Tuesday, November 8, 2011

San Gabriel Story

Jane Strong, member of the San Gabriel Mountains Chapter, recent winner of our Grand Prize, sent in a nice little write up on the chapter's project: 

"In doing the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt for the second year in the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County, I'm struck by how things change and how things stay the same.

Take road conditions, for example. Last year, 2010, it was a detour around the burn area adding more miles and more driving time required to reach the study area. This year, it was two washouts closing the road miles before the usual starting point necessitating a 7-mile snowshoe journey. However, another road opened up on the south side of the mountains in late March. Now only a 4-mile trek up-and-over the main ridge along a narrow, windy, poorly maintained trail was needed to get there. Poor road conditions are always with us, but the reasons for them change.

But the flowers don't wait for the snow and ice to melt or the road to open to bloom. The new routes led to new discoveries! We recorded eight rare species not seen last year.

The most thrilling new find is Fritillaria pinetorum, the stunning pine fritillary, CA Rare Plant Rank 4.3 found along the trail from Crystal Lake (see above photo by Kathryn LaShure). More mountain finds: Eriogonum kennedyi var. alpigenum, southern alpine buckwheat, 1B.3, Heuchera abramsii, Abram's alumroot, 4.3, and Monardella cinerea, gray monardellla, 4.3.

We explored new territory in the Station burn area and found the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains sunflower, Hulsea vestita ssp. gabrielensis, CA Rare Plant Rank 4.3, thriving in the newly exposed ground along Santa Clara Divide Road. Last year we found another species of Hulsea, heterochroma, red-rayed hulsea, not so rare, in the 2002 Curve Fire area. So two burn areas of different ages have two different species of Hulsea as fire followers. Fires are always with us, but the fire following species change.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

More Awards and Honorable Mentions

Volunteer Hour Award
The award for most volunteer hours completed goes to both Jane Tirrell for 491 hours and Walt Fidler for 394 hours. These San Gabriel Chapter members visited the Lily Springs study site almost weekly throughout the season.

Honorable Mentions:

The East Bay Chapter put a twist on the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt with their Adopt-a-Rare-Plant Program. In this program’s first year, over thirty volunteers committed to surveying for certain rare plants throughout the East Bay Chapter’s area. Data are still coming in from East Bay, and we are excited to see their results!

Partner Recognition Awards:
Our partner, George Butterworth, working for the DFG, George submitted over 20 survey forms for rare plants in the Carrizo Plain.

And the Desert Survivors Club. Members of the club helped organize, lead and participate in several treasure hunts in the Mojave Desert, many of them traveling from the Sacramento and the East Bay! 

Thank you all for your dedication!

Essay Winner

From John McRae: Lewisia kelloggii. Photographer uncertain

Looking for Lewisia: a Treasure in the Klamath Mountains near Orleans
June 25, 2011
by Carol Ralph

We turned off Highway 96 south of Orleans onto Forest Service roads and rumbled up the steep, forested slopes, leaving behind the smooth, quiet ride of pavement, the sinuous but gentle Klamath River valley, and the comfort of a cell phone signal. Dust, bumps, loose gravel, steep drops by narrow roads are standard fare even on well maintained Forest Service roads. The security of having the most recent Six Rivers National Forest map was eroded by the knowledge that roads on the map could have been blocked, intentionally or accidentally, or roads Forest Service doesn't want used were simply not shown on the map but were still obvious on the ground. The map's campground symbols floated ambiguously in the steep, twisted landscape, indicating only vaguely where the patch of level ground with picnic tables and fire ring were. Security in this country comes from having plenty of water, overnight provisions, at least one spare tire, and tools. Did I mention it is steep? This was wild country, penetrated by fearless bulldozer drivers during the road-building frenzy in the 1970's. Wild, steep, and grand.

