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No. 225 June 7, 1999
aceska at victoria.tc.ca Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2
LIMNANTHES MACOUNII - THE END OF AN ENDEMIC SPECIES
From: Adolf & Oluna Ceska c/o <aceska at victoria.tc.ca>
Macoun's meadowfoam, Limnanthes macounii, is an enigmatic,
elusive plant that was described from Victoria on southern
Vancouver Island and until recently has not been known from
anywhere else in the world other than from the southern part of
Vancouver Island and adjacent islands.
The first specimens were collected by John Macoun (pronounce
"Macown") "in ditches at Victoria" in May 1875. Macoun was
unable to identify this plant and send it to William Trelease,
who described it as a new species and named it after the collec-
tor (Trelease 1888).
Macoun's meadowfoam is a winter annual that occurs in vernal
pools, seepy places, or in wet depressions in open Garry oak and
Douglas-fir forests. The places where it grows are wet or
flooded from winter rains and bone dry in summer. Meadowfoam
germinates in October, early after the first heavier rains. At
this phase it is the most conspicuous since it starts well ahead
of other annual plants. The size of plants does not change too
much during the winter and spring. It flowers in April and it
can be easily overlooked at flowering time, since its flowers
are inconspicuous and plants are usually overgrown with plants
of other species.
The species was at the botanical centre of interest in Victoria
at the beginning of this century. Dr. C.F. Newcombe (Newcombe's
Family Papers, B.C. Provincial Archives, ms.), for instance,
regularly visited localities known to him. After Dr. Newcombe's
death in 1924, the interest in this species diminished. The last
collection of L. macounii cited in Mason's (1952) monograph of
Limnanthes was that made by Mr. G.A. Hardy in 1926. In his
correspondence with Mason, Mr. Hardy wrote "The localities from
which these specimens were gathered have undergone some man-made
changes in recent years with the result that this species is now
either very rare or extinct in these particular places" (Mason
1952). Based on this information Hitchcock (1961, p. 406) sug-
gested the possibility that L. macounii "was a very local
species which no longer survives."
In 1956, however, Mr. Hardy found Limnanthes macounii on Trial
Island and in 1958 Miss M.C. Melburn found a large population of
the species on Cattle Point in the Uplands Park area, Victoria.
A specimen from this population has the following remark on the
label: "rare, not known from any other locality except reported
from Trial Island." Miss Melburn then recorded the sightings of
Limnanthes macounii at Cattle Point every year from 1961 to
Our interest in the distribution of Limnanthes macounii began in
1972 when we accidentally found at that time an unknown locality
in the Chinese cemetery at Harling Point, Victoria. From 1972 to
1980 we discovered over 30 distinct populations of L. macounii.
The most important find was a cluster of populations on Yellow
Point north of Ladysmith in 1977; this extended the known range
of L. macounii by 70 km.
In 1987 we completed a status report on Limnanthes macounii and
submitted it to the Committee on the Status of Endangered
Wildlife in Canada (Ceska & Ceska 1987). In this report we
listed 53 populations of Macoun's meadowfoam from about 23
localities, distributed from Beechey Head in Sooke (48 deg. 19'
N. 123 deg. 39' W., 25 km SW of Victoria) to Yellow Point near
Ladysmith (49 deg 02' N. 123 deg. 45' W., 72 km N of Victoria).
Since 1987 the range of Limnanthes macounii has been extended
when Richard Martin found a northernmost locality of Limnanthes
on Hornby Island (49 deg. 31' N. 124 deg. 37' W., 151 km N of
Victoria). George Douglas found another locality on Gabriola
Island, about half way between Hornby Island and Yellow Point.
Macoun's meadowfoam had remained a local endemic with a very
It was difficult to explain the presence of this species, rela-
tively distinct from other species of the genus, in the area
that was glaciated in the last glaciation that ended about
12,000 years ago. In our report (Ceska & Ceska 1987) we offered
the following possibilities:
1. Limnanthes macounii survived glaciation on open unglaciated
rock walls along the western edge of the ice sheet.
