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California’s Fading Wildflowers

California’s Fading Wildflowers: Lost Legacy and Biological Invasions

Richard A. Minnich
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    California’s Fading Wildflowers
    Book Description:

    Early Spanish explorers in the late eighteenth century found springtime California covered with spectacular carpets of wildflowers from San Francisco to San Diego. Yet today, invading plant species have devastated this nearly forgotten botanical heritage. In this lively, vividly detailed work, Richard A. Minnich synthesizes a unique and wide-ranging array of sources—from the historic accounts of those early explorers to the writings of early American botanists in the nineteenth century, newspaper accounts in the twentieth century, and modern ecological theory—to give the most comprehensive historical analysis available of the dramatic transformation of California's wildflower prairies. At the same time, his groundbreaking book challenges much current thinking on the subject, critically evaluating the hypothesis that perennial bunchgrasses were once a dominant feature of California's landscape and instead arguing that wildflowers filled this role. As he examines the changes in the state's landscape over the past three centuries, Minnich brings new perspectives to topics including restoration ecology, conservation, and fire management in a book that will change our of view of native California.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93433-7
    Subjects: Botany & Plant Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. CHAPTER 1 The Golden State
    (pp. 1-8)

    California is historically and metaphorically symbolized as the “Golden State” in tribute to the gold rush of 1849, but for many living in the state gold is also a reminder of its sunny Mediterranean climate, or perhaps the Golden Gate Bridge. The ‘Washington’ navel orange was “licluid gold” from which fabulous wealth was created in the late nineteenth century.

    The coastal plains and valleys were also once golden with fields of brilliant wildflowers, highlighted by the stunning California poppy (Eschrcholzia californica), as well as goldfields (Lastheniaspp.) that created bright yellow rugs. California hillsides also hosted a rainbow of other...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Pre-Hispanic Herbaceous Vegetation
    (pp. 9-65)

    An investigation into the transformation of the herbaceous vegetation of California must begin by asking a simple question: what was the aboriginal herbaceous cover, i.e., what was displaced by modern exotic annual grasslands? The Spanish expeditions are the only eyewitness written accounts of California before the expansion of introduced species from Mediterranean Europe. The ocean voyages of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in 1542 and Sebastián Vizcaíno 1602-03 (Bolton 1916) were focused on discovery of a new continent and mapping coastal landmarks. Since the vessels were mostly out at sea, the explorers provided only limited information about the vegetation. Hence, the vegetation...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Invasion of Franciscan Annuals, Grazing, and California Pasture in the Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 66-182)

    The deliberate introduction of European annual grasses and forbs by the Franciscan missionaries began an extraordinary transformation of the California herbaceous flora, which is an ongoing process. In explaining the transformation to modern exotic annual grassland, the scientific community is still at the first step: detailing the history of Invasions and associated change In California pastures. As it stands, there is disagreement on when individual species arrived and how they expanded geographically across the state. Differences in the Invaders’ habitat preferences are seldom appreciated. The observations of John Muir and August Bernard Duhaut-Cilly illustrate the complexities of species invaasions. Muir...

  9. CHAPTER 4 A Century of Bromes and the Fading of California Wildflowers
    (pp. 183-258)

    The pinnacle for southern California wildflower lovers at the turn of the twentieth century was the famous poppy field of San Pasqual, the mesa that now hosts the suburbs of Pasadena and Altadena. Citizens of Los Angeles annually visited this landmark by rail every spring from the early 1880s to 1920. The mesa flowers may have been the inspiration of Charles Fredrick Holder’s proposal to hold the now-famous Rose Parade in 1890. While oat and black mustard pastures grew along the coast, wildflower fields still covered interior California well into the twentieth century. Many Los Angeles suburbs celebrated annual flower...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Lessons from the Rose Parade
    (pp. 259-264)

    Saunder’s praise of the California poppy is truly historic, as this flower—that formed brilliant carpets throughout the state only two centuries ago, and annually drew weekend tourist crowds to the valleys and deserts only a half century ago—is so rare that Governor Reagan in 1972 began an initiative to set up a poppy reserve that eventually came to pass in the Antelope Valley. The near demise of thecopa de oroand its floral compatriots was not only the product of land clearing, but also of displacement by invasive European annuals, transforming nearly all of California’s landscape, plowed...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 265-276)
  12. APPENDIX 1. Location of Franciscan campsites, Franciscan place names, and modern place names
    (pp. 277-297)
  13. APPENDIX 2. Spanish plant names for California vegetation
    (pp. 298-302)
  14. APPENDIX 3. Selected earliest botanical collections of exotic annual species in California
    (pp. 303-317)
  15. APPENDIX 4. References to wildflowers in the Los Angeles Times, The Desert Magazine, and the Riverside Press Enterprise (year ending, July to June)
    (pp. 318-322)
  16. References
    (pp. 323-336)
  17. Index
    (pp. 337-344)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 345-346)