In this mountain vastness 15 of us were headed to see a 2-inch tall, 1-inch diameter rock garden flower that blooms for a few weeks in only one place in the entire Klamath Ranges. Armed with good maps and photos provided by the Forest Service botanists we still needed the guidance of Kirk Terrill, the sharp-eyed naturalist who spotted this flower and knew that he hadn't seen it anywhere else in all his years working for the Forest Service in these mountains. It was in the only stand of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) he knew of in these mountains, at about 4,000 ft elevation, between Slate Creek Butte and Cedar Camp. Last year Forest Service botanists determined this flower to be Lewisia kelloggii, previously known only from the Sierra Nevada. Sure enough, there it was, dazzling white pinwheel flowers squeezing above the pebbles of a gentle, rocky, serpentine ridge patched with Huckleberry oak (Quercus vacciniifolia) and manzanita (Arctostaphylos viscida?) and dotted with lodgepole pine. It didn't match the photos we had to help our search image. The photos showed a rosette of leaves, similar to those of Siskiyou lewisia (a.k.a. cliff maids, Lewisia cotyledon). We were looking at flowers with only stubs of leaves below them. Some herbivore--deer? jack-rabbit? caterpillar?-- had enjoyed the small resources of this deep-rooted plant. The flowers had the gland-toothed sepals that define this species. We noted a small, yellow-flowered lomatium, later diagnosed as Lomatium tracyi, growing in the same area, and the stonecrop Sedum laxum ssp heckneri

The Forest Service contingent of our group stayed at this site to collect samples for DNA analysis by a Forest Service lab and to scout the full extent of the population. The rest of us drove a short ways to a knoll with a weather station just south of Mud Spring, which had shown promise in aerial photos as habitat similar to where the L. kelloggii was. In reality, it was different--steeper, no lodgepole, a different lomatium, a different sedum. No Lewisia. After establishing camp at Cedar Camp about a mile away, we walked a road-trail to Mosquito Lake, through more rocky and shrubby pine woodland. No Lewisia.

As evening approached we shared a picnic dinner at Cedar Camp, named for incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), not Port Orford-cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana). Then some of us departed, while 7 camped for the night in the fresh mountain air among the cedar and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). Early next morning our Rare Plant Chair, Dave Imper, who has a good sense of direction, discovered that the Lewisia site was 15 minutes away by walking down an old road from Cedar Camp. Our goal for the day was to drive through Louse Camp to Onion Mountain, which has rocky balds that might host Lewisia kelloggii. This road had clearly not received Forest Service attention since the late departure of winter. We dodged rocks and trees on the road. With good teamwork and a scavanged timber we even moved a boulder about the size of a VW bug (well maybe a doghouse) enough to squeeze through a rock fall. We made it to Louse Camp, a lovely refuge under big trees by Bluff Creek, for lunch. Faced with a long uphill across a scree slope that had released lots of rocks onto the road, we abandoned our plan, reversed course, and headed out east to the G-O Road and down to Orleans.

How many botanists does it take to move a boulder? The smart one is watching for falling rocks. We moved the rock Gary is studying. Photo by the author.

This expedition was organized by our chapter and by the Forest Service as a Rare Plant Treasure Hunt, a program started by state CNPS rare plant botanists. We found our treasure in only one place, a known place, so we helped document the extremely restricted extent of this population. We didn't contribute much to the burning questions rare plant biologists face continually: Why only here? and how did it get here? The DNA analysis might clarify a little by suggesting to which other population this L. kelloggii is most closely related

As a road tour of our wild mountains we were more successful. Besides the grandeur we saw spots and corners of beauty and interest: pockets of rhododendron's (Rhododendron macrophyllum) fresh pink flowers or mountain dogwood's (Cornus nuttallii) glowing white; a population of Dicentra formosa ssp. oregana (a rare bleeding heart), expanded from 3 to 50 plants over 27 years; elegant ruffles of Iris tenuissima and I. tenax ssp. klamathensis; white spears of blooming beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax); intriguing, ghostly stems of spotted and western coralroots (Corallorhiza maculata and mertensiana). We discovered places we can recommend others visit: Cedar Camp, Mosquito Lake, Louse Camp. A pre-trip campout by a few of us also tested E-Ne-Nuk Campground along highway 96, and the Bluff Creek Historic Trail, both on the list for future outings. The route followed on our chapter's Lily Heaven field trip winds through these mountains. For the slightly adventurous this area in Six Rivers National Forest offers good botanizing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Treasure Hunt Chapter Awards

In the San Gabriel Mtns near the Lily Springs study area (photo by Stacey Hoopes)

The winner of the Grand Prize for CNPS chapter with the most rare plant occurrences found and updated and hours logged is the San Gabriel Mountains Chapter. As a part of their continuing Lily Springs project they documented many populations and put in hundreds of hours. Thank you to all participants including Jane Strong, Jane Tirrell, Graham Bothwell, and Walt Fidler.

