Expanding Herbaria Access

In September 2012, Professor Lucinda McDade, Judith B. Friend Director of Research at RSABG (and as of July 2013, Executive Director), received a supplement of approximately $50,000 to the current RSABG grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to digitize and georeference data from about a quarter of a million herbarium specimens of California plants.

The supplement will support the full participation of the herbaria of UCLA and California State University, Sacramento, in the NSF-supported project and in the California Consortium of Herbaria (CCH). The consortium is a collaboration of 22 California herbaria as well as the New York Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. It acts as a gateway to information for scientifically verified, vouchered information about California plants. The grant supplement will support databasing of about 30,000 specimens held at these two herbaria. The records will be available online to plant scientists from around the world, as well as to the public, via the CCH’s website.

Graduate Student News

New graduates students join botany cohort with Fall 2012 semester and one student completes her Ph.D.

This fall semester, which began September 4, members of the graduate program welcomed four new students to the Claremont Graduate University Department of Botany at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. Congratulations to Saeideh Mashayekhi, the newest CGU alumna in botany.

New to the Library Shelves

The RSABG Library regularly acquires new resources that compliment and enhance the collection. Whether we purchase material, receive gifts, donations or exchange with other botanical institutions, the RSABG collections continue to grow.

The public is welcome to visit the library to use the collections and many reference materials. Please contact Irene Holiman, either by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone, (909) 625-8767 ext. 210, for more information or to make an appointment to use the collection.

Library hours: Monday through Friday 9 a.m. until 12 p.m., 1 until 4 p.m.

Read more about the RSABG Library.



The Garden Fund 2011-12

Thank you to all of our supporters who helped The Garden Fund 2011-2012 end its inaugural year with $450,000 in donations from individuals like you!

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden enjoyed an outpouring of generosity that will make a real difference in every aspect of the RSABG experience, from educational opportunities for young people to support for the maintenance and growth of our Claremont and Los Angeles nursery sites.

Participation in The Garden Fund is vital to the success of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden’s mission. A special note of gratitude goes out to the RSABG Board of Trustees and Overseers who achieved 100 percent participation in The Garden Fund this year.

The Garden Fund for 2012-13 is now underway. With your continued support, we look forward to preserving, protecting and propagating California native plants for their natural beauty and for the well-being of our planet.

Help the Garden Grow

Support The Garden Fund 2012-2013! We are grateful to the volunteers, members, and friends who provide generous financial support throughout the year to help RSABG continue to flourish. To make your gift today, call (909) 625-8767 ext. 221 or visit The Garden Fund for 2012-13.

With your continued support, we look forward to preserving, protecting and propagating California native plants for their natural beauty and for the well-being of our planet.

The Development Office welcomes your questions and comments about Membership and The Garden Fund, please call us at (909) 625-8767 ext. 222, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

When They Were Wild

by Bart O’Brien O’Brien, RSABG director of special projects and co-curator of When They Were Wild

This article first appeared in the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden membership newsletter Garden Variety, Winter 2013

Check out a round up of related events here


California’s rich plant life has captured the imagination of horticulturists, scientists and artists for more than a century.

A collaborative project of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens and Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants, When They Were Wild interprets the unique diversity of the California flora from its origins to its current popularity.

This diversity has been depicted by talented artists who were also amateur naturalists, including Alice Brown Chittenden, Clara Mason Fox and James Milford Zornes. Illustrations by these and other artists, complemented by herbarium collections (museum specimens of dried plants), publications and ephemera, depict an era when many of these species passed from growing wild into domestication.

Some 200 items in the exhibition from the three collaborating institutions and from a number of other public and private collections tell the story of the iconic beauty of California plants and share the botanical, ecological and horticultural nature of native flowers.

Over the past three years, I have gathered and cataloged RSABG’s holdings that will be part of the exhibit and/or part of the extensive online resources for the exhibit. Irene Holiman, RSABG’s library specialist, and two Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Interns, Jessica Torres in 2012 and Jessica Dewberry in 2010, have been immensely helpful. Torres and Dewberry were indispensable in researching and writing up the artists’ biographies as well as scanning a wide array of paintings and documents.

The exhibit will be organized around several themes: a brief introduction to the biological setting of California; the discovery, describing, cataloging and depiction of California wildflowers; the science and horticulture of California wildflowers and a gallery featuring dozens of images that we’ve nicknamed “the garden.”

Many of these artists portrayed dozens to hundreds of California wildflowers. These works illustrate remarkable stories of beautiful plants. These stories are the stuff of legends; they meld scientific discovery and horticulture.

On display will be RSABG’s first edition copy of the original published image of the first California native plant to flower in cultivation in Europe: beach sand verbena (Abronia umbellata). This California wildflower was described and published by Jean Baptiste Lamarck in 1791 in his landmark 21-volume treatise, Tableau Encyclopedique et Methodique des Trois Regnes de la Nature.

