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Winter 2003 Newsletter
Vol 12, No.1. Feb. 2003

Chapter Meetings:

North Fork American River:
Geology, Prehistory, and History

By Russell Towle
Wednesday, February 26, 2003. 7 pm
The Rose Room, Auburn Civic Center

Our guest speaker, Russell Towle, describes the North Fork of the American River as "Placer County's Slate Yosemite". He writes that "The great canyon of the North Fork American, often more than 2,000 feet deep, for miles of its length over 3,000 feet, has resisted roads and development down through the 21st century. It is one of the last great refuges for wildlife left in the Northern Sierra and is renown for its wildness and scenery." Russell will introduce us to the fascinating geology, and history of this Slate Yosemite illustrated by his digital slide show.

An avid canyon explorer, Russell has recently found new populations of unusual plants: Lewisia kelloggii, Kellogg's Lewisia, Viola tomentosa, Woolly Violet, Clarkia biloba ssp brandegeae, Brandegee's Clarkia, and Torreya californica, California Nutmeg. He lives with his family near Alta. Russell maintains a beautiful web site about the North Fork including a wildflower photo gallery here.

Directions: The Rose Room is located at 1225 Lincoln Way. From Hwy 49 in Auburn, just after 49 passes under I-80, there is a T intersection. Continue straight ahead at the intersection to the Auburn Civic Center. The building looks like an old school. Go to the large parking lot behind the building and look for the Rose Room.

Ceanothus Silk Moths

By Michael Collins, Ph.D.
Wednesday, March 26, 2003, 7 pm
Nevada County Library Community Room

The Ceanothus Silk Moth, Hyalophora euryalus, is probably California's most spectacular and commonly seen large moth. It is broad-winged (8 to 12 cm across) with beautiful rose red upper sides marked by white, crescent-shaped spots and cross lines of white. The Silk Moth caterpillars feed on a variety of native shrubs including Ceanothus.

For Redbud's March meeting Mike Collins, an expert on the Silk Moth, will discuss his research at Monitor Pass where he studied the evolution of a hybrid population of Silk Moths. Monitor Pass, in Alpine County, CA, is an ecotone between the Great Basin and the Sierra Nevada. The Pass has an unusual association of Pinyon Pine with White Fir at elevation 8,300 feet. Investigation of natural hybrids sheds light on the process of how new species of animals and plants are born.

An evolutionary biologist, Dr. Collins earned his Ph.D. from UC Davis and is a Research Associate for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. His home is in Nevada City.

Directions: 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. At about 1 mile, turn right at the Nevada Co. Government Center and follow signs to the library.

Next Redbud Chapter meeting: April 23 in Auburn.

Redbud Chapter Field Trips Spring 2003

All field trips and outings are open to the public and are free of charge. Remember to bring lunch, liquids, hat, sunscreen, comfortable walking shoes and an inquisitive nature. For information on any field trip below, please contact the field trip coordinator, Chet Blackburn, at 530-885-0201 or by e-mail at You will be provided with meeting place details and any other pertinent information for each trip.

  • Saturday, March 29
    Bridgeport State Park
    Leader: Bobbi Wilkes
    Time: 9:30. Should be over by 1 p.m.

    By the end of March, the slopes above the South Fork of the Yuba River at Bridgeport burst forth with a colorful display of wildflowers that last for several months as one species after another comes into bloom and fades away. The 11/2 mile trail (3 miles round trip) is an easy hike though is narrow in places. Meet at the parking area north of the river, just past the bridge.

  • Saturday, April 5
    Wilkes Property on Bambi Court near Alta Sierra.
    Leader: Bobbi Wilkes
    Time: 9:30. Should be over by 1 p.m.

    Five species of native oaks will be the focus of this walk around the Wilkes property. Not only is there a variety of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers growing naturally, but Bobbi has also been one of our best customers at our annual plant sales and has been successful in integrating a number of other non-local California native plants into the landscape in spite of a resident deer herd. An easy walk for all ages. We'll enjoy lunch together under the trees.

  • Saturday, April 12
    Middle Fork of the American River
    Leader: Chet Blackburn
    Time: 9:30. Should be over by noon.

