The Unusual Plants Committee is asking for help from CNPS members, volunteers, and others to help us in our continuing effort to identify and monitor the East Bay’s rare plants, both locally rare (unusual) and statewide rare.
With the recent improvements in the location and ranking systems of the Unusual Plants Program, we now have the tools to come to an even better understanding of our local flora. By focusing on individual populations rather than locations or regions (both excellent systems for the level of data we had earlier in the program but less efficient now), we can continue to more precisely identify the rarest of the rare and the most vulnerable of the vulnerable in the East Bay.
As the next step in this quest, we have compiled a list, titled One Current Population, of the plants that currently have only one known population in our entire two-county area. This list consists of 110 species, 25 of them statewide rare and 85 locally rare (unusual).
The list also includes historical populations, those that have not been found or reported in the last 25 years or more, some even going back to the 1800s. It is possible that at least some of these populations might still exist, especially those last seen in the 1980s and 1990s.
Therefore, in an effort to determine if these species do indeed have only one current population in the East Bay, we are asking for the help of as many members and volunteers as possible to venture out into the field this spring and search for these historical populations. The more eyes and feet we can get on the ground, the better. Consider it a scavenger hunt for plants!
We especially need people who are willing to search high and low for some of these populations, but we also need people to check for the more accessible populations.
While field surveys have been conducted for many of these populations, the location descriptions are sometimes general, often having come from plant lists, vouchers, vague memories, etc., so more extensive searching is still required. Often this will mean exploring off trail and getting prior permission from park managers or the head of whatever agency manages the land. Some populations are on private land, and you will need to get permission from the land owner. Respect for private property and park regulations is of paramount importance and should always be observed, along with a general respect for the land and flora.
Some populations are more accessible but have not been revisited for various reasons, including lack of time and volunteers. With over 700 rare species plus an additional 275 on a watch list, each having one to several populations, it is impossible to check on all of them as often as we would like.
Some sites may have been developed and have no habitat remaining for the species. These are recorded as “negative surveys” and serve as valuable information in our effort to learn which species are declining, which are holding their own, and which are thriving.
If you can choose even a few of the historical populations on the One Current Population list to search for, or even just keep your eye out for them as you hike around our two counties this spring, we would greatly appreciate your help. If we can have multiple people searching for multiple populations, we can continue to build up our knowledge and understanding of our rarest and most vulnerable plants.
Note that the locations on the One Current Population list have been purposely generalized to deter poaching and vandalism. More detailed descriptions and other data are available for most of these populations on our CNPS East Bay chapter’s Database of Rare, Unusual, and Significant Plants of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
If you do find any of these populations, please either enter them into the chapter database or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is more information on monitoring plants and recording data, as well as a list of other priority plant populations that need to be monitored and more information on the Unusual Plants Program itself on the chapter website.
In addition, if anyone has seen any of the historical populations on the One Current Population list in the past 25 years (back to 1996), please enter your data into the chapter database or contact me. And likewise if you are aware of a current population that is not on the list but occurs in either Alameda or Contra Costa County, please enter your data or contact me. Note, however, that since our goal is to understand how our native plants are faring on their own in their natural conditions, we only consider naturally occurring populations. While restored and planted populations are, of course, important and valuable, they are not a factor in this assessment.
Finally, we also need volunteers to monitor the current populations on the One Current Population list since these are our rarest and most vulnerable plants, and although technically considered current, some of them have not been monitored for several years.
Volunteers will need to work on their own as much as possible, and we remind you to observe COVID-19 safety precautions, respect private property and park regulations, and just generally respect the land and flora. Volunteers will need to verify their plant identifications and provide an explanation of how they were verified (consultation with an expert, photo, keyed, etc.). See the CNPS East Bay website for more information on identifying rare and unusual plants.
The goals of the Unusual Plants program are to continually improve our knowledge of our rare and unusual plants and to keep as scientifically accurate and up-to-date as possible. But we can’t do it without the help of our members and volunteers, and we truly appreciate all the help we can get! Please contact me (email@example.com) if you can help, and let me know if there are particular populations you would like to search for. Thank you!
— Dianne Lake, Unusual Plants Coordinator, CNPS East Bay Chapter