By Fred Roberts, Rare Plant Botanist
People join CNPS for many different reasons. Some members are there for the field trips, others for gardening advice, some are to learn more about California’s diverse flora. Others are there for rare plant science or conservation. If like me, you are in this last set, you probably know all about the online CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants of California (Inventory). The Inventory is the official widely recognized list of sensitive California plants along with some information on ecology and general information on distribution.
If you are an expert on San Diego plants, and have been in the game for a while, you will remember when the experts would meet on rare occasions in advance of a new printed edition of the Inventory. The room would be abuzz with rare plant gossip. These were the heady days when you almost couldn’t look anywhere without realizing some species worthy of conservation status had totally been overlooked.
Today, of course, the printed Inventory is a thing of the past and we have an online version. I do miss those rooms full of lively botanists exchanging data. However, there are advantages to the new system. A widerrange of botanists can participate. Updates can be done frequently, many times a year vs. once a decade. You can check out the Inventory right now from the comfort of your phone/iPad/computer. Just type www.cnps.org/cnps/rareplants/inventory into your browser. You can catch the latest news, read up on the history of the Inventory, the status review process, and the ranking system. And of course, you can search the online Inventory for your favorite rare plant.
One of the disadvantages of the online Inventory is that updates can be done frequently, many times a year. Blink and you’ve missed an addition, name change, or rank change. Since I contribute to the Inventory by providing rare plant data and input through the Rare Plant Forum (the primary way experts provide input these days on whether a proposed addition qualifies or a rank change is warranted), I try to keep up with the changes. Now and then, I even provide a summary for our membership. As it turns out, it has been a while.
Over the last five-years, since 2013, nine San Diego County vascular plant species have been added to the Inventory. I have provided a list, with their assigned rank, the date of the addition, and a brief statement regarding each.
Shrubby Indian mallow (Abutilon abutiloides). CRPR 2B.1: May 2016. Sonoran Desert, Anza Borrego State Park (2 locations), one on private land. A widespread desert species in the west but never before reported from California. The specimens, collected over a decade ago were masquerading as a similar but more widespread species in California.
Higgin’s barberry (Berberis higginsiae). CRPR 3.2: April 2014. Extracted form the Fremont’s barberry (B. fremontii) as a fully recognized species but some plants seem intermediate between the two species, hence the mark of uncertainty, Rank 3.
Wiggin’s cryptantha (Cryptantha wigginsii). May 2013: CRPR 1B.2 A Baja California species not seen since the 1930s. Turns out some plants where calling Carlsbad home. It is now known to occur near Temecula and on Santa Catalina based on redetermination of herbarium specimens.
Sessile-leaved yerba santa (Eriodictyon sessiliflolium). January 2017: CRPR 2B.1 Another Baja California endemic that popped up at Mira Mesa. It is apparently represented by a single plant.
Warty caltrop (Kallstroemia parviflora). CRPR 4.2: January 2015. Known from a handful of sites in California as at Warner Springs and Anza Borrego State Park.
Jacumba Mountains linanthus (Linanthus maculatus subsp. ermocarya). CRPR 2B.1: January 2016. A newly described subtaxon. Known only to occur at a few desert sites in San Diego County (southern Anza Borrego St. Pk.) and on BLM land in imperial county. A tiny plant. It was featured recently in a Southern California Botanist’s journal (Crossosoma 40.1, 2014) and on the cover, an edge-on penny literally towers over the plant.
Narrow-leaf sandpaper plant (Petalonix linearis). CRPR 2B.3: January 2016. Unlike the other species, this one is more widespread in the deserts but most records are old. There are fewer then 10 recently seen locations in California. This plant also occurs in Imperial County.
Hellhole scaleseed (Spermolepis infermensis). CRPR 1B.2. January 2016. A new species carved out of a more wide ranging species. Only known from a few sites.
Western bristly scaleseed (Spermolepis lateriflora). CRPR 2A. January 2016. This species is known to occur from California east to Texas and south into Sonora, but all our records are old, so it got the dreaded “2A” ranking, more common elsewhere but extirpated in California.
Note that there has been a few tweaks in this time frame as well, for example, the afore mentioned Fremont’s barberry was changed to CRPR 2B.1 after the troublesome plants historically assigned to Higgin’s barberry were extracted from the taxon. Santa Rosa basalt brodiaea (Brodiaea santarosae) been changed from CRPR 3 (more information needed) to CRPR 2B.1and CRPR 1B.1 respectively. While San Diego alumroot (Heuchera rubescens var. versicolor) lost its status as a CRPR 2.3 based on disagreements with the Jepson authors on treatment, and was given a new rank of 3.3 (hey, it is still on the list!).