Darlingtonia, Winter 2001
Darlingtonia logo Darlingtonia, Winter 2001
          selections from the printed edition

President's Column
by Gordon Leppig

Three years go by quickly, and so it is with some sadness that I am stepping down as President of the North Coast Chapter. It has been a rewarding and enriching experience serving on the CNPS board over these years. The members I have gotten to know and work with have inspired me with their commitment and dedication. They have taught me almost as much about myself as they have about the local flora. They have also been a uniformly enjoyable and interesting group to work with.

Our chapter has been active on many fronts. We have been selling CNPS books and posters in record numbers. We are adopting local botanically rich areas we wish the federal government to designate as Wilderness. Our chapter has been active in many local native plant landscaping projects and issues. Pressure from us on the CA Department of Forestry and Fish and Game has resulted in much closer scrutiny of listed plant issues in the Timber Harvest Plan process. We are monitoring a number of rare plant populations and growing some species for reintroduction. Workshops, slide presentations, field walks, and our newsletter are still important components of our education and outreach endeavors. We have made major efforts to eradicate problem exotic taxa and educate the public, decision makers, and land managers, in invasive exotic plant issues. The list goes on.

Our dedicated board members and cadre of volunteers certainly get lots accomplished. But, we are always in need of more folks to join in the fun. For instance, CNPS is a member group of the North Coast Environmental Center (NEC), and right now we are in need of a CNPS member to represent our organization on the NEC board of directors. I have been the NEC representative for four years, and it is a blast. If you are interested in doing this or getting more involved with our other activities, please contact an appropriate board member or come to a business meeting before a program.

It is with pleasure I introduce Kim Hayler as the next chapter President .Many of you know her already from her CNPS involvement over the years. Kim has been our Legislation Chair, Co-coordinator or the Spring Wildflower Show, and recently, Co-coordinator of our plant sale program. She is a Lecturer in biological sciences at College of the Redwoods as well as a botanical consultant. She brings to this position a solid knowledge of the organization and people; a love of plants; a dedication to the mission of CNPS; strong communication, leadership, and organizational skills; and above all, a sparkling personality. With Kim at the helm, and our board, the best (and largest) it has ever been, our chapter will continue to flourish and bear fruit.



Yellow Skunk Cabbage, by Natalie Schaefer

Skunk Cabbage. The name conjures olfactory memories of roadkill. Actually, it's the smell of skunk cabbage that attracts its pollinators, flies and beetles. The yellow spathe produces the odiferous attraction. Bees also visit the spadix as an early food source, as the flower blooms and is available before the others in the wetland habitat. Basal leaves of one to three feet provide shelter for amphibians and even small birds.

Lysichiton americanum is edible, but should be boiled to remove the oxalic acids which may cause stomach upset. Local native people have used the plant leaves for wrapping berries for dying. the leaves were also prepared medicinally as a poultice for cuts and swelling, and were applied to the forehead for headache and fever. The raw root was boiled and drunk to clear the bladder of impurities. Skunk cabbage is one of the chief ingredients in "skookum," which is used as a stimulant, antispasmodic, emetic and salve. Ancestoral relatives of the local skunk cabbage grow on the east coast, and were likewise used by the local natives for food and medicine, as well as for tatooing and as a charm for catching prey.

These perennial plants are common along the northcoast. They are acrid and toxic in large doses, but are relished by our woodland neighbors, the black bear.

skunk cabbage Rosemary Bauman

Editor Notes: Yellow skunk-cabbage
by Clare Golec

Yellow skunk-cabbage (Lysichiton americanum) is a member of the arum family (Araceae), which is a group of monocots found generally in the tropics to subtropics, and consisting of approximately 110 genera and 1,800 species. Some are cultivated for food such as taro (Colocasia) or orn (Philodendron and Abthurium), and many have needle-like crystals (calcium oxalate) in most tissues that cause irritation when chewed, such as dumb-cane (Dieffenbachia), which can induce temporary speechlessness. Many members of the family have ill-smelling flowers and are moisture loving like the skunk cabbage.

There is Kathlamet legend that tells of the long awaited seasonal arrival of salmon ("whose bodies are full of eggs") who are hailed on the river bank by "uncle skunk cabbage" who says if not for him the people would have starved, and the salmon rewards the skunk cabbage for feeding the people with a elk-skin blanket, war club, and spot in the rich soft soil near the river (where it is still is happily found today).

