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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CNPS De-Extinction Project

By CNPS Board Member Vince Scheidt

How do you know when something is really extinct? And is extinction always forever?

Franciscan Manzanita relocation.

Relocating the Franciscan Manzanita, discovered after presumed extinction.

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.