Navigation Links
California's wildflowers are disappearing, new book by UCR ecologist cautions

RIVERSIDE, Calif. At least since the late 18th century, invasive plant species introduced by humans have devastated California's botanical heritage by destroying native flora, resulting in bad pastures and posing a fire hazard, a new book by a UC Riverside ecologist explains.

"We need to recognize that California was not at all grasslands in the past," said Richard Minnich, the author of California's Fading Wildflowers, published this month by the University of California Press. "In the late eighteenth century, land all the way from San Francisco to San Diego was carpeted by wildflower pastures. Today these pastures have vanished, with brome grass taking their place."

Minnich's book gives a detailed account of how California's flora has changed since the arrival of Spanish explorers in the state in the 18th century. It explains in detail how the landscape of Hispanic California, the southern two-thirds of the state, was steadily transformed by humans.

"This book is an incredibly rich synthesis of history, plant geography, and landscape ecology, which its author uses to describe a place coastal and interior California that experienced in the past 200 years one of the most complete human-caused landscape transformations in the world," said Michael Barbour, a professor emeritus of plant sciences at UC Davis.

From entries about California's vegetation recorded by Franciscan missionaries and soldiers (1769-1776), Minnich determined that the landscape was covered with wildflower fields in the late 18th century, and that these pastures thrived especially well along the coast.

He reports in the book on how during the Gold Rush in the middle of the 19th century (1840 to 1880) non-Hispanic Europeans American, French and British explorers introduced European plants such as clovers, filerie, black mustard and wild oats that initiated the alteration of California's landscape.

"These non-native plants invaded the state's coastal areas," said Minnich, a professor of geography in the Department of Earth Sciences. "But inland, the natives continued to thrive and wildflowers continued to grow."

But then, from 1880 until the present, bromes, a new suite of invaders, took hold and spread rapidly in California, Minnich argues. "Newspaper articles and books from this period report that the bromes exploded throughout the state," he said. "Unlike the plants the Franciscans introduced, these bromes spread into the interior of California and replaced the wildflowers there."

His research for the book helped him determine that the bromes replaced the wildflowers in Los Angeles in the 1940s; in Riverside, Calif., in 1965; in southern San Joaquin Valley in the mid-1960s; and throughout the deserts of California in the 1970s and 1980s.

"California was a flower pasture once but in the past fifty years the flowers made their final collapse right in front of our eyes," he said. "Today, the wildflower situation in the state is bad. You hardly see them, and, when you do, they appear in patches here and there, not as meadows that once characterized the state."

According to Minnich, California wildflowers are also a "lost legacy." He argues that wildflowers were appreciated by the generations of the late 19th century: they were the topic of books and were institutionalized in floral societies that sprung up in all the local towns and weekend flower parties.

"The New Year's Rose Parade in Pasadena was the institutional outcome of the combined forces of southern California's floral societies," he said. "Indeed, a parade requirement to this day is that the floats must be entirely covered with flowers. But even this heritage has withered as the Rose Parade has lost sight of its historical baseline. As Los Angeles grew to cosmopolitan status, people became detached from the neighboring landscape. The long-believed bunchgrass theory, and its conversion to exotic grassland through overgrazing, encouraged people to take for granted the rapidly fading wildflower heritage."

Minnich emphasizes the need for California's policymakers to keep a big picture of the state in mind. "We need to go back to the landscape scale to understand how this land behaves. Our wildflowers are disappearing over time, and it is critical that we do whatever we can planned burnings at the broad scale, bringing in biological control to rid the land of bromes to restore the landscape and preserve our flower heritage."


Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
University of California - Riverside

Related biology news :

1. Ecologist finds dire devastation of snake species following floods of 93, 95
2. Ecologists discover city is uber-forest for big owls
3. Ecologists, material scientists pursue genetics of diatoms elegant, etched casing
4. Ecologists tease out private lives of plants and their pollinators
5. Research cautions to catch-and-release in less than 4 minutes
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
California's wildflowers are disappearing, new book by UCR ecologist cautions
(Date:6/2/2016)... The Department of Transport Management (DOTM) ... million US Dollar project, for the , Supply ... Enrolment, and IT Infrastructure , to ... implementation of Identity Management Solutions. Numerous renowned international vendors participated ... was selected for the most compliant and innovative ...
(Date:5/24/2016)... Ampronix facilitates superior patient care by providing unparalleled technology to leaders of ... the latest premium product recently added to the range of products distributed by Ampronix. ... ... ... Medical Display- Ampronix News ...
(Date:5/9/2016)... UAE, May 9, 2016 Elevay ... comes to expanding freedom for high net worth professionals ... in today,s globally connected world, there is still no ... could ever duplicate sealing your deal with a firm ... passports by taking advantage of citizenship via investment programs ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... , ... June 27, 2016 , ... ... for Amgen, will join the faculty of the University of North Carolina ... professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at UNC Kenan-Flagler, with a focus on the ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... BOSTON , June 27, 2016   Ginkgo ... biology to industrial engineering, was today awarded as ... a selection of the world,s most innovative companies. ... at scale for the real world in the ... organism engineers work directly with customers including Fortune ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... SAN DIEGO , June 24, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... that more sensitively detects cancers susceptible to PARP ... individual circulating tumor cells (CTCs). The new test ... of HRD-targeted therapeutics in multiple cancer types. ... therapies targeting DNA damage response pathways, including PARP, ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... 24, 2016 , ... Researchers at the Universita Politecnica delle Marche in Ancona ... or pleural mesothelioma. Their findings are the subject of a new article on the ... are signposts in the blood, lung fluid or tissue of mesothelioma patients that can ...
Breaking Biology Technology: