introduction to Plant Identification, SF Bay Area
Dates, exact location, and instructor TBA


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.

Mount Lassen Chapter
Program meeting, featuring John Whittlesey
Wednesday, March 2, 7:30 PM

"In the Company of Flowers - Native Plants for the Garden and the Pollinators They Attract." Gardens, if the right plants are chosen, can provide habitat for a whole range of insect life - our native bees and bumble bees, fascinating flies, moths and butterflies. John will share his passion for observing flower visitors - which mostly includes pollinators, but on occasion the predator that stalks them. In this program he will discuss some of the best California native plants for attracting the insect world into gardens.

Milo Baker Chapter
Annadel State Park, Schultz Trail to Ledson Marsh
Tuesday, March 8, 9:30 AM

Ann Howald, retired botanist, will lead this approximately 6 mile hike up the little-used Schultz Trail to Ledson Marsh. We should see Oregon anemones (Anemone oregana) near the mouth of Schultz Canyon, and early wildflowers (lupines, hounds tongues, linanthus, etc.) further up the trail as we pass through chaparral and oak woodland habitats. We'll eat lunch near Ledson Marsh, where we could see early blooming pink star tulip (Calochortus uniflorus) and what might be an undescribed star lily (Toxicoscordion sp.). We'll discuss changes to the marsh that threaten both the endangered California red-legged frog and a rare federally listed grass, Sonoma alopecurus (Alopecurus aequalis ssp. sonomensis).  Moderate to strenuous hike. Bring lunch, water, sunscreen, hat. Parking is extremely limited, so carpooling is essential. Please contact Betty or Ann to sign up for this trip and arrange carpooling.

North Coast Chapter
California's Vast Habitats Seen through Wildflowers
Wednesday, March 9, 7:00 PM 

Larry Ulrich began his career in photography, and while traveling and working with his wife and photographic partner, have been making a living with a camera since 1972. Larry and Donna's most recent books include Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest, and Beyond the Golden Gate: California's North Coast from Companion Press, and Big Sur to Big Basin: California's Dramatic Central Coast from Chronicle Books. They will present an overview of the many habitats in California followed by images of a variety of native plants through the seasons.

Monterey Bay Chapter
Monthly meeting, featuring Ken Kellman: "Introducing Bryophytes... the Other Land Plants"
Thursday, March 10, 7:00 PM

Bryophytes (mosses, liverworts, and hornworts) represent a completely different solution to the evolutionary problem of living on land. They lack the complex vascular system that has made the "taller plants" so successful, but they have evolved complex solutions that will surprise you. Ken Kellman will show us how to recognize this important group of plants with a short presentation, and then we spend the rest of the evening looking closely at many common bryophytes from the central coast. Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, 165 Forest Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950.

Kern County Chapter
Tejon Ranch Field Trip
Saturday, March 12

Explore the Valley Fringe portion of Tejon Ranch with Mike White. RSVP Deadline: 8 pm, Tuesday, March 8. Contact Patty Gradek - .

Bristlecone Chapter
Panamint Valley and/or Death Valley, with leader, Mark Bagley
Saturday - Sunday, March 12 - 13, 9:00 AM

Meet at 9:00 a.m. at Panamint Springs on Hwy. 190 in Panamint Valley, about one hour east of Lone Pine. Camping Saturday night will probably be primitive (no water, no toilets, no tables), but the location will be determined just before the trip as will the locations we'll go to botanize. We'll go to areas in either Panamint Valley and/or Death Valley depending on the bloom. Easy to moderate walking. Standard car OK, but we will be on some dirt roads; don't forget to gas up ahead of time (there is very expensive gas at Panamint Springs and in Death Valley). Bring good walking shoes, plenty of water for the whole weekend and everything else you need for camping. Trip will end on Sunday about 3 or 4 p.m.

Marin Chapter
Chapter meeting, featuring Kipp McMichael: Calochortus Pursuits: A Spring and Summer in Search of "Beautiful Grass"
Monday, March 14, 2016, 8:00 PM

California is home to the lion's share of species in the genus Calochortus, they grow in every county of the state. Bay Area residents are lucky enough to live in the center of diversity for the genus. Meeting will be held at the Redwoods Retirement Community, 40 Camino Alto, Mill Valley, CA.

Channel Islands Chapter
Firefighting in the Chaparral 
Tuesday, March 15, 7:00 PM

Speaker: Dan McCarter. Learn about the challenges of fighting wildfires in the chaparral plant communities. Bring your unknown native plants to ID before the talk.

Napa Valley Chapter
Missimer Wildflower Preserve
Saturday, March 19, 9:00 AM

Field trips begin with a carpool/caravan leaving from the parking lot between Target and Pharmaca in BelAire Plaza off Trancas Street in Napa near Highway 29, at 9:00 AM. Bring snacks, lunch, ample drinking water and sturdy hiking shoes.

Redbud Chapter
First Wildflowers of the Year!
Sunday, March 20, 8:30 AM

Without fail, the best displays of early wildflowers have been on the Independence Trail. And with the plentiful January rains, it should be extra good this year! Come celebrate a new spring and, hopefully, a long and plentiful wildflower season.

San Gabriel Mountains Chapter
Carol Bornstein presents: "From Parking Lot to Pollinator Garden - A Wild Garden in the Heart of the City"
Thursday, March 24, 7:30 PM

Reclaimed from hardscape, the Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County were designed to create habitat for wildlife and serve as a field site for educational and scientific study. The gardens are used as a training ground for myriad citizen science projects and as the home of a long-term urban biodiversity study conducted by the Museum's research staff. The California native pollinator garden is a visually dynamic section, changing dramatically throughout the year. The goal to maximize habitat value across all seasons informed the design, installation, and ongoing maintenance of this naturalistic garden. Striking a balance between habitat value and aesthetics has engendered lively discussion among the horticulture and research staff and continues as the garden matures. Carol Bornstein is Director of the Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Sanhedrin Chapter
Backyard Restoration Gardening: From Fostering Site-Specificity to Lawn Conversion
Thursday, March 31, 2016, 7:00 PM

Presented by Judith Larner Lowry. Join Judith at the Ukiah Garden Clubhouse, 1203 West Clay Street, in Ukiah for an informative and entertaining evening. Judith will describe what she has learned in over 35 years of work in the field of backyard restoration gardening. Topics will include using models from the wild, becoming a refuge for California's threatened annual and perennial wildflower and their associated insects, and lawn conversion. She is a beloved award-winning author and proprietor of Larner Seeds, specializing in California's native plants (


Contributors and Photo Credits

  • Greg Suba
  • Aaron Sims
  • Kate Cooper
  • Mark Naftzger
  • Becky Reilly
  • Castle Mountains - Duncan Bell
  • Microphyll Woodlands - Greg Suba



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