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California's wildflowers are disappearing, new book by UCR ecologist cautions
Date:6/18/2008

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
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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