I love manzanitas. They really are one of California’s iconic plant genera: they are right up there with redwoods and oaks. I moved here a little over a year ago from San Luis Obispo County, which had some wonderful manzanitas, including many rare endemic species and subspecies. Although I grew up in Walnut Creek, I left to go to college, lived in several different beautiful parts of California, and then came back here to take care of my parents.
I worked my early years in California state parks, county parks, and resource management, but I retired from working in the school system, where I taught outdoor education for over 20 years. I’ve had a wonderful time exploring the local East Bay trails and acquainting myself with the local plants. I had started looking for volunteer opportunities when I saw Dianne Lake’s request for people to look for locally rare and unusual plants and was then asked to be the Rare Plant Committee chair.
In San Luis Obispo, my newsletter contributions were ethnobotany articles, which is my area of interest. I was thinking about writing an article for the Bay Leaf about using manzanita for food and medicine, but instead, I have some bad news about some local manzanitas.
Surveys by Dianne’s team have shown that many of the locally rare and statewide-rare manzanitas are showing disturbing levels of disease in our counties. I was really troubled to see the condition of the rare ones near where I live, and I knew I wanted to do something. We are monitoring and forwarding information to appropriate land managers. Some of them are already working to identify the problem, and we are eagerly awaiting the results.
This stands as a good reminder for all of us to be aware of how we may be inadvertently moving soil pathogens as we go from one park to another. We need to be very careful to clean our shoes, boots, bike tires, horses’ hooves, dogs’ feet, etc., if we go from an area of disease to another park, even if our shoes get a rest in between. This means cleaning out the mud first, then sanitizing. I have a little brush that stays in a bag in my car for getting the mud out, along with an alcohol spray bottle. I feel that after this pandemic, I am a pro at sanitizing! The East Bay Regional Park District has a great sanitation protocol for visitors.
Spring makes me feel like planting, and I like to plant natives to make habitat for animals. Many pathogens came into this country via the nursery trade, so when shopping for plants, I want to use a nursery that uses best practices to avoid spreading disease. I have used our chapter’s own Native Here Nursery, which employs best management practices that are continually being updated. Native Here Nursery’s guiding philosophy is “start clean, stay clean.”
I am looking forward to helping this chapter and seeing many beautiful wildflowers in addition to monitoring the sad news of the manzanitas.
– Cathy Chambers, Rare Plant Committee Chair, CNPS East Bay Chapter