My life with meadowfoam

KHSL Channel 12 weatherman and amateur botanist

My mom once said, “When you stop learning, you stop living.” Well, I’ve learned a lot in these last several weeks since I wrote an angry letter to the News & Review about meadowfoam ["Troubled weatherman,” March 15].

I’ve learned many people don’t know how to identify it. Everybody involved, from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to the Butte Environmental Council and the local papers, all write about it. There are scads of lists on the Internet showing it listed as endangered. But none of them tell you how to distinguish it from its non-threatened cousins, growing locally in abundance.

That’s why I think the average citizen is outraged over this issue. They see meadowfoam (as I did) growing by the road and say, “How can this be endangered? It’s all over the place!” Then you see it being grown as a crop in Oregon, and you think, “Something’s terribly wrong here.”

What’s missing is education on identification. I spent two solid days scanning the Internet seeking pictures or identification techniques for Limnanthes flocossa ssp. Californica, aka Butte County meadowfoam. I purchased books and visited the library, and all I found was one fuzzy picture on BEC’s Web site that turned out to be unidentifiable when submitted to a meadowfoam expert at Oregon State University.

So I embarked on my own education program. I walked the fields, consulted with experts, read the literature, and took pictures. I learned that right in the middle of this controversy lies a great potential for a new crop in California. Meadowfoam can be used to solve our ag burning problems plus provide a substitute for whale oil. Save the whales, grow meadowfoam—who could argue with that? I have it summed up at my new Web site,

Don’t get me wrong: I’m for conservation. In 1990 I helped the National Arbor Day Foundation plant over 250,000 trees with the help of TV weathermen around the U.S. as a hedge against global warming. But, when forced to choose between meadowfoam and our children’s welfare (new high school) or a wider, safer Highway 149 (review the accidents and deaths the past years), and when I see the Sierra Club and BEC fighting against these, I don’t see the logic. Especially when these groups could be leading the way to find a solution rather than playing legal roulette over land use.

For example, we have a wonderful Nature Conservancy wildflower preserve on Table Mountain, and none of these groups, nor the government, has attempted to establish Butte County meadowfoam there. It can be done—the ecosystem is the same.

And that comment I made in my letter about Roundup? Anybody who knows anything about this plant knows it won’t grow in yards. I just wanted to illustrate how this issue is more about emotion than facts, and our letter writers took the bait.

Mostly I’ve learned that, despite all of the pronouncements, intentions and laws, meadowfoam remains a political tool for the purpose of obfuscating land use plans. You know, if these groups would just start working to find a solution, I’d be the first to extend my hand and say, "How can I help?"