Del Mar woman brings skills to The Nat’s Plant Atlas
By Kathy Day
One of those who helped with The Nat’s Plant Atlas for about seven years was Del Mar resident Karen Rich. While she has been a botanist for 25 years and was on The Nat staff when she first took on her grid, she said that is “atypical. Most of the volunteers are not educated in botany.”
Instead they are people who like the outdoors and are interested in their surroundings, she added. Museum staff holds regular training sessions to teach them how to get the samples and what is expected of them and then they pick the grid where they want to work.
“I’m basically lazy so I picked the area where I live,” she said. That covered the area roughly between Via de la Valle, Del Mar Heights, I-5 to the west and Torrey Pines High School to the east. “It’s an urban area — perhaps not so glamorous but it was interesting to learn what grows around where I live.”
During walks with her husband she primarily focused on four natural spaces which she tried to visit once a month, all the while looking for flowers and fruit on trees, grasses, cacti, perennials and annuals – but not those cultivated.
She found 200 different species in her wanderings, including two never before documented. One of those – a member of the night shade family — was in “the far reaches of her yard. There was only one plant and it never came back, she noted.
The second, a member of the composite family – a kind of sunflower — was on an SDG&E service road in the Gonzales Canyon behind TPHS. It was just a small patch when Rich, who speculated the seeds might have come in during construction of the power line, found it. A year later when she returned, it had expanded.
She said she was always thoughtful in taking the samples and keeping notes that would be translated into labels for the specimens. Noting everything from where she found the flower to what color and how tall it was, she also took GPS readings to get exact locations.
The idea, she explained, was to gather all of the information necessary so that “someone in five, 10, 100 years could look at a specimen in the herbarium and be able to picture its surroundings.”