    Globe lilies, Indian Pink, Wild Clematis, Snowdrop Bush, Prettyface, Sulphur Pea, Canyon Dudleya and several species of lupine will be among the many plants encountered on this leisurely walk of about 2 miles. Although it occurs in steep terrain, the trail itself is level the entire distance.

  • Saturday, Apr 19
    Bear Valley and Walker Ridge, Colusa County
    Leader: Chet Blackburn
    Time: to be announced. Will be a daylong trip

    Although located several hours distant from our area, Bear Valley is one of the premiere wildflower locations in Northern California with sheets of wildflowers rolling across the valley floor. This will be a car trip rather than a hike with many stops along the valley floor and on Walker Ridge. The flora of Walker Ridge differs markedly from that found on the valley floor.

    Save the dates for these upcoming field trips. More details in the next newsletter or from Chet.

  • Saturday, Apr 26 Hells Half Acre, Grass Valley
    Leader: Carolyn Chainey-Davis
    Time: 9:30. Should be over by noon.

  • Saturday, May 3 Wildflower Walk,
    at the Spring Plant Sale
    Sierra College, Rocklin Campus
    Time and leader: to be announced.

  • Saturday, May 17
    Rock Creek Nature Trail
    Leader: Chet Blackburn
    Time: 9:30. Should be over by noon. This 1 mile trail wanders through a forested and riparian community and is known for its Western Yew trees, the variety of wild orchids that grow in the area, and for species of plants such as Linnea borealis, Twin Flower, that is more common farther north in California than in our area

The Botany Lesson

It is legendary that John Muir became obsessed with plants while at the University of Wisconsin in 1863, enlightened by a fellow student who showed him the relationship between a pea vine and a locust tree.

Muir said, "This fine lesson charmed me and sent me flying into the woods and meadows in wild enthusiasm. Like everybody else I was always fond of flowers, attracted by their external beauty and purity. Now my eyes were opened to their inner beauty, all alike revealing glorious traces of the thoughts of God, and leading on and on into the infinite cosmos. I wandered away at every opportunity, making long excursions round the lakes, gathering specimens and keeping them fresh in a bucket in my room to study at night after my regular class tasks were learned; for my eyes never closed on the plant glory I had seen."

From "Old Botanists", an article by Rex Burress in The Pipevine, Mount Lassen Chapter, CNPS, Jan 2003

Autumn Plant Sale Report

Thank you! to all our dedicated, enthusiastic volunteers who made our September Plant Sale a definite success. And thanks to all our customers: you purchased the plants for your garden, you bought books and posters, you made cash donations and joined CNPS. It all adds up! Read on...

Bickford Ranch Update

The success of the Autumn Sale allowed our Chapter to donate $1,000 to support the Bickford Ranch lawsuit. And, at the urging of our chapter President, the State Board of CNPS is contributing an additional $2,000 toward the lawsuit.

Why is this lawsuit so important? "In a joint expression of alarm about the extensive loss of oak woodlands to development, the California Oak Foundation, Sierra Club, and Audubon Society have joined forces in filing a lawsuit against Placer County over its approval of the Bickford Ranch development. The groups' primary concern is that the Board of Supervisors are bypassing their own regulations in the Placer County General Plan." Nearly 12,000 oak trees would be removed from the 2,000 acres of the Bickford Ranch development.

A Rare Plant for your Garden

Sphaeralcea monroana, Monroe's Globe-mallow, (also called Desert Mallow or Flame Checkers) makes an attractive and hardy rock garden plant. The small red-orange flowers grow on leafy spikes above its gray-green leaves and blooms continue from May through summer. Several Redbud members bought Monroe's Globe-mallow at our recent plant sales and report that this perennial is flourishing in their gardens.

Sphaeralcea monroana is rare in the wild in California, occurring in only one area of eastern Placer County, although this species is more common in Oregon, Nevada, and other western states.

Recovery Plan includes Nevada County Rare Plants

The US Fish and Wildlife Service released its "Recovery Plan for Gabbro Soil Plants of the Central Sierra Nevada Foothills" in December 2002. The plan was primarily written for the 6 rare species of the Pine Hill area in El Dorado County.