2. The present distribution is merely a northern extension of
an originally more southerly distribution, and the species
spread into its recent localities together with numerous
other southern floristic elements during the Hypsithermal
period. In the southern part of its area of distribution
Limnanthes macounii either became extinct, or has been
3. The species is the product of rapid evolution, evolution
which combines the so-called founder principle with
The second hypothesis, i.e., that Limnanthes macounii originally
occurred or still occurs in California or Oregon, was the most
plausible. We have a group of species that occur from California
to the Columbia River Gorge (on the border with Oregon and
Washington), are rare or missing in the Washington State, and
re-occur again on the southeastern part of Vancouver Island.
Allium amplectens, Crassula connata, Dryopteris arguta, Githop-
sis specularioides, Isoetes nuttallii, Microseris bigelovii,
Montia howellii, Ranunculus californicus, Sanicula arctopoides,
Trifolium depauperatum, Triphysaria versicolor subsp. faucibar-
bata, and Vulpia microstachys var. pauciflora can be given as an
example. Most of these species have ecology similar to Lim-
nanthes macounii and some occur in the same localities as
In the winter of 1977 we made an unsuccessful attempt to explore
the California coast for Limnanthes macounii. Several Ph.D.
students from the University of California in Berkeley and the
University of California in Davis, Ed Guerrant, Charles McNeill,
and Kermit Ritland, visited Victoria to see our populations of
Limnanthes macounii. We urged them to look for this species in
California, but they were convinced that Macoun's meadowfoam
could not been overlooked, if it grew there.
In March 1998 Eva Buxton found a large population of Limnanthes
macounii near Moss Beach, San Mateo Co. in California (Buxton &
Ornduff 1999), where Limnanthes macounii is "abundant on ca 18
acres of a seasonally fallow [cabbage] field. ... There were
doubtless many more individuals in the Moss Beach population in
1998 that in all the British Columbia populations combined." It
is obvious that the cabbage field is not the native habitat of
Macoun's meadowfoam in California. The question remains where in
native habitats of California (and coastal Oregon and possibly
Washington) we should look for its indigenous occurrences.
Californian plants of Limnanthes macounii are morphologically
slightly different from the Vancouver Island plants. They are
usually bigger (but still prostrate), leaves are more divided,
and when we planted Californian seed in our Victoria garden, the
majority of the seedlings died in a short freezing spell in
December 1998, whereas Vancouver Island plants survived without
too much damage. In spite of these differences, we believe that
the Vancouver Island and Californian plants belong to the same
It is obvious that Limnanthes macounii needs further study. At
this time, Californian botanists should concentrate their ef-
forts on finding more about the distribution of this species in
California, and the search should be extended to Oregon and
Washington. Native populations of this plant will be less con-
spicuous than an 18 acre cabbage field. The best time to look
for this plant is in December and January when the seedlings
still have cotyledons and are conspicuous by their yellow-green
colour. Until we get more information on the distribution of
Limnanthes macounii, it will remain an enigmatic and elusive
Buxton, E. & R. Ornduff. 1999. Noteworthy collections - Califor-
nia: Limnanthes macounii Trel. (Limnanthaceae). Madrono
Ceska, A. & O. Ceska. 1987. Status report on the Macoun's
meadowfoam (Limnanthes macounii Trel.). Report for the Com-
mittee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, Ot-
tawa, Ont. [unpublished ms.]
Hitchcock, C.L. 1961. Limnanthaceae. Pp. 405-406. In: Hitchcock,
C.L., A. Cronquist, M. Ownbey & J.W. Thompson. Vascular
plants of the Pacific Northwest. Part 3: Saxifragaceae to
Ericaceae. University of Washington Press, Seattle and Lon-
don. 614 p.
Mason, C.T., Jr. 1952. A systematic study of the genus Lim-
nanthes R.Br. Univ. Calif. Publ. Bot. 25: 455-512; pl. 43-46.
