For the botanically inclined among our local readers — a special announcement. The updated and expanded Annotated Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Santa Cruz County, California, by Dylan Neubauer, is now available. You can purchase it for the very reasonable price of $15 at Book Shop Santa Cruz, Norrie's gift shop at the UCSC Arboretum and Native Revival Nursery in Aptos, as well as at the CNPS web site for the Santa Cruz County chapter - www.cruzcnps.com - where you can read the press release too.
Dylan is a fine local botanist with a botanist's fine attention to detail. She has devoted her life to this project for I think the last three years, and she has been studying the local flora for many years before that.
As well as a great checklist (designed to be used with Jepson for those who want more details), the book has a great introduction. Despite being mostly covered by what Dylan (and Randall Morgan, co-author of the introduction) calls "relatively monotonous redwood and mixed-evergreen forest" our fine county boasts a huge number of native species - most of them found in open non-wooded habitats that are, sad to say, mostly degraded by development, agriculture, and mining. Prime among these botanically rich habitats are sandhills and grasslands.
Dylan lists no less than 11 different types of habitat. In addition to the sandhills and grasslands, are a soda lake, maritime chaparral, ridge top chaparral, Sunset Beach SP coastal dune, North Coast bluffs and dunes, coastal prairie, ancient wetlands, mountain meadows, and "chalks," which are ridges of of decomposed mudstone.
Buy the book to learn where all these great habitats are!
Of course as a non-botanist I take umbrage at the description of redwood and mixed evergreen forest as "monotonous." I believe Randy and Dylan are being provocative here out of frustration. Botanically boring, no doubt, woodland habitats are most the ones often championed and preserved, while special places with rare endemic species are mined and built upon, by unwitting, clod hopping, bulldozer wielding non-botanists who don't realize what unique flora and fauna exist in these unusual spots — and delight the botanist.
Well it's possible to enjoy it all, of course, but only while it lasts. Sadly each description of a habitat is accompanied with depressing phrases like "Now highly reduced and degraded" and "These remnants are increasingly threatened." Sigh.
All the same, there are 1038 native plant taxa in the county, and 556 non-native naturalized species. And as far as noxious invasive weeds, the book has a handy list of those too.
It's a book to grow into, to be sure. I'm going to take it hiking, and start checking off the "boring" stuff that I actually do know!