Rare plants

Rare Plant Committee

Alameda and Contra Costa Counties are endowed with an incredible richness of native plant species. This richness is due partly to our location at the convergence of the North and South Coast Ranges, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and the San Joaquin Valley. This convergence of botanical regions provides for a unique congregation of ecological conditions and native plants.

The East Bay Chapter of CNPS keeps track of these rare and endemic native plants and plant communities. Within our catalogue of native plant species there is an abundance of rarity: from Mount Diablo endemics to Pleistocene relicts; narrowly distributed taxa to peripheral populations; and species that have suffered extirpations from changes in vegetation composition resulting from the introduction of non-native plant species or directly from human development. Based on the CNPS Inventory of Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Plants of California, a total of 127 of these plant species are currently known from our Chapter area. These species are separated into five categories of rarity:

List 1A: Plants Presumed Extinct in California (2 taxa)

List 1B: Plants Rare, Threatened, or Endangered in California and Elsewhere (77 taxa)

List 2: Plants Rare, Threatened, or Endangered in California, But More Common Elsewhere
(10 taxa)

List 3: Plants About Which We Need More Information – A Review List (55 taxa)

List 4: Plants of Limited Distribution — A Watch List (34 taxa)

It is important for our chapter to keep the information on rare plants as up-to-date as possible in order to “uplist” or “downlist” these species as appropriate through an evaluation of these data. Keeping rare plant information current is a large task that involves literature research, enumerating and mapping populations in the field, making observations of threats and management considerations, and compiling and reporting the results. Often this information is updated opportunistically for single populations when timing and budgets allow. In the absence of a systematic species by species approach, it is difficult to achieve a clear understanding of species health and threats they face at a chapter (landscape) level. It is through the development and sustained stewardship of an Adopt A Rare Plant Program that we hope to build a local volunteer group of species-specific experts or “citizen scientists” to collect rare plant information such as existing literature to population occurrence information in the field, and to provide stewardship recommendations based on their observations.

The goals of the Adopt A Rare Plant Program include:

Develop local species specific experts, either as individuals or groups, through the adoption of a specific rare plant species within our chapter.

Acquire existing literature of the Chapter’s rare plants such as protologues, herbarium records, journal articles, recovery plans, mitigation plans, restoration plans, etc.


Build upon existing population occurrence information by systematically collecting qualitative and quantitative data species by species in the field.

Record population threats and management issues facing each species at a chapter level.

Seek participation from location agencies and organizations such as East Bay Regional Park District, California State Parks, Contra Costa Water District, East Bay Municipal Utilities District, and Save Mount Diablo, among others.
Have quarterly Rare Plant Committee meetings to share results and photographs taken in the field in a slideshow format.

Invite Adopt A Rare Plant Volunteers to contribute program anecdotes or observations from the field as Bay Leaf articles.

For the inaugural year of the Adopt A Rare Plant Program the focus will be on the 77 List 1B plant species as they are our rarest and most prominent in a regulatory context.

Expectation of Volunteers

These individuals or groups of volunteers will adopt a rare plant of their choice with the intention of monitoring occurrences of a taxon for a minimum period of two years. Volunteers will become citizen scientists by taking part in this program. Program volunteers will get the opportunity to hike to spectacular and remote places within the chapter’s wildlands to observe rare plants in the field, develop deeper knowledge of the rare plant adoptee, contribute to our robust plant science dataset, and affect long-term stewardship of rare plant populations.

Projected Start Date: March 2011 (A brief announcement of this program will be made at the March General Membership Meeting: March 23. See the EBCNPS website for time and location.)

An orientation meeting will be held at the end of March. Time and location TBD. Attendance is required. Information packets will be distributed.

Typical Annual Duration of the Field Season: March – December

Volunteers will need to possess a beginning to intermediate level of plant species field identification skills and must be able to use Latin names. If uncertain of their skill level, volunteers will be directed toward rare plants that match their identification skills by the Rare Plant Committee Chair. Volunteers that have an interest in this program but need expert direction will be paired with other capable and willing participants. Field activities associated with this program, e.g. collecting rare plant population data, will only be conducted where access has been granted to volunteers. Only known populations will be included in this effort.

Preferred Qualifications: Volunteers will have the following experience and qualifications:

Ability to use dichotomous keys such as those in The Jepson Manual and/or the Flowering Plants and Ferns of Mount Diablo, California
Ability to record qualitative and quantitative data on field forms.

Appreciation of rare plant conservation.

Appreciation of outdoor recreational activities focused on natural history.

Essential Requirements:

Ability to arrange you own transportation to rare plant populations.

Ability to navigate to rare plant populations using GPS coordinates and aerial photography or topographic maps.

Ability to record GPS location data in the field or derive GPS coordinates from field maps or web-based applications.
Ability to hike, occasionally on rugged terrain.

Must be a member of the East Bay Chapter of CNPS.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, would like more information, or would like to discuss if your skill level is compatible with this program please contact:
Heath Bartosh
Rare Plant Committee Chair
East Bay Chapter CNPS