San Diego Natural History Museum Botany Department

San Diego Natural History Museum Botany Department Adventures with the native and naturalized plants of southern California and the Baja California peninsula!
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2020 VisionLots of people wish they had 20/20 vision. Let’s adopt “2020 Vision” as our rallying cry for what we will acc...
02/18/2020
Observations · iNaturalist

2020 Vision
Lots of people wish they had 20/20 vision. Let’s adopt “2020 Vision” as our rallying cry for what we will accomplish in San Diego County during the 2020 City Nature Challenge! It’s not too soon to start planning. Where will you go and how many observations will you post during the 4-day period of April 24th through April 27th? If you need some ideas to help your planning, we’ve come up with the following:
1. Places to visit. You can review a map of the county with all observations made during the 2019 City Nature Challenge (“CNC”) here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2019-04-26&d2=2019-04-29&place_id=829 (you may need to click on the “Map” button below the gray bar.) Zoom in and look for an area with few or no observations that is accessible to you. That would be a great place to spend some time during this year’s CNC. Wherever you are, look around for different habitats to increase the diversity of plants you observe.
2. Quality observations. Be sure to review the photo guidelines (found here: http://www.sdplantatlas.org/inat/iNatPhotoguide.html) to help ensure that your plant observations can be identified. Although there is a lot of pressure to record as many observations as possible during the CNC, if you want your observations to be valuable for researchers, they need to be done with a certain amount of thought and care. To make it easier on the volunteers who identify observations, post your sharpest, close-up photo of the plant’s important identifying parts first (e.g., reproductive parts, hairs on leaves or stems), so the reviewer will see those features immediately and then if needed, can click through your other photos of the plant. Be sure to add the best ID you can to each observation you upload (even if it is just “Plants” or “Vascular Plant”) to avoid having your observation lost among the many in the “Unknown” category. And finally, be sure you have joined the San Diego County Plant Atlas Project on iNat and changed your settings so the coordinates of sensitive plants can be viewed by project curators no matter who adds the observation to the project.
3. Targeted search. If you are comfortable identifying plants on your own, you may wish to make a list of species that are not frequently observed. Starting with a list of all San Diego County plant observations made during the 2019 CNC (here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2019-04-26&d2=2019-04-29&place_id=829&view=species&iconic_taxa=Plantae), you can enter the name of a plant family in the “Species” box to see what taxa were documented during last year’s CNC. For example, if you enter “Rubiaceae” in the Species box, you will find that of the 15 native or naturalized species on the Checklist of Vascular Plants San Diego County, 5th Ed., only 7 were documented with an observation during last year’s CNC. (Three observations in the Rubiaceae last year were of garden plants, which should be marked “captive/cultivated” or avoided entirely.)
Do you have 2020 Vision? Start planning now so you can clearly see your goals for the 2020 CNC.

Since hearts are on many people's minds today, we thought we would add a few regional botanical hearts from different pl...
02/14/2020

Since hearts are on many people's minds today, we thought we would add a few regional botanical hearts from different plant families for your viewing pleasure! Happy V.D.!

Since hearts are on many people's minds today, we thought we would add a few regional botanical hearts from different plant families for your viewing pleasure! Happy V.D.!

This last December in 2019 we participated in a binational, multidisciplinary expedition to the San Basilio area of Baja...
02/13/2020

This last December in 2019 we participated in a binational, multidisciplinary expedition to the San Basilio area of Baja California Sur on the Gulf coast to the north of Loreto. Here are a few plant pics taken by SDNHM Botany Curator J. Rebman. Enjoy!

This last December in 2019 we participated in a binational, multidisciplinary expedition to the San Basilio area of Baja California Sur on the Gulf coast to the north of Loreto. Here are a few plant pics taken by SDNHM Botany Curator J. Rebman. Enjoy!

Check out a bit of what we have been up to in the Botany Department.
01/30/2020
A Quest to Find the “Lost” Plants of Baja

Check out a bit of what we have been up to in the Botany Department.

One hundred years ago, scientists—both amateur and classically trained—found plants in the Baja California Peninsula that now seem to have disappeared. No one has seen them growing in the wild for decades—until now. Multiple recent expeditions have led to the rediscovery of some species. Where...

