CNPS ANNUAL REPORT | 2022-23 > Investing in Science

Investing in Science

2022 Barbara Rice Intern Sara Bandali in the field; Image: CNPS

Critical Knowledge in a Time of Change

The California floristic province contains the greatest number of rare and/or endangered plants in the U.S. The Rare Plant program leads the collection, documentation, and sharing of rare plant taxa for California while the Vegetation Program surveys and maps native plants across the state. Their findings are used by interested parties statewide to know what native plants to save and where, which is especially crucial to the state’s 30×30 commitment. This year, historic investments in vegetation mapping and new efforts from our Rare Plant program led to outstanding results.


New State of CA Investments


Rare plant status reviews completed


AIM riparian & wetland plots installed across California


Rare plant seed collections completed


Vegetation surveys completed

A Budget Breakthrough for California Native Plants

California is investing billions in wildfire management, climate change adaptation, and other large-scale initiatives. Yet the state faces gaps in the scientific foundation for decision-making. In June 2022, the state budget allocated unprecedented funding to fortify that foundation, with a historic $20 million for fine-scale vegetation mapping and $13 million to update the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB). The data gathered will give advocates, scientists, land planners, and decision makers the information they need to make fully-informed decisions possible about where we build, what we conserve, and how landscapes are responding to climate change. Read more.

Photo: Purple owl’s clover (Castilleja exserta) and friends; Image: Ayla Mills

Take a Tour

The Rare Plant Inventory launched the v9.5 update with generous funding provided by the Schwemm Family Foundation. For the first time, public searches on threats and the display of threat summary statistics are now available for over 1,800 rare California plants. Read more about the update and visit the RPI to take a tour of its new features.

Photo: Amargosa beardtongue (Penstemon fruticiformis var. amargosae) CA Rare Plant Rank 1B.3; Image: Amber Swanson

New Applications

Vegetation Program staff are collecting monitoring data for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Assessment, Inventory & Monitoring (AIM) program across the state, specifically in riparian and wetland habitats from the Mojave Desert to the North Coast. Funded by the BLM, the AIM project is a national effort wherein teams of ecologists collect standardized data macroplots. Those plots/transects are revisited over time to track the health and ecological integrity of habitats on BLM lands.

“This BLM project is one of many collaborations CNPS has with federal and state agencies to collect field and fine-scale mapping data to support land management and stewardship, as well as to help public agencies and local entities in informing conservation and management decisions,” said CNPS Vegetation Program Director Julie Evens.

California Plant Rescue (CaPR)

During the 2022 field season, CNPS made a total of seven new collections of 1B species and two recollections. The Rare Plant Program visited the Golden Trout Wilderness to successfully collect the Ramshaw Meadows abronia (Abronia alpina) and returned to Mt. Eddy to collect rough harebell (Campanula scabrella) for an Institute of Museum and Library Services seed longevity study. The team also recollected woolly balsamroot (Balsamorhiza lanata) and updated the single known occurrence in California of Canadian buffalo-berry (Shepherdia canadensis). On trips to the Tahoe and El Dorado national forests, staff collected Sierra arching sedge (Carex cyrtostachya) and Stebbins’ phacelia (Phacelia stebbinsii), and scouted a population of Sierra blue grass (Poa sierrae) for future collection. CNPS helped coordinate expeditions to the Modoc and Tahoe regions, joining partner institutions. The combined expeditions yielded more than 25 collections.

Photo: Rough harebell (Campanula scabrella); Image: CalPhotos (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

After the Fires

Through two generous grants from the Mary A. Crocker Trust and the California State Parks Foundation, CNPS Vegetation program staff collected data to assess the resiliency of plant communities on state park lands that experienced recent wildfires. Staff documented the regrowth of a seedbank that has not been observed in many years, with whispering bells (Emmenanthe penduliflora), golden eardrops (Ehrendorferia chrysantha), and redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) seedlings. Learn more about the importance of fire to these habitats.

We continue to close critical gaps in vegetation mapping in several areas across the state. Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties now have final draft fine-scale maps out for review. About 40 percent of the state’s vegetation remains to be mapped at the scale required to understand changes driven by extreme wildfires, drought, and other climate impacts. With partners, we’re pursuing additional grant funding that we hope will expand our contributions to this work, which is critical to identifying the most important plant areas to protect at the local and regional levels.

Firestorm photo: Image; Bowman

Blue Oak Ranch Reserve. Credit Alexis LaFever Jackson.
Blue Oak Ranch Reserve; Image: Alexis LaFever Jackson