March 2018 News

Save Plants


March 2018 Newsletter

In this month’s issue of Save Plants, we feature the rare plants that are found literally in our own backyards. While many imperiled plants are protected in national forests, parks, and other preserves, many others are found in urban centers, along roadsides, and on private property, including farms and residential housing. These plants often face an even greater threat of extinction owing to their precarious existence on the fringes of our ever-expanding urban environment. While challenging for these species, having rare and endangered plants easily accessible to many offers an unparalleled opportunity to educate others on the value of plants. By appreciating diversity wherever it is found—from pristine forests to vacant lots—we stand a better chance of compelling others to care about all life on this planet. So, have a read through this issue of Save Plants, and then walk outside. You might be surprised with the diversity that is just beyond the doorstep.

A Decade-Long Search Uncovers Plant Hiding in Plain Sight—Climbing Holly-Fern in Urban Preserve

The Climbing Holly-Fern, or Lomariopsis kunzeana, is very rare and found only in South Florida, Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico. Even in these areas, the plant is few in numbers. It is almost always associated with native mosses, liverworts, and other native ferns. The Climbing Holly-Fern, like most ferns, consists of the large and showy sporophytes and the tiny gametophytes.

In South Florida, the L. kunzeana population has declined to the point of nearly disappearing from its traditional habitat in the Everglades National Park. There are a few gametophytes and some tiny sporophytes remaining. The last known large sporophyte died when a tree fell on it several years ago. There appears to be only two fertile sporophytes left in Florida, and both are in urban Miami. Both of these were discovered by Jennifer Possley of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden during plant surveys.

Tiny sporophytes, gametophytes in urban Miami preserve. photo credit: @Jennifer Possley.

Possley had been looking for this plant for more than 10 years. While the plant had been considered a commonly associated liverwort, Possley said it gradually dawned on her that it was actually a gametophyte of the Climbing Holly-Fern. Once she realized this, she began finding L. kunzeana gametophytes in many places—including urban preserves where the species was considered to be wiped out or where it was, in fact, never documented.

Possley believes she was fortunate in identifying the fern gametophytes—in this case, she was able to do so because L. kunzeana has unique strap-like gametophytes that look different from those of other ferns, making it easier to recognize. (Fern gametophytes are usually cordate or “heart-shaped.”)

Most of L. kunzeana is right in the middle of Miami, in tiny little urban preserves and, in one case, a forest remnant in someone’s front yard.

Sporophytes and Gametophytes

Unlike flowering plants, ferns have two distinct forms at different points in their life cycles. These are termed sporophyte and gametophyte. When most people think of a fern, they are thinking of the sporophyte. Sporophytes are the larger spore-producing plants with which we are all familiar. When spores land in the proper habitat and germinate, they grow into a gametophyte. Gametophytes are typically tiny (less than 1 centimeter across) and take the form of heart-shaped green blobs, often tucked in moist cracks or crevices.

In most species, gametophytes are the sexual part of a fern’s life cycle. These tiny plants produce sperm and eggs, which fertilize one another and, if successful, grow into a sporophyte.

The life cycle of the fern has two different stages; sporophyte, which releases spores, and gametophyte, which releases gametes. Gametophyte plants are haploid, sporophyte plants are diploid. This type of life cycle is called alternation of generations.

Image: Fertile frond (foreground) and sterile fronds. Note how dark the habitat is photo credit: @Jennifer Possley

gametophytes and sporophytes

Left: Gametophytes on limestone in urban Miami preserve. Upper Right: tiny sporophytes, gametophytes in urban Miami preserve; Lower Right: Large sporophytes in urban Miami preserve. Photos @Jennifer Possley

Military Base Offers Safety for Rare Plants

Sandwiched between the densely populated Orange and San Diego counties in Southern California is the 125,000-acre US Marine Corp base Camp Pendleton. Less than 20 percent of its land has been developed. Bordered on its west by the Pacific Ocean, this military base acts as an ecological buffer in this highly urbanized region. Within Camp Pendleton, tidal estuaries, riparian corridors, coastal plains, rolling hills and canyons, and mountains that rise in elevation to 2,700 feet above sea level provide essential habitat for over 1,100 species of flora and fauna, including 18 federally listed threatened and endangered species and a free roaming herd of bison.

Hidden in the southern Santa Margarita Mountains, on the Pendleton base, a new taxon, Ceanothus Pendletonensis, was found in May 2015*. The species is associated with chaparral and oak woodland plant communities, is considered a micro-endemic with restricted geographic distribution, and is similar to C. leucodermis and C. spinosus which are found in many different habitats in southwestern California. C. pendletonensis is different, however, from both of these: the stem has an unusual warty stem texture (a lot of warts) which is unusual in most Ceanothus. C. pendletonensis is probably most similar to C. leucodermis in that “both species have whitish leaf undersides, leaves generally with three primary veins from the base, and fruits with a layer of sticky fluid beneath the skin when nearly mature.” Yet the two species are not the same: leaf size and shape are different, with C. pendletonensis having shorter and more elongated leaves.