Observations of the Month: Pluchea (Asteraceae) Salt Marsh Fleabane (Pluchea odorata var. odorata) https://www.inaturali...
01/06/2020
marsh fleabane (Pluchea odorata)

Observations of the Month: Pluchea (Asteraceae)

Salt Marsh Fleabane (Pluchea odorata var. odorata) https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/34415150 by nora32
Arrow Weed (Pluchea sericea)
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/24209934 by aarft

Noël-Antoine Pluche was an 18th century French priest and naturalist who wrote a nine-volume work called Le Spectacle de la Nature. San Diego County is home to two plant taxa in a genus that was named for him: Pluchea odorata var. odorata, commonly known as Salt Marsh Fleabane, and Pluchea sericea, commonly known as Arrow Weed. The two are somewhat similar with pinkish-purple flower heads and both can be found in saline soils, but their differences far outnumber their similarities. Salt Marsh Fleabane is an annual or perennial herb which rarely exceeds about a meter in height. Arrow Weed is an upright shrub that may be as tall as 5 meters. Salt Marsh Fleabane has a sweet scent and is sticky to the touch. Arrow Weed has no scent and is not sticky, but instead feels soft due to smooth silky hairs. Salt Marsh Fleabane's ovate leaves are fairly broad, toothed, attached to the stems by petioles, and spaced out along the stem. Arrow Weed's more narrow, lanceolate, entire leaves hug the stems and are crowded together. You will find both plants in coastal San Diego, but Arrow Weed is expected in the desert where there are only a few records of Salt Marsh Fleabane. When you find either of these plants, you can think of it as one of Abbé Pluche's spectacles of nature.

marsh fleabane from San Diego, CA 92119, USA on October 15, 2019 at 10:00 AM by Nora Balbina Bodrian

Observation of the Month: Enigmatic Bushmallow (Malacothamnus enigmaticus) Malvaceaehttps://www.inaturalist.org/observat...
12/10/2019
enigmatic bushmallow (Malacothamnus enigmaticus)

Observation of the Month: Enigmatic Bushmallow (Malacothamnus enigmaticus) Malvaceae
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/32073682 by larryhendrickson

Puzzling, ambiguous, inexplicable—an enigma. Such was the state of identification of one species of bushmallow found in San Diego County until Keir Morse and Tom Chester undertook a thorough analysis comparing the morphologies of 3 local taxa which resulted in their naming and describing a new species. In a paper published in Madroño in September, Morse and Chester described Enigmatic Bushmallow (Malacothamnus enigmaticus) resolving the confusion that had persisted in botanical circles for many years. The plant found only in San Diego County, previously identified as M. aboriginum in some floras and checklists, is now known as M. enigmaticus.

Enigmatic Bushmallow is a rare plant. Populations have been found in only two locations in our county, both in the desert transition: the vicinity of Culp Valley and the Laguna Mountain crest area. Like our county’s two other species of bushmallow (M. fasciculatus and M. densiflorus), Enigmatic Bushmallow is a fire follower, but fewer of its plants seem to persist long term after a fire.

Many-Flower Bushmallow (M. densiflorus) occurs in San Diego County in the foothills and west side of the mountains. Unlike our other two species, you can usually see its green stem clearly due to the absence of dense hairs. All three species may have 10 or more flowers per node.

Chaparral Bushmallow (M. fasciculatus var. fasciculatus) occurs mostly from the coast to the inland valleys in San Diego County and like M. enigmaticus the stem has dense hairs making it appear more yellow or whitish. To distinguish M. fasciculatus from M. enigmaticus examine the three slender bracts found just under the calyx (the “calyx bracts”). In M. enigmaticus the longest calyx bracts are longer (5.5 to 13 mm) than the longest calyx bracts of M. fasciculatus (2.5 to 6 mm). In addition, the bracts found at the base of the dense, compact clusters of flowers (the “stipular bracts”) of M. enigmaticus are generally wider (2 to 8 mm) than the widest stipular bracts of M. fasciculatus (0.5 to 2(-4) mm).

This was one identification puzzle that prior molecular analysis had failed to solve, but thanks to Morse and Chester we now know about this unique San Diego County endemic, Enigmatic Bushmallow.

