ISSN 1188-603X

No. 225 June 7, 1999 Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2


From: Adolf & Oluna Ceska c/o []

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 collector (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) suggested 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 1978.

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 narrow range.

It was difficult to explain the presence of this species, relatively 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 overlooked.
  3. The species is the product of rapid evolution, evolution which combines the so-called founder principle with catastrophic evolution.

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, Githopsis specularioides, Isoetes nuttallii, Microseris bigelovii, Montia howellii, Ranunculus californicus, Sanicula arctopoides, Trifolium depauperatum, Triphysaria versicolor subsp. faucibarbata, and Vulpia microstachys var. pauciflora can be given as an example. Most of these species have ecology similar to Limnanthes macounii and some occur in the same localities as Macoun's meadowfoam.

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 species.

It is obvious that Limnanthes macounii needs further study. At this time, Californian botanists should concentrate their efforts 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 conspicuous 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 species.


Buxton, E. & R. Ornduff. 1999.
Noteworthy collections - California: Limnanthes macounii Trel. (Limnanthaceae). Madroño 45(1998): 184.
Ceska, A. & O. Ceska. 1987.
Status report on the Macoun's meadowfoam (Limnanthes macounii Trel.). Report for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, Ottawa, 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 London. 614 p.
Mason, C.T., Jr. 1952.
A systematic study of the genus Limnanthes 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.


From: Nick Otting []

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:


From: Tom Booth []
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

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 intricacies 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, representing 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 understanding 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.


From: Erika North []
Ley, L.M. & J.M. Crowe. 1999.
An Enthusiasts Guide to the Liverworts 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
Lakehead University
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.