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    • December 8, 2020

    Newt standing among leaf litter on trail
    Taricha rivularis
    – red-bellied newt
    Submitted by Sheila McCarthy

    Sheila was in eastern Sonoma county when she came across this critter crossing a trail. Red-bellied newts are a California Species of Special Concern and are endemic to California. You can find them in redwood and coastal forests from southern Humboldt county to Lake and Sonoma counties. There has also been an isolated population confirmed in Santa Clara county. They are mainly terrestrial but will breed in streams. When rain starts in the fall, adults will start to move around, find food, and eventually head to streams to reproduce. Red-bellied newts have poisonous secretions that come out of their skin to protect them from predation. If they are eaten in large quantities, they can kill most animals and even humans! However, their main predator, the common gartersnake, has a high resistance to tetrodotoxin and can consume them without harm. This newt species has an impressive longevity too – estimated between 20 and 30 years! Their diet consists of many types of invertebrates and they are usually active at night and late afternoon. Agriculture and urban development pose a threat because of the alteration and degradation of streams these processes require. The development of natural areas can also bring more vehicle traffic which poses a serious threat to this small species, especially during migrations to breeding areas. Currently, the CNDDB has 136 red-bellied newt occurrences throughout its range. Many thanks to Sheila for snapping a great shot of this tiny but mighty species!

    California sawgrass flowering in rocky ravine
    Cladium californicum – California sawgrass
    Submitted by Joy England

    This fascinating grass was discovered by Joy England and Duncan Bell in Inyo County. Joy and Duncan went out looking for this grass as part of California Botanic Garden’s effort, working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to conduct status assessments of native species considered at risk of decline. For any questions on the status assessment effort, please contact the principal investigator: Naomi Fraga, Director of Conservation Programs, California Botanic Garden at nfraga@calbg.org. Cladium californicum was first listed in the CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants in 2006 and is currently on California Rare Plant Rank 2B.2 (plants rare, threatened, or endangered in California, but more common elsewhere; moderately threatened in California). In California it is found growing in meadows, seeps and alkaline or freshwater marshes and swamps throughout the central coast and southern California. Outside of California it can be found across Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and as far east as Texas. Blooms of C. californicum can be found throughout the summer from June to September. Thank you Joy for your work checking on the status of this amazing grass and thanks to both Naomi and Joy for their continued work protecting California’s native plants!

    Do you have some great photos of rare plants or wildlife detections? Submit them along with your findings through our Online Field Survey Form and see if your photos get showcased!

    Categories: Contributor Spotlight
    • November 10, 2020

    A closeup of a hand holding a very small western pond turtle that has retracted halfway into its shell.

    Emys marmorata – western pond turtle
    Submitted by Zachary Abbey of Padre Inc.

    Zachary came across some juvenile western pond turtles along Santa Monica Creek in Santa Barbara County. This turtle species is endemic to the western United States ranging from the Puget Sound lowlands in Washington to Baja California. Western pond turtles are small to medium sized with brown and green coloring and black spotted pattern on their heads and legs. They spend almost their entire lives in or close to water, but don't be alarmed if you see one roaming on land! Western pond turtles sometimes leave their aquatic habitats to search for food, habitat, or mates. During the winter months, western pond turtles hibernate underwater and breathe underwater using the process of cloacal respiration. Cloacal respiration allows these turtles to pump water through the cloaca (located at the rear of the turtle) to sacs lined with blood vessels that act like gills. There, oxygen diffuses in and carbon dioxide is released. Western pond turtle populations face many threats including historical commercial harvests, wetland drainage projects, and invasive species like the red-eared slider and bullfrog. Currently, the CNDDB has 1398 mapped occurrences. Thank you, Zachary, for submitting this observation!

    A split view of the whole Sierra bolandra plant on the left, and a closeup of the tiny bell-shaped flower on the right

    Bolandra californica – Sierra bolandra
    Submitted by Dana York

    This inconspicuous little flower was discovered by Dana along the Sierra Nevada mountains in Mariposa County. Bolandra californica was first listed in the 1974 first edition of the CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants as rare but not endangered and is currently considered a California Rare Plant Rank 4.3 (limited distribution in California; not very threatened in California). It is found growing in rock crevices of montane coniferous forests throughout the central Sierra Nevada mountains. The flower grows in a panicle or branching flowering structure where the lowest or outermost flowers bloom before the highest or central flowers. These flowers can be seen blooming through the summer from May to August. Thank you, Dana, for this amazing find, and for all the work you do helping all the rare and endangered plants in California!

    Do you have some great photos of rare plants or wildlife detections? Submit them along with your findings through our Online Field Survey Form and see if your photos get showcased!

    Categories: Contributor Spotlight
    • October 12, 2020

    A tiny vernal pool fairy shrimp on a burlap sack

    Branchinecta lynchi vernal pool fairy shrimp
    Submitted by Sean M. O’Brien of Helm Biological Consulting

    Sean discovered some vernal pool fairy shrimp in a vernal pool east of the city of Madera. These creatures may be tiny but have a large list of interesting features! They were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1994. They grow to be less than an inch in size and use their many legs to swim on their backs. These legs also aid in their breathing and feeding. They use their legs to free algae and plankton from the water body surfaces. They produce a thick gluey mixture and combine this with their food before eating it. Even with many legs, vernal pool fairy shrimp are defenseless and only live in temporary bodies of water where aquatic predators cannot survive. Vernal pool fairy shrimp are endemic to Oregon and California and have suffered population declines due to the destruction and degradation of vernal pools for the sake of urban and agricultural endeavors. Currently, the CNDDB has 791 vernal pool fairy shrimp occurrences that span from Shasta County to San Diego County. Great job, Sean, for capturing a picture of this tiny but mighty species!

    A bright purple Jones' bush-mallow flower with velvety stem and leaves

    Malacothamnus jonesii – Jones’ bush-mallow
    Submitted by Jason Dart and Kristen Anderson

    This mallow is a favorite of butterflies and pollinators as well as hummingbirds attracted by all the little insects. This, along with its velvety grey color, makes it a sought-after plant in native nurseries but it can also be found in the wild along the southern California coast in chaparral and cismontane woodland. Jason Dart and Kristen Anderson found the plant growing in the wild in San Luis Obispo County and submitted their observation to the CNDDB. Malacothamnus jonesii was originally listed in the 1974 first edition of the CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants as rare but not endangered and is currently considered a California Rare Plant Rank 4.3 plant (limited distribution in California; not very threatened in California). These delicate pink flowers can be seen blooming from as early as March through the summer into October, so there is still a little time to see them. A very big thank you to both Jason and Kristen for all the important work you share and this awesome photo!

    Do you have some great photos of rare plants or wildlife detections? Submit them along with your findings through our Online Field Survey Form and see if your photos get showcased!

    Categories: Contributor Spotlight