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Winter 1998-9 Newsletter


January Meeting

Botanical Treasures of the Pacific Crest Trail-Sonora to Seiad Valley
by Bob and Margie McNairn
Wednesday, January 27, 7:00 pm
Geitzen Hall, Old Town Auburn

This should be a spectacular and inspirational program that you won't want to miss! Margie and Bob have backpacked over 600 miles, nearly all of the Pacific Crest Trail between Mt. Whitney and Oregon. Botanical diversity of the different trail sections will be shown, from tiny alpine moonworts in the south to the unique, isolated weeping spruces of the Klamath region. Among other highlights are extensive floral displays in highly weathered volcanic soils on Castle Peak and the Sonora Pass area, and the colorful, unique rock gardens of the Siskiyous. Bob is a retired professor of Biological Sciences, CSU Chico. Margie is a past president of the Mt.Lassen Chapter, CNPS. To get there: Geitzen Hall is located at 226 Sacramento Street in Auburn. It is next to the active fire station in Old Town Auburn.

February Meeting

The Spirit of the Foothills-
Its Hiking Trails and Wildflowers!
by Julie Carville
Wednesday, February 17, 7:00 p.m.
Nevada County Library, Nevada City

Julie Carville will guide you via an engaging slide show through the beauty of foothill back country hiking trails and introduce you to the wildflowers found on these trails. Native American plant uses, fun stories about the plants and where to go to find the best trails will all be covered. Come and bring your questions and get ready for spring!!

Julie has taught wildflower botany and photography field classes in the Sierra Nevada mountains and foothills for various colleges and organizations for almost 20 years. She was a resident of Tahoe for many years and has backpacked extensively in the high Sierra and foothill back-country for over 30 years. Her photography has appeared in various publications and is on permanent display in both public and private collections. For many years she was a wildflower hiking columnist for the Tahoe World and Sierra Sun and has written for various publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee and Sierra Heritage magazine. Carville travels throughout Northern California as a professional lecturer and presenter of slide shows on California's native plants to public institutions and private groups. Carville was a co-founder and past president of the Tahoe Chapter of the California Native Plant Society and is the author of Hiking Tahoe's Wildflower Trails, a naturalist's guide to the wildflowers and trails of the Tahoe region.

As Julie says, "I believe that the mystery and beauty of life is revealed to us when we take the time to immerse ourselves deeply in wildflowers and the back-country, and in the wilderness of ourselves, for it is in these moments that nature teaches us about our own unique individuality and about the richness of all life."

To get there: The library is located at 980 Helling Way, Nevada City. At the intersection of Hwy. 49 and 20 in Nevada City, turn west toward Downieville on Hwy 49. After approximately one mile, turn right at the Nevada County Government Office Buildings complex. Follow signs to Library.


The Spenceville Wildlife Area is Threatened!

By Julie Carville

The Spenceville Wildlife and Recreation Area, is a place of gentle rolling hills and large, sheltering oaks that spread their protective branches over trails, that meander across creeks and through grassy meadows of gorgeous spring wildflowers. When March arrives, poppies, lupines, lilies and other flowers spread their color and fragrance over the hillsides. These hillsides and the lush riparian woodlands provide habitat for many animals. At least 200 species of birds, including the state and federally listed California Black Rail and Bald Eagle have been seen in the area, and its major stream, Dry Creek, is spawning habitat for endangered fall-run chinook salmon and steelhead trout. In some areas, Indian grinding rocks can be found near the stream, a reminder of the rich native history of Spenceville.

This 11,213 acre preserve, managed by California State Fish and Game, is about 30 minutes west of Grass Valley off Highway 20, and is a treasure that should be celebrated and protected for present and future generations. Instead there is a proposal by the Yuba County Water Agency to build the Waldo Dam and flood the area. This project is not for flood control, but for water storage for sale to metropolitan water districts. No one in his right mind would flood such a beautiful area, if it weren't for the big bucks to be gained through water sales by Yuba County Water Agency. Of course these sales would be subsidized at a loss by taxpayer's money. Evaluations by the Green Scissors report estimates that as little as 50 cents in benefits would accrue to taxpayers for each dollar spent! Is this how we want to spend our money? In addition the flooded area would inundate an abandoned mine that is a state listed hazardous waste site, contaminating the water in the area! Would you want to drink this water? Let's stop this foolishness. Call the Nevada County and Yuba County Board of Supervisors to voice your opposition (530) 265-1480 and 741-6461 respectively. And come join us! A group has formed, called Friends of Spenceville. We are made up of individuals and various local organizations who are working together to stop the destruction of this wildlife habitat. We'll be leading weekly hikes to the area beginning in March. So if you haven't visited the area and would like to be guided there by botanists, birders and others who love the area, call the South Yuba River Citizen's League (SYRCL) office at (530) 265-5961 to put your name on the list for hikes, which will be by reservation only. Our next meeting of the group will be January 14th at 7 p.m. Call the SYRCL office for details and join us on January 14th, be a part of a great group of people who are doing important work to preserve this land - land that belongs to all of us.

