Launch of the database of Rare, Unusual and Significant Plants of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties

The Unusual Plants Committee is pleased to announce that starting in March (look on for the the exact date), CNPS members and the general public will be able to access and search the Chapter’s database of Rare, Unusual and Significant Plants of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. It will be available online via a link on the EBCNPS website. This is just in time for the beginning of the field season, and we hope it will be of great assistance to amateur and professional botanists.

This database represents over 26 years of research and monitoring of locally rare and statewide rare plants by the Rare and Unusual Plant Committee and its volunteers. It includes 1,014 plants with almost 18,000 observation records from a myriad of sources including CNPS volunteers, local botanists, herbaria records, etc. 

Because the East Bay is a melting pot for California vegetation, there are a great many plants that have very limited distribution in our two-county area. In 1989 the Rare Plant Committee started looking at the local flora in terms of local rarity, and by 1992 it had identified 658 taxa that had 5 or fewer locations in the East Bay. A database was set up to track these “unusual and significant” plants, and research and monitoring have continued ever since. 

Many of you are familiar with the report of the same name that was produced periodically from 1992 through 2010 for 8 editions. That report was a great success and became an invaluable tool for land managers, planners, agencies, conservationists, and others. 

In 2010 our focus changed to putting the database online so that those professionals and amateurs as well as the general public could search for a greater variety of data, and data that might be more specific to their various projects and endeavors.

The Unusual Plants Committee has spent almost 5 years making changes and improvements to the database so that it will be user-friendly for multiple users. It can be searched for species or observation records, with 36 different search fields, such as location, rarity, habitat, blooming periods, etc. A “How To Use The Database” section is provided to assist users in learning how the database works and how they can find the data they seek.

Users will also be able to add their own observations to the database, and these will be reviewed and checked for accuracy before actually being added into the database. These observations can be added at home by computer, or while still in the field on an Observation App for android phones, which was generously produced for our Chapter with donated time from the staff of CalFlora.

We hope that the online database will be of great help and enjoyment to professionals and amateurs alike. 

Dianne Lake

Unusual Plants Chair