CNPS.ORG Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants - 7th edition interface
v7-18mar 3-19-18
Status: CNPS Habitats - Tue, Sep. 21, 2021 07:36 ET c

Habitat Types
from CNPS Inventory, 6th Edition, 2001

For each taxon, we present one or more habitats in which a rare, threatened, or endangered plant is typically found. This information is compiled from field survey forms, unpublished reports, original descriptions, floras, and herbarium material. Note that for habitats which typically occur within a broader matrix of another habitat, we usually list both. For example, a rare plant from Meadows and Seeps occurring in a matrix of Upper Montane Coniferous Forest would typically have its habitat presented as “Meadows and Seeps, Upper Montane Coniferous Forest.” Descriptors (e.g., “sandy or gravelly”) often modify habitat types, as follows:

"(descriptor)" pertains only to the habitat type immediately preceding

"/ descriptor" pertains to all habitat

We are indebted to Robert F. Holland and John 0. Sawyer, Jr. for contributing the following brief characterizations, which are presented in taxonomic rather than alphabetical order. Please refer to Holland (1986) for a more complete discussion of the types and their classification.

COASTAL DUNES - Herbs or shrubs on coastal sand deposits from Del Norte to San Diego counties. Cover usually low near the beach, increasing with distance from salt spray and blowing sand.

DESERT DUNES - Sand accumulations east of the Pacific Crest from Modoc to Imperial counties. Vegetation on desert dunes varies considerably. Active dunes usually support only sparse herbs and grasses, but partially stabilized or stabilized dunes often will support shrubs, including mesquite and creosote bush.

INLAND DUNES - Mostly herbs, although shrubs may be locally important. Sand accumulations in and around the Great Valley.

COASTAL BLUFF SCRUB - Dense shrubs, prostrate to 1-2 meters tall. Typically on fairly steep, rocky sites exposed to considerable wind and salt spray because of proximity to the ocean. Many plants succulent, especially to the south. Found from Del Norte to San Diego counties.

COASTAL SCRUB - Dense shrubs 0.5 to 2 meters tall with scattered grassy openings. Many plants dormant, even deciduous, during periods of water stress. Most sites have shallow rocky soils, frequently with a southern or western exposure. Many taxa adapted to fire by stump sprouting or high seed production.

SONORAN DESERT SCRUB - Widely scattered creosote bushes with the considerable space between them sometimes occupied by ephemeral, colorful shows of annuals following particularly wet winters. Succulents and microphyllous trees conspicuous, especially in rocky environments. The part of Munz’s (1959) “Creosote bush scrub” found roughly south of the San Bernardino / Riverside county line.

MOJAVEAN DESERT SCRUB - Widely scattered creosote bushes with the considerable space between them sometimes occupied by ephemeral, colorful shows of annuals following particularly wet winters. At elevations of 2,000 feet or higher, succulents or microphyllous trees lacking. This habitat type constitutes most of Munz’s (1959) “Creosote bush scrub” found north of the San Bernardino / Riverside county line.

GREAT BASIN SCRUB - Shrubs, ranging in height from very short, <20 centimeters, on very cold sites or shallow soils to 1 or 2 meters tall on warmer sites where soils are deeper. Perennial grasses occupy much of the space between shrubs. Found on the Modoc Plateau, high Cascade Range, Warner Mountains, High Sierra Nevada, and North Coast Ranges.

CHENOPOD SCRUB - Usually gray, intricately branched, microphyllous shrubs most commonly on fine-textured, alkaline and/or saline soils in areas of impeded drainage. Diversity usually low to monotonous. Saltbushes and greasewood frequently dominate. This vegetation occurs from Modoc County south to Mexico, including parts of the Great Valley and Inner South Coast Ranges.

CHAPARRAL - Impenetrably dense, evergreen, leathery-leaved shrubs that are active in winter, dormant in summer, and adapted to frequent fires either through resprouting or seed carry-over. There is a characteristic florula of fire-following annuals and short-lived perennials. Mature stands may exceed 3-4 meters in height. It occurs on diverse substrates, many of which support distinctive suites of edaphic indicators. Chaparral may be successional to conifer forests or oak woodlands, as tree seedlings can be found beneath the shrub canopies.

COASTAL PRAIRIE - Dense, fairly tall (<1 meter) perennial sod- and tussock-forming grasses and grass-like herbs. They occur in two distinct settings: sandy marine terraces within the zone of coastal fog (usually <350 meters elevation, within a matrix of Northern Coastal Scrub), or on fine-textured soils of ridgetops beyond coastal fogs (usually >750 meters, within a matrix of Mixed Evergreen or North Coastal Conifer Forests). Intermittent from the Santa Cruz area north to southern Oregon.

GREAT BASIN GRASSLAND - Perennial sod-forming and bunch grasses. Presumed to have once been widespread on the Modoc Plateau and northeastern California. Currently represented as scattered, mostly small, islands in areas where grazing pressure has been low and fire frequencies higher than surrounding scrubs. Both upland and bottom-land forms occur.

VALLEY AND FOOTHILL GRASSLAND - Introduced, annual Mediterranean grasses and native herbs. On most sites the native bunch grass species, such as needle grass, have been largely or entirely supplanted by introductions. Stands rich in natives usually found on unusual substrates, such as serpentinite or somewhat alkaline soils.

