Sharing seeds of rare plants

Kipp McMichael
Wed, 12 Nov 2014 11:22:54 PST
  I am the volunteer webmaster/newsletter editor for the San Francisco chapter of the CNPS. Much like the PBS, the CNPS is a mix of many members - both reasonable, rational and realistic and not - and their policies reflect this.
  In the case of their opposition to growing rare natives, there are a few concerns there that are valid. In the past, CalTRans (in what was an admirable degree of awareness for its day) seeded the roadsides/spoilage of its construction projects with native plant seeds. A good thing, except that CalTrans acquired its seed from centralized sources that therefore offered seed of only a single regional strain. One result is that along many highways in northern California, there is a dark orange variety of bush monkey flower (Mimulus aurantiacus) that is actually only native to southern California.
  In the case of monkey flower, the dark flowers slowly fade to a normal golden as you move away from these roadsides - but some populations are in areas where monkey flower was not previously established and here you have an invasive native!
  Monkey flower is a common plant and in no danger of CalTrans' previous mistakes causing it existential harm anywhere in its range. But this kind of problem is one reason for CNPS's general opposition to growing non-local varieties in California - of which opposition to growing rarities is a more specific case. I am not compelled by this line of thinking to agree with CNPS general opposition to ex-situ cultivation of non-local plants (both rare and not) - but it isn't all motivated by bureaucratic power grabs.

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