Columbus Advances to Professor of Botany

J. Travis Columbus has been promoted to professor of botany at the Claremont Graduate University [CGU]. Columbus has been a member of the CGU faculty and, cointerminous with this appointment, is a research scientist at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. The CGU Botany Department has long been coordinated and run by RSABG. The program offers M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in evolutionary and systematic botany.

Columbus received his doctoral degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and is an expert on the systematics of chloridoid grasses. He spent this past spring in the field making collections of his study plants in South Africa and Tanzania.

BCM Foundation Grant Helps Kids Get Outdoor Education

As Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (RSABG) continues to grow as a leading native plant, ethnobotany and natural history of California resource for educators, k-12 students and families, the BCM Foundation awarded RSABG a $35,000 grant to strengthen and expand environmental education offerings.

“This grant underscores a growing need for environmental education among our state’s schools that would otherwise be unable to afford quality programming,” said Eric Garton, RSABG director of visitor services. “And the children we serve because of this funding stand a far greater chance of being inspired and compelled to become the future environmental stewards.”

RSABG Scientists at 2011 Botany Conference

They met in St. Louis

A large contingent from Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden's research department, including faculty, students and postdoctoral fellows attended the Botany 2011 and conducted presentations on their research findings July 2011. Erin Tripp's took home honors for best contributed paper in plant systematics by a young scientist. 

The annual conference, themed ‘Healing the Planet’ for 2011, convened members of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, Botanical Society of America, the Society for Economic Botany and the American Fern Society.

Solarization of Fay's Wildflower Meadow

Fay's Wildflower Meadow was completely covered with impermeable plastic sheeting this August as the first step in solarizing the soil. Solarization is a low-cost, non-toxic method for weed control, in which the area is mowed, watered and covered with clear plastic for several months during the summer. The heat of the sun turns the trapped moisture to steam which kills pathogens and weed seeds. This is a great example of using natural processes to maintain a landscape instead of chemicals.

Make Room for Wildlife

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is a Certified Wildlife Habitat

This won’t come as a surprise if you’ve been to Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, but in August the National Wildlife Federation recognized us as an official Certified Wildlife Habitat site.

From hawks to butterflies, the Garden attracts a multitude of wildlife. Habitats not only nurture year-round resident birds but also provide stopover sites for migratory birds. Biologist Mark Hostetier of the University of Florida says that “urban environments are an important factor in the future conservation of many species. Not only has urban sprawl grown into the paths of stopover sites on bird flyways, but the sheer volume of human development has changed the amount of area available for nesting and overwintering.”

Botany Students Earn Grants

Diana Jolles, doctoral candidate in botany at RSABG, is a recipient of an award from the Northern California Botanists’ 2011–12 Botany Research Scholarship Program. The $1,000 grant will help to support Jolles’ research on the Pyrola picta species complex (Ericaceae), which is well known in Northern California (among other places that it occurs). To learn more about Northern California Botanists and their support of student research, please see the Northern California Botanists website.

Jinyan Guo, a doctoral candidate in the botany program at RSABG, has been selected to receive The Fletcher Jones Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship for the 2011–12 academic year. Funded by The Fletcher Jones Foundation, the grant is awarded each year to one of the students at RSABG who are in their last year of the doctoral degree program and whose research is exemplary in systematic and evolutionary botany. Guo is studying the diversity and evolution of sepal crests on plants in the Iris genus (Iridaceae). These crests are 3D structures that stick up off of the flat surface of the sepals and likely have a role in pollination biology.


Botanist Recognized for Outstanding Scientific Presentation

Acanth in Namibia

Erin Tripp earns George R. Cooley Award

The American Society of Plant Taxonomists awarded Erin Tripp, an expert on wild petunias, their George R. Cooley Award for Best Contributed Paper in Plant Systematics at the society’s annual meeting. During Tripp’s presentation, entitled “Physacanthus (Acanthaceae): a heteroplasmic, intergeneric, interlineage hybrid?”, she marshaled extensive morphological and genetic evidence to present what one award judge described as “the complete story” of a west African plant genus with previously uncertain evolutionary origins.

Native Landscapes: The Albrigos

A Green Yard

When Steve and Paula Albrigo took on relandscaping, their goal was a green yard.

Not the green often used to describe environmentally friendly landscapes(although the results are certainly eco-minded), but to fill their 7,000-square-foot front yard with a mini-forest of native plants—a spectrum of green.

"I wanted people to look at our yard and say that they never imagined a native California landscape could be so green and beautiful,” says Steve Albrigo.

The result is a striking, beautiful domestic space that showcases native plants. The corner lot has been transformed from manicured turf to a carefully crafted woodsy wildscape that reminds the Albrigos of the serene mountain retreats they love.

California Native Plants: Poodle-dog Bush

Fire Follower

By Bart O'Brien

Spectacular and beautiful, this native perennial subshrub can currently be seen in great abundance in the central and western San Gabriel Mountains in the aftermath of the Station Fire. Eriodictyon parryi (formerly Turricula parryi) or the poodle-dog bush is primarily a fire follower—its seeds germinate shortly after wildfires and it may even produce flowers during its first year of growth. However, this short-lived plant is typically most spectacular in its second, third and fourth years, when it reaches its peak in both size and vigor. From late spring through summer, large, showy flower clusters appear and the plants may reach up to 10 feet tall. These are composed of hundreds of lavender to bluish, one-half to three-fourths inch long flowers. Poodle-dog bush is an important plant for erosion control and provides abundant food for native pollinators.

Lenz Sculpture Collection

Escutcheon, Mythical Bird, Contemplations and Silent Sentinel—all gifts of Dr. Lee W. Lenz, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden director emeritus—now comprise the Lee W. Lenz Sculpture Collection.

On October 26, 2011, the Board formally proclaimed the Lenz Sculpture Collection, consisting of all current and future pieces of artwork donated by Lenz, as a tribute to his long-time support of the art collection at RSABG.

RSABG Hosts Invasive Plants and Pathogen Workshop

The Garden Hosts Workshop to Help Public Garden Professionals Detect Invasive Plants and Pathogens

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (RSABG) is hosting the Sentinel Plant Network’s western region workshop to engage public gardens, volunteers and visitors in the early detection of invasive plant pests and pathogens that threaten plant conservation efforts.

The workshop, to be held December 5 and 6, 2011, will bring together a cross section of American Public Gardens Association (APGA) member gardens from across the western U.S.