Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Poa sierrae – a Sierra Nevada endemic rare grass - List 1B?

Poa sierrae is a Considered but Rejected taxon on the CNPS Inventory. It is a highly distinct taxon of Section Madropoa [easily distinguished by its odd fleshy bulblets]. The FNA distributon map, and the Consortium records show about the same geographic range: I can map about 10 locations from the Consortium database and from the protologue [Wasmann J. Biol. 37:18-20. 1979] in Butte, Placer and Nevada counties at 2000-4200 ft [the Madera County location CHSC67420 is an outlier and might be mis-identified]. How and when this taxon got passed off as common whom knows; it was on the reject list on the 1984 CNPS Inventory.

Because of the paucity of known stations it suggests to me that it would be at least CNPS List 4, perhaps it is less common and would make CNPS List 1B. If it has not been suggested for review than I now do so.

Known Locations [Consortium accession number/latitude/longitude/elevation]

CHSC39500,39.64068,-121.27439,2004 ft

CAS623743,39.97274,-121.27602,2268 ft (and various isotypes)

CHSC37340,39.75111,-121.26891,3336 ft

CHSC41188,39.83305,-121.42397,2479 ft

CHSC96855,39.63283,-121.30083,2627 ft

POM265916 ,39.20236,-120.80924,3471 ft

UCD74356 ,39.03105,-120.70085,2687 ft

JTH4 2650,39.95084,-121.30246,2055 ft

G.H. True Jr. 6565,39.35343,-120.81760,2556 ft

Stebbins 5151,39.10299,-120.92471,1315 ft

Leonardi spring ,38.90896,-120.54636,4396 ft

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tall Alpine Aster (Oreostemma elatum) does not occur at Yuba Pass?

Oreostemma is a distinctive genus of aster: rosettes, taprooted, mesophytic. The center of origin [sensu Fernald] is doubtless in the "Nevadaplano" – the himalaya-like mountains of California and Nevada that are now thought to be presently lower in elevation by perhaps 2000 meters than they were in the past

Orestemma elatum is reported from Yuba Pass, Sierra County, based on a specimen collected by J.T. Howell on August 21, 1951 (RSA88401, there would doubtless be a CAS duplicate, but that important collection is not databased).

Orestemma elatum is distinguished from O. alpigenum on the basis it its lack of pubescence, three-veined outer phyllaries, which are often indurate-stramineous at the base.

On August 4, 2009 I visited Yuba Pass summit to recollect (#20731) material of the reported occurrence: I found that the plants at this station do not exhibit features of Orestemma elatum, but rather are the low-elevation tall race of O. alpigenum [which may, or may not, deserve a name] – they are pubescent, their phyllaries are one-nerved [see the photo] and not markedly stramenous proximally.

At elevation in the High Sierra, O. alpigenum has a distinctive and relatively constant growth habit: relatively narrow leaves (2-4 mm) and short scapes (<2dm) that are usually partially decumbent. By contrast, the growth habit of plants in montane fen habitats are markedly different: wider leaves (10 mm), tall scapes (to 3 dm) that are generally erect. The aggregate differences make suggest two natural taxa are masquerading under the name O. alpigenum, but it remains to be demonstrated if the differences in habit are not clinal.

Long ago, once upon a time, I learned from John Thomas Howell that it was often most effective [provocative even] to apply a not-exactly-correct name to a specimen in the vain hope (not in all instances is such hope vain) that an outlier would attract the attention of a monographer. I can see how JTH would have used the name O. elatum for his collection: after all, he had the most experience with O. alpigenum throughout the High Sierra, and would have recognized the gross differences in habit between the low, narrow leaved alpine meadow plants and these mid-elevation, tall herbs.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Alkali grass apparently extirpated from Soda Springs, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park

The Soda Springs at Tuolumne Meadows were first visited by botanists in 1863, when William H. Brewer and the California Geological Survey first encamped there. The springs are gas charged and mineralized [ca. 2.2 mS in August 2008]: they form a marsh dominated by halophytic vegetation characterized by arrowgrass (Triglochin coccinea and T. maritima) etc. at 8600 feet [2640 meters] An alkali grass, Puccinellia nuttalliana, has been collected twice at the Soda Springs: in 1944 by John Thomas Howell, and again in 1949 by Carl W. Sharsmith. Puccinellia nuttalliana was not relocated when comprehensive vegetation inventory of Soda Springs was conducted in 2004.