At the end of winter there is a season in which we are daily expecting spring. Methinks the first obvious evidence of spring is the pushing out of the swamp willow catkins. then the pushing up of the skunk-cabbage spathes.
Henry Thoreau


Humboldt County Weed Management Area Questionnaire
by Liz McGee

In the plant world invasive weeds and native plants generally do not thrive together. However, in the human realm, the Northcoast chapter of the CNPS and the Humboldt County Weed Management Area (HWMA) have developed a mutually beneficial partnership. With the support of CNPS, the HWMA has been able to secure funding and complete an initial report on invasive weeds in Humboldt County.

The HWMA is a consortium of public agencies, organizations and private landowners committed to controlling weed species throughout the county. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between several agencies and organizations, including the BLM, US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, CalTrans, UC Extension, and CNPS. The purpose of the MOU is to formalize the cooperative relationship among these agencies and organizations in order to effectively manage and implement invasive species programs. With a formal agreement in place the HWMA has been applying for funding from the State.

The North Coast Chapter has been the main cooperating organization that has made it possible for the HWMA to receive funding from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The CDFA grants are contingent on matching funds or in-kind support from any entity that has signed the MOU. Through our president and board, chapter agreed to provide matching support and the personnel to complete a survey of the invasive weed species found throughout the county.

A questionnaire was sent to seventeen agencies and organizations in spring 2000. This questionnaire is the beginning of the development of a comprehensive database and map of invasive weeds within the HWMA area. A description and the results are provided here to show how our chapter has contributed to the effort to control invasive weeds.

The HWMA steering committee decided to send out a questionnaire in order to find out what is known and what we do not know about individual weed species in the county. A list of 48 species was compiled and combined with 11 questions. Each land manager or representative filled in the appropriate box on a spreadsheet to provide vital information about each species. The information sheet was mainly sent to public land agencies because they have compiled the most information about weed species. The topics covered in the questionnaire included presence, control methods, rate of spread, economic impact, whether or not the species was mapped, and a rank of dominance. Thirteen of the seventeen questionnaires were returned. It is estimated that the information in the responses covers almost half of the county lands.

Besides the initial 48 species, many agencies had additional species impacting their lands, which brought the total to 62. The most frequently reported species were Pampas grass (Cortaderia jubata), Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius), Himalaya berry (Rubus discolor), and English ivy (Hedera helix). According to questionnaire responses, dogtail grass (Cynosurus echinatus) had the highest number of acres, followed by yellow star thistle ( Centaurea solstitalis). Other species that had high acres were some of the annual grasses, Scotch broom and French broom ( Genista monspessulana). These acres were estimated and should not be used as actual size of the infestations.

The responses from the questionnaire showed that only 16 of the 62 species have populations that are mapped. There are more maps of yellow bush lupine (Lupinus arboreus) than of any other species. Four agencies have maps of this species. The lack of maps is clearly a data gap in our information on invasive weeds. There is a need to do more inventory and mapping on a county-wide scale.

The land managers who completed the questionnaire were asked how each species ranked in terms of aggressiveness or dominance over other species. Most species were ranked as low to moderate in dominance. Twenty-three species (37%) were ranked as severe threats to ecological stability. Some species fit within several categories depending on which agency was responding. This type of response was expected and indicates areas within the county where certain species could be easily controlled or areas that need to be protected from further infestation.

"Other" was the most common response to the impact a weed species may have on a natural resource. There are 33 species in this category. Twenty species are threats to Threatened and Endangered species, and 17 impact system processes. Only 8 species were reported to be threats to range value. They include several annual grasses, yellow star thistle, bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare), Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense), and tansy ragwort (Senecio jacobaea). Yellow star thistle was reported to impact all of these resource categories.

The majority of the species are controlled manually or with chemicals. Three species were controlled using biological methods, and three using other methods. Further information could be obtained about which chemical, biological and other methods are being used to control noxious species.

A date for the first sighting of an infestation was provided for twelve species. The USFWS and the BLM were the only agencies that reported these dates. European beachgrass (Ammophila aranaria), dense-flowered cordgrass (Spartina densiflora), and yellow star thistle all were reported as first sighted in 1900. Most of the other species were sighted before 1970. The latest initial sighting was of purple ragwort (Senecio elegans) in 1997.

