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California’s Fading Wildflowers

Lost Legacy and Biological Invasions

Richard A. Minnich

Publication Year: 2008

Early Spanish explorers in the late eighteenth century found springtime California covered with spectacular carpets of wildflowers from San Francisco to San Diego. Yet today, invading plant species have devastated this nearly forgotten botanical heritage. In this lively, vividly detailed work, Richard A. Minnich synthesizes a unique and wide-ranging array of sources—from the historic accounts of those early explorers to the writings of early American botanists in the nineteenth century, newspaper accounts in the twentieth century, and modern ecological theory—to give the most comprehensive historical analysis available of the dramatic transformation of California's wildflower prairies. At the same time, his groundbreaking book challenges much current thinking on the subject, critically evaluating the hypothesis that perennial bunchgrasses were once a dominant feature of California's landscape and instead arguing that wildflowers filled this role. As he examines the changes in the state's landscape over the past three centuries, Minnich brings new perspectives to topics including restoration ecology, conservation, and fire management in a book that will change our of view of native California.

Published by: University of California Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

List of Tables

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

The inspiration for this book may have been a glimpse down from a commercial jet of radiant golden hillsides of California poppies at Lake Elsinore in 2001 that will forever stick to memory. It was the finest outbreak of wildflowers in coastal southern California since the 1960s, and my first experience with hillside splashes of color, ...

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1. The Golden State

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pp. 1-8

California is historically and metaphorically symbolized as the "Golden State" in tribute to the gold rush of 1849, but for many living in the state gold is also a reminder of its sunny Mediterranean climate, or perhaps the Golden Gate Bridge. The 'Washington' navel orange was "liquid gold" from which fabulous wealth was created ...

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2. Pre-Hispanic Herbaceous Vegetation

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pp. 9-65

An investigation into the transformation of the herbaceous vegetation of California must begin by asking a simple question: what was the aboriginal herbaceous cover, i.e., what was displaced by modern exotic annual grasslands? The Spanish expeditions are the only eyewitness written accounts of California before the expansion ...

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3. Invasion of Franciscan Annuals, Grazing, and California Pasture in the Nineteenth Century

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pp. 66-182

The deliberate introduction of European annual grasses and forbs by the Franciscan missionaries began an extraordinary transformation of the California herbaceous flora, which is an ongoing process. In explaining the transformation to an exotic annual grassland, the scientific community is still at the first step: ...

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4. A Century of Bromes and the Fading of California Wildflowers

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pp. 183-258

The pinnacle for southern California wildflower lovers at the turn of the twentieth century was the famous poppy field of San Pasqual, the mesa that now hosts the suburbs of Pasadena and Altadena. Citizens of Los Angeles annually visited this landmark by rail every spring from the early 1880s to 1920. ...

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5. Lessons from the Rose Parade

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pp. 259-264

Saunder's praise of the California poppy is truly historic, as this flower—that formed brilliant carpets throughout the state only two centuries ago, and annually drew weekend tourist crowds to the valleys and deserts only a half century ago— is so rare that Governor Reagan in 1972 began an initiative to set up a poppy reserve ...


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pp. 265-276

Appendix 1. Location of Franciscan campsites, Franciscan place names, and modern place names

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pp. 277-297

Appendix 2. Spanish plant names for California vegetation

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pp. 298-302

Appendix 3. Selected earliest botanical collections of exotic annual species in California

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pp. 303-317

Appendix 4. References to wildflowers in the Los Angeles Times, The Desert Magazine, and the Riverside Press Enterprise

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pp. 318-322


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pp. 323-336


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pp. 337-344

Production Notes, Back Cover

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pp. 360-361

E-ISBN-13: 9780520934337
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520253537

Page Count: 360
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 502012659
MUSE Marc Record: Download for California’s Fading Wildflowers

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Subject Headings

  • Biological invasions -- California.
  • Plant invasions -- California.
  • Wild flowers -- California.
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