The 2nd place chapter award goes to the San Diego Chapter. They recorded many rare plant occurrences on the coastal dunes of San Diego County, including over 700,000 rare Coastal woollyheads, Brand’s phacelia, Nuttal’s lotus and Robinson’s pepper-grass plants. Special thanks to the trip organizer and leader, Frank Landis.

3rd place goes to the Mount Lassen Chapter, which organized two chapter-wide Rare Plant Treasure Hunt field trips. Members of the chapter also led several trips in small groups, collecting data on nine different rare plants. And thanks to Ron Coley for his work organizing and planning trips.

Photo Contest winners

This exquisite photo has won our 2011 First Place Prize for Best Photo. Lara Hartley is the photographer and the subject is Calochortus plummerae, Plummer's Mariposa Lily, rank 1B.2. Beautiful. Thank you Lara for your dedication to the California flora.
Don Davis took a lot of great pictures this year and this one may be the best! It has snatched our second place prize. This is the comical pollination of Mimulus johnstonii, Johnston's Monkey flower, rank 4.3. Thank you Don.
This lovey photo showing treasure hunters at work in the meadows of the Sierras was taken by Rich LaShure and won our 3rd place prize. Good work Rich!
And a big thank you to all who submitted photos, we had so many good ones. Remember next year to have contest in mind when you're in the field!

Monday, October 31, 2011

2011 Rare Plant Treasure Hunt Team Awards

We're pleased to recognize outstanding volunteers, chapters and organizations with awards. Again this year we had many dedicated volunteers, here are the ones that got our top honors:

The recipient of our 2011 Grand Prize Rare Plant Treasure Hunt Award for most occurrences updated is Don Davis, Treasure Hunter Extraordinaire! Don caught the botany bug this spring and went into the field almost every weekend from the end of April through October. He found 42 new and historic rare plant occurrences in the desert and mountains of Southern California. Don documented many Opuntia basilaris var. brachyclada (Shortjoint beavertail cacti), Orobanche valida ssp. valida (Rock Creek broomrape) and Calystegia peirsonii (Peirson's morning glory). Don is studying botany and hopes to make a career of it in the future. Thank you Don for all your long hours- planning, traveling, searching, photographing, identifying and documenting!

The photo below was taken by Don of Peirson's morning glory

The Red Jeepsters, the husband and wife botanical team of Kathy and Rich LaShure, have earned our 2nd place award as Intrepid Treasure Hunters. They decided this summer and fall to combine their weekly hikes in the Southern Sierras with treasure hunting and they found 32 rare plant populations! Kathy is president of the Creosote Ring CNPS sub-chapter, volunteers at the Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest and makes artisan soaps out of her home. She's a busy lady, thank you both taking the time to find and document rare plants!

Photo of Mountain phacelia (Phacelia orogenes) taken by Kathy.

Our 3rd place award for number of occurrences updated goes to Natalia Blackburn and her team members, Carrie Sowa, and Lisa Couper and all their spouses. They documented 20 rare plant populations on their own in Northern California, with a special focus on Brandegee’s Clarkia, and attended several staff-led treasure hunts. Thank you all!

Photo by Lisa Couper of road with the rare Brandegee's Clarkia (Clarikia biloba ssp. brandegeeae).

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Fond Farewell

Me in the Mecca Hill early this spring

My time with the Treasure Hunt will come to an end this month! I am setting off on new adventures and won't be continuing with the project next year. The last two years as the Coordinator of the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt desert project has been amazing. I've been able to see many rare plants that few people get to see and go to remote and lovely places that not enough people visit. When I started this job I had absolutely no idea, no idea, how beautiful and diverse the Mojave and Colorado deserts of California could be. From the sand dunes, to the rocky mountain ridges from the West desert to the East desert there are so many different habitats and microhabitats where native plants(and animals) have made their homes. And I really believe these areas and their inhabitants need to be protected and preserved. They are depending on us for their lives and we need them too. They enrich our lives in many ways; some ways I'm sure we don't even know of yet.