As with many early images of California’s flora, this one has quite a backstory. The seeds of the plant were collected in Monterey in September of 1786, by Jean-Nicholas Collignon of the La Pérouse Expedition. This French expedition’s two ships, L’Astrolabe and La Boussole, carried the first non-Spanish European explorers to reach California’s shores since Sir Francis Drake’s landing in 1579. From California, the expedition crossed the Pacific and landed in Macao, and then traveled north until they reached Petropavlovsk on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula on September 7, 1787.

The expedition departed from Petropavlovsk on September 30, 1787, but left Jean Baptiste Barthélemy de Lesseps to carry the expedition’s materials overland in order to report to the French Ambassador in St. Petersburg.

It took de Lesseps an entire year to reach St. Petersburg. From there, he traveled to Paris arriving on October 17, 1788. The La Pérouse Expedition was subsequently lost and was never seen again, leaving de Lesseps the only survivor.

Interestingly, the botanist Jean Baptiste Lamarck writes that the beach sand verbena had been growing in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris since 1788. In my research, I have not been able to ascertain whether the seeds were sown and germinated in 1788 (highly likely) or whether they were blooming in 1788 (highly unlikely, given the time frame). In any event, it is clear that this sand verbena is the first known California native plant to be grown from seed to flowering in Europe.

BGCI Staff Hosted by RSABG

Abby Hird, Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) U.S. research associate and project manager, has set up a new office at RSABG. She recently moved from Boston, where she was hosted by the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University for the past three years. Andrea Kramer, BGCI U.S. executive director, said, "BGCI and its global network will no doubt benefit from the closer connection to Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and we are grateful for their dedicated support as members of BGCI."

Hird is looking forward to working with RSABG staff and researchers and being activitly involved with the organization's world-class conservation programs. For 2013, she is continuing to continue developing BGCI's data services, and other major BGCI U.S. efforts such as the Care for the Rare interpretation project (read more about Care for the Rare here), carried out in collaboration with the United States Botanic Garden.

Where They Grow Wild

Beautiful California Wildflowers!

March 9 – July 8, 2013 (both Where They Grow Wild and When They Were Wild have been extended!)
Gallery open: Friday – Sunday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m
Opening reception: Saturday, March 9, 11 a.m.

"Where They Grow Wild" is an exclusive display of original artworks from RSABG’s archival collections complementing the “When They Were Wild” collaborative exhibition with The Huntington, Theodore Payne Foundation and Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

Join us at the opening reception for complimentary light refreshments, guided tours of the RSABG library's "Wild in Print" collection and guided tours of the "Where They Grow Wild" exhibit at RSABG.

Special thanks to exhibition sponsors Randall and Janell Lewis.

Read more about the "When They Were Wild" in Bart O'Brien's article.


Related Events

Some events listed below are open to Gold Card and Director's Circle members only. Read about RSABG membership levels here.

 Related events at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Calif.

March 9 – July 8, 2013
“When They Were Wild: Recapturing California’s Wildflower Heritage” at The Huntington
Free with RSABG membership.
A collaborative project of The Huntington, Theodore Payne Foundation and Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. Special Membership Benefit-RSABG members may visit The Huntington at no charge through the duration of this special exhibition with a valid RSABG membership card.

Friday, March 8, 1 - 4 p.m.
RSABG Members Exhibition Preview
RSABG members can join The Huntington members in special exhibition preview at the Boone Gallery of the "When They Were Wild." Free admission to The Huntington.

Fri., March 8, 6 - 8 p.m.
Gold Card Member Exhibition Preview
RSABG Gold Card members are invited to join The Huntington donors for an exhibition preview and reception. This is an exclusive event for RSABG Gold Card members, reservation are required. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

Sun., March 17, 5 - 9 p.m.
When They Were Wild Director’s Circle Dinner and Exhibition Tour
Dinner and behind-the-scenes tour of the “When They Were Wild” art exhibit with Bart O'Brien, co-curator. By invitation only. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

Related events at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

March 9 – July 8
“Where They Grow Wild”
Gallery open Friday - Sunday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Free with Garden admission or membership.
An exclusive display of original artworks from RSABG’s archival collections.

March 9 – July 8
“Wild in Print”
Library display open Mon. – Fri., 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Free with Garden admission or membership.
Reproductions of beautiful book illustrations of California wildflowers from the RSABG library collections.

March 23 – June 9, Sat. and Sun., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Weekend Wildflower Walks
Free with Garden admission or membership.
Wildflower Walks around Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
Guided walking tours with RSABG nature interpreters featuring beautiful California wildflowers and seasonal highlights.

