Sage Notes, Fall 1999, Vol 21(4) Newsletter of the Idaho Native Plant Society

In this issue...
Reflections on John Leiberg’s Contribution to Plant Conservation in Idaho
John B. Leiberg (1853-1913) — Some Biographical Notes

INPS Annual Field Trip
INPS Board Meeting Minutes
White Pine Chapter’s Second Decade Toward the New Millennium
Chapter News
News and Notes

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Articles in Sage Notes reflect the views of the authors and are not an official position of the Idaho Native Plant Society.

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Reflections on John Leiberg’s 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 d’Alene Mountains. I was following the footsteps of legendary botanist John Leiberg who, 97 years before, had collected a plant that turned out to be Bourgeau’s milkvetch (Astragalus bourgovii), a species endemic to the high Rockies around the U.S.- Canada border. Leiberg’s 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 d’Alenes 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 Idaho’s 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 state’s biological diversity. His annual reports include a summary of botanical surveys in the Coeur d’Alene 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 their time.

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 Leiberg’s 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 conservation activity.

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 d’Alene 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.

It’s 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 Idaho’s botanical heritage.



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John B. Leiberg (1853-1913) — Some Biographical Notes

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 Leiberg’s 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 Woman’s Medical College of Chicago (now Northwestern University). She was referring to her mode of travel, railway handcar. The Leibergs had two sons.

Leiberg’s search for minerals did not interfere with his fascination with the plants he encountered in the remote and rugged Coeur d’Alene 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, and California.

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.

Leiberg’s 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.

Further reading

Bonta, M. M. 1991. Women in the field: America’s 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 57:108-124.

Leiberg, J. B. Papers. University of Oregon, Eugene, OR.

Leiberg, J. B. 1897. General report on a botanical survey of the Coeur d’Alene Mountains in Idaho during the summer of 1895. Contr. U.S. Nat’l. 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 5:217-252.

Leiberg, J. B. 1898. Forestry of the Bitterroot Reserve. U.S. Geol. Surv. 19th Ann. Rep 5:253-282.

Leiberg, J. B. 1900. The Bitterroot Forest Reserve. U.S. Geol. Survey 20th Ann. Rep: 5:317-410.

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, Member-at-large.

Treasurer’s 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. 2000.



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White Pine Chapter’s 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 Idaho’s 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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Chapter News

Calypso Chapter

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.

Kinnikinnick Chapter

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.

Pahove Chapter

Steve Rust, Secretary/Treasurer, reports from Boise: "We’re having a warm, balmy fall. The deciduous street trees are stunning this year—I 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 Resource."

Winter programs are being planned.

See "White Pine Chapter’s Second Decade Toward the New Millennium" on p. 18.

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 President’s 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 send comments.)

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 country’s 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 roadlessareasnoi/, 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 (Spalding’s 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 plant—see Vol. 20 (4), Fall 1998, p. 10.


Carex aboriginum no longer extinct. Michael Mancuso of the Idaho Conservation Data Center

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 species—Carex 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 again!"


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 <>; Linda Cook at (509) 334-6741 or <>. 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 <> or Steve Rust at (208) 342-2631 <>.


Idaho Academy of Science Meeting. This year’s 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 <> or by contacting IAS President Rex Widener, Meeting Coordinator, at <> or (208) 733-9554.


New Publications

Calypso member Peggy Faust’s 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 d’Alene.

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 Society’s 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 Clark’s 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. Clair’s, "A Color Guidebook to Common Rocky Mountain Lichens," just off the press. It’s $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) 378-5052.