California’s guide to plant communities
First published in 1995, the CNPS Manual of California Vegetation (MCV) serves as California’s standard vegetation classification for biological consulting firms, planners, and state and federal agencies, including the California Department of Fish and Game, United States Forest Service, National Park Service, and United States Geological Survey.
Now in its second edition, the MCV is based upon 14 years of rigorous surveying, analysis, description, and vegetation mapping, providing a refined picture of the state’s diverse vegetation patterns. Because of its breadth, it also offers a significant source of California natural history and biogeographic information for plant lovers. Read on to learn more about the MCV.
About the MCV
More than 450 vegetation types described
More than 450 descriptions of vegetation types
Within each vegetation detail, you’ll find:
- life history strategies
- quantitatively-based rules to distinguish between types
- remarks on plant taxonomy
- fire characteristics and other natural processes that shape each type’s ecology, and
- regional distribution information.
Each alliance description is accompanied by a range map and a complete list of known plant associations.
How it's structured
How it’s structured
The MCV is arranged in three main categories with vegetation characterized by trees, by shrubs, or by herbaceous vegetation. At the front of each section is an ecological key to the vegetation types, followed by their descriptions arranged in alphabetical order.
The format of the vegetation descriptions and other information in the manual were developed following consensus by the CNPS Vegetation Committee and were written by three members of the committee following extensive review by over 100 ecologists and botanists. The descriptions reflect in-depth literature review and synthesis of all available information on California vegetation and are put into context of their rarity and conservation value by relating them to the Natural Diversity Data Base rarity coding system.
Helpful introductory chapters
Beyond the second edition
Beyond the second edition
CNPS works to continually improve and update the information in the classification. As part of this effort, we have conducted two scientific forums, symposia sponsored by the Association of American Academy of Sciences, which have provided feedback to our committee regarding the usefulness of the classification.
The MCV is designed to be a flexible and adaptable tool. As new information comes in via CNPS chapters, private organizations, and agency inventory and mapping efforts, we will enter the information into a standardized statewide database with updates to the online MCV occuring on a regular basis.
Please note: The CNPS Vegetation Program would greatly appreciate your data contributions. We’ll enter the data into our database, archive the information, and use it for future analyses. If requested, we can send you a hard copy database report summarizing the data you’ve provided.
Please send photocopies/scanned copies via post, email or fax to:
Julie Evens, Vegetation Program Director
2707 K Street, Suite 1
Sacramento, CA 95816
Fax: (916) 324-0475
Support the MCV!
We’re fundraising to upgrade our web-based interface and integrate the MCV with other CNPS databases like the Inventory of Rare Plants, Calscape, and new data emerging from the Important Plant Area Initiative. If you are interested in supporting this project, please use the donate button below.
Field Updates and Other Recent News
We’re finding an abundance of fire-following plants in previously mature forests and shrublands across the Central Coast.
Post-Fire Mapping and Report Provide Insights for Southern SierraBefore and after fine-scale vegetation maps now complete for BLM wildfire areas in the southern Sierra Nevada.
Recovery & Monitoring of Central Coast VegetationIn 2021, CNPS staff, volunteers, and students spent six weeks conducting vegetation assessments in five state parks post-fire.