San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature Connection[San Diego Natural History Museum: San Diego County Plant Atlas]

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Owl's Clover (Castilleja exserta ssp. exserta) photo by Brian Lohstroh

Parabotanist Manager:
Jeannie Gregory

Botany Department
P.O. Box 121390
San Diego, CA 92112-1390
fax: 619.232.0248

The Botany Department of the Museum is spear-heading an exciting new research project focused on scientifically documenting the floristic diversity of San Diego County. The San Diego County Plant Atlas Project came to life in 2002, when a group of interested professional biologists and land managers met to discuss the need to work together to build on current botanical collections and study the county's flora in a more coordinated and comprehensive manner. The San Diego Partners for Biodiversity took the first steps towards making this vision a reality by developing a common mission to document local floristic diversity over the next five years.

Plant Atlas Project Goal

To improve our scientific knowledge and documentation of the flora of San Diego County by training members of the public how to collect voucher specimens of native and naturalized plants throughout the county. The Plant Atlas will fulfill the need for accurate botanical information that will be freely accessible and available for land management, scientific, conservation, and educational purposes. The end product will be an internet-accessible, databased plant atlas based upon vouchered specimens—both those historically and new collections to be made by community volunteers and professionals.

Project Overview

San Diego County is the most botanically diverse county in the contiguous United States. This county alone is more diverse than many states, and it has even been identified as an international 'hotspot' of biodiversity. Our county has a combination of climatic, geographic, geologic, and floristic features that are unique in the USA. It represents the SW region of the California Floristic Province and the Sonoran Region of the Desert Province, spanning a range of habitats from the Pacific coast to mesas, foothills, mountains, and desert. Over 1500 native plant species and almost 500 non-native species have been identified and documented to date.

The project will provide more accurate and detailed geographic information on the flora of our County for science, education, the interested public, and land managers. The Plant Atlas is based upon a highly successful project recently undertaken by SDNHM called the Bird Atlas of San Diego County. That six-year project, now in the final publication phase, used 300 trained volunteer observers to survey both breeding and non-breeding birds with planned products including a 500-page volume of distribution maps and interpretive text plus a web-accessible database. The Plant Atlas is designed to complement and integrate with the Bird Atlas and the San Diego Mammal Atlas project that is now in progress.

What is the Parabotanist Program?

The foundation of the Plant Atlas is on-the-ground, in-the-field work that tells us what plants are found where in our County. With an eye to satisfying this need, a was developed to insure proper collection of voucher plant specimens and on recording field data. At this time there are no upcoming trainings. If you complete an online application we will keep it on file should our needs change in the future.

Who is Involved?

The Plant Atlas is sponsored by the San Diego Natural History Museum Botany Department and supported by an Advisory Group representing stakeholders. Money from many sources will be sought to fund the project. The California Native Plant Society, the Cleveland National Forest, State Parks, the County and the City of San Diego, the California Department of Fish and Game and The San Diego Foundation are some of the supporting partners.

How Can I Help?

Only part of the effort involves field collection of plants. Cooperation and support of many government agencies and private landowners is crucial to our success. The broader the participation, the better will be the results. Are you involved with an organization that can provide funding, permits, or legal access to property? Can you provide professional services or donate equipment? Help will be needed in the herbarium to process the incoming specimens and their associated data. Your help with these efforts is critical to the success of the project and will be just as important as field work.

Owl's Clover (Castilleja exserta ssp. exserta) photo by Brian Lohstroh