Due to similarities and relatively close proximity, there is a suggestion that there could have been some genetic exchange between C. leucodermis and C. spinosus, creating C. pendletonensis. As noted in the Systematic Botany article “Three Edaphic-Endemic Ceanothus (Rhamnaceae) New to Science,” there is “at least one population of Ceanothus on Camp Pendleton that contains plants intermediate between C. spinosus and C. leucodermis.” These plants are similar to C. spinosus except for the fruit—the fruits match C. leucodermis or C. pendletonensis more closely. This suggests genetic exchange between C. spinosus and either C. pendletonensis or C. leucodermis. However, there are no C. leucodermis at Camp Pendleton. If a genetic exchange is happening, perhaps it is C. pendletonensis into C. spinosus.

*Citation: Burge, D. O.; Rebman, J. P.; Mulligan, M.R.; and Wilken, D.H., “Three Edaphic-Endemic Ceanothus (Rhamnaceae) New to Science,” in Systematic Botany (2017), 42(3): pp. 529-542

Ceanothus Pendletonensis

Ceanothus Pendletonensis

Ceanothus Pendletonensis

Lost and Found in San Francisco

In an all too common story, limited populations of plants continue to end up lost to urban development. There were once three populations of the Franciscan Manzanita (Arctostaphylos franciscana) within the city of San Francisco—in two cemeteries and at Mt. Davidson, the highest natural point in the city that is named in honor of George Davidson, a charter member of the Sierra Club. But San Francisco was a fast-developing city. In 1911, Mt. Davidson was purchased by A.S. Baldwin who had plans to develop many new neighborhoods in the area. This was bad news for these three populations of Arctostaphylos franciscana. By 1947, it seems the last in-the-wild plant at Laurel Hill Cemetery on Lone Mountain was lost to commercial and residential development. There were cuttings from this plant, however, that were preserved. The plants from those cuttings survived in botanical gardens. Then in 2009, there was a discovery of an individual manzanita plant found more than 60 years after it was thought to be extinct in the wild. A single plant was found on the Presidio near Doyle Drive.

The Manzanita, endemic to San Francisco, is a low evergreen shrub that has been confused with another rare plant, the Raven’s or Presidio Manzanita, A. Montana ssp. Ravenii. The two have different ploidy levels (the number of chromosomes occurring in the nucleus of a cell), an indication that the two most likely could not interbreed even with their similarities. The story of how Presidio biologists are attempting to find a mate for this rare Manzanita can be found here.

Stay tuned as the search continues.

Information from: “Emergency Petition to List the San Francisco Manzanita (Arctostaphylos franciscana) as an Endangered Species,” Wild Equity Institute, December 14, 2009.

“Sex and shrubbery: Presidio biologists seek mates for SF’s loneliest plant,” by Steve Rubenstein, San Francisco Chronicle, February 23, 2018.

Introducing our new Center for Plant Conservation Team Member

Ann-Cathrin Howard, Senior Administrative Assistant

Ann-Cathrin Howard

 Ann-Cathrin was born and raised in Germany where she completed a bachelor of science in geography. She moved to San Diego in 2012 and was awarded a master of arts in international relations from the University of San Diego. Prior to joining CPC, Ann-Cathrin worked in many different fields, from nonprofit to education to real estate, and has gained extensive experience in administrative services. She has a strong eye for detail and a passion for conservation.


2018 Catherine H. Beattie Fellowship Awardees

Rachel Becknell
Washington University
“The effects of soil microbes on the growth and survival of the federally endangered Astragalus bibullatus
Academic Advisor: Matthew Albrecht, Ph.D.
An excellent overall project combining experiments with microbiome research.

Patrick Smallwood
University of Georgia
“Variation in mycorrhizal species associating with Cypripedium parviflorum (Orchidaceae) across a board geographic range in eastern North America”
Academic Advisor: Dorset W. Trapnell, Ph.D.
A detailed and well-articulated proposal examining soil microbial interactions in orchids. Both conservation and economics outcomes possible.

Jobs/Internships/Volunteer Opportunities

  • The application period for the annual NTBG Fall Internship Program (formerly named Horticulture Internship Program) is now open! Not only is the name new this year, but they have also waived the application fee! The program will be based in Hawai’i with up to six positions to be filled. The closing date for the submission of application materials is April 30, 2018. A link to the page with additional information, as well as the online application, is here.
  • O’ahu Army Natural Resources Program – March-April volunteer opportunities.

While March-April trips are open to the general public, each participant must complete the 2018 RCUH Volunteer Application. If you have not submitted an application for 2018, please submit one online via the State of Hawai‘i eSign service.

Thursday, March 22 – Kahanahaiki; Sunday, April 15 – Kahanahaiki; Tuesday, April 24 – Puali’i; Thursday, April 26 – Kahanahaiki

Restricted Sign-Ups for May-June Volunteer Trips: Please note that in the next trip announcement, which will cover the months of May through June, sign-ups will be restricted to those who have undergone the 2018 application process. Please turn in your 2018 RCUH Volunteer Application before April 30 to be eligible to sign up for the trips.