Trelease, W. 1888. A study of North America Geraniaceae. Mem.
Boston Soc. Nat. Hist. 4: 71-104.
ATLAS OF OREGON SEDGES (GENUS CAREX, CYPERACEAE)
From: Nick Otting <ottingn at efn.org>
The Carex Working Group is pleased to announce the publication
"Atlas of Oregon Carex". This publication, which documents the
results of nearly 7 years of sedging in Oregon, is the first
occasional paper of the Native Plant Society of Oregon. The
"Atlas of Oregon Carex" has 128 location maps, one for each
Carex taxon in the state of Oregon. Also included are a
synonymy, fun facts about sedges, a history of the project, and
Oregon geography maps. Order your copy by sending a $5 check
(made payable to NPSO) to:
Atlas of Oregon Carex
c/o Keli Kuykendall
4550 S.W. Nash Ave.
Corvallis, OR 97333-9301
NEW BOOK: INDIANS, FIRE, AND THE LAND IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
From: Tom Booth <tbooth at teleport.com>
Boyd, Robert [ed.] 1999. Indians, fire, and the land in the
Pacific Northwest Oregon State University Press, Corvallis,
OR. 320 p. ISBN 0-87071-459-7 [soft cover] Cost: US$34.95
Available in bookstores or by calling 1-800-426-3797. For
further information, please contact the OSU Press at 503-282-
9801 or tbooth at teleport.com
Instead of discovering a land blanketed by dense forests, early
explorers of the Pacific Northwest encountered a varied
landscape of open woods, spacious meadows, and extensive
prairies. Far from a pristine wilderness, much of the Northwest
was actively managed and shaped by the hands of its Native
American inhabitants. Their primary tool was fire.
"Indians, Fire, and the Land in the Pacific Northwest," edited
by Robert Boyd, offers an interdisciplinary approach to one of
the most important issues concerning Native Americans and their
relationship to the land. During more than 10,000 years of
occupation, Native Americans in the Northwest learned the in-
tricacies of their local environments and how to use fire to
create desired effects, mostly in the quest for food.
Drawing on historical journals, Native American informants, and
botanical and forestry studies, the contributors to this book
describe local patterns of fire use in eight ecoregions, repre-
senting all parts of the Native Northwest, from southwest Oregon
to British Columbia and from Puget Sound to the Northern
Rockies. Their essays provide glimpses into a unique understand-
ing of the environment-a traditional ecological knowledge now
for the most part lost. Together, these writings also offer
historical perspective on the contemporary debate over
"prescribed burning" on public lands.
Contributors: Stephen Arno, Stephen Barrett, Theresa Ferguson,
David French, Eugene Hunn, Leslie Johnson, Jeff LaLande,
Estella Leopold, Henry Lewis, Helen H. Norton, Reg Pullen,
William Robbins, John Ross, Nancy Turner, & Richard White.
LIVERWORTS FOR ENTHUSIASTS
From: Erika North <enorth at baynet.net>
Ley, L.M. & J.M. Crowe. 1999. An Enthusiasts Guide to the Liver-
worts and Hornworts of Ontario. Lakehead University, Thunder
Bay, Ontario. 134 p., line drawings, 6 colour plates. ISBN 0-
88663-027-4 [spiral bound]
Cost: $15 (postage included) or US$10 (postage included)
Copies available from:
Erika North, Claude Garton Herbarium
955 Oliver Rd., Thunder Bay, ON
Canada P7B 5E1
(cheques payable to Lakehead University)
Although this guide has been written for the liverworts of
Ontario, it is very comprehensive in providing scale drawings of
all the species, with keys and illustrated glossary. It should
be useful to the naturalist as well as the botanist.
All 170 known species of hornworts and liverworts from Ontario
are included in this book. There is an illustration of at least
part of a plant for all these species. Rare status of a species
is noted and locations of verified specimens are given by County
(in southern Ontario) or by District.
Subscriptions: Send "subscribe BEN-L" or "unsubscribe BEN-L"
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