Besides seeing amazing things, I've gotten to spend time with and work with great people from all over California and Nevada. I've learned so much from them and have enjoyed getting to know them. And don't think just because I won't be working for CNPS anymore that I won't still be going out into the field. I already have some trips planned for next year with my treasure hunt friends (I just won't have to be in charge)!

A big THANK YOU to all that have made this project a wonderful endeavor!

Here are a couple photos of some of my favorites sites:

Above: The Kramer Hills in the West Mojave, better than a garden!
Above: The Eastern Mojave Desert not far from the Mojave National Preserve

A Fond Farewell

My time with the Treasure Hunt will come to an end this month! I am setting off on new adventures and won't be continuing with the project next year. The last two years as the Coordinator of the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt desert project has been amazing. I've been able to see many rare plants that few people get to see and go to remote and lovely places that not enough people visit. When I started this job I had absolutely no idea, no idea, how beautiful and diverse the Mojave and Colorado deserts of California could be. From the sand dunes, to the rocky mountain ridges from the West desert to the East desert there are so many different habitats and microhabitats where native plants(and animals) have made their homes. And I really believe these areas and their inhabitants need to be protected and preserved. They are depending on us for their lives and we need them too. They enrich our lives in many ways; some ways I'm sure we don't even know of yet.

Besides seeing amazing things, I've gotten to spend time with and work with great people from all over California and Nevada. I've learned so much from them and have enjoyed getting to know them. And don't think just because I won't be working for CNPS anymore that I won't still be going out into the field. I already have some trips planned for next year with my treasure hunt friends (I just won't have to be in charge)!

A big THANK YOU to all that have made this project a wonderful endeavor!

Here are a few of my favorite photos!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Proboscidea althaeifolia, rank 4.3, Devil's Claw or Unicorn Plant. This plant was gorgeous and showy making you wonder why they would call it Devil's Claw, but the seed pods have long "claws."

Just got back from a Treasure Hunt in Rice Valley in the Northern Colorado desert, really almost the Mojave desert. Fall is a great time to visit the desert. The weather was lovely in the high 70's/low 80's with a slight breeze and flowers were blooming after a rain that had come through a few weeks earlier. Fitting for the Halloween season we found 3 spooky rare plants: Devil's Claw, Snake-bush and Foxtail cactus. Actually they weren't too spooky, but rather lovely. This area still continues to have a display despite the droughts it has experienced and the destruction of large swaths of land by off-road vehicle use.

Getting up close and personal with the rare plants.

Coryphantha alversonii, rank 4.3, Foxtail cactus. Still hanging on although the area has been ravaged by Off- roaders and target shooters.

There's Still Time!

Looking for rare plants in Rice Valley

You still have 5 days left to submit any photos, essays or survey forms in to the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt to be considered for an award!

Photos should be of either a rare plant, a rare plant habitat or of people searching for a rare plant. Essays can be about an experience with the Treasure Hunt or just your feeling about rare plants and their conservation, etc. Be creative!

Send questions and submissions to aswanson(at)cnps.org.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wonderful Workshop

The workshop in the Mojave was amazing. The weather was great and things were in bloom. We had a great group of professionals and enthusiasts and together we saw 37 rare plants in two days! That's a record for me. (Above, fields of Rabbitbrush, Chrysothamnus nauseosus).
The very rare Euphorbia exstipulata var. exstipulata, Clark Mountain Spurge, rank 2.1. This was one of our most exciting finds.
Jim Andre and Tasha La Doux of the Granite Mtns Desert Research Center were our instructors and chose excellent locations to show us and taught us a good deal about identifying summer and fall blooming desert plants.
One of my favorite rare plants of the trip, Ageratina herbacea, fragrant snakeroot, rank 2.3. The flowers smelled a lot like oatmeal cookies with raisins! Yum.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fall Trip

Here is your chance to get out into the desert this fall! I will be leading a treasure hunt October 8-9th (Saturday-Sunday) in the Southern and Eastern Mojave desert. The location is still TBA, but I've heard as of yesterday a lot of rain just fell in the SE Mojave. Who knows what we could find. Perhaps, the rare Proboscidea althaeifolia, Desert Devil's Claw! RSVP to aswanson@cnps.org. Details at our Meetup site.

