Sage Notes, Fall 1999, Vol 21(4) Newsletter of the Idaho Native Plant Society
In this issue...
Reflections on John Leibergs
Contribution to Plant Conservation in Idaho
John B. Leiberg (1853-1913) Some Biographical Notes
INPS Annual Field Trip
INPS Board Meeting Minutes
White Pine Chapters Second Decade Toward the New Millennium
News and Notes
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Reflections on John Leibergs Contribution to Plant
Conservation in Idaho
Bob Moseley, Idaho Conservation Data Center (CDC)
On a beautiful day mid-July, 1992, I stood on the summit of Stevens Peak, the highest
peak in the St. Joe and Coeur dAlene Mountains. I was following the footsteps of
legendary botanist John Leiberg who, 97 years before, had collected a plant that turned
out to be Bourgeaus milkvetch (Astragalus bourgovii), a species endemic to
the high Rockies around the U.S.- Canada border. Leibergs specimen represented the
only one known from Idaho. And there it was, a vigorous stand right where he collected it
on August 4 or 5, 1895. In all my explorations of the high parklands of the Coeur
dAlenes during 1992 and 1993, I found only one other small population down the ridge
about a mile. I wonder how long it would have been before botanists documented the
distribution and abundance of this rare element of Idahos flora if not for the clues
Leiberg left us late in the last century.
John Leiberg made monumental contributions to the botanical and ecological exploration
of the Pacific Northwest, including northern Idaho. During his employment with the U.S.
government in the late 1800s, Leiberg was the first to systematically explore and document
the flora and vegetation of the remote mountainous regions of Idaho north of the Salmon
River. Biologists from the Idaho CDC often refer to his work as they catalog the status
and trends of the states biological diversity. His annual reports include a summary
of botanical surveys in the Coeur dAlene Mountains (1897), forest conditions of the
old Priest River (1899) and Bitterroot (1900) forest reserves, and forest conditions in
northern Idaho between Priest River and the Clearwater River basin (1899). In his
Bitterroot inventory, Leiberg even made a vegetation map for what is now the
Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, a wild and remote area today, that must have been very
difficult to access in the 1890s. He was probably the first to recognize the intimate
connection between the flora and vegetation of northern Idaho and that of the Pacific
coast, and to theorize about its causes. These biogeographic musings were way ahead of
But at heart Leiberg was a floristic explorer. Cataloging the flora is what drove him
the most. And in this, I believe he was also way ahead of his time. Most compelling for me
are his astute observations on some of the rare elements of our flora and even his
recognition of future plant conservation issues.
His surprise at discovering Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) in the upper
Clearwater basin is well documented in Leibergs letters and published work. This
declining Idaho population has seen considerable conservation activity in the last decade.
In a letter to Charles Piper, he specifically mentions two rare peatland species from
near Priest Lake, Chiogenes (now Gaultheria) hispidula (creeping
wintergreen) and the small-fruited cranberry with which it is there commonly associated (Vaccinium
oxycoccos). These two are among a suite of boreal species that are rare in Idaho, and
whose peatland habitat has been the focus of considerable inventory, research, and
While working in southeastern Oregon in 1896, Leiberg recognized a "great Jurassic
(?) rib which stretches clear across E. Oregon from N.W. to S.E. teeming with curious and
undescribed species of plants wherever it protrudes from the lava sheet." His
reference to a peculiar and rare fiddleneck (Amsinckia) collected on this substrate
near the Harper Ranch in Malheur County, leads me to believe that the Jurassic formation
he was talking about is now known to be much younger ash beds and related rocks. Talk
about prophetic! This habitat has turned out to be one of the biodiversity hotspots of the
Intermountain West. During the century following his statement, continuing to the present,
numerous plant species new to science have been discovered on these ash beds in
southeastern Oregon and adjacent Idaho and Nevada. Included in this group is the
fiddleneck, now known as Amsinckia carinata, which he refers to in the letter to
Piper of March 18, 1903. It, along with many other rare ash endemics, has been the focus
of considerable conservation activity during the last 20 years.
Another botanical oddity he mentions in a letter to Piper is the water lily, Castalia
tetragona, which he collected in 1887 from small ponds at Granite Station on the N.P.
(Northern Pacific Railroad) in Kootenai Co. This species is now known as Nymphaea
leibergii. Despite extensive searches by CDC botanists at Granite Station (between
Coeur dAlene and Sandpoint) and in aquatic habitats throughout the panhandle, it has
never been seen in the state again. It is now on the INPS list of plants considered
extirpated from Idaho.
