Capturing California’s Flowers

The California Collections Network is excited to introduce a new Notes from Nature expedition for one of our partner institutions, the Fresno State Herbarium at California State University, Fresno!
This expedition contains plant specimens largely from Fresno County, California. Fresno County, just below the geographic center of California, stretches 130 miles across the Central Valley, encompassing portions of the Coast Range to the west and the Sierra Nevada Range to the east. The county has an elevational range of 47 meters on the Valley floor to 4,153 meters in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and this enormous elevational gradient includes a great diversity of ecosystems, including low-elevation vernal pools and alkali sinks, riparian corridors along the Kings and San Joaquin Rivers, foothill chaparral and grasslands, and high-elevation coniferous forests and meadows. It is also the most agricultural productive county in the United States, and the location of the 5th largest city in California (Fresno), with a total county population of almost a million people and a growth rate of ~0.8% per year. As population pressure increases in the Fresno area, and climate change raises temperatures while decreasing water availability, native habitats all over the county are facing unprecedented threats to their continued existence.
Phlox speciosa

Phlox speciosa is a Sierra Nevada wildflower with a wide elevational range (500-2400 meters), and poorly-understood phenology. Photo: Kate Waselkov. 


The Fresno State Herbarium was established in 1925 and contains ~40,000 plant specimens dating from the 1890s to today, with a special concentration on high Sierra Nevada ecosystems by the former Fresno State Biology professor Dr. Charles H. Quibell.  This expedition allows you to contribute to our historical understanding of Fresno County ecosystems, especially those high-elevation habitats particularly threatened by climate change, to establish baseline 20th century data at each elevation for species presence and phenology (when each plant species blooms or sets fruit). Ecologists and evolutionary biologists will be able to use this data to predict the response to climate change in our area by different taxonomic and functional groups of plant species, and develop better plans for conservation and habitat restoration.
Fritillaria pinetorum DSC_4209-27

Fritillaria pinetorum grows at high elevations (1800-3200 meters) on granitic slopes in the Sierra Nevada range. Photo: Chris Winchell.  

To discover plant life from this area and help us document how it changes with time and space, visit our Notes from Nature project, Capturing California’s Flowers and click the “Fresno State Herbarium” expedition. Thank you for your support!
— Katherine Waselkov, California State University, Fresno

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