Newspaper Archive of
Portola Reporter
Portola , California
March 23, 2016     Portola Reporter
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March 23, 2016

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Bulletin, Record, Progressive, Reporter Wednesday, March 23, 2016 111 INSIDE SECTION B: EDITORIAL OPINIONS UPCOMING EVENTS Rebecca Merritt Austin is best known today for her observations of the California pitcher plant (Darlingtonia californica), top and right, also called cobra lily, in Butterfly Valley. Noted 19th century botanist Asa Gray named the phantom orchid (Cephalanthera austiniae) in honor of Rebecca Austin, who collected some of the first specimens of the plant, Desert parsley (Lomatium austinae) also bears her name; she collected the type specimen. History talk explores work of woman botanist The snow plant (Sarcodes sanguinea) has no chlorophyll and derives nutrients from fungi underneath the soil. It can be found growing out of pine needles and other litter on the forest floor. Delaine Fragnoli Staff Writer When Rebecca Merritt Austin arrived on the banks of Blackhawk Creek, outside of Quincy, in 1865, she probably was not thinking about carnivorous plants. But today, the amateur naturalist is best remembered for her collection and observation of them, particularly the stunning California pitcher plant, which she called "a mystery, full of life and death." How this wife of a miner became an internationally recognized student of insectivorous plants is the topic of the Women's History Month presentation Thursday, March 31. Journalist and certified California naturalist Delaine Fragnoli and professional ecologist Kyle Merriam will outline Austin's life and work at the event, sponsored by the Plumas County Museum and the Plumas National Forest. Merriam will focus on the plants Austin studied, while Fragnoli will trace Austin's life story and place her work, and that of other women naturalists, in the context of 19th-century science and culture. The talk will also touch on the role that citizen scientists continue to play today Austin made most of her plant collections from 1873 to 1878 in Butterfly Valley, which the Forest Service has now formally designated as a botanical area because of its unique plants: Austin sent specimens to and maintained correspondence with the most prominent botanists of her time. Known as a "prodigious" collector, she has been credited with giving "the foundation to our knowledge of the vegetation" of northeastern California. Today, her specimens can be found in collections at the Smithsonian and the California Academy , k During her years in Plumas County, Rebecca Austin studied the sundew (Drosera rotundifolia), one of the five species of insectivorous plants found in the Butterfly Valley Botanical Area on the Plumas National Forest. The five are: California pitcher plant, common and lesser bladderworts, and round- and long-leaved sundews. of Sciences. Austin managed to continue her botanical work despite having few resources -- she lacked a hand lens for many years. Her family's precarious finances prompted her to start a business selling native plants and bulbs to scientists and collectors, an enterprise she continued after the family moved to Modoc in 1883. She died in Chico in 1919 and is buried at Chico Cemetery. USDA United Forest Service States Department of Agriculture Plumas National Forest The USDA Forest Service is an equal opportunity service provider andemployer. i t