Vegetation Program

Growing our understanding of California’s plant communities

View from the base of the Inyo Mountains across the Owens Valley to the crest of the Sierra Nevada. Credit Julie Evens.

We don’t save individual plant species in isolation. Plants belong to communities, playing foundational roles in our ecosystems. Our understanding of those relationships are critical to both conservation and science. The CNPS Vegetation Program has established a vegetation classification system that has become the standard for interpreting statewide vegetation patterns and for initiating local and regional ecological assessments. Today, the program continues to expand this knowledge to inform conservation and land-use planning amidst today’s critical decisions. Read on to learn more.

Manual of California Vegetation (MCV)

The MCV is California’s definitive system for describing vegetation statewide. It uses a principal unit called  an “Alliance” (or series), which is a floristically defined vegetation type identified by its dominant and/or characteristic species. Learn more about the MCV or access the current online edition here.

Areas of Service

A dense, uncommon woodland stand of Puite cypress
A dense, uncommon woodland stand of Puite cypress (Hesperocyparis nevadensis) on BLM land in the southern foothills near Isabella Lake. Rosie Murphy-Deak

Sensitive Natural Communities

CNPS is developing tools and training to identify and protect sensitive vegetation types as key units of biodiversity.

Veg Mapping & Monitoring

From grasslands to conifer forests, we’re working to quantifiably capture California’s plant communities and their changes over time.

Credit Clare Golec.
Credit Clare Golec.


Classification and mapping reports for rare plant communities and places, created in partnership with state, federal, and local partners.

Field Protocols & Guidelines

Field Protocols & Guidelines

Access our library of forms,
guidelines, and other best
practice resources.

Field Updates

see more