Speaker Series

Everyone is welcome to attend membership meetings in the Recreation Room of the San Francisco County Fair Building (SFCFB) at 9th Avenue and Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park. The #71 and #44 buses stop at the building. The N-Judah, #6, #43, and #66 lines stop within 2 blocks.
Before our programs, we take our speakers to dinner at Chang’s Kitchen, 1030 Irving Street, between 11th and 12th Avenues. Join us for good Chinese food and interesting conversation. Meet at the restaurant at 5:30 pm. RSVP appreciated but not required. If you wish to notify, please call Jake Sigg at 415-731-3028.

February 7, 2019, THURSDAY, 7:30 PM

Forest Fire and Fungi: Losers, Winners and Strategies in the Post-fire Environment

Speaker: Tom Bruns


Fire is an integral part of our western forest ecosystems, and our native plants are well known to be adapted to a variety of fire regimes that occur in our state. But what about our native fungi? Are they too adapted to fire? In this talk we will address that question by drawing from research conducted on the 1995 Mt Vision and the 2013 Rim fires, and from smaller scale experimental studies.

The main finding is that that there is a small set of fungi that rebound rapidly after fire. These are typically fungi that were uncommon in the pre-fire forest, or that are entirely restricted to post-fire settings. Most or all of these species appear to wait in the soil as spores or other propagules for decades between fire events. The identities and roles of these fungi will be discussed.

Tom Bruns is professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. He received an MS in Botany from the University of Minnesota in 1982, where he worked on insect mycophagy in the boletes, and a PhD in Botany from the University of Michigan in 1987. His publication record includes over 180 papers primarily in the fields of fungal ecology and systematics. He is best known for his work in ectomycorrhizal systems where he has contributed to our understanding of community and population structure, spore banks, mycoheterotrophic plants, spore dispersal, and molecular method development. He has mentored 18 PhD students and 19 postdoctoral associates.

He currently teaches three courses on mycology at Berkeley and has won the Weston Teaching Award from the Mycological Society of America in 2007, as well as the Distinguished Teaching Award from the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley for his efforts. He served as president of the Mycological Society of America in 2011-2012, the president of International Mycorrhiza Society from 2015-2017, and received the Distinguished Mycologist Award in 2018 from the Mycological Society of America for his career achievements in the field. More details on his early path into mycology can be gleaned from his interview for the Oral History for Mycology:


March 7, 2019, THURSDAY, 7:30 PM

Seeing the Landscape for the Trees

Speaker: Tim Hyland

Note: This program will take place in the large auditorium in the County Fair Building.  Acoustics are less than perfect.

Humans love trees. We climb them, picnic under them, plant them in our yards, gardens, and parks. So why would someone whose job it is to protect them be busy cutting them down? Come and hear why California State Parks Environmental Scientist Tim Hyland is busy doing just that.

Our relationship with fire has also changed. Once native communities used fire as a powerful tool to manage the landscape, but for the past hundred years we have lived in fear of fire and attempted to suppress it completely. Tim Hyland will discuss how these attitudes about trees and fire present challenges for managing the diversity of the plant communities of our local State Parks; and how a longtime defender of native plants has decided that cutting down native trees is an important part of it.

Tim Hyland graduated with a BA in graphic design from Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo, which he still finds useful despite having spent the last 30 years working primarily with native plants: first as a manager of Yerba Buena Nursery, then as a volunteer pulling weeds with the Wildland Restoration Team in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and most recently as a land manager for the Santa Cruz District of California State Parks. He also served for two years as president of the Santa Cruz chapter of CNPS.

April 4, 2019, THURSDAY, 7:30 PM

Save Plants, Save the Planet, Save Ourselves:

Native plant ecosystem services and how they can fix almost everything

Speaker: Emily Brin Roberson

People who think that native plants give us beautiful wildflowers plus habitat for pollinators and other wildlife are correct. However, native plants offer much more than attractive landscapes. Native plant communities also deliver ecosystem services that are essential to the health and security of human societies and economies. In recent years, ecologists and economists have documented the enormous flow of invaluable ecosystem services from plant communities. These include food security, soil fertility, waste disposal, pest control, and human health itself.

