By CNPS Board Member Vince Scheidt
How do you know when something is really extinct? And is extinction always forever?
CNPS has embarked on an exciting new project to help answer those questions for California’s native plants. With this, we hope to not only stem the tide of plant extinctions, but to possibly reverse it! Sound like some sort of science fiction? Not exactly.
The CNPS De-extinction Project is a science-based effort to re-evaluate the 22 species currently ranked as “1A” (Plants Presumed Extirpated in California and either Rare or Extinct Elsewhere) by first attempting to rediscover them in the field. If not seen in the field, the next step would be to revisit botanical gardens where a species may persist, and the last involves visiting herbariums where viable seeds may remain as part of historic vouchers. In the latter scenario, scientists could possibly revive an extinct species through seed captured sometimes more than a century ago!
In other cases across the world, species thought to be extinct have been rediscovered in recent years. This fact gives us hope that some of the 22 native plant species thought to be extinct in California will be found again.
We have had the benefit of a wonderful rain year, and watering may be the furthest thing from our minds. But knowing when and how to water native plant gardens is a key to success.
A new Tree of Life Nursery publication, Watering Native Plants, by nursery co-owner Mike Evans, covers important factors to keep in mind while planning – particularly for rain capture, and for decisions about irrigation methods. Mike is an advocate for bringing back the human factor in watering gardens and in irrigation of commercial landscapes. The concepts and practical recommendations in this guide apply equally to commercial landscapes and home gardens.
The guide covers the essentials of watering a healthy, natural garden, including the why, when, how much, how frequently, and how to water, both new and established gardens. For those ready to plant, the book also includes helpful instructions and an illustrated guide to creating a secondary watering ring. (For more information on planting natives and initial watering, check out the related video tutorial.)
Article and photos by Laura Camp.
On a cloudy and chilly Sunday morning in January 1997, a hardy group of citizens came together and sowed native wildflower seeds in ten, long-neglected plots within the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery. This group was composed of a few members of the Sacramento Valley Chapter, Sacramento City and County staff, and folks from the community who answered the call in the local newspaper for garden volunteers. Before this group started their work that morning, the irrigation system was non-existent and weeds and scraggly ornamentals grew in crumbling plots.
Today, there is still no irrigation system (other than the hose bibs distributed throughout the garden), and crumbling plots are still being repaired. However, thousands of hours of laboring later, those ten plots have expanded to over 100 plots covering 3/4 of an acre containing 125 different species of California native plants. This gothic garden now pulses and hums with life from the numerous species of songbirds, native bees, and other pollinators that seek cover and food. I like to think that our historic residents appreciate the work we have done for their resting places as we tidy up their monuments and repair their beds, as well as the hundreds of living human visitors who have also enjoyed this native plant sanctuary in the middle of the city.
As one of the garden co-founders and now the primary garden coordinator, volunteering in the garden for most of its twenty years has been immensely satisfying. I continue to meet wonderful people who come to volunteer or happen to stop by to visit the garden. I particularly enjoy helping visitors visualize a water-wise home garden that showcases California’s rich botanic history and supports our songbirds and beneficial insects.
What might the next twenty years hold? Our hardy little group of volunteers will continue our core mission of educating the public about the benefits and beauty of native plants. We’ll do this by refining the garden layout and design, adding more plant species to the garden, hosting more garden tours, and adding workshops for the public. If you would like a tour of the garden or would like to find out how to volunteer to help us reach our goals, feel free to contact me!
Cassandra Nguyen Musto
CA Native Plant Demonstration Garden Chair
CNPS – Sacramento Valley Chapter
Cassandra is a native Californian, landscape architect, restoration ecologist, and watercolor painter. She became a CNPS member of the Sacramento Valley chapter in Fall 1996 after graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and moving to Sacramento. When she’s not landscaping, restoring, or painting, you might find her flower peeping during a desert Super Bloom, stand-up paddleboarding, native plant shopping, or skiing.
Researcher and author Kat Anderson is perhaps best known for her much-loved work, Tending the Wild. Her contributions to ethnobotany and historic ecologies in California have greatly expanded our understanding of the human relationship to native plants. Recently, we were privileged to have Kat serve as our Fremontia guest editor for a beautiful double-issue on geophytes. The following is an excerpt, capturing some of the highlights.
