A Flora for the NRS

A Flora for the NRS 1
California poppy (Eschscholzia california)

It’s a dilemma faced by field researchers everywhere: the need to study a particular species, combined with uncertainty over where it occurs. Anything smaller than a oak tree and less common than a robin can be fiendishly difficult to find.

Now those seeking to locate particular plants in the NRS can rejoice. The name of every species found within the 150,000 acres of the system—from giant coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) to petite California goldfields (Lasthenia californica)—is on this comprehensive list.

The Flora of the University of California Natural Reserve System was compiled by Brian P. Haggerty and Susan J. Mazer of the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, UC Santa Barbara. They consulted existing plant lists for each of the reserves, correcting and updating spelling and taxonomy along the way.

A Flora for the NRS 2
Calypso orchid (Calypso bulbosa)

The list is in the form of an Excel spreadsheet, allowing users to identify at a glance where their species of interest grow. A companion pdf includes lists of the species found on the most reserves as well as the number of plant species at each reserve. Only four reserves are not represented in the flora—Box Springs, Emerson Oaks, Jenny Pygmy Forest, and Yosemite Field Station, for which species lists were not available.

A Flora for the NRS 3
Cholla cactus (Opuntia sp.)

The list statistics are impressive. A total of 3,300 plant species—almost half of the more than 6,880 found across the entire state—grow within the boundaries of the reserves.  The reserve with the most plant biodiversity, at 639 species, is Boyd Deep Canyon. The plants found in the largest number of reserves are red-stemmed filaree and awned fescue, one non-native and the other native.

A Flora for the NRS 4
Northwest crimson columbine (Aquilegia formosa)

The impetus behind the plant list is the California Phenology Project. The project aims to track phenomena such as plant ranges, flowering dates, and other data to assess climate change responses throughout the state. The information will be used to inform resource management, and land-use decision-making.

The project is part of a nationwide effort, the USA National Phenology Network. The network brings together professional scientists, citizen scientists, government agencies, non-profit groups, educators, and students of all ages to monitor the impacts of climate change on plants and animals in the United States. Anyone can participate from their backyard, schoolyard, or local reserve.