Though there was an initial contact with the State in 1967, the San Diego chapter did not form until 1972. The requirements to form a chapter at that time were 15 members from an area. Carol Greentree wrote in a single page newsletter dated Jan 16, 1972: "Well, we finally got the show on the road last Saturday! The officially adopted title is San Diego Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. Officers elected are: President, Mitch Beauchamp; Vice President Mike Douglas; Recording Secretary, Anne Galloway (she later replaced Mitch as president); Corresponding Secretary, Bill Gunther; and Treasurer, Betty Macintosh. Committees were established: Field trips, Darley Howe; Publicity, Burch Mehlin, Conservation: Reid Moran, Helen Witham (Chamlee), and Jack Reveal; and Finance, R.H. Aikin and Bette Kingman [Klingman]. Our paid membership now totals roughly thirty souls."  

Read about the origins of CNPS-San Diego Chapter in an issue of Fremontia, October 1990

From the beginning the chapter focused on studying and protecting San Diego's unique native plants which were threatened by ever increasing development. After intense debate over the relative merits of the Campo Pea and other unique local taxa to capture the essence of CNPS in San Diego, the showy Matilija Poppy was chosen as our chapter logo.

The chapter has concentrated on a variety of aspects of native plants, from growing them in gardens, to photographing them, to hiking around the county to look for new and rare occurrences. Our goal has always been to promote their preservation through botanical studies and conservation efforts, and educate the public about native plants through programs, plant sales, and exhibits.

Carol collected statements from some of the early members including: Duffie Clemons, Erik Jonsson, Wilhelmina Reynolds,  Tom Oberbauer, Anne Karig, Reid Moran, Jeanne Hawkins, Charles Kline, Bill Knerr, Mitch Beauchamp, Carol Jean Wolcott, Wayne Tyson, Joan Stewart, Bill Gunther, Bette Klingman. Some of the responses are short and sweet. Charles Kline, Bill Knerr, and Bill Gunther were charter members of the state CNPS, hence the early interest in forming a chapter here in San Diego. You can read them here.

Photo credit: Phillip Roullard

Chapter conservation efforts include surveying plant communities, removing exotic plants from natural areas, and reviewing CEQA and other documents for impacts to native vegetation. Scientific data collected during chapter projects is sent to statewide data bases that track occurrence and distribution of rare plants, plant communities, and invasive exotics.

Our monthly meetings include slide shows and lectures related to the flora of San Diego County and beyond. Topics range from the use of native plants in gardens to the conservation and management of rare and endangered plants and habitats.

Over the years our membership has steadily grown to over 800 families and individuals. We mail newsletters to members all over California, in 12 other states, and Canada. Increased appreciation of the beauty and usefulness of our native vegetation has been joined by a recognition of the vital role of natural areas in preserving the quality of life and the delicate balance necessary for a healthy ecosystem.

Chapter Presidents by Year 1972-2018


A special thanks to Cindy Burrascano for researching the chapter history!

Banner photo by Chris Hendrickson