Plant Rescue Team Needs Volunteers

by Carolyn Chainey-Davis and Richard Hanes

The local chapter of CNPS appears to have impressed city planners with their science-based advocacy efforts. The City of Grass Valley now consults CNPS for advice on how to mitigate for impacts to rare plants- even for List 4 species, which are not rare from a statewide perspective but are uncommon enough that their status should be monitored regularly. In this case, what is at stake is a population of Humboldt lily (Lilium humboldtii ssp. humboldtii) at a proposed senior housing project off Ridge Rd. in Grass Valley. Humboldt lily is a Sierra endemic whose numbers are declining. There are many populations but individual populations are small and threatened by urbanization. Most populations are in foothill communities- privately-owned and not in public reserves or other areas managed for biodiversity. Some experts believe that known populations in the southern-central Sierra may instead be Lilium kelleyanum, a case of mistaken identity, and that the distribution of Humboldt Lily is smaller than previously believed. The City of Grass Valley is requiring that "the developer and CNPS prepare a plant preservation plan which will be reviewed and approved by the Grass Valley Community Development Department. Plant preparation, storage and replanting will be done in accordance with the plan".

This is where our members can help. We are announcing the formation of a team to research & develop these preservation plans based on the best available science and then to oversee the field work. In the case of List 4 species, we will probably be transplanting populations to nearby preserves with suitable habitat, such as BLM lands or designated open space, until there is sufficient evidence to upgrade their status to List 1B. We also need help transplanting, and scanning legal notices in the paper alerting us to projects that could impact rare plants or plant communities. Regular meetings aren't necessary, this is something that comes up just a few times a year. If you think you can help, call us right away- the Humboldt lily project is coming right up. Call Conservation Chair Carolyn Chainey-Davis @ (530) 273-1581 or email Carolyn at: Richard Hanes, Rare Plant Coordinator can be reached at

Although Humboldt Lily, at this time, is technically not rare or endangered and consequently not given much protection under CEQA, we know that in Nevada County, nearly every population is privately-owned and vulnerable to destruction. Many populations locally could be destroyed in the next 10 years as our population skyrockets as projected. This is an opportunity to insure that at least a few viable populations of this extraordinarily beautiful native lily remain for future Nevada County residents. Please call.

In Memory Of Lillian Mott

by Julie Carville

Editor's Note:

I must confess that a rushed production schedule for last September's newsletter caused me to overlook a number of egregious errors that were introduced when the following tribute to Lilian Mott was scanned from a faxed copy. I apologize to Julie, and am reprinting the corrected article.

Lillian Sarah Mott, who did so much to awaken the joy of wildflowers in others, passed away in her home, surrounded by the love of her family, on August 6. Lillian was a long-time member of the California Native Plant Society and had spent countless hours with her husband Doc, and with Gordon True and other well-known botanists on wildflower forays that ranged throughout California and elsewhere. Her work contributed much to the knowledge of Nevada County wildflowers. For many years she wrote a weekly wildflower column for the Union and Sacramento Bee and was an accomplished photographer and expert on mushrooms. Her wonderful slide shows delighted and educated many people over the years. In 1993 she was made a Fellow of the California Native Plant Society, in honor of her and her contributions. Lillian, who was 82, had spent 65 years in marriage with her husband, Doc, and had worked alongside him as his nurse in their chiropractic practice in Grass Valley for over 40 years. She is also survived by her two sons, David and Gregory, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Lillian was a friend of mine, and we spent many wonderful hours together delighting in the wildflowers. Besides Doc, wildflowers were her greatest joy, and I remember in later years, when she began walking with a cane for support on back-country trails, how she would zip along the trail oblivious to her cane. One time when we were hiking at Grouse Ridge, she spotted a little pink flower up in the rocks quite a ways up the mountain. Neither of us was sure what it might be, so off we went, cane flying, scrambling up the mountain to discover another little treasure. She didn't hesitate for a moment-her mind and head were just on that little flower. I loved her for that-that age or a cane wouldn't stop her. She never lost her youthful spirit around wildflowers. Another time we were heading out of Grouse Ridge, when a rain storm hit with thunder and lightening crashing closer and closer. Lillian had put on a little extra weight in later years, and while others in our group were rushing out to avoid getting too wet or in fear of the lightening, Lillian and I tagged behind. As we walked along, enjoying the rain and the wildness of the thunder, she turned to me and said, "We don't need to hurry out, all this rain just might do me good - it might shrink me a little!!" Lillian was a true mountain spirit who delighted in life. She leaves a void in the hearts of many of us, but I'm sure that the wildflowers in her new journey will be delighted she has returned! Memorial contributions can be made to Christian Encounter Ministries, 17183 Retrac Way, Grass Valley, CA 95949

Sleuthing Could Yield New Plant Discoveries

by Bobbi Wilkes

There apparently is something new under the sun, after all. Or at least some nosegays that have been overlooked. As surprising as it may seem, new plants are still being discovered every year right in our own backyard. Arnold Tiehm who works full time as a limo driver and bellhop for the Peppermill Hotel Casino in Reno, has discovered 19 new flowering plant species in Nevada on his "days off."

