ISSN 1188-603X

No. 212 January 13, Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2


[Chess Lyons died in Hawaii on December 20, 1998 of complications from ruptured gall bladder. The following biography is an abbreviated chapter from the book on "Plant Hunters of the Pacific Northwest" which is being edited and prepared for publication by Arthur R. Kruckeberg. The author of Chess Lyons' biography is Steve Cannings. Additional information was provided by Bill Merilees, Nanaimo, B.C. Many thanks for their permission to post these excerpts on BEN. - AC]

Chester P. Lyons is probably best known for his popular field guides on the plants of British Columbia and Washington State. These books have appeared in several editions since 1952 and have been used by a wide range of outdoor people as well as students and professionals.

"Chess" was born in 1915 near Regina, Saskatchewan and moved in 1919 to Penticton in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia where his parents began fruit farming. He attended Penticton schools and despite his inclination to skip out of school and pursue his "studies" in the great outdoors, he managed to complete high school without difficulty.

Chess was a high-spirited teenager, very fond of practical jokes. Above all he was an all around outdoorsman and a keen observer of natural history. He took every opportunity to hike and camp-out in the hills of the local mountains. On one occasion, Chess was called into the high school principal's office - which was not too unusual - but when he saw the local game warden, he became a little apprehensive. It turned out that a hunter had been lost in the snow-covered hills east of town and Chess was needed to help track him down. After an all-day search Chess returned to report no track crossing the height-of-land. A few weeks later the missing man was located in California. He had hopped a freight train and made his way south across the U.S. border.

Following high school graduation, Chess entered the University of British Columbia in Vancouver where he studied Forest Engineering, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1938. Soon after graduating from UBC, Chess joined the Forest Service where he was engaged in surveying, reforestation and engineering. His home base was Victoria where he had resided since 1940.

In those days, Provincial Parks came under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service and Chess soon managed to transfer to the Park Branch where he carried out exploration and planning for new parks. These included Manning, Tweedsmuir, Wells Grey and Bowron Lake Parks. Near the latter park he also worked on the restoration of the famous old gold rush town of Barkerville and was responsible for the acquisition of many artifacts that bring such realism to this popular heritage site.

To pursue his many projects in nature interpretation Chess took early retirement from the government service. His book "Trees shrubs and flowers to know in British Columbia" (and the US version for the Washington State) became a "bible" to "naturalists, Boy Scouts and grandmothers." It has been through countless editions since it first appeared in 1952, and is still in print. His skills as a plant illustrator were clearly demonstrated in this book. A completely new and greatly expanded edition appeared in 1995. His other "Milestone" books (Fraser Canyon, Vancouver Island and Ogopogo Land) introduced thousands of visitors to the local and natural history of these popular areas.

As a film lecturer on the National Audubon Society lecture circuit and the World Around US travel series, Chess took British Columbia to large audiences in hundreds of North American cities. He was also the main contributor to the popular CBC series "Klahani - the Great Outdoors." His films brought to public attention previously unknown areas and activities, including hiking the West Coast Trail, the possibility of canoeing a circuit on the Bowron Lakes and kayaking around the Broken Islands in Barkley Sound.

Friends of Chess Lyons will gather on April 11, 1999 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at Freeman-King Park, Victoria, to remember him. Please feel free to attend.



Botanists and plant enthusiasts from British Columbia and Washington State will meet at a joint BOTANY BC + BotWA meeting at Cedar Beach Resort on Saltspring Island. The activities will start on Thursday April 29 (late afternoon) and end on Sunday, May 2, 1999. We will explore the Gulf Islands' rich spring flora with local experts by day and have interesting talks and tom-foolery by night. Look for details and registration forms in an upcoming issue of BEN, and mark those days!


From: Press release, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Unseen for over 100 years, the unique St Helena Boxwood, Mellissia begoniifolia (Roxb.) Hook.f. (Solanaceae), has been rediscovered by local hiker Stedson Stroud, and taken for identification to St Helena's Conservation Officer, Dr. Rebecca Cairns-Wicks.

According to Dr. Quentin Cronk (RBGE), British island of St Helena has the world's most threatened flora with over 40% of its plants listed in the "IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants," including the St Helena boxwood (Mellissia begoniifolia) which is listed as extinct.

The 862-page "IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants" is the first world list of threatened plants. You can find it at:

Just one living St Helena Boxwood was found amongst six dead bushes on a sea-facing slope 100 m above sea level. The plant is suffering from an attack of mealy bugs and moth larvae and is unlikely to survive. It is indeed fortuitous that the plant was rediscovered just in time while it was in flower and seeding, giving the chance for propagation material to be collected.

"So, now we wait in hope that the seeds germinate and the cuttings root as this is the only known plant, which could be easily lost to drought or pests. If this happens and propagation is unsuccessful then we will be calling St Helena boxwood extinct - this time forever," says Dr. Rebecca Cairns-Wicks, St Helena Project Manager.


From: Townsley_John_J/

I found the estimates of "old growth" to be very interesting. Recent work in Eastern Washington suggests that the percentage of the landscape that was pre-settlement in an "old growth" structure was perhaps quite different. Ann Camp who did intensively sampled the 76,000 acre Swak watershed of the central eastern Cascade Mountains, found that only a small percentage of the landscape was in a late successional condition prior to settlement (Camp, A.E. 1995. Predicting late-successional fire refugia from physiography and topography. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Washington, Seattle, Washington). Dick Schellhaas (in press) of the Wenatchee Forestry Sciences Lab has found following intensive sampling of two watersheds located within the Yakima and Entiat River Drainages that typical pre-settlement fire return periods were on the order of 6 to 10 years. In highly dissected terrain he found no statistical difference between the return period for north and south aspects. He also found that since the onset of fire suppression, fire return periods have increased in length by a factor of ten.

In Eastern Washington we have relatively few lodgepole pine stands that survive past 120 years (the age used by MacKinnon and Vold to define lodgepole pine old growth). In fact we believe that prior to settlement, fire from the low lands often came up the drainages and reset the biological clock with great regularity.

It would be very interesting for MacKinnon and Vold to discuss the underlying ecological reasons for such high percentages of 'old growth' forest in B.C. landscapes. Is it because the climatic conditions seldom favor stand replacing fire? Is it because there are few stand replacing events caused by epidemic insect or disease? How do the topographical characteristics of B.C. landscapes differ from the landscapes found in Eastern Washington where research has found disturbance a frequent visitor? Is it because they sampled existing vegetation, and not pre-settlement vegetation, and therefore have masked the profound influences of pre-settlement disturbance regimes?


From: "Barbara M. Thiers" [bthiers@NYBG.ORG], originally posted on TAXACOM []

The New York Botanical Garden web site now includes a searchable version of entries in the Index to American Botanical Literature at:

The Index to American Botanical Literature has provided a service to the American botanical community for over a century, published initially in the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club and subsequently in Brittonia. The Index is compiled from resources of The LuEsther T. Mertz Library of The New York Botanical Garden and contains entries dealing with various aspects of extant and fossil American plants and fungi, including systematics (traditional and molecular) and floristics, morphology, and ecology, as well as economic botany and general botany (publications dealing with botanists, herbaria, etc.).

The searchable database includes all those entries published in the Index since 1996, and thus includes botanical literature appearing since late 1995. The database is updated on a regular basis. Retroactive indexing of previously published entries is envisioned.

Submissions, subscriptions, etc.:
BEN is archived at