Its clear that John Leiberg the plant conservationist recognized the need to
document flora and vegetation before it is "disfigured with additions and changes of
many kinds." Leiberg recognized the effects that human settlement and land use were
having on the landscape, especially the uncontrolled sheep and cattle grazing typical of
the late 1800s. In other words, he anticipated many of the current plant conservation
problems facing Idaho. In a sense, he foresaw that cheatgrass was on its way to taking
over sagebrush country, that the introduced disease, dogwood anthracnose, would decimate
the Pacific dogwood stands of the Clearwater country, and that there was the potential for
a decline in native biota that is now well documented. Unfortunately, this is one of his
prophecies I wish had not come true. On the other hand, his pioneering fieldwork left us a
baseline from which to measure our success in maintaining and protecting Idahos
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John B. Leiberg (1853-1913) Some
Sarah Walker, White Pine Chapter
John Leiberg was born Johan Liberg in Malmö, Sweden in 1853. His father was a sea
captain. I have found no information about Leibergs education except that he
graduated from the "Gymnasium" in Sweden before emigrating to the United States
at age 15. He and his family settled in Iowa. The first evidence of his interest in plants
appears as a publication in Contributions to the Flora of Iowa, written at age 17.
Subsequent publications trace his progress west to Minnesota, North Dakota, and eventually
to Idaho in 1884, where he worked as a prospector. He and his wife, Carrie Leiberg, lived
on the south side of Lake Pend Oreille. Mrs. Leiberg was a doctor"the only
woman railway surgeon in the world" according to the Class Histories of the
Womans Medical College of Chicago (now Northwestern University). She was referring
to her mode of travel, railway handcar. The Leibergs had two sons.
Leibergs search for minerals did not interfere with his fascination with the
plants he encountered in the remote and rugged Coeur dAlene Mountains. In 1893 he
was hired by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Division of Botany as a "Field
Assistant"one of several western botanists carrying out field work for Chief
Botanist and U.S. National Herbarium Curator Frederic V. Coville. For the next four years
Leiberg surveyed and described the flora of parts of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington,
In 1897, Leiberg transferred to the U.S. Geological Survey to survey the "Forest
Reserves" that had recently been established for their timber and mineral values. He
wrote long detailed reports on the Priest River Forest Reserve and the Bitterroot Forest
Reserve, and served briefly as Forest Supervisor of the Idaho Division of the Bitterroot
Forest Reserve (now the Clearwater and Nezperce National Forests). In 1905 he served as
Forest Inspector for the Insular Forest Service in Luzon, Philippines, a place he grew
interested in and returned to later.
Leibergs last year of government service was 1906. He and his family moved to a
farm in Leaburg, Oregon, near Eugene. He and his wife traveled, even taking a trip around
the world in 1910. He wrote Mrs. Britton that they hoped someday to move to the
Philippines, he to follow his interest in Malaysian lichens and liverworts, and she to
pursue corals and shells.
Leiberg died at his home in Leaburg in 1913. Before he died, he left his collections to
the University of Oregon and the Smithsonian Institution. Several plants are named for
John Leiberg, and many plants that he collected serve as the "type" specimen
(the collection upon which the naming of the species is based) for that species.
Bonta, M. M. 1991. Women in the field: Americas pioneering women naturalists.
Texas A&M University Press, College Station.
Britton, E. Papers. New York Botanical Garden Archives, Bronx, NY.
Ewan, J. 1950. Rocky Mountain naturalists. University of Denver Press, Denver.
Krok, T. 1925. Bibiltheca botanica suecana. Almqvist & Wiksells, Uppsala.
Lange, E. F. Pioneer botanists of the Pacific Northwest. Oregon Historical Quarterly
Leiberg, J. B. Papers. University of Oregon, Eugene, OR.
Leiberg, J. B. 1897. General report on a botanical survey of the Coeur dAlene
Mountains in Idaho during the summer of 1895. Contr. U.S. Natl. Herb. 5:1. U.S.
Govt. Printing Office, Washington. 85 pp.
