California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

November 2016

Joshua Tree Workshop a Great Success

Desert scientists and workshop participants team up to monitor Joshua trees in JTNP - and have some fun in the process. Photo by Greg Suba.

CNPS conducted a two-day Joshua Tree Workshop at Black Rock Station in Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP) earlier this month. With funding from the Rose Foundation and in partnership with the Joshua Tree National Park Association's Desert Institute, CNPS Conservation Program Director Greg Suba brought together a group of authors and scientists to provide a day full of presentations about the cultural and natural history of Yucca brevifolia, the Joshua tree. On the second day, attendees accompanied scientists to nearby field sites where they collected data as part of on-going research within the Park.

Workshop speakers included Cameron Barrows of UC-Riverside, who is documenting the current growth and modeling future regeneration of Y. brevifolia populations within and around JTNP. Todd Esque from the USGS Western Ecological Research Center presented a summary of decades of monitoring of Joshua tree's recovery from disturbance events across its habitat range, and work that has led to a sophisticated population viability analysis of the Joshua tree. Niel Frakes, JTNP's Vegetation Branch chief, provided a recap of his current monitoring of Joshua tree stands within the Park. Author Chris Clarke presented an early peak into chapters of his upcoming book on the cultural and social history of Joshua trees. And Dr. Chris Smith from Willamette University presented new findings about the plant-pollinator interactions between Joshua trees and the Joshua tree moth, and intriguing discoveries being made through the Joshua Tree Genome Project.

Desert scientists and workshop participants team up to monitor Joshua trees in JTNP - and have some fun in the process. Photo by Greg Suba.

The second day of the workshop featured a full day of citizen science fieldwork as attendees split into teams of 20 led by the scientists who had presented the previous day. Once at their field sites, crews recorded the density of Joshua trees within 500m x 500m plots, measuring the height, diameter, branching, and general appearance of each individual encountered along the way.

Collectively, the workshop presentations provided attendees with up-to-date information about existing Joshua tree sites, their health, their age, associated plant communities, and migration trends. Participants left the weekend with newfound knowledge of these unique species, and a glimpse of the intricate fragility of desert ecosystems.

Desert scientists and workshop participants team up to monitor Joshua trees in JTNP - and have some fun in the process. Photo by Greg Suba.


Restoring Nature One Garden at a Time - Calscape Updates

Calscape is a unique online tool that lets you discover which plants grow native to your specific location. You can use it to build plant lists for your garden, see growing instructions and find native plant nurseries near you. Now, the latest Calscape release makes all of this easier, faster and significantly more powerful than before.

Here's an overview of the updates:

  • Advanced Search -- This new feature allows you to search by multiple criteria at once, layering in queries for location, plant type, water needs, size, fragrance, flower color and more! You can even select specific nurseries to quickly see where your plants are available.
  • "Quick Shop" -- Now, you can add plants to your list without opening a new page. Build a plant list in less than two minutes!
  • Mobile Friendly -- Calscape is now as easy to use by phone and tablet as on your desktop. Use it to look up plants at the nursery or reference your plant list while you shop.
  • Climate Modeling on Range Maps -- Bringing more data to the tool, plant ranges are based on the actual observations for each plant, as well as the annual rainfall range, summer rainfall, coldest month temperature and hottest month temperature ranges for each plant in each Jepson bioregion.
  • Sign and Label Printing -- Print with QR codes for any Calscape plant list with easy spreadsheet export functionality. Let's you easily makes sign for each plant in the plant list, as well as comprehensive plant list.

Visit to check out the updates. Stay tuned for next month's eNews for more practical ways to use this helpful tool.


Value and Caveats of Plant Distribution Models

The use of Species Distribution Models (SDMs) - predictive data that shows where plants might occur - is dramatically on the rise. Factors such as climate change concerns, an abundance of programming tools and a general desire for predictability are driving increased adoption of these tools. But with this rise comes a growing need for caution.

