California Native Plant Society

Rare Plant Treasure Hunt

Rare Plant Treasure Hunt 2011 Wrap-up

As we are wrapping up the 2011 Rare Plant Treasure Hunt (RPTH) year and starting to make plans for next year, we’d like to share some of the program’s accomplishments. The RPTH has two focuses, a concentrated focus on California’s deserts and a general statewide focus.

In 2011, over 170 volunteers have participated in or led over 150 Treasure Hunts to search for rare plants and their hard work has paid off. Over 300 new and previously documented populations of 180 different rare plant species were logged. This was a contribution of about 4000 volunteer hours! These data have been submitted to the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB) and the over 900 desert specimens collected have been deposited in California herbaria. Many photos of rare plants taken on treasure hunts were also donated to CalPhotos, Many photos of rare plants taken on treasure hunts were also donated to CalPhotos, an online image database project of UC Berkeley's Biodiversity Sciences Technology group (BSCIT).

Volunteers have given their time and effort, but have also gained much in return. They have been able to spend time in the outdoors exploring new botanical territory, learning about the ecology and identification of native California plants and gaining a greater appreciation of nature and California’s beauty and diversity. After one trip a volunteer wrote, “I have to tell you more than before I notice all the beautiful wildflowers on my hikes.” That is what we call success!

Rare Plant Treasure Hunter (Photo by Amber Swanson)

Highlights from the desert:

  • Rediscovery of the westernmost naturally occurring Saguaro, Carnegiea gigantea, rank 2.2, in the United States. In 1986 this cactus had been spotted by airplane in Imperial County and a general location had been recorded. We found the single 25 foot tall, five armed plant while surveying on the ground this year and took GPS coordinates of the site.
  • Discovery of new populations of rare plants with ten populations or less in all of California: Phacelia barnebyana, Galium proliferum, Galium hilendiae ssp. kingstonense, Camissonia arenaria and Mentzelia puberula. The populations of C. arenaria, Fortuna Range suncup, and the M. puberula, Argus blazing star, were found in the Chocolate Mountains had not been documented there since 1941!
  • Finding six new populations of Linanthus maculatus, Little San Bernardino Mountainss linanthus, rank 1B.2. This tiny plant, a member of the Phlox family, is just an inch or less tall! We barely caught the plants at the very end of their blooming and fruiting season; in another week they would have been gone. We also made the first collection of seed ever taken from this rare plant, which will be preserved at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden seed bank.
  • Locating the first known population of the little Liveforever, Dudleya abramsii var. affinis on BLM land. There were only 12 populations known of this plant and all were found only on the north side of the San Bernardino National Forest.

Highlights from around the state:

  • Discovery of what will likely be the second known occurrence of Botrychium paradoxum, paradox moonwort,in California. This plant is not yet ranked by CNPS, but it is sure to make its way into the Rare Plant Inventory in the coming months. We are still awaiting genetic testing by a moonwort expert to confirm the identity of this very unusual fern.
  • Members of the San Gabriel Mountains and San Diego Chapters undertook large-scale rare plant survey efforts in their respective regions for the second year in a row. San Diego documented rare coastal dune plants, while San Gabriel Mountains performed a phenology study of the plants in the Lily Springs Area of the Angeles National Forest, documenting all of the rare plants they found.
  • The Rare Plant Treasure Hunt took a survey out on the water for the first time. At the Cosumnes River Preserve in Sacramento County, volunteers paddled through the Delta in nine different canoes and kayaks, mapping twenty-five colonies of Sagitarria sanfordii, Sanford’s arrowhead, and two populations of Hibiscus lasiocarpos var. occidentalis, woolly rose-mallow, both Rank 1B.2.
  • Volunteers from the North Coast Chapter of CNPS found populations of Cuscuta pacifica var. papillata, Mendocino dodder, a parasitic plant that was just added to rank 1B.2. Previously, this California endemic had only been known from six populations, none of which had been documented more recently than the 1980s.

Thanks to our volunteers and partners:

A big thank you to all the participants of the RPTH program, including members of chapters from all over the state and to our partner agencies and organizations, including the Bureau of Land Management, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, several Land Trusts and local park districts, California State Parks, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), the United States Forest Service, the National Parks Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.


Rare Plant Treasure Hunt Statistics as of October 1, 2011

Rare Plant Rank # populations found Percentage of total   Occurrence type # populations found Percentage of total
Rank 1 189 51.2%   New 163 44.2%
1A 0 0.0%   Historic 76 20.6%
1B 189 51.2%   Recent 47 12.7%
1B.1 49 13.3%   Negative 30 8.1%
1B.2 119 32.2%   Unknown 53 14.4%
1B.3 21 5.7%   Total 369 100.0%
Rank 2 64 17.3%        
2.1 8 2.2%        
2.2 24 6.5%        
2.3 32 8.7%        
Rank 3 1 0.3%        
3.1 0 0.0%        
3.2 1 0.3%        
3.3 0 0.0%        
Rank 4 115 31.2%        
4.2 35 9.5%        
4.3 80 21.7%        
Total 369 100.0%        



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