Researchers repeatedly find that native plants offer more effective and less expensive responses to challenges, such as water storage and purification, climate change mitigation, and erosion and flood control, than traditional concrete-based approaches. Native plants even reduce the incidence of childhood asthma. Native plants are becoming more important as climate change, nonnative species, and other threats continue to destabilize our environment.

As understanding of ecosystem services expands, people around the world are conserving and restoring native plants to improve the resilience of their local communities. Philadelphia, for example, has chosen to spend $2 billion for a mosaic of native dominated wetlands to control flooding. Protected watersheds in the Catskill Mountains deliver 1.4 billion gallons of clean water each day to nearly 9 million people in New York City.

In this talk, we shall explore ecosystem services and how locally adapted native plant communities supply them. We shall also review examples of how people are using native plants to confront the increasingly severe environmental threats facing humanity.

Emily Brin Roberson is the director of the Native Plant Conservation Campaign, a national network of more than 50 native plant societies, botanic gardens, and other native plant conservation organizations. The mission of the Native Plant Conservation Campaign is to promote the conservation of native plants and their habitats through collaboration, research, education, and advocacy.  Previously, she was Senior Policy Analyst for CNPS for 11 years. She then directed the Campaign as a project of the Center for Biological Diversity before launching the Campaign as an independent organization. She holds a BS magna cum laude in plant ecology from Harvard University, an MS in soil science from UC Davis, and a PhD in soil microbial ecology from UC Berkeley. She worked as a researcher in plant and soil sciences for 10 years before joining CNPS.


May 2, 2019, THURSDAY, 5:30 - 7:30 PM

San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum - Tour of Arthur Menzies Garden of California Native Plants

Leaders: Ted Kipping and Kipp McMichael

Come join us for a discovery tour of the Menzies Garden in May. Remember to bring a bag supper and enjoy a communal dinner in the garden among the native plants and evening wildlife. We have two expert enthusiasts to make your after-dinner walks truly an enjoyable experience - so take advantage of the opportunity to ask your questions. Meet in the parking lot behind the County Fair Building before 5.30 pm. We'll be outside in the evening so bring warm layers accordingly. Please be on time, as we may have to lock the gate behind us.

June 6, 2019, THURSDAY, 7:30 PM

Mosses are from Mars, Vascular Plants are from Venus

Speaker: Brent Mishler PhD, Director of the University and Jepson Herbaria at UC Berkeley

The bryophytes are the most diverse set of land plants aside from the flowering plants.  The group includes three quite distinct lineages (i.e., mosses, hornworts, and liverworts), some familiar species frequently encountered in mesic forests and along streams, as well as a number of less familiar species of tropical rain forests, arctic tundra, and desert boulders.  The bryophytes have an ancient history; they are remnant lineages surviving today from the spectacular radiation of the land plants in the Devonian Period, some 400-450 million years ago.  Yet despite their diversity, phylogenetic importance, and key roles in the ecosystems of the world, study of many aspects of the biology of bryophytes has lagged behind that of the larger land plants, perhaps because of their small size and the few scientists specializing in them.  This talk summarizes what we do know about their biology, as an encouragement for you to get to know them better.

One might assume to start with that bryophytes are biologically like their larger cousins, just smaller versions.  But in what ways does bryophyte biology differ from that of the larger vascular plants?  The short answer: in almost every way possible!   The groups didn't evolve on different planets, but their differences could almost make you think they did.  They certainly adopted very different approaches to being a land plant on this planet.  Many aspects need much more study, but what is known about bryophyte biology suggests that in general the bryophytes differ in most ways in their genetics, physiology, ecology, and evolution from vascular plants.

Brent D. Mishler is Director of the University and Jepson Herbaria at UC Berkeley, as well as Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology, where he teaches phylogenetic systematics, plant diversity, and island biology. A native southern Californian, he worked for Los Angeles County as a ranger-naturalist at San Dimas Canyon County Park, where he became interested in natural history and especially botany. He attended California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he received his BS and MS in biology. He then received his PhD from Harvard University in 1984, and was on the faculty at Duke University for nine years before moving to UC Berkeley in 1993.