I visited the Soda Springs at Tuolumne Meadows on August 18, 2009 with the specific intent of locating Puccinellia nuttalliana. I did not relocate the occurrence. Has it become extirpated?
Presumably this halophytic grass would occur in the most saline portions of the spring outflow, where visitors do not regularly tread [being confined to the path that traverses the spring outflow]

In the 1976-1977 drought, Triglochin coccinea became extirpated in a mineralized spring in the Harvey Monroe Hall Natural Area, where it had been recorded by Clausen & Keck decades before. It is uncertain when Puccinellia nuttalliana might have disappeared at the Soda Springs, but the 1976-1977 drought would be a good first suspect.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) – also extirpated from Santa Cruz, County, California?


As with the case of yellow pond lily (Nuphar polysepala), a suite of related wetland plants once occurred in the central coastal region of California. One of these is Buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata), an aquatic plant that is infrequent in the Sierra Nevada. Buckbean is distributed throughout the northern hemisphere of Earth, extending south into California at its southerly distributional limit. Now, I find a report [A. J. Plater et al. 2006. Climate and human impact on lowland lake sedimentation in Central Coastal California: the record from c. 650 AD to the present. Reg. Environ Change 6: 71–85] which records Menyanthes trifoliata from modern-era sediment records in Pinto Lake, near Watsonville. Menyanthes trifoliata was not included in the "An Annotated Checklist of Vascular Plants of Santa Cruz County, California" presumably because it was eliminated before any of the compilers of that list were born! It is yet another recent extirpation of regional wetland flora?


Dr. H.H. Behr, an early-era medical doctor of San Francisco, listed Buckbean from a marsh in San Francisco Bay [ 1888, Flora of the vicinity of San Francisco]. The same setting was known to support other circumpolar wetland plants [viz. Carex comosa, and cotton-grass, Eriophorum gracile] which are all now gone.


Interestingly, Helen K. Sharsmith collected Menyanthes trifoliata from the Mount Hamilton Range {although the record is not given in her "Flora of the Mount Hamilton Range of California, American Midland Naturalist 34:289-367. 1945], labeling her specimen "the South end of Mt. Day ridge". On the same day, Sharsmith also collected specimens of other marsh taxa from a "sag pond on the South end of Mt. Day ridge". On Google Earth there is an intact pond at 37.39131,-121.68344 which might be the location for this report. The site appears to be intact, but it needs resurvey, also.



Monday, October 19, 2009

Yellow Pond Lily – now extirpated from Santa Cruz County

Nuphar polysepala Engelm. is a infrequent aquatic plant of lakes in the Sierra Nevada, and even less frequent elsewhere in California along the coast. The southerly distributional limit is in the vicinity of Oso Flaco Lake, San Luis Obispo County where rare aquatic plants such as like Rorippa gambelii and Arenaria paludicola are found. The recent "An Annotated Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Santa Cruz County, California" (2005) does not attributed Nuphar polysepala to the county, although in "Flora of the Santa Cruz Mountains of California" [J.H. Thomas, 1961] this pond lily is attributed to "San Francisco, Pescadero, Watsonville and Big Basin". None of these sites is vouchered in the Consortium of California Herbaria database [another example of the deficient aspect of not having CAS data].

The Watsonville location is confirmed by William H. Brewer, who in his notebooks associated with the Geological Survey of California collections at UC/JEPS, noted it grew in "the laguna near Watsonville". On August 4th, 1861, Brewer left camp at San Juan Bautista, and rode to Santa Cruz, passing out of the mouth of the Pajaro river en route: he noted its presence. It is uncertain to which present day lake Brewer's reference to "the laguna" , Pinto Lake, Kelly Lake and Kelly Lake are candidates, while College Lake and Lake Tynan are similarly implicated (it was a time of no local placenames, and Brewer's party was of course making the first real maps!).

Today, Nuphar polysepala is extirpated from Santa Cruz County. The pre-settlement presence of Nuphar implies also that a boreal marsh florula might have been present locally, a habitat of course extirpated. Plants like Rorippa gambelii and Arenaria paludicola come to mind...were they once present also?

The San Francisco record is reported by Behr (1888, Flora of the vicinity of San Francisco) as near the "Marine Hospital", presumably some now filled pond on the present day Presidio. Brewer also collected Nuphar polysepala in Marin County (UC133092) at Olema Lake, Marin County on October 2nd, 1861. The recently revised Marin Flora does not report it extant there, and also reports other potentially extirpated sites in that county.