Something

Botany is ready for the member open house.
11/22/2019

Botany is ready for the member open house.

Our Curator of Botany, Jon Rebman has been working Baja California Sur this week and yesterday he presented www.Bajaflor...
11/15/2019

Our Curator of Botany, Jon Rebman has been working Baja California Sur this week and yesterday he presented www.Bajaflora.org to the regional CONANP office in La Paz. Bajaflora.org has lots of resources: specimen images, field photos, mapping tools, and much more.

Last week, our Curator of Botany (J. Rebman) was with Dr. Sula Vanderplank and a great group of young biologists seed ba...
10/30/2019

Last week, our Curator of Botany (J. Rebman) was with Dr. Sula Vanderplank and a great group of young biologists seed banking rare species in the highest mountain range of Baja California and here are a few pics.

Last week, our Curator of Botany (J. Rebman) was with Dr. Sula Vanderplank and a great group of young biologists seed banking rare species in the highest mountain range of Baja California and here are a few pics.

Observations of the Month: Spineflowers (Chorizanthe fimbriata) PolygonaceaeFringed Spineflower (Chorizanthe fimbriata v...
09/23/2019
fringed spineflower (Chorizanthe fimbriata fimbriata)

Observations of the Month: Spineflowers (Chorizanthe fimbriata) Polygonaceae

Fringed Spineflower (Chorizanthe fimbriata var. fimbriata) https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/25251712 by @smfang
Laciniate Spineflower (Chorizanthe fimbriata var. laciniata) https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/32182202 by @sheriff_woody_pct

San Diego County has almost a dozen species of spineflowers in the genus Chorizanthe. One of the most common species is Chorizanthe fimbriata, which occurs from the coast to the desert transition in two varieties: C. f. var. fimbriata and C. f. var. laciniata. Along the immediate coast, Fringed Spineflower (var. fimbriata) is the expected taxon. In the desert transition, Laciniate Spineflower (var. laciniata) is expected. From the higher elevation inland foothills to the high mountains, either can be found, although var. fimbriata is more common and widespread than var. laciniata as demonstrated by the relative numbers of voucher specimens and iNaturalist observations from San Diego County (303 voucher specimens and iNat observations verified by Jon Rebman of var. fimbriata compared to 137 voucher specimens and verified iNat observations of var. laciniata).

As the species name suggests, both varieties have fringes, but a close look at the tepals (the "perianth") of Chorizanthe fimbriata will help you determine which variety it is. The terminal segment of the perianth lobes of var. fimbriata may be either linear or lanceolate, but will be wider than the lateral lobes/fringes. The terminal segment of the lobes of var. laciniata is linear and just barely wider than the lateral fringes. The flowers of var. laciniata may be slightly larger overall than var. fimbriata. Laciniate means "deep, narrow, irregular segments" which tells you to look for skinny tips and almost equally skinny lateral fringes on var. laciniata. (Occasionally you may come across an intermediate plant which does not display distinct characteristics of only one variety.)

If you post an observation of a spineflower with only distant or blurry photos, it may be impossible to tell which taxon is represented. All of us who are members of the San Diego Plant Atlas Project on iNat are fortunate that our San Diego plant observations are reviewed by Jon Rebman, curator of botany at the San Diego Natural History Museum, and identified by him, if the required features are visible in the photos posted. At the San Diego Plant Atlas website, you will find Guidelines for Photographing Plants for iNaturalist and a wealth of information about San Diego plants.

Yesterday our Curator of Botany, J. Rebman, was doing fieldwork in the northern part of San Diego County. Here are some ...
09/10/2019

Yesterday our Curator of Botany, J. Rebman, was doing fieldwork in the northern part of San Diego County. Here are some of the field pics and a few microscope images taken in the Museum Botany Dept. lab showing distinguishing characters.

Yesterday our Curator of Botany, J. Rebman, was doing fieldwork in the northern part of San Diego County. Here are some of the field pics and a few microscope images taken in the Museum Botany Dept. lab showing distinguishing characters.

Our SDNHM Curator of Botany, Dr. Rebman, was in the field yesterday working in wetlands in northern San Diego County and...
08/28/2019

Our SDNHM Curator of Botany, Dr. Rebman, was in the field yesterday working in wetlands in northern San Diego County and here are a few of the plants that were found.