In a wash in the Turtle Mountains. We took a collection of seeds from these Nolina plants for the seed bank at the RSA botanic garden. They were covered with bees that then proceeded to mob me! Luckily no stings.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Thank you!

This post is a "shout out" to all the people and organizations that have supported our program in one way or another this season. I can't individually thank everyone here, but I'd like to send a big thank you to all our volunteers as a whole and the groups and organizations that have made this program work.

So far in 2011 over 65 volunteers have dedicated over 1300 volunteer hours to the the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt in the desert and surrounding areas. We would have been lost without all this help. Our main funding comes from grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). So first and foremost a thank you to them for seeing the value in this project and making it possible!

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden has been a huge support. They have given me office space for most of the year and also let me use all of the resources there, including a first rate herbarium. Visit www.rsabg.org and see the article they did about us here.

San Bernardino National Forest helped plan and co-lead a rare plant treasure hunt in the Big Bear Lake area.

Habitatwork is an "environmental stewardship action group" that joined us in the desert to search for rare plants. The leaders were so organized and efficient that things went very smoothly.

The Sierra Club has supported us in several ways. They have published two articles about us- in the Desert Report and the Palm and Pine. And Sierra Club member and leader of the Friends of the Juniper Flats Jenny helped us plan and co-lead a trip to the Juniper Flats area in the Northern San Bernardino Mountains Foothills.

Desert Survivors Club and their members have been a huge help to us this season by planning, co-leading and participating in three overnight camping field trips. These are truly hardy volunteers. Photos top and bottom of DSC members.

California Wilderness Coalition helped us plan and lead a three day trip into the Soda Mountains proposed wilderness to search for rare plants. Finding nonexsistent roads and fending off rattlesnakes was only part of the fun!The Coachella Valley Preserve was gracious enough to let us do a treasure hunt on their property and show us around. We even got a see a rare fringe toed lizard!
And of course a thank you to the CNPS chapters and their members that have participated in desert treasure hunts- LA/Santa Monica Mtns, Creosote Ring subchapter, San Gabriel Mountains, Riverside, San Diego, Milo Baker, Kern, Bristlecone, El Dorado, Sacramento, East Bay, Mojave, Mount Lassen, Sanhedrin, Dorothy King Young, Milo Baker, San Luis Obispo, Santa Clara Valley and Santa Cruz (please forgive me if I have left any chapter out!).

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Up in the Mountains

I recently got the chance to go with members from the San Gabriel Mountains Chapter to their study site in none other than the San Gabriel Mountains. It was wonderful, everything was blooming and the views were lovely. Volunteers visit the site at least once a week and record what is blooming. This is a great project. Thanks for letting me join.
The small and beautiful, Mimulus johnstonii- Johnston's monkeyflower, rank 4.3
I finally got to see it! The Lemon lily, Lilium parryi, rank 1B.2

And also Oreonana vestita, Woolly Mountainparsley, rank 1B.3 was there, past blooming and fruit, but still interesting. It only likes high elevations.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Opuntia basilaris var. brachyclada, Short joint beavertail cactus, rank 1B.2 photo by Don Davis.

To recognize our volunteers we will be giving away prizes to those that have excelled in one of the categories below. To be considered for a prize you must turn in all your forms, photos, and/or volunteer hours to us by October 17th. You can mail them to treasurehunt@cnps.org. Winners will be notified by October 23rd and announced November 1st.

The catergories are:

Most occurrences updated

This is our Grand Prize for our Treasure Hunter Extraordinaire

  • Free attendance to one education workshop Or CNPS online store or REI gift certificate- $100 value and
  • One year free individual CNPS membership- $45 value

2nd most occurrences updated

Second Prize - Intrepid Treasure Hunter,

  • CNPS online store or REI gift certificate-$50 value and
  • One year free individual CNPS membership- $45 value

3rd most occurrences updated

Third Prize - Terrific Treasure Hunter,

  • CNPS book (of the choices below) and
  • One year free individual CNPS membership- $45 value

And for our Chapters we have the

Grand Chapter Prize-

Chapter with the most hours and occurrences updated

  • Field equipment for future treasure hunts
  • Bragging rights!