Excerpt from Kat Anderson and Philip Rundel in California Geophytes
In the course of evolution, plant species have developed a myriad of adaptive features that help them survive environmental stress. One such adaptation that has evolved multiple times in diverse lineages is the geophyte growth form. Geophytes have an underground storage organ which allows the plant to die back to the ground and go dormant during unfavorable seasons for growth. Renewal buds associated with the storage organs allow a new cycle of leafing and blooming when favorable conditions return.
By Pete Haggard • Garden Chair, CNPS-North Coast Chapter
One of the great pleasures of observing a native plant garden grow up over the years is seeing an increase in plant and wildlife diversity. The efforts of volunteers at the Arcata Community Center Native Plant and Wildlife Garden in Humboldt County did just that-adding 29 species of native plants. This diversity also included four species of amphibians, four species of mammals, 16 species of butterflies, and nine genera of bees including the establishment of a thriving nesting site for hundreds of Halictus tripartatus, a native bee.
The Arcata Garden was established on February 27, 1999 when volunteers from the California Native Plant Society-North Coast Chapter (CNPS-NCC) planted various species of native plants in an 0.1 acre waste field near the Arcata Community Center. This planting emerged from an agreement between the City of Arcata, represented by Dan Diemer, Parks Superintendent, and CNPS-NCC, represented by Pete Haggard, Garden Chair. The agreement stipulated that the City of Arcata provide the site and planting stock for the initial planting, and the CNPS-NCC provide volunteers for planting and ongoing maintenance of the site.
After 17 years Arcata now has a beautiful, stable natural area that requires no water, fertilizer, or mowing and very little physical maintenance by employees. As a committed CNPSer, I have enjoyed these years of tending the garden and seeing blossom into fruition.
Since the garden is located in an area with heavy pedestrian traffic, including college and high school students and people visiting the Arcata Community Center, it is an excellent place to further one of CNPS-NCC’s goals-to educate the public on the value of a biodiverse native landscape in urban areas.
As the garden matures and creates more niches in the landscape, I look forward to seeing more wildlife and native plants utilizing this site.
Both the City and CNPS-NCC have benefited from this agreement, which has provided the public with a permanent garden with natural beauty and an educational tool for the CNPS-NCC. For more information on the garden, the plants and animals that live there, or a tour of the garden, contact me!
Over the 2016-2017 winter, the Conservation, Rare Plant, and Vegetation programs have initiated an effort to map Important Plan Areas (IPA) throughout California. With its diversity and endemism, the flora of California is unlike any other in the world, and CNPS is being proactive to protect and preserve its natural beauty and resources. The IPA initiative will produce tools that will aid and support decisions for local, regional, and statewide conservation planning.
The Rare Plant and Vegetation programs are gathering data available through past survey efforts and fine-scale vegetation maps – including GIS map data that are publicly available, and survey data that are currently being compiled in a statewide dataset by CNPS and California Department of Fish & Wildlife. We are consolidating this baseline botanical knowledge for California, and will present it through digital maps that highlight the locations of rare plant species and vegetation that have high priority for protection. However, in order to have a comprehensive map we need help from local experts and citizen scientists who know their local areas best.
California is such a large state and we have a lot of ground to cover. To start, we are focusing our efforts on regions where conservation planning is currently taking place, such as the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys. Our first pilot region is the southern San Joaquin Valley. Although much of this region has been urbanized or converted to agriculture, there are remaining natural areas that are unique or rare, including vernal pools and riparian and alkaline habitats. Identifying these areas is important so we can advocate for their preservation during conservation planning.
To gather additional knowledge for the southern San Joaquin Valley, we hosted an IPA workshop in Bakersfield this month. This workshop brought together a group of individuals to help contribute knowledge of rare and special plants and communities in that region. We will add the new knowledge gained during this workshop to the existing information we have to better define IPAs for the region. Next, we will then expand our efforts to other regions of California starting with the remaining areas of the Great Valley and ultimately reaching our goal of a map of IPAs for all of California.
The Important Plant Area initiative, funded in part by the Giles W. and Elise G. Mead Foundation and an anonymous donor, is fundamental to what CNPS has always done. We put together what we know about California’s flora, share the information with others, and protect places through science-based advocacy and our passion for plants and their natural habitats.