VERNAL POOLS - Seasonal amphibious environments dominated by annual herbs and grasses adapted to germination and early growth under water. Spring desiccation triggers flowering and fruit set, resulting in colorful concentric bands around the drying pools.

MEADOWS AND SEEPS - More or less dense grasses, sedges, and herbs that thrive, at least seasonally, under moist or saturated conditions. They occur from sea level to treeline and on many different substrates. They may be surrounded by grasslands, forests, or shrublands.

PLAYAS - Non-vascular plants and sparse, gray shrubs on poorly drained soils with usually high salinity and/or alkalinity, due to evaporation of water from closed basins. Found from the Modoc Plateau to Sonoran Desert and in the San Joaquin Valley.

PEBBLE OR PAVEMENT PLAIN - Herb- and grass-dominated openings of low cover, dominated by several cushion-forming plants endemic to dense, clay soils armored by a lag gravel of quartzite pebbles. Many of the dominant taxa are themselves rare plants. Found only in the San Bernardino Mountains.

BOGS AND FENS - Wetlands, typically occupying sites sub-irrigated by cold, frequently acidic, water. Plant growth dense and low growing, dominated by perennials herbs or low shrubs. Saturated soils frequently allow substantial accumulations of “peat.” From the Klamath Ranges to North Coast Ranges, along the North Coast and in the northern Sierra Nevada.

MARSHES AND SWAMPS - Emergent, suffrutescent herbs adapted to seasonally or permanently saturated soils. These include salt, brackish, alkali, and fresh water marshes, as well as swamps, with their woody dominants and hydrophytic herbs. Found throughout California.

RIPARIAN FOREST - Broadleaved, winter deciduous trees, forming closed canopies, associated with low- to mid-elevation perennial and intermittent streams. Most stands even-aged, reflecting their flood-mediated, episodic reproduction. These habitats can be found in every county and climate in California.

RIPARIAN WOODLAND - Broadleaved, winter deciduous trees with open canopies associated with low- to mid-elevation streams. Most stands even-aged, reflecting their flood-controlled, episodic reproduction. This type tends to occupy more intermittent streams, often with cobbly or bouldery bedloads.

RIPARIAN SCRUB - Streamside thickets dominated by one or more willows, as well as by other fast-growing shrubs and vines. Most plants recolonize following flood disturbance.

CISMONTANE WOODLAND - Trees deciduous, evergreen, or both, with open canopies. Broadleaved trees, especially oaks, dominate, although conifers may be present in or emergent through the canopy. Understories may be open and herbaceous or closed and shrubby. This type occurs on a variety of sites below the conifer forests in Mediterranean California.

PINYON AND JUNIPER WOODLAND - Open stands of round-topped conifers to 5 meters. Understories frequently comprised of shrubs and herbs seen in adjacent stands lacking trees. They often form broad ecotones between higher elevation forests and lower elevation scrublands or grasslands.

JOSHUA TREE WOODLAND - Joshua trees with open canopies are usually the only arborescent species present. Shrubstories typically are diverse mixtures of microphyllous, evergreen shrubs, semi-deciduous shrubs, semi-succulents, and succulents.

SONORAN THORN WOODLAND - Succulents, microphyllous herbs and shrubs, especially of rocky environments. Tree-like plants the visual dominant.

BROADLEAVED UPLAND FOREST - Stands of evergreen or deciduous, broadleaved trees 5 meters or more tall, forming closed canopies. Many, but not all, with very poorly developed understories. Several are seral to montane conifer forests. It includes the “mixed evergreen forest” of the Coast Ranges.

NORTH COAST CONIFEROUS FOREST - Needle-leaved evergreen trees in usually quite dense stands that may attain impressive heights. Usually on well-drained, moist sites within the reach of summer fogs, but not experiencing much winter snow. This type occurs in the wetter parts of the North Coast Ranges.

CLOSED-CONE CONIFEROUS FOREST - Dense, even-aged stands dominated by serotinous-coned conifers. Most stands are even-aged due to fire establishment. Usually associated with sterile, rocky soils, strong and steady winds, and impaired drainage. Many open stands have Understories composed of chaparral or coastal scrub species from surrounding areas. Found in most areas, except for the Great Valley or deserts.

LOWER MONTANE CONIFEROUS FOREST - Open to dense stands of conifers found at lower and middle elevations in the mountains. Broadleaved trees may be present in the understory. Shrubstories may be dense assemblages of chaparral species, especially in seral stands. The upper limit of lower montane coniferous forests more or less coincides with the elevation of maximum annual precipitation.

UPPER MONTANE CONIFEROUS FOREST - Open to dense conifer forests, found at high elevations in the mountains. Trees tend to be somewhat shorter than at lower elevations. Shrubstories tend to be open, drawn from adjacent montane chaparral species, or lacking. Above the elevation of maximum precipitation, with growing seasons curtailed by winter snow accumulations.

SUBALPINE CONIFEROUS FOREST - Conifer forests and associated clearings of highest elevations of tree establishment. This type occurs in areas where substantial snowpack accumulation and cold temperatures limit the growing season to three months or less.

ALPINE BOULDER AND ROCK FIELD - Fell-fields, talus slopes, and meadows found above forest line. Favorable sites may develop continuous turf, but in most areas plants are tucked between large nurse rocks that provide protection from harsh winter conditions.

ALPINE DWARF SCRUB - Compact, woody subshrubs above forest line, adapted to short growing seasons resulting from snow accumulation or harsh winter winds.

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