Bryophytes Get Growing Respect

During its 50 years, the California Native Plant Society has advanced the protection and celebration of the vascular plants of California. Lo, the myriad flowers and ferns! Today, naturalists are expanding our view of nature beyond vascular plants and vertebrates toward smaller, under-appreciated organisms, often requiring a hand lens to see.

Much to my excitement, the newest issue of Fremontia is devoted to lichens and bryophytes, which will undoubtedly bring a bit more attention to our under-appreciated CNPS Bryophyte Chapter. Our mission is to increase understanding and appreciation of California’s mosses, liverworts, and hornworts—and to protect them where they grow.

As naturalists, we live in happy times in which we look forward to plant conferences and lichen symposia. Attendees to these events can expect to engage with a rich social network of people supporting an increasingly wide-range of natural diversions.

I hope in my lifetime, Californians will move toward supporting the protection of a diversity of organisms—big and small—while also supporting professionals who will study and manage them for conservation. With place-based collaborations including experts and amateurs sharing their passions, I believe one day liverworts will be recognized and appreciated as much as vascular plants are today.

It is paramount that biological consultants be obliged to inventory organisms of all sizes and while also producing comprehensive manuals for other non-experts to read and enjoy. For now, revel in this wonderful issue with a cryptogram focus.

—Paul Wilson
CNPS Bryophyte Chapter, President
Bryophytes-Lichens-Liverworts

Rare Plant Treasure Hunt Update: the CNPS De-Extinction Project

LA_with_Calochortus_for web.jpg

Our L.A. de-extinction search rewarded other rare plant citings as well:  here is a beautiful Plummer’s mariposa lily (Calochortus plummerae— CRPR 4.2) growing amidst Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) in the Jarupa Hills.

In early May, a team from the Rare Plant Program went down into the urban wilds of the greater Los Angeles area in search of plants presumed to be extinct. Amidst the piles of trash, stealthy homeless encampments, fields of invasive weeds, cookie-cutter stucco houses, and mining lands, it could seem like a search for a needle in an inhospitable haystack. Yet, the CNPS De-extinction Project is far from that.

Conceived in 2015, the goal of the De-extinction Project is to locate populations of plants that have not been seen in many years, whose habitats may have been significantly altered or destroyed, and now have been given a California Rare Plant Rank of 1A in the CNPS Rare Plant Inventory (Plants Presumed Extirpated in California and either Rare or Extinct Elsewhere). These plants are only presumed to be extinct, as some factors— such as the viability span of the seed bank for a particular plant and the vicissitudes of weather patterns over time—contribute to the possibility of regrowth and thus, rediscovery. There is also simply a lot of ground to cover to effectively search for these plants in possible habitats so that locating these plants can become an issue of sheer person power available for the search, as well as good old-fashioned luck!

CNPS is no stranger to rediscovery. In 2009, our Executive Director Dan Gluesencamp rediscovered the Franciscan manzanita (Arctostaphylos franciscana) on a traffic island near the Golden Gate Bridge. In 2016, Steve Schoenig, currently a Rare Plant Treasure Hunt (RPTH) volunteer and former Coordinator of the RPTH, rediscovered the Serpentine Canyon monkeyflower (Erythranthe pericaulis) deep in the heart of the Plumas National Forest. In the early days of the CNPS Rare Plant Inventory, rediscoveries were more common as the Inventory itself helped catalog which plants most needed searching for. Over the years, as more habitat has been destroyed, rediscovery has become less common and the need to fine tune our searches more essential. Once a species is rediscovered, our state has another chance to conserve and protect it, and the plant will often be given a ranking of 1B.1—rare in all of its range and still vulnerable to the highest degree of threats.

In order to enhance our chances of locating these plants, CNPS Rare Plant Botanist Aaron Sims did extensive research on the historical occurrences of all 1A plants in the Inventory as of 2015. He did analyses of which plants were the most likely to be found, based on factors including intactness of habitat near or around historical occurrences as well as dates last seen, and created a prioritized list of targets for rediscovery. With each plant target, Sims also generated exact locations around which to centralize our search, concentrating our resources to focus on the greatest possibility of success.

With this data in hand and more than just a little hopefulness, Rare Plant Program botanists scoured several sites in the greater L.A. area for two 1A plants the second week of May. We can’t divulge details of the outcome just yet, but the hunt was successful in many ways. Several areas of semi-intact habitat were found for these species, despite the ubiquitous sprawl. We will report back as soon as we know more.

The CNPS De-extinction Project is currently seeking out other 1A plants in other areas of the state. We also hope to return to the L.A. area throughout the summer to continue our search for these plants and deepen our search to include other elusive plants presumed to be gone in this densely-developed place. Interested to join in the hunt? Let us know by sending us an email!