Leiberg, J. B. 1898. The Priest River Forest Preserve. U.S. Geol. Surv. 19th Ann. Rep
Leiberg, J. B. 1898. Forestry of the Bitterroot Reserve. U.S. Geol. Surv. 19th Ann. Rep
Leiberg, J. B. 1900. The Bitterroot Forest Reserve. U.S. Geol. Survey 20th Ann. Rep:
Mack, R. N. 1988. First comprehensive botanical survey of the Columbia Plateau,
Washington: The Sandberg and Leiberg expedition of 1893. Northwest Science 62:118-129.
Northwestern University Archives, Evanston, IL.
Piper, C. V. Papers. Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.
Rydberg, P. A. 1907. Scandinavians who have contributed to the knowledge of the flora
of North America. Augustana College, Rock Island, IL.
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INPS Annual Field Trip
September 18-19, McCall, Idaho
The INPS annual trip is a great way to see more of Idaho, reunite with far-flung INPS
members, and learn about our native plants and habitats. Last September, 30 people
gathered for an informative talk on Tobias saxifrage (Saxifraga bryophora
var. tobiasiae) by botanist Kim Pierson, an inspiring field trip to the subalpine
habitat of same, and a visit to the Buffalo Berry Farm Native Plant and Conservation
Nursery, owned and managed by members Margo Conitz and Jim Crawford.
We were joined by several special guests, including Dr. Wilfrid Schofield, Professor
Emeritus, University of British Columbia, and Judy Harpel, Forest Service Bryologist for
Region Six, who stayed on to search for more mosses after teaching at the INPS-sponsored
Bryology Workshop held the week before. Kim Pierson, who wrote a masters thesis on
Tobias saxifrage, returned to her "McCall habitat" from her new post at
Utah State University, to teach us about the unusual reproductive strategies of this
small, delicate plant, found only in the mountains near McCall. Thanks to Alma Hanson and
Leonard Lake for organizing the trip for us.
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INPS Board Meeting Minutes
Leonard Lake, INPS Secretary
The Idaho Native Plant Society Board met in conjunction with the annual field trip, at
the University Field Campus on Payette Lake at McCall, Idaho. Attending: Leonard Lake,
Secretary; Steve Rust, Treasurer; Sarah Walker, Sage Notes Editor, Juanita
Lichthardt, Conservation Committee; Michael Mancuso, Conservation Committee; Loring Jones,
Treasurers Report: Steve Rust provided a summary of the state society status.
Membership is stable with 300 members. Current balance $4,000.00. Largest expenditures are
the newsletter and Rare Plant Conference. Broke even on the 1999 Rare Plant Conference.
The positions of President and Vice President remain vacant.
INPS is considered an educational institution by the state of Idaho, and as a result
members may be able to take a tax credit on Idaho state income taxes. Steve Rust agreed to
research this topic for the membership.
The editors of Sage Notes were commended on the quality and consistency of the
newsletter. The newsletter is the most visible element of the state society. Sarah
provided ideas on themes for future editions. It was agreed that the editors should
continue broadening the topics and developing a variety of themes for the newsletter.
Michael Mancuso agreed to confirm the location of the Rare Plant Conference for Feb.
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White Pine Chapters Second Decade
Toward the New Millennium
Loring Jones, White Pine Chapter
At the beginning of January, 1999, our chapter completed its first ten-year membership
in the Idaho Native Plant Society.
Although the first decade went by un-heralded, we owe a tribute to Richard (Dick)
Bingham (retired USFS scientist). It was he who organized a group of local interested INPS
members which later in 1989 became the White Pine Chapter. Its first officers were Dick
Bingham, President; Selma Nielsen, vice president; Pam Brunsfeld, secretary.
The first program, held in the University of Idahos Life Sciences building, was a
slide-lecture presentation by forest geneticist Bingham on the "Flora of the Seven
Devils." Our first field trip was to Skyline Drive on the Latah-Benewah County line
in Idaho. The first end-of-season annual meeting took place in the picnic area of Kamiak
Butte, Whitman County Park, Washington. After hikes to the crest, we gathered around a
huge campfire for a potluck supper. Firewood was provided by our chapter president.
These 1989 activities of the White Pine Chapter set the stage for many educational
winter programs and exciting botanical forays during the spring, summer, and fall field
trips. These activities are open to all as our membership continues to grow.
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Calypso Chapter is busy planning winter programs and field trips. The chapter often
joins trips offered by the Spokane Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society and the
North Idaho Mycological Society. The October issue of the Calypso Companion
featured detailed information on butterfly gardening. The next issue will be in February,
and the next chapter meeting will be in March.