Our SDNHM Curator of Botany, Dr. Rebman, was in the field yesterday working in wetlands in northern San Diego County and here are a few of the plants that were found.

Sunbelt Publications
06/24/2019

Sunbelt Publications

"Rebman and Roberts' 'Baja California Plant Field Guide' is a seminal work and an absolute necessity for anybody interested in making the great leap over the border...With such a diverse array of habitat types and climate as the Baja Peninsula has, it would be hard to adequately sum up the floristics of the peninsula in a mere 480 pages, yet this field guide does exactly that. I bought my first copy five years ago, and its tattered and worn cover has experienced many a rainstorm and sun-baking since."

Joey Santore gave the "Baja California Plant Field Guide, 3rd Edition" a wonderful review in the latest issue of Madroño, a publication by the California Botanical Society.

https://sunbeltpublications.com/shop/baja-california-plant-field-guide-3rd-edition/

Observations of the Month: Snapdragons (Plantaginaceae)Lesser Snapdragon (Sairocarpus pusillus) https://www.inaturalist....
06/17/2019
lesser snapdragon (Sairocarpus pusillus)

Observations of the Month: Snapdragons (Plantaginaceae)
Lesser Snapdragon (Sairocarpus pusillus) https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/25653906 by amarillas
Nuttall’s Snapdragon (Sairocarpus nuttallianus) https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/24905636 by adrianjana
Taxonomy can be taxing. Just when you think you have learned to identify a plant, you find out that the taxon involved has been split or lumped or otherwise changed. Perhaps the change moves us toward a global taxonomy with less reliance on regional floras as opined by one of the administrators of iNaturalist, but sometimes the change confuses me and other iNaturalist users no matter how beneficial it may be in the long term. Recently, this happened with snapdragons.
For a long time, iNaturalist followed the same taxonomic scheme as The Jepson Manual and the Checklist of the Vascular Plants of San Diego County (5th Ed.) placing the plants commonly called snapdragons in the genus Antirrhinum. Two similar looking purple-flowered plants were Antirrhinum nuttallianum ssp. nuttallianum and A. n. ssp. subsessile, both of which are found from the coast to the mountains of San Diego County, although the distribution of A. n. ssp. subsessile tends to be more coastal than A. n. ssp. nuttallianum. Now, on iNat, these plants have been moved to a new genus and are treated as distinct species: Sairocarpus nuttallianus and S. pusillus.
Perhaps the easiest way to tell the two apart is by the hairs on the stems. Sairocarpus nuttallianus has fine hairs of varying lengths without significant glands on the tips—giving a soft fuzzy look. Sairocarpus pusillus has sparser hairs mostly of one length with big glands on the tips. If the hairs are not clearly visible, separating the two species is more challenging, but keep in mind that S. nuttallianus is often a much larger plant, has generally paler, more lavender flowers, and is more likely the farther inland you are.
Observations which were previously identified on iNat as Antirrhinum nuttallianum without indication of subspecies were automatically switched to Sairocarpus nuttallianus which may not be the correct identification. In some cases, the identification should be changed to S. pusillus and in other cases, if the characteristics are not clear, to genus level.

lesser snapdragon on May 23, 2019 at 04:09 PM PDT by Teresa Amarillas

Our museum's chief scientist has issued an important statement in response to a grim new report on the state of the plan...
05/13/2019
San Diego Natural History Museum

Our museum's chief scientist has issued an important statement in response to a grim new report on the state of the planet.

"We need to ... recognize that the long-term survival of nature is synonymous with the long-term survival of humans."

A powerful op-ed in The San Diego Union-Tribune today by our very own Vice President of Science and Conservation Dr. Michael Wall. Read and spread the word.

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Of course you want to know what wildflowers you found in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and surrounding area. We have a great website with high-resolution photos. https://borregowildflowers.com Use our iOS or Android app as off-line field guide. https://borregowildflowers.com This app is intended for the casual flower user and experienced botanist alike. Find plants by color, common name, scientific name or family name. The app includes keys, descriptions and many photo's of plant details.
Good work, Jon, John, and Jose! And thank you National Geographic, for your support of basic field work!