It’s almost springtime, and our many volunteers are already heading out into the field to monitor our rare and unusual (locally rare) plant populations in the East Bay. But this year we have an additional priority: hunting down locations for several mystery plant populations with “unknown locations.” These are records from plant lists, older vouchers, and other sources with only very general location data, such as “Oakland Hills” or “Briones Park.” While we have found many of these populations over the years, many still remain mysteries. We need all the help we can get to look for these “unknown locations,” and we would like your help.
Seven parks contain most of these mystery populations, as follows:
Briones Regional Park (42)
Brushy Peak Regional Preserve (61)
Contra Loma Regional Park (16)
Del Valle Regional Park (44)
Las Trampas Wilderness Regional Preserve (23)
Los Vaqueros Reservoir (41)
Round Valley Regional Preserve (22)
Finding these mystery populations so we can start monitoring them is an important part of keeping track of our rare and unusual plant populations in our two counties, determining which are the most vulnerable and at risk of disappearing, and preventing others from becoming rarer and more vulnerable. Field conditions, and thus the populations themselves, are constantly changing, so it is important that we monitor as many of these populations as we can, and as often as we can.
Rare and unusual plants by the numbers
We currently have 98 statewide rare plants that are known to have current populations in our two counties, and 398 unusual plants that are A-ranked by our East Bay Chapter, meaning they generally have only one to six current populations in our entire two-county area, even though they may be more common in other parts of the state. In addition, there are 146 plant species that have disappeared from the East Bay, and another 295 plants on a Watch List (species that are still somewhat common but could become rarer or endangered if certain environmental conditions continue unchecked). Thus, there are 937 plant taxa that are at some level of risk in the East Bay!
Of these, 62 plants are on a high-priority list for monitoring this year, and each of them has between one and six populations to be monitored. Some of these have not been reported since the 1990s or even before. Others have been monitored more recently but have only one to three populations in the East Bay and thus require more frequent monitoring. While we currently have 43 “official” volunteers monitoring rare and unusual plants in the East Bay, we can always use more, and we welcome “casual” as well as official volunteers.
You can help us find and monitor plants
“Official” volunteers sign up to monitor or hunt for a particular plant (or plants) at multiple places, or they sign up for a particular park or place with multiple populations. They can work individually but often work in teams, going out either together or individually but coordinating the trails they cover and sharing results with each other via email. This can often be helpful, as some people know some plants better than others, and they can share their knowledge and learn from each other.
“Casual” volunteers monitor or report rare and unusual populations as they run across them on their hikes around the East Bay without signing up for any particular plant or place. This works well for people who don’t know their schedules ahead of time or don’t know how much time they can commit.
Monitoring involves recording information from your observation: the name of the plant, date, location (precise text and/or GPS coordinates), number of plants, size of population, condition or health of population, and any threats to the population. This data is most easily recorded using the Calflora Observer Pro app on your phone or tablet, and you can download Observer Pro for free through Calflora. Once you have downloaded the app, let me know your user email and I will add you to our East Bay Chapter CNPS Unusual Plants Group on Calflora so you can enter your data directly into our group. I can then easily download it into our chapter database, Rare, Unusual, and Significant Plants of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
You can also enter your data directly into our chapter database, which you can access on our chapter website under the Conservation and Science tab. Or if you prefer, you can email your data directly to me.
If you would like to help and want to sign up to monitor a special plant or place, or to help track down the “unknown location” populations, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can share plant lists with you so you can decide which plant or place to monitor.
— Dianne Lake, Unusual Plant Committee Chair, CNPS East Bay Chapter