  • The New England Botanical Club (NEBC) is seeking a part-time, professional managing editor for the journal Rhodora who will report to the editor-in-chief. This is a hands-on position that oversees the preparation of accepted manuscripts for submission to Allen Press.

The NEBC, organized in 1895, is a non-profit organization that promotes botanical research on the flora of North America, especially in the New England and adjacent regions. NEBC publishes the scientific journal Rhodora, holds monthly meetings during the academic year (usually at Harvard University,), maintains vascular and nonvascular herbaria, maintains a small library, and annually provides botanical research funds for graduate students and others. The Fernald Award is awarded each year for the best publication in Rhodora that makes use of herbarium specimens and/or involves fieldwork.

Please send a cover letter detailing your interest in the position, a curriculum vitae listing previous, relevant experience, and names and contact information for two references to Brett Trowbridge ( Please use “Managing Editor Position” as the subject line. Review of applications will begin March 21, and applications will be accepted until the position is filled. The preferred start date on or before May 1, 2018, will overlap with the current managing editor. Please note that this is a salaried, part-time position, without benefits.

  • The Plants of Concern program at the Chicago Botanic Garden is looking to hire two temporary seasonal positions for the upcoming field season. The program is a regional, rare plant monitoring program designed to assess long-term trends in rare plant species. It is a flexible collaboration of public and non-governmental conservation agencies, landowners, and volunteer groups guided by an advisory group of land managers, scientists, and volunteers.

As part of a cooperative program with Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Plants of Concern is recruiting a seasonal research assistant. This seven-month, 35-hour-per-week position involves a suite of studies on rare plants at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, including those restricted to the unique dolomite prairie habitat.

Plants of Concern is also recruiting for a research intern/program assistant to assist with monitoring rare plants in the Cook County Forest Preserves. This 35-week, 35-hour/week position is based at the Chicago Botanic Garden, located in Cook County, Illinois.

  • Field Technicians: Oak forest regeneration and restoration

The Ecological Society of America is hiring two technicians to collect field data at sites within the Hoosier National Forest in southern Indiana as part of a collaborative study between Purdue University and the USDA Forest Service. The goal of the project is to determine how overstory removal, competition control, and prescribed fire can be used to regenerate and maintain oak forests. The duration of the positions is from mid-May to August 2018 (40 hours/week). The pay is $11.50 per hour, and housing is included. Please email a cover letter describing your qualifications, resume (including contact information for two references), and unofficial transcripts to Mike Jenkins ( Review of applications will begin on April 4, 2018, and will continue until the positions are filled.

  • GS-9/11 Botanist, US Fish and Wildlife Service (Ventura, California)

In this position you will provide support in carrying out multi-faceted listing and recovery work for plants within the jurisdiction of the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office. Our office works to conserve and protect nearly 100 federally threatened or endangered species across the southern and central California coast in Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, portions of Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo counties, and the northern Channel Islands. 65 of these listed species are plants!

For Federal Employees:

For the Public:


April 12-13, 2018 – Florida Rare Plant Task Force Meeting. “The Impact of Climate Change and Natural Disasters on Rare Plant Conservation” at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Jacksonville, Florida. More information here.

May 3-5, 2018 – Center for Plant Conservation National Meeting, Ft. Worth, Texas. For more information and to register, click here.

May 15-18, 2018 – Hawai‘i Native Seed conference and Hawai‘i Seed Bank Partnership Meeting, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

This Conference brings together conservationists, horticulturalists, researchers, and others working with seeds of native Hawaiian plants to share knowledge with each other and visiting experts. The conference will begin with an optional meeting of the Hawai‘i Seed Bank Partnership on May 15. The following days will feature speakers from Hawaiʻi, and several sessions led by staff from the Kew Millennium Seed Bank Partnership. Topics for the conference will focus on strategies and methods for collecting, handling, and processing seed collections for propagation and storage, making this widely applicable for anyone working in ecosystem restoration in the Pacific region. Updates available here.

May 18, 2018 – Smithsonian Botanical Symposium, Washington DC, “Plants in the Past: Fossils and the Future.” Presented by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Department of Botany in collaboration with the United States Botanic Garden. More information here.

June 4-8, 2018 – American Public Gardens Association Annual Conference, “Cultivate Your Creative Nature” in Southern California. More information here.

July 30-August 1, 2018 – 2nd Seed Longevity Workshop, Fort Collins, Colorado. Hosted by the International Society for Seed Science, USDA Agricultural Research Service, and Colorado State University. More information here.

Thank you for helping us save plant species facing extinction by making your gift to CPC through our secure PayPal Portal! Everyone who donates to CPC becomes a valued Member.


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By | 2018-06-15T21:07:28+00:00 March 16th, 2018|0 Comments

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