Work on the arboretum has moved indoors for the season, with members working on grants
and plant orders. The chapter is very pleased with its many accomplishments so far, all
brought about with volunteer effort. The next regular membership meeting will be November
20. There will be an election for new officers, and Kris Buchler will present her renowned
slide presentation on birds, with bird songs. The chapter will hold its Christmas Brunch Potluck on December 18. Contact Lois
Wythe at (208) 263-8038 for details.
Steve Rust, Secretary/Treasurer, reports from Boise: "Were having a warm,
balmy fall. The deciduous street trees are stunning this yearI guess due to the
combination of dry weather with relatively cool nights and warm afternoons. No Pahove
Chapter meetings are planned for the months of September and November. Regular monthly
meetings will occur December through May. Please watch your mail for specifics concerning
meeting times and topics. For more information, or to assist with organizing chapter
activities, please contact Steve Rust at (208) 334-3402 (work); (208) 342-2631 (home); or
White Pine Chapter
New officers were elected at the fall meeting: President, Dennis Ferguson; Vice
President, Sonja Lewis; Secretary, Karen Adams; Treasurer, Jonalea Tonn; Past President,
Merrill Conitz; Publicity, Elizabeth Brackney; Newsletter, Nancy Miller.
Members attended the University of Idaho Herbarium open house on October 28. Linda
Cook, who recently became director, provided a feast of goodies, and Steve Brunsfeld gave
a very informative talk "The Wonderful World of the Herbarium: Using Your Community
Winter programs are being planned.
See "White Pine Chapters Second Decade Toward the New Millennium" on p.
Wood River Chapter
Our next activity will be the annual Christmas potluck that will be in early December.
For more information on joining the Wood River Group, contact Jo Ann Robbins at (208)
788-5585 in Hailey.
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News and Notes
Forest Service solicits input on roadless areas policy. Last February, the
Clinton administration imposed an 18-month moratorium on road building in 33 million acres
of federally owned forests, to allow time to evaluate the importance of roadless areas and
to propose management strategies for them. A few weeks ago, President Clinton directed the
Forest Service to "provide strong and lasting protection" for national forest
roadless areas, and on October 19, the Forest Service released for public comment a Notice
of Intent (NOI), which explained how the agency will implement the Presidents
protection directive. The Forest Service will draft an Environmental Impact Statement
(EIS) on national forest system roadless areas, obtain public input on the alternative
proposed in the draft EIS, and issue regulations. (See below for information on where to
The protection of large tracts of roadless forest is important for the conservation of
wildlife, fish, invertebrate, and plant populations, as well as for water resources.
Roadless areas support populations of many species of plants and animals that require late
successional habitats or have a low tolerance for human-caused disturbances. They also
protect watersheds by minimizing erosion created by road building and logging.
The regulatory process proposed by the Forest Service has two parts. Part 1 would
provide immediate protection for inventoried roadless areas. Part 2 would provide for
management of inventoried roadless areas and evaluation of uninventoried roadless areas
for possible protection. Additional protection under Part 2 would not take effect
immediately; instead, it would be implemented gradually through the forest planning
process. Local Forest Service managers would be responsible for determining where roadless
area protection is appropriate. It is not clear whether roadless areas in the Tongass
National Forest in Alaska, which is the countrys largest national forest and
includes the largest remaining tracts of old-growth temperate rainforest in the world,
will be protected under the new policy.
The Forest Service NOI requests public comment on the nature and scope of the issues
that should be analyzed in the draft roadless area EIS. The Forest Service is also
specifically soliciting public comment on whether the Tongass National Forest should be
included in the policy and, if so, whether it should be dealt with in Part 1 (immediate
protection) or Part 2 (determined through forest planning).
The initial comment period for this action extends until December 20, 1999. After that,
an Environmental Impact Statement considering alternative courses of action will be
proposed, and there will be opportunities for the public to comment on those as well.
"We welcome and encourage public involvement, comment and debate in the analysis of
this historic opportunity to secure our national forests and grasslands as national
treasures," says Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck. Comments can be submitted via
e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or via regular mail to USDA Forest
Service-CAET, Attn: Roadless Areas NOI, P.O. Box 221090, Salt Lake City, UT 84122.
Silene spaldingii proposed for listing as threatened. On December 3 the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service published its proposed rule for Silene spaldingii
(Spaldings catchfly) in the Federal Register. Information on recent surveys,
threats, etc., is solicited and is due February 1, to: Supervisor, Snake River Basin
Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Room 368, Boise, ID 83709.