The federally and state listed species of Pine Hill that also occur in Nevada County are Fremontodendron decumbens, Pine Hill Flannel Bush and Calystegia stebbinsii, Stebbins' Morning Glory. In 1991, Marcia Braga led efforts to preserve the few remaining plants near the McCourtney Road landfill. After 10 years, the plants are still not fully protected, and are especially vulnerable to road maintenance and brush clearing. In June. 1999, commenting on the draft for the USFWS Recovery Plan, I wrote a letter for Redbud Chapter describing the plight of these two rare and endangered Nevada County species and emphasizing the importance of including them in the Recovery Plan

The final Recovery Plan calls for habitat surveys, research, monitoring, management and possible acquisition of habitat in Nevada County. Copies of the Recovery Plan are available from USFWS, (916-414-6600), however it does not include many specific details about plans for the Nevada County plants. The species narratives are interesting and help us understand some of the problems with preserving the plants.

For example, Calystegia stebbinsii appears to be an early successional species that occupies temporary openings on gabbro or serpentine and is eliminated as vegetation grows up around it. Preserves must include sufficient habitat to allow expansion or shifts in occupied habitat.

The Recovery Plan also calls for an investigation of the identity of the Nevada County Fremontodendron decumbens. Our local plants are decumbent in form (less than 3 feet high), but differ from the Pine Hill plants in flower color and other characteristics. Botanist Dr. Robert Lloyd, who originally described the species, commented to Marcia in his letter of 1992:

"In regard to Fremontodendron decumbens, it is unfortunate that we have so few plants left. Wally Kelman [a researcher] clearly has shown that these are the most distinct of the genus [Fremontodendron]. In fact, if you read his data carefully you will see that in reality it is likely that there are only two clearly defined groups in the genus, the decumbent plants in El Dorado and Nevada Counties and a much broader group which encompasses all of the other species."

Redbud members who are interested in joining surveys for these plants may contact Rare Plant Coordinator Carolyn Chainey-Davis at 530-273-1581.

Events of Interest

  • Tuesday February 25, 7 pm. The Placer Group of the Sierra Club presents "Habitat Conservation Planning in Placer County" at the Beecher Room, Auburn Library, 350 Nevada St. County Planner Loren Clark will provide a presentation on the current effort to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan and a Natural Communities Conservation Plan for Placer County. The first phase of the project includes West Placer, which is in intense development pressure. This is the home of the county's last surviving vernal pools, which are replete with rare plants and animals, and grasslands that provide foraging habitat for the threatened Swainson's hawk. Loren will examine prospects for success in this race to save some of the county's remaining critical open space, in light of growth pressures. He will also update us on the new Woodland Policy, and the Open Space Conversion Ordinance.
  • Friday March 7: Arbor Day. The Natural Resource Conservation Service, Grass Valley, is asking for volunteers to help with Arbor Day. This year they will be giving away California Fuchsias. They could use help with publicity, designing a flyer, picking up plants from Cornflower, handing out the plants, etc.
    If you would like to help, please call Cyndi at 272-3417 ext. 107.
  • Saturday, March 15, 9 am-3 pm. Julie Carville will be leading a wildflower hike at Bridgeport from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (backup rain date is March 16) as a fundraiser for the Yuba Watershed Institute. The hike begins with breakfast at a home near the trail and then continues on the trail where we'll be identifying wildflowers, shrubs and trees and talking about Native American uses of plants. We'll also talk about how, at this time when our children seem to live more in the world of computers and things, we can help them return to the magic and wonder of wild places. Call the Institute at 470-0348 for more information or to reserve. By reservation only as class size is limited.
  • April 4-6: CNPS members are invited to attend a Desert Field Trip, at Joshua Tree National Park. We will be camping at the Lost Horse Campground, reserved especially for our group. Please RSVP Steve Hartman at or call him at 818-881-3706 for details. This get together includes field trips to Big Morongo Wildlife Preserve, meetings, and weed pulling. There has been rainfall in the desert this winter so we are expecting wildflowers!
  • Sunday, April 27, 10 am to 3 pm, the Maidu Interpretive Center in Roseville will hold a celebration as colorful as the season it honors. The native people of the Valley and Mountain regions of California called it "Yomen" - the beginning of spring leafing out of trees, the flowering of plants and the awakening of animals from their winter slumber.