Overall, the collective record indicates that many former coastal sites for Nuphar polysepala
are now extirpated, as are other lowland sites. I have seen Nuphar polysepala in the vicinity of Locke, San Joaquin County as recently as the early 1970s – is it still extant in the Delta, or has it succumbed there to salinization? Perhaps Nuphar polysepala
belongs on CNPS List 2 to insure it is afforded adequate assessment

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Density of Herbarium Specimens in California

DWTaylor Jan 2007, revised Oct 2009

The assumption is often made that additional herbarium specimens from a well populated state such as California are not needed, and that holdings in herbaria are overly sufficient for biogeographic and taxonomic purposes. If that were so, we would not be continuing to discover new species at a constant pace, nor would we note any sizable number of distributional uncertainties as Flora of North America volumes or Jepson Manual II treatments appear.

As of October, 2009 there were ≈1,078,730 specimens in the Consortium of California Herbaria dataset (1, 068,216 with the county known). The figure and table summarize the variation in specimen density.

The density of herbarium specimens is variable among the 58 California counties. Some counties are well collected, while others remain poorly documented. Several counties in the populated portions of central California (Map 1) are surprisingly under collected [Merced, Madera, Fresno and Kings County], as more are remote counties in Northern [Lassen and Trinity counties] and the far desert reaches [Imperial county]. San Francisco County is artificially over collected owing only to its small size. Kings County has only 644 records.

Table 1. Number of Consortium specimens and specimen density (specimens/km2) for each California County [string: county, number of specimens, specimen density] -

San Francisco 3668 34.861
San Diego 117317 10.757
Los Angeles 95174 9.329
Santa Barbara 61719 9.328
Marin 10836 7.993
Butte 30952 7.256
Santa Cruz 8319 7.187
Orange 14696 7.106
Napa 10004 5.193
San Mateo 5799 5.010
Alameda 9225 4.840
Contra Costa 8818 4.634
Ventura 29525 4.106
Riverside 69502 3.720
Lake 11731 3.588
El Dorado 15293 3.442
Solano 6775 3.135
Nevada 7666 3.080
Monterey 26069 3.047
Santa Clara 10105 3.016
San Luis Obispo 24269 2.833
Mariposa 10125 2.684
Amador 3985 2.612
Mono 19752 2.526
Plumas 16676 2.502
Del Norte 6358 2.440
Alpine 4636 2.422
Humboldt 22281 2.403
Sacramento 5952 2.365
Placer 8627 2.353
Sonoma 9451 2.276
Tuolumne 13158 2.274
Yolo 5929 2.257
San Bernardino 112541 2.166
Sierra 4874 0.962
Colusa 5361 1.795
Inyo 42969 1.623
Modoc 16444 1.562
Kern 32878 1.561
Yuba 2522 1.520
Tehama 11598 1.516
Sutter 2234 1.434
Calaveras 3755 1.419
Mendocino 12589 1.384
Tulare 16676 1.339
San Benito 4806 1.337
Siskiyou 20621 1.268
Glenn 3730 1.092
Stanislaus 4190 1.074
Shasta 10515 1.072
Fresno 15411 0.995
Trinity 8036 0.976
Imperial 9888 0.915
Madera 4830 0.869
Lassen 10002 0.848
Merced 4197 0.834
San Joaquin 2513 0.685
Kings 644 0.179

Totals 1068216 2.628

Monday, October 5, 2009

Arctostaphylos canescens ssp. sonamensis not in Humboldt County?

The application of the name Arctostaphylos canescens Eatwood ssp. sonamensis (Eastwood) Wells to plants of the High North Coast Range region of Humboldt County, California is doubtful. Records for this CNPS List 1B.2 taxon are attributed to Mendocino and Humboldt Counties by both CNPS and CNDDB. An alternative taxonomic view is here offered that considers the northern, glandular plants to be hybrids between Arctostaphylos canescens ssp. canescens X A. viscida ssp. pulchella, and thus the subject plants are not of conservation concern.

Eastwood (1933) described Arctostaphylos sonamensis from a type from Rincon Ridge, Sonoma County. Knight (1985) later recognized the taxon as distinct from A. canescens. Wells (1988) submerged A. sonamensis as subspecies of A. canescens, commenting;

"a consistently different glandular race of A. canescens with a wide but segregated (allopatric) distribution relative to the nominate subspecies...Although subsp. sonamensis occurs on volcanic and other rocks, it appears to be restricted to serpentinite at the northern limits of its known range, as on the summit of Horse Mountain, Humboldt Co., (unpublished collection). Perhaps the glandulosity of pedicles and fruit and serpentine tolerance derive from some genes of A. viscida ssp. pulchella having introgressed into A. canescens ssp. canescens at some time and place."