The proposed rule is available on the internet by searching for "Federal
Register" then going to the Federal Register for Dec. 3 (Vol. 64) via online GPO
access and following the directions from there. Sage Notes has been tracking this
rare plantsee Vol. 20 (4), Fall 1998, p. 10.
Carex aboriginum no longer extinct. Michael Mancuso of the Idaho Conservation
reports: "About 100 years ago, the intrepid geologist/botanist Marcus Jones
collected a sedge in the Indian Valley area of western Idaho that was described as a new
speciesCarex aboriginum (Indian Valley sedge). Since then, this species has
been known only from the type collection (and its vague location data). Most of the Indian
Valley area has long been converted to agricultural uses. Also, past efforts to relocate
populations failed. About 10 years ago these reasons resulted in Carex aboriginum
being considered extinct, the only Idaho endemic plant in this sad category. I am now
happy to report this dubious distinction has recently been removed. Curtis Bjork, a
student at Washington State University, rediscovered a population in 1999 near Goodrich,
Idaho. This changes the global rank from GX to G1. Idaho is a little richer place
New Director for University of Idaho Herbarium. Linda Cook, formerly Graduate
Assistant Curator of the Marion Ownbey Herbarium at Washington State University, became
Director of the UI Herbarium in May. The Herbarium is open on a regular basis from
2:00-5:00 PM Monday and Wednesday and from 9:30 AM to 1:00 PM on Tuesday and Thursday, or
by appointment at (208) 885-4623; Roberta Mason-Gamer at (208) 885-4788 or
<email@example.com>; Linda Cook at (509) 334-6741 or <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Visitors are most welcome, and volunteers are always needed to mount specimens. This is an
excellent learning opportunity for anyone interested in learning to identify plants.
Northwest Scientific Association Meeting. This year the meeting will be held at the
University of Idaho in Moscow, March
16-18. There will be a one-day symposium on Conservation Botany. Anyone interested in
presenting a paper should contact Juanita Lichthardt at (208) 882-4803
<email@example.com> or Steve Rust at (208) 342-2631 <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Idaho Academy of Science Meeting. This years theme is "Mars and the
Millennium: Reflections on Space and Time." The meeting will be held at the College
of Southern Idaho, March 30-April 1. More information is on the web at
<www.csi.cc.id.us/physci/IAS/iasmeeting.html-ssi> or by contacting IAS President Rex
Widener, Meeting Coordinator, at <email@example.com> or (208)
Calypso member Peggy Fausts new book "Wildflowers of the Inland
Northwest" is available from the Museum of North Idaho, P.O. Box 812, Coeur d'Alene,
ID 83816-0812, (208) 664-3348. Price is $15.95, plus shipping ($3.50 for the first book
and $1.00 for each additional book to the same address.) They will include a card with
your name. It is also available at Hastings Book Store in Coeur dAlene.
White Pine member Loring Jones recommends:
"Landscaping with Native Plants for the Inland Northwest." 1999. Fitzgerald,
T. WSU/Spokane County Extension. Washington State University Cooperative Extension, 222 N.
Havana, Spokane, WA 99202-4799. An excellent companion piece for "Native Plants of
Northern Idaho for Landscaping and Restoration," 1999. White Pine Chapter, INPS. P.O.
Box 8481, Moscow, ID 83843.
"The Journals of Lewis and Clark Expedition, Volume 12." 1999. Moulton, G. L.
editor. Herbarium of Lewis & Clark Expeditions, a project of the Center for Great
Plains Studies. University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Univ. of Nebr. Press, Lincoln. A
professional review and critique is best left to our Societys botanists and
herbarium curators, not only for this volume but perhaps for the other 11 volumes as well.
I found this one to be a great birthday gift, overwhelmingly complete from an historical
and botanical specimen compilation aspect. It is remarkable that any of the specimens
survived Lewis and Clarks harrowing round trip. Photographs of the herbarium
mountings featured in this volume are fuzzy and some inscriptions difficult to read
without magnification (but this is expected, after 200 years).
Roger Rosentreter alerts us to Dr. Larry St. Clairs, "A Color Guidebook to
Common Rocky Mountain Lichens," just off the press. Its $19.95 plus $2.50
shipping for the 1st copy and $1.00 for additional copies. Book requests can be sent to:
M.L. Bean Life Science Museum, 290 MLBM, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, (801)