Society management

California Native Plant Society | The Real Dirt – Chico Enterprise-Record

California is home to nearly 7,000 native plant species, more than any other state.

About 40% of these 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, evolved in what is now California, and were present here before European contact. However, when driving on the highway, most of the roadside plants you see are not native – they were brought here accidentally or on purpose from elsewhere. There are over 1000 species of non-native plants found in California. Many of them are invasive and can outcompete natives where natural habitat has been disturbed, such as along roadsides. The California Academy of Sciences estimates that 75% of native plant habitat has been lost to non-native plants due to human activity. Imagine Table Mountain without its springtime display of wildflowers, or the valley meadows devoid of California poppies!

“The Real Dirt” is a chronicle of various local Master Gardeners who are part of UC Butte County’s Master Gardeners.

In 1965, a group of nature lovers, gardeners and professional botanists came together in the East Bay to help save Berkeley’s Tilden Park Botanical Garden of native plants. After their success in this endeavor, they decided to expand their reach statewide to form the California Native Plant Society (, a non-profit organization. charity that strives to preserve and celebrate California’s native flora. Biologist Carol Witham describes the Society as “both a native plant appreciation club and a science-based conservation organization.” Some of the early members were photographer Ansel Adams, Nobel laureate Linus Pauling, and former Governor and Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren.

The society’s current efforts focus primarily on science, education, conservation, and horticulture. For example, CNPS created The Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants, an online database that provides information on the ecology and life history of rare, threatened, and endangered plants in the state, as well as assessments of their current state of conservation.

The inventory helps guide efforts in education, protection, conservation planning, and management of rare earth acquisitions.

Every three years, CNPS hosts a statewide conference with workshops, field trips, and scientific and general presentations, providing state botanists with an opportunity to exchange ideas between them and with amateur plant enthusiasts. This is California’s largest conference devoted to native plants.

CNPS produces many statewide publications, including Artemisia, a quarterly journal with a scientific perspective on topics related to native plants. 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 for free download from the CNPS website.

The CNPS has also created an online database containing horticultural information on 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 that generates a list of suggested plants and sample garden designs based on the answers to four simple questions. This feature is very useful for people interested in gardening with native plants. Find Calscape online at

CNPS members are affiliated with one of 35 locals. The Mount Lassen Chapter ( covers Butte, Glenn, Tehama and Plumas counties. Rob Schlising, a retired CSU Chico biology professor, described the formation of the chapter: California Native Plant Society. The group chose the name “Mount Lassen Chapter” and I was elected as the first chapter president. I gave an illustrated talk titled “What’s So Special About Our Native Plants?”

Schlising says that in the very productive year of 1978 the chapter created the Pipevine newsletter for chapter members; organized 16 field trips to various sites of botanical interest; hosted many evening lectures by botanists on plants and their habitats; launched a native plant cultivation program for residential gardens; and held a native wildflower slide contest.

The chapter continues to have an active program that includes online presentations, field trips throughout the year, maintenance of the Alice Hecker Native Plant Garden at the 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 grants for students to attend the statewide conference. Information on upcoming events is available on the chapter’s website. The next online presentation will be a talk on Calscape by Jessica Woodard, Calscape Product Manager, on Wednesday, September 7 at 7 p.m.

The UC Butte County Master Gardeners are part of the University of California Cooperative Extension System, serving our community in a variety of ways, including 4-H, agricultural counselors, and nutrition and health programs. ‘physical activity. To learn more about the UCCE Butte County Master Gardeners and for help with gardening in our area, visit If you have a gardening question or problem, call the hotline at 538-7201 or email