Most species are spreading at a medium to fast rate according to the survey responses. As with the ranking question, these responses varied with agency. Several species were reported to be spreading slow, steady or fast, depending on the reporting agency. This would indicate that some areas of the county are at decreased threat from some species.

Three species were reported to have an economic impact to the County. These are yellow star thistle, medusa-head rye, (Taeniatherum caput-medusae), and tansy ragwort.

The information garnered from this questionnaire has been used to compile a list of the most invasive species in the County (see side boxes). With continued support from CNPS and funding from the CDFA, the HWMA will begin to inventory and map invasive species and produce a weed management plan within the next year. If you would like more information about the HWMA or how you can become more involved in this effort you can call Lisa Hoover at 441-3612 or Jennifer Wheeler at 825-2316.

Humboldt County's Top Invasive Weeds on Range and Forest Lands
Canada thistleCirsium Arvense
medusa headTaeniaterum caput-medusae
yellow star-thistleCentaurea solstitalis
pampas grassCortaderia jubata
Scotch broomCytisus scoparius
French broomGenista monspessulana
English ivyHedera helix
yellow bush lupineLupinus arboreus
Himalaya blackberryRubus discolor
poverty grassDanthonia pilosa

Humboldt County's Top Invasive Weeds on Natural Areas
yellow star-thistleCentaurea solstitalis
Scotch broomCytisus scoparius
French broomGenista monspessulana
English ivyHedera helix
yellow bush lupineLupinus arboreus
European beachgrassAmmophila arenaria
ice plantCarpobrotus edulis
dense flowered cordgrassSpartina densiflora
purple loosestrifeLythrum salicaria
non-native grassesmany species

Wilderness Bill Moving Ahead
by Susan Nolan

The California Wild Heritage Campaign, a statewide effort to expand the wilderness system, is forging ahead. Senator Barbara Boxer expects to introduce the bill to Congress in April 2001.

Among the native plant hotspots that could be designated as Wilderness Areas are the Lassics, Mad River Buttes (Boardcamp), the King Range with its undisturbed coastal communities, Trinity Alps additions (including Orleans Mountain and Tish Tang ridge), Smith River with its spectacular North Fork, Siskiyou additions (including Bear Basin Butte and the old growth of Blue Creek), Red Mountain in Mendocino County, and Mount Eddy in Siskiyou County. A wilderness designation protects against logging, road building, vehicle use, and similar ground disturbing activities.

Letters of support are needed to ensure that these places make it into the final Bill. A brief letter explaining why you feel the place is important, and urging the senator to include it in her bill, will be very helpful. A separate letter for each area is best.

Letters should be addressed to:

Senator Barbara Boxer, Senate Office Building, Washington, DC. 20510

And Mailed to:

Susan Nolan, PO Box 115, Bayside, CA 95524

Susan will forward the letters to Campaign Headquarters and from there they will be sent to the senator.

The best way to spread the word about these wonderful places is through field trips. Local Wilderness advocates are planning an extensive hike program next year and would like to team up with botanists to showcase rare plants. Do you have a favorite place from the above list? We can organize, publicize, and lead if you'll come along and be the botanical expert! Contact Susan Nolan at 839-9315 to volunteer.


CNPS North Coast Chapter Rare Plant Symposium
by Clare Golec

California has the largest state flora in the nation in species (the state of Texas has more genera and families). The high degree (over 36%) of endemic plants (restricted by locality or habitat) in the California Floristic Province coupled with the climate, geology and the overlapping influence of the Pacific Northwest Floristic Province in northwestern California yields varied and numerous rare or uncommon plants concerns in our region. Although, little is understood or dispersed about the biology and ecology of many of these rare or uncommon plants, as well as there is a need to identify and protect this valuable natural resource.

A symposium on the biology and ecology of rare plants is being planned for the early part of November 2001. The regional focus of the symposium will be on the rare plants of Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Trinity, and Siskiyou Counties. The symposium will span three days and include a dinner/social and open poster session followed by various guest speakers from academia, CNPS, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, California Dept. of Fish and Game, and private.

There are openings on all symposium sub-committees and chapter members are encouraged to join our efforts to present a symposium that will stimulate productive and enlightened discussions on the rare plants of this region. Contact Clare Golec at or Leonel Arguello at if you wish to help. The next meeting is scheduled for January 17, 6:30 p.m. at the 6 Rivers Brew Pub on Central Ave. in McKinleyville.

North Coast Chapter CNPS    

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