California Native Plant Society
Mojave Desert Chapter 
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by Jim Andre

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"The mission of the California Native Plant Society is to increase understanding and appreciation of California's native plants and to conserve them and their natural habitats through education, science, advocacy, horticulture and land stewardship."

The Mojave Desert Chapter of the California Native Plant Society was established in 2000 as a splinter group of the Riverside-San Bernardino Chapter.    We have approximately 50 members who are mostly focused in the Victorville area, but some live as far as Needles, Lancaster, and Joshua Tree.  We cover one of the largest turfs of any chapter (an area roughly the size of Costa Rica), extending from Joshua Tree National Park and the transverse ranges in the south and west, to the Colorado River on the east, and north to the Inyo County Line.   The geographical diversity is astounding, with unique features including dry lakes (playas), alkali seeps, lava flow sites, sand dunes, and isolated desert mountain ranges.  Consequently, the Mojave Desert has a high plant diversity.  The Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) is endemic to the Mojave Desert.  The Mojave also boasts the oldest known organisms, the ancient clones of Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata).  The oldest known clone, King Clone, is estimated to be 11,600 years old. 

The Mojave Desert land is predominantly public and is managed by the Department of Defense, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.  These agencies offer consistent opportunities and challenges to our chapter and the environmental community to monitor and comment upon actions that have the potential to adversely affect the natural resources of the desert.  Several rare and endemic plants occur on these lands.  Edwards Air Force Base is home to the world's largest stands of Alkali Mariposa (Calochortus striatus) and Desert Cymopterus (Cymopterus deserticola).  China Lake Naval Weapons Center contains virtually the entire distribution of Clokey's Cryptantha (Cryptantha clokeyi - see side bar at left).  Fort Irwin, the U.S. Army's tank training center, has significant populations of Lane Mountain Milkvetch (Astragalus jaegerianus - see side bar at left) and Desert Cymopterus. Twenty-Nine Palms Marine Corps Training Center has 80% of the distribution of Foxtail Cactus (Escobaria vivipara var. alversonii).  The Mojave National Preserve manages the only known locations of Thorne's Buckwheat (Eriogonum ericifolium var. thornei) and Cima Milk-vetch (Astragalus cimae var. cimae).  Joshua Tree National Park manages Robison's Monardella (Monardella robisonii) and portions of the distribution of Little San Bernardino Mountains Gilia (Linanthus maculata).  The Bureau of Land Management has the majority of occurrences of Mojave Monkeyflower (Mimulus mohavensis, shown above, photo courtesy of Tim Thomas) and Barstow Woolly Daisy (Eriophyllum mohavense - see side bar at left).  The only extant location for Parish's Popcorn Flower (Plagiobothrys parishii) is on a single private parcel under San Bernardino County's planning responsibility. 

The chapter holds meetings at Victor Valley College, where there is a small registered herbarium (The A.L. Baartz Memorial Herbarium).  We are currently expanding our meeting locations to alternate between VVC and the Black Rock Nature Center at Joshua Tree and the Lewis Center for Academic Excellence in Apple Valley.  Pam MacKay, a biology instructor at VVC and a founding member of the chapter, recently authored a color photographic guide, Mojave Desert Wildflowers, that is unique in that it contains some of the rarest species to help educate the public about the rare and endemic plants of this region. 

Our chapter activities consist mainly of winter, spring and summer field trips and meetings.  We attempt to produce four newsletters per year (January, March, June, and September), and we plan to post each new edition, as well as archived newsletters, on this new website. 

Our chapter has several goals for the coming year:   ~to become more involved in local conservation issues, especially those relating to rare plants,
~to provide workshops on plant identification,
 ~to offer  field trips to study, monitor, and enjoy rare plants and other plant species,
 ~to encourage the use of drought-tolerant native plants in landscaping,
 ~to increase our membership, and to actively involve members in chapter meetings and functions.
~to arrange informative, educational speakers for meetings that promote good attendance
~to plan for CNPS involvement in programs and activities to be offered at the new Mojave Narrows Park Interpretive Center.