California Native Plant Society

Mt. Lassen Chapter

FLOWER POWER: Native plants, such as this purple owl-clover photographed on Table Mountain, aren’t merely decorative—they’re the foundation of the ecosystem.

FLOWER POWER: Native plants, such as this purple owl-clover photographed on Table Mountain, aren’t merely decorative—they’re the foundation of the ecosystem.

Photo By Samantha Hillaire

Wildflower Show and Sale
Sun., April 22, Noon to 5 p.m., CARD Center, 545 Vallombrosa Ave., Chico,

The next time you drive along a mountain highway or meander next to a riverbank, take in the landscape around you. The plants, shrubs and trees you see are much more than the “frosting on the cake.” California’s native plants, those that grew prior to European contact, are the foundation of our native ecosystems, or natural communities.

“The public perception of the plant world—the plant landscape—is that it’s just part of the backdrop. But it’s not just a backdrop, it’s more like the backbone,” explained Jim Bishop, president of the Mt. Lassen Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. “It is the system within which all biological activity is played out.”

The California Native Plant Society (CNPS) is a statewide non-profit organization of amateurs and professionals with a common interest in California’s native plants. The society seeks to increase understanding of California’s native flora and to preserve this rich resource for future generations.

When non-native plants ("exotics") spread and become established in wild areas, they are referred to as “naturalized.” Some of these plants, while widespread, do no great harm. Others, such as Scotch broom and yellow star thistle, take over natural areas and smother native plants.

Suppressing invasive exotics in Butte County and the restoration of native plants are just two of the activities of the Mt. Lassen Chapter of CNPS, based in Chico. Most CNPS activities are organized at the chapter level, where the varied interests of the local members directly influence programs and projects. Statewide, there are 31 local chapters with more than 10,000 members.

Bishop says that when it comes to eradicating an invasive exotic like broom, “You try to pick your battles and get it out of the really key places like Bidwell Park and do it when the scale of things is such that maybe you can really make a dent.”

But there’s a lot more to the CNPS than pulling weeds. After the fires in Upper Bidwell Park, local CNPS members surveyed the recovery of plants in the burned areas. This led the group to undertake the ongoing restoration of native grasses, such as deer grass and purple needle grass, to the area.

The Mount Lassen Chapter also provides educational programs and field trips, such as nature walks in Bidwell Park, on Mt. Lassen or along the flumes on the ridge. The hikes are a great way for amateur enthusiasts to be introduced to native plants, Bishop explained. CNPS members have diverse interests, including natural history, botany, ecology, conservation, photography, birding, hiking and gardening.

“It is a very comfortable, welcoming organization,” Bishop said of CNPS. “There’s no expectation that you have a certain level of expertise.”

The chapter meets the first Monday of every month at 7:30 p.m. at the county library at 1108 Sherman Ave., Chico, to discuss projects and hear from a guest speaker.

The Mt. Lassen Chapter of CNPS has only one fundraiser, a wildflower show and sale, held every two years. The show is scheduled for this Sunday at the CARD Community Center.

Hundreds of native plants, identified with both their common and scientific names, will be on display. Native plants, seeds and books on raising native plants will be available for purchase.

Attending the show and sale is a great way to learn about native plants from experts. Wes Dempsey will present a slide show on “Native Plants for your Garden,” while Jim Bishop and Sam Hillaire will lead short nature walks. Attendees at this year’s wildflower show are encouraged to bring their own “mystery” plants for identification by local experts Lowell Ahart and Vern Oswald.

There will be hands-on activities for kids, too, including a chance for children to pot a native plant in a container made of recycled material and take it home.

Admission to the show is $3 at the door, or $2 for students. Children under 12 are free.