Recent Research Publications

The newest issue of RSABG’s scientific publication Aliso: A Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany was published April 2014.

Past Issues

Aliso Volume 30 issue (September 2012) features peer-reviewed articles authored by graduates of the botany program (Victor Steinmann, Ph.D. (CGU Class of 2001), director of the Instituto de Ecología in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico, wrote about Euphorbia, and an article on monkeyflowers (formerly Mimulus, now Erythranthe) from Naomi Fraga, M.S. (CGU Class of 2005) and CGU Ph.D. candidate, and a RSABG conservation botanist.

Fraga N.S. 2012. A Revision of Erythranthe montioides and Erythranthe palmeri (Phrymaceae), with descriptions of five species of monkeyflowers from California and Nevada, USA. Aliso 30: 49-68. Read more.

Other articles contributed by RSABG research associates include: Jim André, director of the Granite Mountains Desert Research Center, University of California, Riverside, Kelso, CA, and Rudolf Schmid, professor emeritus, Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley (coauthored with his daughter Mena Schmid). Sherwin Carlquist, professor emeritus of botany, Claremont Graduate University and Pomona College, presents new findings on wood anatomy.

The Garden Fund

Thank you to all of our supporters who donated to The Garden Fund this year! The Garden Fund for 2013-14 is almost over for the fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2014. To have your name listed on our Garden Fund Honor Roll in "Garden Variety", please inform the Development Office of your gift by June 30, 2014.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden has 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 West Los Angeles nursery sites.

Participation in The Garden Fund is vital to the success of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden’s mission. 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.

GNN in the Veterans Garden

Veteran Training Program

The West Los Angeles nursery enables Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden to help train veterans on the propagation, care and maintenance of California native plants and offer beautiful native plants to L.A. gardeners.The 12-acre garden and nursery, located on the grounds of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VAGLAHS) was established in 1989 as part of the VA’s Horticulture Therapy Program, a work therapy program to assist veterans making the transition back to civilian employment.

Grow Native Nursery in the Veterans Garden staff collaborates with the VAGLAHS to train veterans on the propagation, care and maintenance of California native plants and offers nursery sales to the public. The site has historically been known as the Veterans Garden and has served veterans over the years through a variety of projects such as growing micro-greens for local restaurants and cut flowers for local florists.

Working with the VA’s Compensated Work Therapy Program (CWT), Grow Native Nursery offers a new focus on native flora of the state as well as sustainable landscaping and gardening practices. Vets completing the program will have a competitive edge in the job market as they compete for green and environmental jobs.

The nursery expands RSABG outreach to make California native plants more available to home gardeners, landscape contractors in the San Fernando Valley and the coastal cities. It also enables us to be able to propagate native plants that thrive in coastal conditions.

More information about Grow Native Nursery in the Veterans Garden

Seeds of Success

The Seeds of Success (SOS) team at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden has been responsible for greatly expanding international seed bank holdings from the Mojave and Sonoran deserts.

A recent expedition to a collection site on the Pacific Crest Trail is rewarded with a copious yield of the shrub saltbrush (Atriplex canescens). The four-wing saltbrush codominates desert plant communities in Southern California and is a food source for the desert tortoise. The saltbrush seed collection will ultimately help build an ample national and international seed bank to maintain and restore resilient native plant communities after environmental damage such as fire or urban development.

Library Page Turning

A Real Page Turner

New event highlights rare books held in Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden’s library special collections.

We will be celebrating special occasions or visits of honored guests with the ceremonial page turning of great books such as Redouté’s Les Roses

Visitors can come into the library to see the current selection of prized rare book holdings. Please inquire at the California Garden Shop next time you visit the Garden to see a sample of special volumes in the RSABG collection and the informative display created by RSABG staff and volunteers.


Plant Quest

Introducing PlantQuest

Keeping traditional landscapes healthy in Southern California uses up to 70 percent of our potable water, requires gross amounts of pesticides and fertilizers, and produces countless emissions from maintenance equipment and contributes to some of the planet’s worst air quality. But there is a better way! By choosing the right plants for the right place, we can create truly sustainable landscapes—landscapes that thrive on little or no supplemental water and little, if any, fertilizers or pesticides. Best yet, sustainable landscapes rarely need to be hedged, edged or mowed and that saves us all both time and money.

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.



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.

More Articles...

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