    "We index everyone to help us share this special event," said Museum Director Kristie Bundgard. "It's a fun way for people of all ages to learn about the important role the Maidu played in this area's history."

    The Maidu Interpretive Center is located at 1960 Johnson Ranch Drive, Roseville. For info call, 916-772-4242.

  • June 28-July 5, 2003. Join botanist and CNPS member Karen Wiese for a hiking tour of the wildflowers of the Swiss Alps near Zermatt, Switzerland, home of the Matterhorn. Each day we will hike between 4 and 6 moderate miles to view different plant communities. Since we're going at the peak of the alpine wildflower season you can expect to see hillsides carpeted with orchids, gentians, bellflowers, primroses and pansies. We may even find the elusive edelweiss and other rare plants such as the Martagon lily and the insectivorous butterwort. Last year we identified over 150 plants! The wildflowers are simply spectacular! Call Karen Wiese at (530) 346-7131 for more information on this package tour or visit and click on Switzerland.

Forest Issues Group

The Forest Issues Group is a non-profit community based, citizens advocacy group that reviews, monitors, and responds to projects of the Tahoe National Forest.

Rough Times for Environmentalists

By Michael Graf

These are rough times for environmentalists. Terrorism and the possibility of war in the Middle East have grabbed the public's attention. The White House is occupied by the most anti-environmental administration in recent memory and there is the real possibility, with the new Republican majority in Congress, that major anti-environmental initiatives will be passed into law. In today's Washington, the entire concept of environmental regulation is no longer in vogue.

The general public, which ostensibly favors environmental protection, should be outraged, but apparently is not, at least not according to the latest election results. America has come full circle from when the government did not regulate the environmental impacts of our activities, as chronicled by Rachel Carson in "Silent Spring," to today when one needs a permit for everything from subdividing land to trimming a tree. We have rescued the bald eagle from extinction and cleaned the sewage that once polluted our rivers. In short, we've made some progress. Has the environmental "movement" simply run its course?

The complex science of today's environmental issues can make this question difficult to answer. What are the long-term impacts of climate change? Phrases used in assessing the risk of toxic exposure, such as "chronic no observed effect level," mean little to the public. Industry exploits this murkiness by broadcasting a simpler and easier-to-digest message that companies "care" about the environment but that more study is needed before we take any "rash" action. In the ambiguity, the public is easily distracted by more straightforward and exciting issues, such as whether or not to drop bombs on Iraq.

An even bigger problem for environmentalists is their failure to define themselves. What does it mean, exactly, to be an environmentalist? The marketing engine of corporate America paints a tempting vision of "nature" as either resources to exploit or a recreational playground in which the Hummer 2 is as much a part of the natural landscape as the barrel cactus. Environmentalists have not presented an equally compelling vision that takes into account the reality that we, like any species, are constrained by the ecological limits of the Earth.

Environmentalists have been wary of directly confronting the anti-environmental values of a consumer society. For example, in his 1990 book, "Earth in the Balance," Al Gore described our modern civilization as "dysfunctional" yet never mentioned the issue or the book on the 2000 campaign trail. Environmental groups can typically make more short-term progress by focusing on specific issues rather than preaching a vision of future society.

In the price-driven marketplace, it is unlikely that environmental values, such as the ability to drink water from a stream or know that the migrating geese will return year after year, will survive in the long term. Indeed, our interaction with the world around us is already moving toward artifice, from the onslaught of virtual reality to mechanized "wilderness" interpreted by a speaker at the front of a tour bus. Environmentalists have reason to fear the replacement of the natural by the virtual since, over time, fewer and fewer people will be able to tell the difference, much less be motivated to act.

At this time, environmentalists have not crafted a coherent vision that can compete with that of industrial society. Maybe now is the time to do so. It may be tough in the short term, but a movement has to start somewhere.

Michael Graf is an environmental attorney in San Francisco and author of Plants of the Tahoe Basin published by UC Press. His letter was originally published in the S. F. Chronicle.

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Last updated
May 2003