A species distribution model, or SDM, compares documented species occurrences with habitat conditions recorded at or near those locations, and identifies where else similar conditions and suitable habitat occur for the species. Maps of predicted habitat illustrate a probability of suitable habitat locations. SDMs are most useful for generating a hypothesis of where a plant might occur, and the more we know of a particular plant's ecological requirements, the more informed both the model inputs and results will be. The quality of what goes into the model determines the quality of what comes out, though resulting maps are rarely if ever field checked to confirm the presence or absence of a predicted species.

Are SDMs Useful?

During the early years of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan process, CNPS supported the efforts of UC Davis researchers to develop and field-check different types of SDMs for desert rare plants in work funded by the California Energy Commission. Attempts to ground-truth these models have yielded mixed results. For some species, new plant occurrences were found both within areas predicted by SDMs and in areas outside them, leading one researcher to conclude that one can achieve as much predictive power through suitable habitat maps generated by buffering known plant locations as through maps generated by more sophisticated SDMs.

More recently, teams of researchers from institutions around the country have generated SDMs for California native plant species in the desert and elsewhere. Models for dozens of California native desert plants, federally listed plants of San Joaquin Valley, and vernal pool plants are available, and have been incorporated into various conservation and development planning processes. To our knowledge, no field checks have been done to assess these plant SDMs for accuracy.

As the use of SDMs in conservation planning increases, CNPS has maintained efforts to track the state of the science - and art - required to generate predictive plant models, to do our best to assess the quality of the outputs by reviewing SDM maps with plant experts, and to be a voice of caution when making decisions that rely on plant SDMs..

In the past two years, CNPS has devoted time at two Chapter Council meetings for speaker presentations on species distribution models for plants. This fall, CNPS Conservation Program Director Greg Suba and CNPS Vegetation Ecologist Jennifer Buck co-chaired a session at the Natural Areas Conference in Davis specifically to address the value and caveats associated with plant SDMs. And we anticipate more presentations related to the uses of predictive plant models at the upcoming CNPS Conservation Conference in Los Angeles in February 2018.

While the veracity of plant distribution models remains uncertain, the allure of predictability is strong for planners, developers, land managers, and conservation advocates alike, and for good reasons. SDMs, along with other types of predictive models, like vulnerability analyses and future habitat projections, represent a type of science-based crystal ball; they provide a look at future events that may come to pass based on current trends. For those who must make management and planning decisions with consequences for the next several decades, models provide tools that can help make as practicable a choice as can be informed by science.

This makes the work of CNPS that much more important for plant conservation in California. Collectively, the members of CNPS can contribute their knowledge to help fill data gaps in species distribution, and advocate additional surveys, mapping, and monitoring to collect still more. We must support research in plant ecology and physiology, and continue to represent a voice for native plants at planning tables statewide.


San Gabriel Mountains Chapter Announces New Grant Program

The San Gabriel Mountains Chapter is announcing a new grant program open to students and others with an interest in the flora of Southern California. The chapter will award two one-year grants of $1000 each. The deadline for application is February 10, 2017. A Request for Proposals that includes more information about the grants and instructions for applicants is available at


Northern California Botanists to Present a Symposium

On January 9-10, 2017, the Northern California Botanists will be presenting a two-day symposium titled "Diverse Environments: How Plants Succeed in Northern California," to be held at California State University, Chico. The symposium will include an exciting line-up of topics ranging from soil seedbanks to Northern California botanical discoveries, a poster session, and a third day of workshops to choose from. The symposium will also include an evening reception, banquet, and keynote speaker Hugh Safford, of the US Forest Service, addressing "Fear and Loathing in the Sierra Nevada: Confronting a Wicked Problem." The symposium is open to anyone: botanical enthusiasts, professionals, and students. For a detailed program and registration information, see:


Give the Gift of Bay Nature

Bay NatureGive a gift that shows where your heart lies - with the wildlife, native plants, and unique habitats of the Bay Area! A subscription to Bay Nature magazine will connect your family and friends to the natural wonders right next door. With its beautiful photography and illustrations, Bay Nature is a gift that will be treasured for seasons to come. Every issue includes: close-up looks at local wildlife and native plants, new hikes and trails to explore, artist John Muir Laws' "Naturalist’s Notebook," and Michael Ellis' popular "Ask the Naturalist" column.