March 30, 31 and April 1, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Wildflower Show
Free with Garden admission or membership.
Free admission for visitors over 65 on Monday, April 1.
Special exhibition of wildflowers from across the region brought indoors for an intimate viewing. Monday, April 1, Wildflower Show Senior Day - free Garden admission and tram tours on April 1 for visitors over 65.

Sun., April 7, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Blooms and Beauty of Bighorn Mountain
RSABG members $65, public $95
This outing will highlight a rare transition zone between the local mountains and the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. This outing has reached enrollment capacity. Please look for similar events in the future.

Saturday, April 20, 1 p.m.
Lorraine Passero: “Clara Mason Fox: Pioneer, Painter, and Poet of Orange County, California”
California Author Series Talk and Book Signing
Free with Garden admission or membership.
Lorraine Passero delves into the life of Clara Mason Fox, whose illustration “Eschscholzia californica, Silverado Canyon,” was selected to represent the “When They Were Wild” exhibition. Register online here.

Sunday, April 21 and Saturday, May 11
Bart O'Brien: “California Wildflowers and Early California Nurseries”
Sun., April 21, 1 p.m., at Grow Native Nursery in the Veterans Garden 100 Davis Ave., Los Angeles
Sat., May 11, 1 p.m., at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
Free with Garden admission or membership.
Bart O’Brien discusses the unusual journey that California’s native wildflowers took into our gardens. Register online here.

Rare Plant Treasure Hunt

by Duncan Bell
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden Field Botanist

Several years ago Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (RSABG) teamed up with the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) through a contract grant from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Department of Fish and Wildlife to do rare plant surveys across California deserts as part of the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt (RPTH) program. Last year marked the third year for RPTH, a program created and named by Josie Crowford of CNPS.

It is largely a citizen-science program with the goal of getting volunteers out in the field to experience California wild places and assist in rare plant surveys. These surveys largely target rare plant populations that haven’t been revisited in more than 20 years in order to evaluate the current status of these populations.

Many people may be under the impression that the desert is nothing rocks, lizards and an occasional spiny plant—an open wasteland to be crossed to get to Las Vegas or Lake Havasu. But California deserts hold more than 35 percent of the flora of California and have some of the areas of highest diversity for the state. There are many botanically unexplored mountain ranges and valleys out there. In 2012 alone, there were five plant species found in California deserts new to science described by RSABG scientists and researchers.

The Rare Plant Treasure Hunt program largely focuses on the California deserts often associated with the development of renewable energy projects. There are currently thousands of acres proposed for possible development, of which a great deal has had little botanical exploration.

It is the goal of the RPTH program to get volunteers out to these places to experience them first hand and to educate others on California’s diverse flora and the importance of its conservation.

Volunteers from the Sierra Club, the Desert Survivors Organizations, HabitatWorks, The Wildlands Conservancy, CNPS chapters and subchapters from across California have often participated with Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt. But many volunteers were not affiliated with any particular organization, but were just interested in joining the group to explore and learn about the desert and to have a personal experience with these wild places while doing so.

The spring field season in 2012 was one of the driest years on record for the California deserts; most areas got only 0.01 millimeters of rain or absolutely no rain at all. Watching the doppler in the winter of 2011-12 was often like watching a blank screen as there was so little weather action. Watching the weather stations and dopplers frequently helps plant scientists predict which areas may have germination or bloom. But even in dry years, the desert rarely disappoints and almost every area visited had at least one rare plant population if not dozens.

The summer field season seemed to the opposite as some parts of the California deserts received the most summer rain they have received in more than a decade. The eastern Mojave in particular had an amazing summer bloom and RSABG/RPTH participants were able to document around 100 rare plant populations on just a few trips.

A total of 24 trips were made in 2012. These trips ranged from day trips to three-day excursions into very remote places. We started in March at below sea level around the Salton Sea, topped out on Southern California’s highest peak on Mount San Gorgonio at 11,500 feet in July, and then headed back down to the lower elevations following the summer monsoonal storms in September. We documented around 300 rare plant populations. Many of these were newly documented. We trekked into the Panamint Mountains and found the type locality of the Panamint daisy (Enceliopsis covillei), which is the plant that has always adorned, and will continue to adorn, the CNPS logo; this population had not been revisited since Frederick Coville made the first collection of this plant in 1891 on the Death Valley expedition. The new species was later named for him. We found the first population of Abrams spurge (Chamaesyce abramsiana) in Imperial County in 100 years; all historic populations from Imperial County are likely extirpated due to development and agriculture. We documented many range extensions of rare plants, locating populations where they had never been found before. We provided information that aided in the evaluation of plant species for the CNPS inventory, including information about its abundance (or lack thereof!) in California and about threats to historic occurrences of a given species. We had many wonderful treks into some amazing places and spent many nights under star filled skies. All in all, it was a very successful and productive year.

If you would like to learn more about the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt program please visit the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt Website.

Great Backyard Bird Count

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden 2013 Family Bird Fest results have been tabulated and submitted!

