Focus on Rarities

Learn about the many rare and beautiful native plants of the San Francisco Bay Area through this series of informative and well written articles.

Purple Needlegrass (Nassella pulchra)

By Michael Wood

(Note: legislation was signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger Aug.23, 2004 recognizing purple needlegrass as the official State Grass of California.) As promised (or threatened, depending on […]

Pacific reedgrass (Calamagrostis nutkaensis)

By Michael Wood

I was reading two excellent articles about native grasslands in the April issue of Bay Nature magazine, when it dawned on me! In nearly 11 […]

Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia californica)

By Michael Wood

An interesting and not-so-obvious native vine is Dutchman’s pipe. Also called California pipevine, this species is most recognizable by its one- to six-inch long, heart-shaped, […]

Skunkweed (Navarretia squarrosa)

By Michael Wood

Anyone who has ever hiked with a botanist has probably been witness to the peculiar ritual of picking small pieces of plants, rubbing them between […]

Yerba Buena (Satureja douglasii)

By Michael Wood

As a departure from the usual theme of this column, I’m writing today about a plant that is neither restricted in its distribution nor at […]

Michael’s rein orchid (Piperia michaelii)

By Jake Sigg

About ten years ago our chapter Rare Plants Committee did an extensive but vain search for Piperia michaelii, Michael’s rein orchid, on Brotherhood Way, a […]

Coastal dune scrub

By Michael Wood

I’ve just returned from a spring break jaunt to one of my favorite places in California – the coastal dunes of central California. While attending […]

Stinging Phacelia (Phacelia malvifolia)

By Michael Wood

Stinging phacelia is a member of the water leaf family (Hydrophyllaceae). The family name is derived from the Greek words hydro (water)and phyllon (leaf). The […]

Rare Plant Species Rediscovered in Presidio

By Michael Wood

Author: Michael Chasse & Marie Fontaine & Emily Magnaghi During the past few years, some interesting plant species have been rediscovered in the Presidio’s natural […]

California Broom-Rape (Orobanche californica)

By Michael Wood

Here’s an obscure little group of plants with which you might not be familiar. The Orobanchaceae is a family of flowering plants (dicots) consisting entirely […]

Spreading Wood Fern (Dryopteris expansa)

By Michael Wood

There is something about ferns that is naturally soothing to the human eye. Long popular with houseplant enthusiasts, ferns seem to radiate tranquillity. Whether it […]

Fiesta Flower (Pholistoma auritum var. auritum)

By Michael Wood

Continuing our exploration of local rarities, there is one species that was, until recently, thought to have completely vanished from San Francisco County. Fiesta flower, […]

California Croton (Croton californicus)

By Michael Wood

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), which was signed by President Nixon in 1973, was a much more robust piece of legislation than any of its […]

Endemism in the California flora, Part II

By Michael Wood

To understand how geology affects biology one needs first to consider the forces that influence the edaphic environment. Jenny (1941, 1980) described soil formation as […]

Endemism in the California flora, Part I

By Michael Wood

A couple of issues ago I wrote about some of the concepts of rarity in plants. One of the most fascinating aspects of California botany […]

Alkali Milk Vetch (Astragalus tener var.tener)

By Michael Wood

Along with the sunflower (Asteraceae) and the grass (Poaceae) families, the legume family (Fabaceae-also called Leguminosae) ranks among the most species-rich families of flowering plants, […]

Meanings Of Rarity Part II

By Michael Wood

Continuing our discussion of the meanings and causes of rarity in plants, I’d like to briefly explore some of the historical concepts of rarity. Especially […]

Meanings Of Rarity Part I

By Michael Wood

Since writing my first article for the Yerba Buena Chapter newsletter in 1994, I’ve focused primarily on the individual taxa – extant, extirpated, or extinct […]

Beach Layia (Layia carnosa)

By Michael Wood

The sunflower family (Asteraceae, also known as Compositae) is the largest family of dicots, consisting of some 1,300 genera and 21,000 species worldwide. It is […]

Checker Mallow (Sidalcea malvaeflora)

By Michael Wood

It’s the dawning of a new millennium. What better New Year’s resolution than to get out of the confines of our walled environments and tantalize […]