A 1998 analysis by University of Wyoming botanists found that between 1975 and 1994, almost 1200 new plants from North America-about 60 new plants a year-were described. California leads the states as a source of new plants and one botanist estimates that perhaps 300 plants still reside undiscovered in California. Some of the finds are right under our noses. In 1996, a new lily was discovered a short distance outside Yosemite National Park. Another new arrival was noticed 100 ft. from a logging operation in the Sierra. One Coloradan botany explorer found a new species in his neighbor's yard.

Not surprisingly, these overlooked treasures are mostly rare and often at risk of extinction. They've primarily staked out as their territory small, strange spots. Yet, they provide a disproportionate share our state's biological diversity, and are well worth protecting. What is needed now is someone to seek them out before they are carelessly destroyed and lost forever.

Richard Hanes, our Rare Plants Chairman, has compiled the following list of Sensitive Plants in Nevada and Placer counties. Wouldn't you like to add a discovery to that list? It could happen.

Sensitive Plants of Nevada and Placer Counties

by Richard Hanes, Rare Plant Coordinator

( The list is here. )

A Wetlands Festival in the Heart of the Pacific Flyway

February 12-14 in Davis

While our Chapter's field trips won't begin for a couple of months yet, if you have already have cabin fever, I highly recommend that you check out the offerings at the upcoming festival of the Yolo Basin Foundation. Planned are two full days of a wealth of field trips, workshops and other activities.

While many of the events focus on birds and other wildlife, there are plenty of attractions for the botanically inclined. Among the offerings are "Native American Uses of Wetland Plants," a field trip to Jepson Prairie and "Gardening for Wildlife."

For more information, call (800) 425-5001 or (530) 758-1286, or visit their Web Site.

Thanks to Plant Sale Volunteers and Participating Nurseries!

Our Autumn Plant Sale proved to be the most successful ever--by a substantial margin. And much of the credit goes to the Kate McBride and her crew of volunteers. Thanks for all your dedication, resourcefulness and ingenuity.

index to New 1998 Members

We index all of you who joined or rejoined us in 1998, and hope that we can impart some of our enthusiasm for and share some of our knowledge of the magnificent California flora. And a sincere thanks to all of you who renewed your membership last year.

Gardening with Natives:
My Wily Coyote Bush

By Bobbi Wilkes

A few years ago, a shrubby green sprout made its appearance in a bend of the rocky, barren bottom of our seasonal creek. I am always optimistic when a new and unknown volunteer plant graces our land. It could be something wonderful, I think to myself. Usually, in due course, I am scolded by my more knowledgeable friends that my new treasure is a certified weed and very invasive at that.

But this new pioneer seemed particularly plucky, and I like plucky. Nothing else had managed to gain a foothold in this particular spot below a small waterfall over which water comes cascading with considerable force during the rainy season. So I decided to risk the ridicule of my plant friends and take a chance that this time it was indeed something wonderful.

My little plant started to grow vigorously, and its soft green branches became a wonderful counterpoint to the hard red rock of the creek. I must confess that I have little patience for navigating a taxonomy key and so my mystery plant remained just that. But one day my friend Carolyn, who seems to know more about Sierran bushes than anyone could, walked by and off-handedly remarked "Oh, you've got a coyote brush." I now had a name. I quickly learned that the plant was Baccharis pilularis, and it went by a variety of common names, Coyote Brush, Coyote Bush, Chaparral Broom and even the put-down name of Tick Bush. It blooms late when most other plants are waning. Its nectar becomes a life-saver for many beneficial insects. In winter it is covered with soft, fluffy white seeds that makes it appear to be in riotous bloom. Some birds, like wrentits and white crowned sparrows, live their entire lives in coyote bush.

My little bush grew into a fine specimen, with a shapely rounded form the equal of any coddled hot-house plant. Then came the winters of heavy rain. Swift-running torrents of angry red water crashed down our creek on many an occasion. I would lie in bed at night thinking that my little coyote bush would never survive this. But each morning when I went out to check, there it still stood, bent a little perhaps, but unbowed. Many a lesser plant would surely have gone tumbling down the creek, its roots broken and splayed. I began to appreciate that my coyote bush was one tough little plant. I recently read a story of a hiker caught in a tight spot on a steep cliff who grabbed onto a sturdily anchored coyote bush and pulled himself to safety.

With each passing year, my coyote bush grew more grand. Now even casual visitors to my garden would remark spontaneously what a fine specimen that bush was and ask what its name was. Then, last autumn on a harvest moon- lit night, a rutting buck took notice of my coyote bush, and thrashed his large rack through it repeatedly. The next morning as I picked up the many broken branches, I felt immensely saddened by this random act of vandalism. My perfectly-formed coyote bush was now disfigured.

But this bush is no quitter. On its undamaged branches it produced its usual festive display of snow-like seeds for the Christmas season. And it seems to be now making efforts to repair and rebuild its scarred side. But I've come to realize that its perfect form really doesn't matter. My regard for this bush has long since been more than just a physical attraction. My wily friend and I have got a history together. And I know for sure that this time, something wonderful did just appear in my garden one day.

Redbud Chapter Board of Directors

( The Board of Directors list is here. )

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Last updated
Feb 10 1999