Wells (2000) continued to attribute Arctostaphylos canescens ssp. sonamensis to Horse Mountain, Humboldt County.

Taxa of Arctostaphylos are well known to form fully fertile hybrids where related, diploid clades come into close contact (Dobzhanskey 1953, Schmid et al. 1968, Gottleib 1968, Schierenback et al. 1992), particularly where manzanitas are abundant in early successional plant communities where ecological segregation present in 'climax' settings has broken down by disturbance (Anderson 1948, Kruckeberg 1977). Several named hybrids involving Arctostaphylos canescens and A. viscida are known (Wells 1988).

Pubescence Features of the Plants in Question

Eastwood (1933) circumscribed Arctostaphylos canescens ssp. sonamensis on the basis of having two trichome types within the inflorescence: the twigs, pedicles and rachices bearing long, multicellular white trichomes as well as glandular trichomes, and the fruits bearing only glandular trichomes. Similarly, Wells (2000) characterizes the difference between Arctostaphylos canescens ssp. canescens and Arctostaphylos
canescens ssp. sonamensis on the following basis:

Arctostaphylos canescens ssp. canescens:

pedicles, rachises and twigs without glands, white hairy; ovary and fruit egandular

Arctostaphylos canescens ssp. sonamensis:

pedicles, rachises and twigs minutely glandular, glands often obscured on twigs by downy white hairs; ovary and fruit with minute glands

Based on both Eastwood (1933) and Wells (2000), plants that lack glandular trichomes on the pedicles or inflorescence rachises do not conform to the circumscription of Arctostaphylos
canescens ssp. sonamensis.

Plants on in the vicinity of Board Camp Mountain

Plants of Arctostaphylos canescens were found at two sites in the vicinity of Board Camp Mountain in July 2009 (vouchered Taylor #20626 bound for JEPS). Both sites [T4N R4E & T5N R3E] support only isolated, waif volunteers along roads. At both sites, the plants are invariant: glandular pubescence is confined entirely to the fruits, being absent from the pedicles and rachices of the inflorescence (see photo). In this regard, these plants do not fit the circumscription of Arctostaphylos canescens ssp. sonamensis because they lack glandularity on the pedicles and rachices. Gottleib (1968) showed that the anatomical distribution of glandularity of hybrids between A. viscida ssp. pulchella and Arctostaphylos canescens on serpentine at Waldo, Oregon was variable, and because of the lack of glandularity other than on the fruit, the subject plants are most similar to Arctostaphylos x cinerea T.J. Howell rather than Arctostaphylos x bracteata T.J. Howell or A. x. oblongifolia T.J. Howell (Wells 1988).

Ultimately, there is no single model of manzanita taxonomy that is correct to the exclusion of alternative hypotheses [that is, absent a genomic-level understanding]: this instance in my view is that the weight of the evidence suggests that Arctostaphylos canescens ssp. sonamensis is a narrow endemic of Sonoma County, and that similar plants found in Humboldt County, including those attributed to Horse Mountain by by Wells (1988, 2000), and subsequently elsewhere in the region are plants of hybrid origin between A. viscida ssp. pulchella and Arctostaphylos canescens, and these plants should not be treated as rare and are not typical Arctostaphylos
canescens ssp. sonamensis.Literature Cited:

Literature Cited:

Anderson, E. 1948. Hybridization of the habitat, Evolution 2:1-9.

Dobzhansky, T. 1953. Natural hybrids of two species of Arctostaphylos in the Yosemite region of California. Heridity 7:73-79.

Eastwood, A. 1933. New species of Arctostaphylos. Leaflets Western Botany

Gottlieb, L.D. 1968. Hybridization between Arctostaphylos
viscida and A. canescens in Oregon. Brittonia 20:83-93.

Kruckeberg, A.R. 1977. Mantanita (Arctostaphylos)
hybrids in the Pacific Northwest: effects of human and natural disturbances. Systematic Botany 2(4:233-250.

Schmid, R., T. Mallory and J.M. Tucker. 1968. Biosystematic evidence for hybridization between Arctostaphylos nissenana and A. viscida. Brittonia 20:34-43.

Schierenbeck, K. , R.W. Patterson and G.L. Stebbins. 1992. Morphological and cytological evidence for polyphyletic allopolyploidy in Arctostaphylos mewukka (Ericaceae). Plant Systematics & Evolution 179:187-205.

Wells, P.V. 1988. New combinations in Arctostaphylos (Ericaceae): annotated list of changes in status. Madrono 35(4):330-341

Wells, P.V. 2000. The Manzanitas of California also Mexico and the World. Privately printed