The Bristlecone Chapter of the CNPS, founded by Mary DeDecker in 1982, covers an area with some of the most geographic and biologic diversity in the contiguous US, including both the lowest and highest points, two species competing for title of the oldest living thing, extreme heat and extreme cold. This environment has put intense adaptive pressures on the region's native plants, resulting in many rare and endemic species which have always lived on the edge. From alkali flats and sand dunes below sea level to alpine rock gardens, our native plants are unique and wonderful. The Bristlecone Chapter has the privilege of enjoying, learning about, educating others about, and working to preserve our region's invaluable native plant resources.
Toward this end, we hold annual native plant sales, which not only encourage gardeners to grow natives, but also raise money to fund the Mary DeDecker Botanical Grant, which we award yearly in order to increase understanding of native species in the region. We offer field trips and host presentations and other events to share knowledge and appreciation of our native flora.
The California Native Plant Society (CNPS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the understanding and appreciation of California's native plants and how to conserve them and their natural habitats through education, science, advocacy, horticulture and land stewardship. The Society is dedicated to the preservation California native flora to preserve this rich resource for future generations. Membership is open to all.
Bristlecone Chapter Founder, Mary DeDecker
Mary DeDecker's accomplishments as a self-taught botanist are impressive: she became the undisputed authority on the flora of the eastern Sierra and northern Mojave, discovering more than one plant species new to scientists, including a shrub in new genus which was named in her honor, Dedeckera eurekensis (July gold). But she didn't stop with exploration and learning about the local flora; Mary also worked tirelessly to preserve the unique habitats in which the plants were found. She fought to save the ecological integrity of the Owens Valley, founded the Bristlecone Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, and ultimately helped not only to raise the public's awareness of the value of native plant species but also to preserve those species in their natural habitats.
Mary DeDecker's legacy to the eastern Sierra region is continued today through the activities of the Bristlecone chapter, and through the Mary DeDecker Botanical Grant, which is awarded annually to research or education projects contributing to the knowledge and appreciation of native plants in the region. The Mary DeDecker Native Plant Garden in Independence is a living memorial to her work, as well as a great example of how people may grow native plants (purchased at our annual native plant sales, of course) in their own gardens.
Bristlecone Chapter Namesake
We take our name from the Bristlecone Pine, Pinus longaeva, the oldest living tree on earth. The very oldest of the Bristlecones survive near treeline in the White Mountains in our region, and approach 5,000 years in age in their harsh environment. To learn more about Bristlecone Pines, visit this website and be sure to visit the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest to "meet" these ancients in person someday!
"These trees, barely resembling their montane counterparts, are testament to "adaptation." Here, individuals and groups of individuals have broken the ranks and placed themselves in circumstances allowing them to experience a higher risk reality. Although scarred, deformed, and weathered by the events, they have gained the ultimate strength, character and beauty. We should endeavor to live krummholz lives." — David Lovejoy
Creosote Ring Sub-Chapter and Namesake
Another contender for the title of "oldest" also lives in the region – the humble Creosote bush, Larrea tridentata. This amazing Mojave Desert shrub forms clone rings that spread outward from the original plant as it ages, the largest of which is up to 67 feet in diameter. Scientists estimate the age of the largest clone rings could exceed 9,000 years of age and even reach up to 11,700 years in age, making it the oldest living thing!
Appropriately, the southern sub-chapter of the Bristlecone Chapter, located mostly within the mighty Mojave, has chosen the Creosote Ring as their namesake.
Bristlecone CNPS Website
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