Guides to Local Plants

Botanists say that Kern County has it all. The county is one of the most diverse areas in the world, with nearly 2,000 individual species of plants. Because of its unique position stretching from the coastal range to the Sierra Nevada and from the San Joaquin Valley to the Tehachapi and Transverse Ranges on to the Mojave Desert, Kern County has an extremely diverse mix of geology, topography, soils, and climate. This results not only in an abundance of different species, but also in plants unique to Kern County.

While there are no field guides to Kern County as such, Maynard Moe has compiled a flora for the county based on his decades of exploring every nook and cranny in the county. Moe’s book, Kern County Flora: A Key to Vascular Plant Species of Kern County, contains detailed keys to the identification of the vascular plants of Kern County. It’s intended to be used as a tool for both professional and amateur botanists in identifying the plants of Kern County.

The only field guide specific to Kern County is Pam DeVries’ Plants of the San Emigdio Region of California. The book covers the mountainous area in southwestern Kern County bordering Ventura County and includes numerous color photos and brief descriptions of the flowering plants likely to be found there.

Botanical Tour of the Kern Plateau

Take a botanical tour of the Kern Plateau with Ernest Twisselmann. This is a beautifully written tour of the Kern Plateau by one of Kern County’s most famous botanists, Ernest Twisselmann. Several of the sites mentioned have become protected botanical areas by the US Forest Service, including Baker Point, Bald Mountain, and the Twisselmann Botanical Area on Sirretta Peak.

Ernest C Twisselmann, A Botanical Scanning of the Kern Plateau (Kern Plateau Association, 1971).

Plant Checklists

Chapter members have created plant lists for numerous locales in Kern county and surrounding areas. These include popular trails in both Sequoia and Los Padres National Forests, state parks, and national monuments. It’s helpful to print and bring a plant list with you when visiting one of these areas, because they can help you locate plants and confirm identifications.

See our Local Plant Lists page to download plant species lists for the areas identified.

Kern County Plant Books

Kern County Flora: A Key to Vascular Plant Species of Kern County, California

Maynard Moe’s Kern County Flora is, as the name implies, a botanical key to all of the plants found in Kern County. It’s an indispensable resource for botanists and amateurs alike. Moe has incorporated Twisselmann’s observations, as well as those of others, as to where the plants described have been found in the past.

A Field Guide to the Plants of the San Emigdio Mountains Region of California

Pam De Vries’ field guide focuses on the Mount Pinos region but includes the Gorman Hills and the Frazier Mountain Recreation Area. This easy-to-use field guide contains photos and descriptions of over 190 herbs, shrubs, and trees commonly found in an area home to spectacular displays of springtime wildflowers. It is readily accessible to any wildflower lover, with or without botanical knowledge.

A Flora of Kern County California (1995)

Originally published by Ernest C. Twisselmann in 1967 and republished by Maynard Moe in 1995, this is the classic description of the landscape, geology, and geography of Kern County. Illustrated by Even and Gladys McMillan, the book has become a classic and is fondly referred to as Twissel-Moe. The book is out of print but well worth having if one can be found.

San Luis Obispo County Plants

Vascular Plants of San Luis Obispo County, California — Ebook

Building on the earlier work of Robert Hoover, botanist Dr. David Keil created an updated second edition of Vascular Plants of San Luis Obispo County, California, now with over 2,000 plant species described and 600 color photos of plant communities and native plant species. This complete botanical reference book covers over 3,600 square miles of San Luis Obispo County, California—a biodiversity hotspot with complex geology, varied topography, and nearly one hundred miles of coastline. The county is home to a remarkable diversity of plant life, now all referenced in the user-friendly identification keys, botanical descriptions, and detailed range statements found in Vascular Plants of San Luis Obispo County, California. 

Additional Resources

In addition to resources from the Kern Chapter of CNPS, there are a number of online botanical databases and other websites that provide extensive information about California plants.