Gold in the Redwood Forest

Carol Ralph, CNPS

A sprig of Golden Saxifrage hanging from a tangled mat on a wet bank. Photo: Carol Ralph

One of the inconspicuous treasures I enjoy encountering on shady, damp trailsides in Redwood National and State Parks is Pacific Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium glechomifolium). The first time I saw it was during a CNPS field trip on Skunk Cabbage Trail. None of us knew a name for it, but it reminded us of the weed Creeping Charlie, so we dubbed this one Creeping Charlotte. I looked for it in flower guides, but lacking flowers or other clues to help identify it, I carried this mystery plant in my mind for a long time. Then I got Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and McKinnon.

While browsing through it, I found this mystery plant! (What a great field guide!) It was in the saxifrage family, though it did not fit the typical rosette-with-central-flower stalk form. It was low and creeping, forming mats. It was not particularly golden, but its tiny, solitary, petal-less flowers had a yellowish cast, and its smooth, glossy leaves were bright green. Its other common name was a translation of the scientific name: Ground-ivy-leaved Spleenwort. Our first impressions were right! Glechoma is the genus of the weed Creeping Charlie in the mint family, also known as Ground Ivy. Golden Saxifrage is found only in wet forests of the Pacific Coast from British Columbia to Mendocino in California. In California it has a Rare Plant Rank 4.3 (limited distribution). We saw it on the Skunk Cabbage Trail on our February 2019 field trip. Maybe we will find it on the western end of that trail this February!


Evening Programs

Evening programs are free and open to the public at the Six Rivers Masonic Lodge, 251 Bayside Rd., near 7th and Union, Arcata. Refreshments at 7:00 p.m. Program at 7:30 p.m. For information or to suggest a speaker or topic, contact Michael Kauffmann at 707-407-7686 or

Updated Research into Gall Wasps (Cynipidae) in Northern California
Wednesday, February 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Tiny, gentle wasps of the family Cynipidae collectively produce galls on roses, thimbleberry, oaks, tan oak, and chinquapin. During a presentation given six years ago, only cynipids occurring on oaks (Quercus spp.) were covered. This updated presentation will discuss new findings on the life histories of cynipids on oaks, tanoak (Notholithocarpus), chinquapin (Chrysolepis sp.), roses (Rosa spp.), and thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus). Join Dr. John DeMartini, a Humboldt State University Professor emeritus with a passion for regional natural history, for this interesting talk.

Tribal Uses and Stewardship of Plants, Habitats, and Ecosystems in Northwestern California
Wednesday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m.
Join Frank Lake, a researcher with the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Fire and Fuels Program, for a presentation focused on California tribal uses and stewardship of plants. Northwest California offers a dynamic range of ecosystems including coastal headlands, redwood, oak woodland-prairies, Douglas-fir, tanoak, and interior mixed conifer/hardwood forests. Frank will take us on a historical, ethnographic, and ethnobotany journey across these ecosystems by weaving data and imagery to illustrate the complexity and diversity of tribal knowledge. The practices discussed will guide collaborative restoration efforts in our region into the future. He will also focus on plants used for basketry, food, and utilitarian purposes associated with tribal stewardship of those habitats.

Field Trips

All levels of expertise are welcome on our trips. We all are or were beginners, and we all are ready to share.

Skunk Cabbage-Coastal Trail Day Hike
Saturday, February 22
Our hikes from the Skunk Cabbage Trail trailhead have never made it all the way north to the beach, so this time we will start at the beach end by Davison Road, walk about a mile at the back of the beach along the base of the bluffs, turn up the Skunk Cabbage Trail, and walk 1.5 miles through coastal scrub and spruce forest as far as the view point. Total, round-trip hike is 5.6 miles (if we really make it all the way). We will see hints of spring in the scrub and forest, as well as dune, wetland, and riparian plants along the way. This trail is a section of the California Coastal Trail in Redwood National and State Parks. Dress for the weather on an exposed beach and in a shady forest. Bring lunch and water. Meet at 9 a.m. at Pacific Union School (3001 Janes Rd., Arcata). Tell Carol you are coming, if you want to know of any changes due to weather: 707-822-2015;

Botanizing Neukom Farm Day Hike
Sunday, March 22
Neukom Farm covers rich, valley floor with some agricultural fields, but also mature trees, old meadow, a seep, and river bluff above the Trinity River in Willow Creek. The Neukom family has invited us to come see this special habitat. They have found Calypso Orchids, but not trilliums. With 40 recently acquired acres to explore, these treasures are a real possibility. We will be tramping around on informal paths, farm roads, and off trail all day. Dress for the weather. Bring lunch and water. Meet at 9 a.m. at Pacific Union School (3001 Janes Rd., Arcata). Please tell Carol you are coming:

Native Plants Every Day

No need to wait for the spring native plant sale (May 2 & 3, 2020). A selection of our chapter-grown native plants is available to buy every day, 12 noon-6 p.m., at the Kneeland Glen Farm Stand at Freshwater Farms Reserve, 5851 Myrtle Ave. (near Three Corners Market). If you don’t see what you want there, you can ask if we have it by contacting us at