Catherine Curley, Assistant Botanist/Rare Plant Treasure Hunt Coordinator

Get Outside and Lead a Solo Walk

Lead a solo walk!

What’s the loudest animal on Earth? This is one of my favorite questions to ask students. Initial responses often include anything from whales to elephants to monkeys. Few suspect that human animals are the loudest. This then becomes the challenge: can we stay quiet while on a hike in nature?

A quiet solo walk can be an important and impactful event for nurturing a child’s connection to the natural world. Observations from a walk along a nature trail can last a lifetime and those are enhanced by time walking alone-listening to sounds, watching for colors, or the movement of birds. This provides an opportunity for deeper connection. It also offers time for self-reflection and asking questions about the world around us.

Along a card walk.

Download our student and field-tested cards from the CNPS website. They are designed to enhance a child’s wonder, connection to, and understanding of, plant life in the natural environment. This guided walk can further develop a child’s connection to native plants. Depending on the target age groups, cards can be as simple as indicating the presence of a nearby flowering plant, or as detailed as having the participant find a fallen woody female catkin from an alder and then take time to examine it.

Design your own cards that fit the specific environment you will explore, focusing on the native plants in your area and share them with us!

Denise Newman and
Allison Poklemba
CNPS North Coast Chapter

Plant Exploring: San Gabriel Mountains

Ecological cross-section of the San Gabriel Mountains.

In 1997, teaching 6th graders at the Los Angeles County Outdoor Science School, I first discovered the San Gabriel Mountains. The school, located in Wrightwood at an elevation of 6,000 feet, was (and still is) nestled in a mixed conifer forest with pines, firs, and oaks. Students from across the county came for a week and we spent everyday outside-tromping through the mountains, exploring hands-on, place-based concepts.

While my working title was teacher I was just as much a student, with local botanists, geologists, ecologists, and cultural historians serving as my mentors at night or on weekends. It was during this time I first developed an understanding of biogeography-how abiotic factors affect the distribution of flora and fauna. The San Gabriel Mountains rise to 10,000 feet above the Los Angeles Basin, stretching from western San Bernardino County to Santa Clarita along the I-5 corridor-serving as the recreational backyard for millions of Southern Californians.

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Building California’s “Green Wall”

Since the November 2016 elections, we’ve seen news on a daily basis of attempts to repeal environmental laws and weaken the federal agencies tasked to enforce them. The U.S. EPA, the BLM, the USFS and the lands and resources they manage are all facing threats from the current administration and Congress in Washington D.C. The most recent example is this week’s executive order to review national monuments for possible repeal or modification of their designations.

Carrizo Plain

National Monuments like Carrizo Plain are now under attack with the President’s recent executive order.

CNPS is working on several fronts to help establish a “green wall” around California by helping federal agencies to pick up the slack where they no longer have support from D.C., and by ensuring environmental protection in California remains at or even improves from today’s nation-leading standards. Some of this is work CNPS has always done, and some is new. Both take on added urgency and importance because of the assault on the environment coming from D.C.

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Citizen Science with Mary Ellen Hannibal

Mary Ellen Hannibal

As human animals, we’re drawn to the natural world. The impulse to observe, touch, and understand begins at birth. It’s no wonder then that, throughout human history, laypeople—philosophers, gardeners, and vagabonds alike—have contributed to the most meaningful scientific knowledge we have. As Joseph Campbell said, myth is nature speaking, and the goal of human life is to align with nature.

While we now have a professional discipline we call “science,” everyday citizen scientists are needed now more than ever. As an organization founded by citizen scientists more than 50 years ago, CNPS is acutely aware and appreciative of this reality. Without the observations, painstaking work, and passion of thousands of people over decades, contributions like the Manual of California Vegetation and the Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants would not be as rich or even possible. The work continues today through Rare Plant Treasure Hunts, chapter field trips, the Important Plant Area Initiative, and more. That’s why Mary Ellen Hannibal’s new book, Citizen Science: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction has been especially meaningful to many of us. We caught up with Hannibal recently to discuss her latest work and the personal experiences that inspired its content.

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Behind the Scenes of the Biggest Wildflower Show in the Northern Hemisphere

Monterey County is one of the most bio-diverse regions in the nation and is home to the world’s oldest and largest wildflower show in the Northern hemisphere. This year’s show, which the CNPS Monterey Chapter organized and hosted from April 14-16 at the Pacific Grove Natural History Museum, featured 722 plant specimens!

Monterey Wildflower show specimens

Specimens on display at the 2017 Monterey Wildflower Show

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