Runner up Chapter Prize
Chapter with the second most combined hours and occurrences updated receives:

  • Field equipment for future treasure hunts
  • Bragging rights!

Best Photo
Enter a photo you have taken of a rare plant, rare plant community or treasure hunt (it doesn't have to be associated with a form or from a specific treasure hunt). We will choose 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners to receive one of the prizes listed below and have their photo displayed on our blog, facebook page and website! Files sizes should be at least 900 KB large. Send them in to the address above. Individuals are limited to 6 entries.

Best Essay
Please send in an essay about your experience with the treasure hunt. This is very open-ended, so be creative! Essays should be from 1 to 2 pages. The winning essay will be featured on our blog and on our website in the section Stories from the Field. The winner will receive one of the prizes listed below.

Prizes will also go to those with the Most field trips led; Most field trips attended; and Most volunteer hours.

These recipients may choose one of the following:

  • a choice of CNPS regional Wildflower posters
  • a choice of CNPS books:
    • California's Changing Landscapes: Diversity and Conservation of California Vegetation
    • The Best Blooms Ever-Why El Nino Makes the Desert Bloom
    • Plants of the Tahoe Basin (softcover)
    • Rare Lilies of California

Friday, August 19, 2011

Desert Workshop

CNPS offers workshops and trainings for professionals and experienced amateurs in the field of botany, biology and ecology. On September 22-24th they will be offering a workshop in the Eastern Mojave taught by preeminent desert botanists James Andre and Tasha La Doux. Participants will learn firsthand about the rare and native annuals and perennials that are primarily only seen in the fall. Participants will also have the chance to stay at the UC Granite Mountains Desert Research Center in the Mojave National Preserve. This should be an amazing workshop and did I mention I'll be there. :)

For more info on the workshop and how to attend go here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Field Trip!

Not many people venture out to the desert in early fall, but it can be a great place to be. I was just out in the Eastern Mojave last week and it was wonderful, warm not hot with a nice breeze and things were blooming! So lets go on a trip...

The Chemeheuvi Mtns got a lot of rain in July and things should be really blooming at the end of August beginning of September. Join us for 1-3 days (September 1st-3rd). We will be doing moderate to possibly strenuous hiking in up to 100 degree weather (probably not that hot though)! But it will be worth it, we'll be exploring a very underexplored area, looking for rare plants and collecting plant specimens. One night will be camping and the other probably at a motel in Needles. This will be the ultimate desert field trip!

We'll meet at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, CA 1500 N. College Ave. on Thursday, September 1st at 7:45 and leave at 8am for the east or you can meet us along the way. Please RSVP to aswanson@cnps.org.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Intrepid explorer

Just a quick post to thank our intern from this spring, Duncan Bell. Duncan is an intrepid explorer, enthusiastic advocate of the desert and a talented botanist. He just has a knack for finding things: rare plants, wild animals, etc.

Not only did he help lead trips, document rare plants, collect and identify specimens, and educate people about California's deserts he also managed in his words, "not falling to my death, not being mauled by bobcats, or bitten by the 30 something rattlesnakes we came across, not getting the field vehicle stuck (even though we tried a few times), only losing one tent to the weather, having no volunteers perish, keeping my beer relatively cold most of the time (yay!), not getting lost (even though I had no clue were I was at any given time (somewhere in the desert, right?)) and I guess I finding a couple of really cool plants."

Thanks Duncan for all you did and didn't do! The year wouldn't have been the same without you.One of Duncan's finds, Tetradymia argyraea (Striped horsebrush), rank 4.3, Photo by Duncan himself. The photo at the top is Duncan chatting with a Nolina plant (Beargrass), taken by Amanda Bell.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Thrill of the Hunt

Swertia neglecta, the rare Pine green gentian (Photo by Don Davis)

I asked one of my volunteers to write about his recent experiences with the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt. He has done a lot of great work this year and taken many beautiful photos. You can check out his photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/californianativeplants/

"My name is Don and I am a telephone man currently living in Southern California with my wife and son. I found out about the California Native Plant Society and their Rare Plant Treasure Hunt program a little over a year ago. I attended my first treasure hunt on April 30, 2011 and absolutely fell in love with plants!

