California’s Rarest Conifer?

California’s Rarest Conifer?

CNPS teams with the Klamath National Forest to map yellow-cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis) in California

CNPS has begun a collaborative mapping and inventorying project for yellow-cedar in California. The species is a CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants on list 4.3 (limited distribution) in the state, with only a handful of known locations. The majority of the stands are on the Klamath National Forest but a few are also on the Six Rivers. Over the course of summer 2017, Michael Kauffmann and Julie Evens will be visiting a number of these populations and collecting data on stand health, reproduction, and plant associations. The week of July 5-6 we visited the world’s southern-most stand, deep in the Siskiyou Wilderness.

Range of yellow-cedar in California. Map from Conifer Country (Kauffmann 2012).

This project was initiated by Forest Service Region 5 when we were contacted by Brian Buma from University of Alaska. His research is showing that yellow-cedar at the northern extent of its range is in declining health and not reproducing. The baseline data we collect this summer will inform future studies across the range of this species.

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Documenting Natural Phenomena

Kids need nature, and we as parents, educators, and caring adults, need to provide access to it for them. It’s a simple statement, but one that has become harder and harder to achieve in the world of standardized tests, electronics, and organized sports.

To help kids get out and enjoy nature more often, CNPS worked with nature educator John (Jack) Muir Laws a few years ago to publish his nature journaling curriculum. The book guides kids through a combination of art, writing, and science-based activities.

For years, Jack has been developing his curriculum to engage students of all ages in sharpening their observational powers through sketching in the field. He has found that this combination of visual and kinesthetic learning reaches even students who had given up on their artistic abilities long ago.
More recently, the Language Arts component completed the experience. Jack began to work with Emily Breunig, an English and writing instructor, to incorporate exercises such as writing haikus, creating narrative stories, and formulating hypotheses to complement the outdoor observational activities.

This interdisciplinary combination of art, science, writing, and observation exemplifies the California Native Plant Society’s goals in creating educational programs: to engage students of all ages in the incredible natural world of California, to inspire them to keen observations of the wild places in their own backyards, and to foster a desire to protect these unique habitats.

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Collaborative BioBlitz in the Milpitas Special Interest Area

Arroyo Seco bushmallow (Malacothamnus palmeri var. lucianus, CNPS List 1B.2). Photo by Mike Splain.

On April 15, 2017 the Ventana Wilderness Alliance (VWA) partnered with CNPS Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz chapters for its first-ever BioBlitz in the Milpitas Special Interest Area (SIA). This area was designated by the Los Padres National Forest in 2005 to preserve the natural and cultural resources of the upper Arroyo Seco and San Antonio watersheds.

The Milpitas SIA is located on the eastern slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountains where one can find the largest valley oak savannah on public land. Surrounding ridges feature diverse chaparral, five tree oaks species, and six conifer species. The regional diversity is nurtured by numerous springs, wetlands, seeps, and streams which complement towering rock outcrops. This abiotic complexity facilitates a wide range of plant habitats—and much more.

Humans have occupied this area for thousands of years and evidence still remains in the form of rock art, midden remnants, and bedrock mortars. Over this time of Native America occupation, plant assemblages were shaped, in part, by active Salinan management including seed and bulb harvesting and the ignition of periodic fires that promoted the growth of food and fiber plants.

To adequately understand and better protect this diverse and sensitive place, land managers and scientists continue to collect data on the variety of habitats. We contributed to this data with our recent BioBlitz.

Goldfields and owl’s clovers on Wagon Cave Plains. Photo by Amy Patten.

Naturalists from VWA and CNPS joined forces to documented as many species in the SIA as possible. While the scenery was grand the search was challenging—including looking for insects under logs, scrutinizing mammal tracks for species ID, and scrambling steep hillside to photograph wildflowers. All challenges aside, participants were treated to a “superbloom” that included carpets of goldfields (Lasthenia sp.), owl’s clover (Castilleja sp.) and sky lupines (Lupinus nanus). VWA/CNPS members Mike Splain, Deanna Giuliano, Dave Nelson, Kate Cunningham, and John Libby helped participants track down rare endemics, including Arroyo Seco bushmallow (Malacothamnus palmeri var. lucianus, CNPS List 1B.2), Butterworth’s buckwheat (Eriogonum butterworthianum, CNPS List 1B.3), and Santa Lucia fir (Abies bracteata, CNPS List 1B.3). Other unusual sightings included naked broomrape (Orobanche uniflora), harlequin lupine (Lupinus stiversii), dwarf brodiaea (Brodiaea jolonensis) and bitter root (Lewisia rediviva var. minor).

Once back from the field, all of our team’s observations (including 179 plant species) were entered into iNaturalist, a publicly accessible database of natural history observations. Once in the database, citizen scientists in the iNaturalist community review observations to generate research-grade data.

Citizen scientists collecting data on Santa Lucia Fir, Abies bracteata. Photo by Amy Patten

BioBlitz observations provided a valuable snapshot of regional biodiversity, phenology, locations of species of concern, and data on the spread of invasive plants. These data will be shared with the US Forest Service to guide research and management decisions. Plans for future BioBlitz events and targeted monitoring are already in the works.

Interested in participating in future citizen science projects? Contact me!

Amy Patten
CNPS Santa Cruz Chapter and Ventana Wilderness Alliance

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

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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