Rare Plants

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 six categories of rarity, called California Rare Plant Ranks (CRPR):

CRPR 1A: Plants Presumed Extinct in California (2 taxa)
CRPR 1B: Plants Rare, Threatened, or Endangered in California and Elsewhere (77 taxa)
CRPR 2A: Plants Presumed Extirpated in California, But More Common Elsewhere (0 taxa)
CRPR 2B: Plants Rare, Threatened, or Endangered in California, But More Common Elsewhere (10 taxa)
CRPR 3: Plants About Which We Need More Information – A Review List (55 taxa)
CRPR 4: Plants of Limited Distribution — A Watch List (34 taxa)

Rare Plant Committee

The East Bay Chapter’s rare plant committee is comprised of chapter members who support the advancement of rare plant science and conservation within the East Bay Chapter region. The primary way that committee members currently participate is through the Adopt a Rare Plant Program, but individuals who wish to contribute to the committee in other ways are encouraged to join. If you would like to join the committee in another capacity (for example, grant or article writing, map preparation or another rare plant research project), please contact the rare plant chair.

Adopt a Rare Plant Program

The Adopt a Rare Plant Program was started by former Rare Plant Chair Heath Bartosh in 2011, as a locally-adapted version of the statewide CNPS Rare Plant Treasure Hunt (RPTH) program. Whereas the RPTH aims to update historical rare plant data throughout the state, the East Bay Chapter’s Adopt a Rare Plant Program asks volunteers to focus targeted surveys on just one or a few rare plants in the Chapter region. With this species-specific approach, volunteers are able to achieve a clear understanding of the habitat requirements and threats that our Chapter’s rare plants face. We then provide that information back to the statewide CNPS Rare Plant Program and the land managers tasked with preserving these rare plant populations. Make no mistake, adopting a rare plant can be an involved endeavor that includes planning field outings, literature research, enumerating and mapping populations in the field, making observations of threats and management considerations, and compiling and reporting the results. However, it can also extremely rewarding, as Adopters can explore new parts of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, connect with other botanically-inclined folks, gain new skills, and most importantly, make valuable contributions toward rare plant conservation.

Adopt A Rare Plant Program Goals:

  • 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.
  • Invite Adopt a Rare Plant volunteers to contribute program results as Bay Leaf articles, or contribute to presentations at Chapter Members Meetings.

Organized Group Activities

The Adopt a Rare Plant Program is largely a volunteer-driven effort, with Rare Plant Adopters being expected to plan their own outings. However, several activities are planned each year as way for Adopters to meet each other, share knowledge, and learn about relevant rare plant topics. Meeting and field trip information will be shared with all rare plant committee members, and occasionally in the Bay Leaf.

  • Annual kickoff meeting each winter / early spring
  • Several group field trips from spring to summer
  • End-of season meeting to share photos and results

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 one year. 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.

Volunteer Requirements

  • Ability to use dichotomous keys such as those in The Jepson Manual and/or the Flowering Plants and Ferns of Mount Diablo, California (at least one prior plant ID course or equivalent experience/training).
  • Ability to record qualitative and quantitative data on field forms.
  • Ability to hike, occasionally on rugged terrain.
  • Ability to arrange you own transportation to rare plant populations.
  • Volunteers will need a smartphone or GPS device for mapping populations in the field.
  • Must be a member of the East Bay Chapter of CNPS.

Preferred Qualifications:

  • 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.
  • Availability during the field season (usually spring to summer, but depends on the adopted rare plant).

Contact Information

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: rare-plant-chair@ebcnps.org.