This was my first experience with anything of this nature. I had taken a prior botany course and I have always had an interest in science but never imagined that someone such as myself could contribute to science, boy was I ever wrong. This program has given an incredible amount of incentive and inspiration to me, so much so that I have gone back to school to study horticulture/botany.

I spend a lot of my own free time studying plants and characteristics that define a particular species and take one day out of my weekend to do my own little hunts. I have started going places on my own to find rare plants. I even started climbing and hiking to search for rare plants, all the way to Mount San Antonio and Mount Baden Powell in the San Gabriel Mountains, which were both very personal accomplishments for me.

I have met some of the nicest people through this program. I always have people ask me on my hikes what I am writing down or what am I photographing and I get to explain to them a little about my interest in plants and the California Native Plant Society and their effort to document rare plant species. This weekend on Mt. Baden Powell, I actually got to point out two rare plants to a young man hiking with his brothers Boy Scout Troop, Oreonana vestita, and Eriogonum umbellatum var. minus, It was neat to see a young person so interested in plants. He was even interested in going on a treasure hunt one day.

I am so appreciative to all at the CNPS and the RPTH programs, especially the coordinator, Amber. She is always willing to take time out of her busy schedule to answer questions and even provide a little education now and then. Even if this program were to stop today, I would still have an undying interest in plants. Thank you for such a wonderful program!"

Thank you Don for sharing your story. I am interested to see what you do in the future. You really are a budding botanist!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Highlights of the Season

Here are a few highlights from the desert this season:The rugged beauty of the Desert Mountains is a wonder. These are the Marble Mtns in the Eastern Mojave.Of course finding rare plants is always a highlight. Above is a tiny plant in the Phlox family- Linanthus maculatus, Little San Bernardino Mtns linanthus, rank 1B.2. Each plant is an inch to less than an inch tall. We found several new populations just at the tail end of their blooming and fruiting season. In another two weeks they would have been dried up and gone! We also collected seed to be preserved in a the seed bank at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. This was the first collection of seed ever made of this rare plant! (Photo by Duncan Bell)This little Liveforever, Dudleya abramsii var. affinis is only found in the Northern San Bernardino Mountains and we found the first known population of it on BLM land.
Another highlight has been the animals we've come across. I posted a photo already of the baby bobcat Duncan found. We also found this great desert tortoise sunning himself near his burrow. And I will never forget almost running into two rattlesnakes in combat, check out the video here.Finding a wild saguaro, Carnegiea gigantea, rank 2.2, was exciting because it hadn't been seen in over 20 years and it is at farthest western end of it's range. This is somewhat of a maverick cactus. There are no other saguaros nearby, actually not for 10 miles or more. How did this cactus make it all the way out there and survive?
The native plant flower show at the Maturango Musuem in Ridgecrest was a highlight because we got to collect flowers for the show and help identify ours and others. The flowers were displayed by family and each one was labelled with its name and where it was collected. A great refresher course on desert plants. (Photo by Kathryn Kvapil LaShure) And to close this is my favorite desert plant, Arctomecon merriamii, the rare white bear poppy, rank 2.2. Maybe we shouldn't have favorites but this plant is so beautiful and elusive. I've gone in search of it four times, but only found it twice. This year we found a new population.

There are many more things I could add to this list, but this is a good overview on what you can find out in the wilds of the California deserts-AMAZING!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In the San Bernardinos

Two trips this summer to the San Bernardino Mountains have been successful (and great fun). In the southern foothills we found this beauty, Calochortus plummerae, Plummer's Mariposa Lily, rank 1B.2.
Our next excursion was with the US Forest Service surveying near Bluff Lake. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we found 7 different rare plant species. Damsel flies (perhaps some kind of Bluet) were around the lake en masse-lovely!

Here is the rare Sidalcea pedata, Bird foot checkerbloom, rank 1B.1

And just for fun, take a look at the mycoparasitic Snow plant, Sarcodes sanguinea. So unusual.

For more photos of the plants of the area check out this photo gallery by our volunteer, Michael Charters. An amazing photographer! http://www.calflora.net/recentfieldtrips/blufflake11.html