Give a one-year subscription and save up to 30% through December 31! One subscription only $21.95 (regular price $25.95); two or more only $19 each!

CNPS members can flex their membership benefits and save an additional $4 on gift subscriptions. Current members may email to receive their Bay Nature coupon code.


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

Yerba Buena Chapter
Annual Members' Slides and Potluck
Thursday, December 1, 6:30 p.m.

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 an appreciator, come for an enjoyable evening of delicious food and great pictures. Potluck starts at 6:30, slides at 7:30. Contact Margo Bors at or Kipp McMichael at for information about showing your pictures. Recreation Room, Francisco County Fair Building, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

San Luis Obispo Chapter
Field Trip: Coon Creek
Sunday, December 4, 9 a.m.

Join us for a plant ID walk up Coon Creek. Learn the easy to identify species along the trail. Meet at the Coon Creek trailhead in Montaña de Oro State Park. Bring sturdy shoes, water, snacks, jackets, etc. A plant list is available - contact leader Bill Waycott 805-459-2103 24 hours in advance if you would like a printed copy. The Coon Creek Trail is moderate with an elevation gain of 400 ft., 4-miles roundtrip, maximum of four hours. Montaña de Oro State Park, 3550 Pecho Valley Rd, Los Osos, CA 93402. Rain cancels.

Santa Clara Valley Chapter
Creating a Rain Garden for California Native Plants
Monday, December 5, 7 - 8:30 p.m.

We don’t know how much rain we will get this season, but we can be prepared for it. Don’t let that rain water run off your roof, down your driveway and into the streets, storm drains, and creeks where it may cause flooding. Instead direct it into your garden, allowing it to percolate downward, recharging our local aquifers and purifying the water as it passes through the soil. Learn how rain gardens keep water on site, yet away from buildings, how to construct them, and which California native plants are best suited for them. Questions? (408) 262-1171. Milpitas Library, 160 N. Main Street, Milpitas.

South Coast Chapter
Annual Dessert Potluck & Photography Presentation
Monday, December 5, 7:30 - 9:30 p.m.

Bring your favorite dessert to share. Open to all levels. Presentations should be 5 minutes or less and must feature California Native Plants, their habitats, or people or animals that depend on California Native Plants. Digital format on a flash drive preferred. Mounted prints will also be accepted. For more information, contact David Berman at . South Coast Botanic Garden, 26300 Crenshaw Blvd, Palos Verdes, CA 90274.

Bristlecone Chapter
Annual Potluck and Program
Wednesday, December 7, 5:30 p.m.

Members and non-members welcome. Bring food, drink and conversation to share. (Please bring utensils and plates for yourself.) We'll follow the potluck with chapter elections at, 6:45 p.m., followed immediately by the chapter program at 7 p.m., "California Botany and Botanists of the Inyo Region," with Bruce Baldwin, curator of the Jepson Herbarium. A celebration of Inyo County’s 150th anniversary simply would not be complete without a tribute to the diversity of natural resources that have drawn worldwide acclaim from recreationists, explorers, and scientists alike. Following in the footsteps of renowned Inyo County botanists, like Mary DeDecker, Willis Jepson, and Frederick Coville, we can discover both the colorful history of innovative explorers, and also learn about hotspots of diversity and if and how these places are changing. Bishop United Methodist Church, Fellowship Hall, 205 N Fowler, Bishop.