These results were recorded during Family Bird Fest on Feb. 17, 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden volunteers, staff and visitors and Pomona Valley Audubon Society members helped gather the data. More information about the Great Backyard Bird Count can be found here.

Total species: 41

Canada Goose 30 (flying overhead)
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cooper's Hawk 4
Red-shouldered Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 3
Rock Pigeon 2
Band-tailed Pigeon 17
Mourning Dove 39
Anna's Hummingbird 43
Rufous Hummingbird 2
Allen's Hummingbird 3
Acorn Woodpecker 9
Nuttall's Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 7
Black Phoebe 13
Cassin's Kingbird 1
Steller's Jay 1
Western Scrub-Jay 57
American Crow 7
Mountain Chickadee 4
Oak Titmouse 6
Bushtit 21
Bewick's Wren 13
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4
Wrentit 8
Hermit Thrush 2
Northern Mockingbird 3
California Thrasher 10
Phainopepla 4
Yellow-rumped Warbler 15
Spotted Towhee 27
California Towhee 46
Chipping Sparrow 23
Song Sparrow 3
Lincoln's Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 14
Dark-eyed Junco 34
House Finch 28
Lesser Goldfinch 26
American Goldfinch 4

Spring Hours at Grow Native Nursery

Spring Hours at Grow Native Nursery
February through May

Grow Native Nursery Claremont
Wednesday through Saturday 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Grow Native Nursery in the Veterans Garden
Wednesday through Saturday 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Read more about Grow Native Nursery, a nonprofit nursery open to the public dedicated to California native plants.

More Articles...

  1. Morawetz Orobanchaceae Research Updates
  2. Plant Quest
  3. McDade Featured Speaker at Biodiversity Conference
  4. Recent Research Publications
  5. RSABG in Center for Plant Conservation Publication
  6. GNN in the Veterans Garden
  7. Dudleya
  8. Becoming a Nature Interpreter
  9. Matching Gift Challenge Met
  10. Volunteer at the Garden
  11. Fall Planting Tips
  12. Undergrad Reseach Workshop
  13. RSABG’s oak collection ranked 28th in the world
  14. Seed Processing Manual goes to 2nd printing
  15. New Trustee and Overseers
  16. Lerback Appointed Director of Development
  17. Native artisan baskets and pottery
  18. RSABG co-hosts 2010 National Children and Youth Garden Symposium
  19. June 2010 Reductions in Force
  20. Claremont High School students show off research at RSABG
  21. Green Tips for Earth Day
  22. RSABG chosen Best of LA 2010
  23. Rare Plant Treasure Hunt
  24. World travelers: RSABG botanists
  25. Botany Students Land Research Grants
  26. Fraga Awarded 2010 Switzer Fellowship
  27. Rare Botanical Folk Art Revealed
  28. Curating the plant specimens of the Thorne collection
  29. Seeds of Success
  30. New articles by Professor Prince
  31. RSABG Research Welcomes Visiting Scholars
  32. Sorting out the Ruellieae Family Tree
  33. 'Reimagining the California Lawn'
  34. Claremont Unified School Board honors RSABG
  35. 2011 Volunteer Service Awards
  36. Columbus Advances to Professor of Botany
  37. Growing Green Jobs with Ahmanson Grant
  38. BCM Foundation Grant Helps Kids Get Outdoor Education
  39. RSABG Scientists at 2011 Botany Conference
  40. Solarization of Fay's Wildflower Meadow
  41. Make Room for Wildlife
  42. Botany Students Earn Grants
  43. Botanist Recognized for Outstanding Scientific Presentation
  44. Mapping the Garden
  45. Native Landscapes: The Albrigos
  46. California Native Plants: Poodle-dog Bush
  47. Garden Helps Prepare Job Seekers for Green Horticulture Jobs
  48. Lenz Sculpture Collection
  49. Library Page Turning
  50. RSABG Hosts Invasive Plants and Pathogen Workshop
  51. Post-Doc Earns National Geographic Society Grant
  52. A Manzanita Lost and Found
  53. Searching for the Plant Families
  54. Two New DIGG Awards
  55. Botanists Travel Briefs
  56. Plant Safari
  57. CPC Annual Meeting 2012
  58. LaFleur to Direct Horticulture at the Garden
  59. New Student Grants and Visiting Scientists
  60. Help the Garden Grow
  61. David Rogers' Big Bugs
  62. Horticulture and Propagation of Native Plants at the Garden
  63. The Mediterranean City Conference 2012
  64. USFWS 2011 Recovery Champion
  65. Wall Awarded Important Conservation Award
  66. Volunteer in Angeles National Forest
  67. Botanizing Around the Globe
  68. Become a Fan of Getting Native
  69. Bumper Crop of Interns at the Garden
  70. Porter and Morawetz NSF Grant Awards