California Native Plant Society
San Gabriel Mountains Chapter

Our chapter's logo: Mt. Gleason Paintbrush

Update April 2012: Click here for The Paintbrush Quest, a survey fo confirm the existence of this paintbrush.

CHOOSING THE LOGO

The following is from Brief History of the San Gabriel Mountains Chapter — CNPS, compiled September 1990 by Mickey Long:

A lively event was the choosing of a Chapter logo. The December 1984 Newsletter included the following: “At our last general meeting, the votes for our logo were counted. Three plants tied for first choice. At our December 13 meeting, we will vote for one of the three 'finalists': Mt. Gleason Paintbrush (Castilleja gleasonii), Big-cone Spruce (Pseudotsuga macrocarpa), and Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana). Be there and voice your preference for our Chapter logo."

The February newsletter indicates the results were unanimous (with some grumbling heard about the nice tree candidates) and the Mt. Gleason Paintbrush was chosen, in large part due to its rare and endemic nature. The art work for the logo was done by Pat Brame and the logo first appeared on the May 1985 newsletter.

ORIGINAL DISCOVERY

Mt. Gleason Paintbrush was originally collected by A. D. E. Elmer in June, 1902. The location was described as California: Los Angeles: Summit of Mount Gleason, San Gabriel Mountains, 6,100 feet. The specimen is at the Harvard University Herbaria (GH) and was first described in the Botanical Gazette 39: 51 (1905). Source: CalFlora Occurrence Database.

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A LISTED SPECIES

Today Mt. Gleason Paintbrush is a sensitive or listed species.

CNPS lists Castilleja gleasonii as 1B 3-2-3.

List 1B plants are rare, threatened or endangered in California and elsewhere.

CNPS Code R-E-D means:

R (Rarity) 3 - Distributed in one to several highly restricted occurrences, or present in such small numbers that it is seldom reported.
E (Endangerment) 2 - Endangered in a portion of its range.
D (Distribution) 3 - Endemic to California.

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U.S. FOREST SERVICE DESCRIPTION

PaintbrushCastilleja gleasonii is [also] a Forest Service Sensitive Species. Endemic to the western San Gabriel Mountains of Los Angeles County, the perennial grows on granitic soils in conifer forest habitat above 5,000 feet. Fewer than ten occurrences are known, all located in the Angeles National Forest at Messenger Peak/Flat, Mount Gleason, Lightning Ridge, and east to Chilao, Horse Flats, and the Little Rock Creek area (Mistretta and Brown 1987a).

“The primary threat to this species is its preference for habitat that is also popular for human recreation activities (i.e., gentle slopes and an open understory). Occurrences are reportedly threatened by their proximity to campgrounds (Horse Flats, Bandido, Chilao Flats, Messenger Flats, and Lightning Ridge). Designated trails (e.g., the Pacific Crest Trail) also occur in the vicinity of occurrences. Fuel wood gathering at Mount Gleason is cited as a threat and off-highway vehicle activity is a potential threat at Mount Gleason and Messenger Flat.

“It is unclear how this species responds to disturbance; discing adjacent to occurrences at Messenger Flat in 1983 did not appear to increase recruitment into the disturbed area (Mistretta and Brown 1987a). A prescribed burn at Horse Flats in October of the same year did not appear to negatively affect the species. Transect data gathered from 1982 to 1987 showed a steady decline in species abundance (attributed to deer browsing) at the Horse Flats area.

“The Angeles National Forest has developed a species management guide for occurrences in the forest (Mistretta and Brown 1987a). [The 1993 edition of] The Jepson Manual lists this species as C. pruinosa and considers related species part of a highly variable complex that needs further study (including C. affinis and C. foliolosa).”

— excerpted from General Technical Report PSW-GTR-172

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BUT IS IT STILL A SPECIES?

Rick Fisher, our chapter's Conservation Chair comments:

The Jepson Manual ...does not call this plant C. pruinosa ... but it notes that this population of plants that we call C. gleasonii that keys out to C. pruinosa is, in the author's mind, a naturally occurring hybrid group derived from C. affinis x C. foliosa, and does not recognize it is as a valid species .... [So] our chapter logo plant was 'jepsonized' out of existence, so to speak ... although the USFS still treats it as a valid species, [as does RSABG]; and CNPS differs from Jepson taxonomy significantly in our Inventory for the same reason.”

Update, January 2012: Our chapter logo has been restored to full species status instead of uncertain ancestry in the second edition (2012) of The Jepson Manual.

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IDENTIFICATION

Mt. Gleason Paintbrush can be distinguished from the other two common paintbrushes that may be growing in its small neighborhood, Martin's and Giant Red, by the leaves and by habitat.

Mt. Gleason Paintbrush is described as having more or less grayish, linear-lanceolate leaves densely covered with branched hairs. It grows on rocky slopes in the yellow pine forest. Think "frosted."

Martin's Paintbrush, Castilleja applegatei var. martinii in The Jepson Manual and C. martinii in A Flora of Southern California, has crisp, wavy-edged, green to gray-green leaves. Also, the stems are sticky. It grows on dry slopes in the chaparral and yellow pine forest. Think "wavy".

Giant Red Paintbrush, Castilleja miniata has smooth, flat, acutely pointed leaves and is found in moist places in the montane coniferous forest around Dawson Saddle and Vincent Gap. It grows tall and upright with few branches. Think "smooth".

Acknowledgment:

This page © 2001 Jane Strong

Photograph © 2001 Rick Fisher

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