Marin Chapter
Field Trip: Rock Spring Meander
Saturday, December 10, 10 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

This outing will follow a moderate 4-mile route from the Rock Spring parking lot to Barth’s Retreat (via the Mickey O’Brien trail) and Potrero Meadows. We’ll observe the diverse ecology of Mt. Tam, including meadows, mixed evergreen forest, serpentine outcrops, and chaparral. We’ll look at the big picture of ecologically diverse plant communities and changes observed over the past few decades. Plants we expect to see on the narrow foot trail include huckleberry, California bay, Douglas fir, madrone, live oaks, sword and giant chain ferns, moss-covered rocks, buckthorn, manzanita, and Sargent cypress. This hike is especially suited for beginning plant enthusiasts. Meet at the Rock Spring parking lot at the intersection of Ridgecrest Boulevard and S. Slide Road on Mt. Tamalpais. Leader: Dabney Smith at .

Shasta Chapter
Plant Propagation Session
Sunday, December 11, 10 a.m.

Join us for a two-hour work session starting at 10 a.m. at the Shasta College greenhouses. We will be propagating cuttings and rooted divisions; donations of California native species are welcome. The greenhouses are located near the back of Shasta College, by the livestock barns. Please call Jay and Terri Thesken at 530-221-0906 for further information.

Dorothy King Young Chapter
Annual Potluck
Sunday, December 11, Noon

Lunch at noon. Business meeting at 1 includes election of officers. (See Current Chapter Newsletter for slate of Nominees) Brief presentations by Mario Abreu, Peter Baye, Nancy Morin, Teresa Sholars and Jon Thompson. Bring a dish to share, dishware and utensils. Greenwood Community Center in Elk.

San Gabriel Mountains Chapter
Eaton Canyon Plant Walk
Sunday, December 11, 9 a.m.

Meet in front of Eaton Canyon Nature Center at 9 a.m. Then go on a leisurely walk, about two 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. 1750 N Altadena Dr, Pasadena, CA.

Los Angeles/Santa Monica Mountains Chapter
Program Meeting: Acorn Woodpecker Foraging Patterns
Tuesday, December 13, 7:30 - 9:30 p.m.

Dr. Victoria L. Sork, Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA, will present, "What Seeds of Two Oak Species Tell us about Acorn Woodpecker Foraging Patterns." A major thrust of Dr. Sork’s research is to document the extent to which candidate genes show environmental associations in range-wide samples of valley oak (Quercus lobata), an ecologically significant oak species that has lost the majority of its distribution in the last 300 years. This work takes a landscape genomic approach to understand adaptation, in the face of environmental change. First United Methodist Church, 1008 11th St, Fireside Room, Santa Monica, CA.

North Coast Chapter
Native Plant Show and Tell
Wednesday, December 14, 7:30 p.m.

Join us for an informal evening sharing photos, artifacts, readings, or food relating to native plants and their habitats. Dana York will discuss botanizing the Castle Crags; Donna Wildearth will share plants she saw in the northern Sierra Nevada this summer; Rees Hughes, with photos from Ann Wallace, will tell about new trails on Horse Mountain, and Greg O'Connell will explore his work monitoring the two-flowered pea. Other surprises are sure to be found this evening. Email to sign up to present. Six Rivers Masonic Lodge, 251 Bayside Rd., Arcata.

Orange County Chapter
It's Your Turn!
Thursday, December 15, 7:30 p.m.

This is your chance to share a favorite flower, voyage, or habitat—locally or anywhere else in the world. The only rule is 5 minutes so that everyone gets a turn and we get home before midnight. Please use presentation software such as PowerPoint or Keynote instead of individual photo files. Videos must be in standard video format: .mov (preferred) or .mpeg. but we will not have speakers, so please do not add sound to videos. We'll provide the computer; bring in your presentation on a flash drive, portable hard drive, CD, or DVD. Windows users: no autoexec (.exe) files of any kind. Please arrive a little early, so we can copy your presentation to the main projecting device. Irvine Duck Club, 15 Riparian View, Irvine.


Contributors and Photo Credits

  • Greg Suba
  • Jane Turrell
  • Mark Naftzger
  • Stacey Flowerdew
  • Liv O'Keeffe
  • Desert scientists and workshop participants team up to monitor Joshua trees in JTNP - and have some fun in the process. - Greg Suba



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