California is host to almost 7000 species of native plants, more than any other state. About 40% of those species are found only in California. In fact, California is more species-rich than most other places on Earth. Native plants are those that grow in the wild, have evolved in what is now California and were present here prior to contact by Europeans. As you drive down the highway, however, most of the roadside plants you see are non-native -- they were brought here either accidentally or on purpose from elsewhere. There are more than 1000 species of non-native plants present in California. Many of these are invasive and can out-compete natives where the natural habitat has been disturbed, as is the case along roadsides. The California Academy of Sciences estimates that 75% of the original habitat for native plants has been lost to non-native plants due to human activity. Imagine Table Mountain without its spring show of wildflowers, or valley grasslands devoid of California poppies!
CNPS produces many statewide publications, including Artemisia, a quarterly journal with a scientific perspective on native plant topics. The CNPS Fire Recovery Guide, published in 2019, has been widely distributed to victims of the Camp Fire and other recent fires in Butte County and is also available to download for free at the CNPS website.
CNPS has also created an online database containing horticultural information about specific native plants. Called Calscape, the database can be used to find suitable native plants for your garden based on location and desired plant characteristics. Another useful Calscape feature is a garden planner which generates a suggested plant list and sample garden designs based on answers to four simple questions. This feature is quite useful for people interested in gardening with native plants.
CNPS members affiliate with one of 35 local chapters. The Mount Lassen Chapter covers Butte, Glenn, Tehama, and Plumas Counties. Rob Schlising, retired CSU Chico biology professor, described the formation of the chapter: “Over 75 people assembled at a meeting in Chico on the rainy evening of 4 November 1977 to initiate a new chapter of the California Native Plant Society. The group chose the name “Mount Lassen Chapter,” and I was elected the first chapter president. I provided an illustrated talk called ‘What is so special about our native plants?'”
The chapter continues to have an active program which includes online presentations, field trips throughout the year, maintenance of the Alice Hecker Native Plant Garden at Chico Creek Nature Center, co-sponsorship with Altacal Audubon of the Water-Wise and Habitat-Friendly Garden Tour, and educational outreach at public events. The chapter also provides grant money for students to attend the statewide conference. Information about upcoming events is available on the chapter website. The next online presentation will be a talk about Calscape by Jessica Woodard, Calscape Product Manager, on Wednesday, September 7, 2022 at 7pm.