Milo Baker CNPS

The Milo Baker Chapter, is one of 36 chapters of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS). We are a volunteer organization, depending on the dedication, hard work and incredible initiative of our members. Named after the famous Santa Rosa Botanist, Milo Baker, we are located in Northern California’s beautiful Sonoma County. CNPS is a statewide organization whose goals are to protect California‚Äôs native plants and their natural habitats, through science, education, stewardship, gardening, and advocacy. Membership is open to all.

Join Milo Baker CNPS! Help grow and support our mission to protect, conserve and enjoy Sonoma County’s native plants and their habitats. Attend one of our monthly general meetings or join us for an informative plant walk. We have numerous volunteer opportunities, including invasive plant removal, maintaining local preserves and gardens, advocacy work, or serving on one of our many committees.

For general inquiries email: milobaker@cnps.org
Mailing address: P.O. Box 892 Santa Rosa, CA 95402

Jenner Headlands hike

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About Milo Baker Chapter

About Milo Samuel Baker

The following is exerpted from: CalFlora Botanical Names: bakeri

… Milo Samuel Baker (1868-1961), a botanist who listed thousands of North Coast plants, among them the endangered wildflower Blennosperma bakeri, which has had a major impact on the development of Sonoma County’s seasonal wetlands.

He is revered by those who love the wildflowers carpeting the Sonoma County landscape in spring. During decades of ground-combing research, he carefully collected and identified some 15,000 specimens that now are mounted at Sonoma State University.

A Santa Rosa Junior College teacher, he cataloged the flora of Sonoma County and was one of the most respected botanists in the state. But he may be remembered chiefly as the man who identified a small yellow flower with the might to stop bull-dozers. The little Sonoma Sunshine, partial to the hog wallows of spring, is one of three native Sonoma wildflowers listed as rare and endangered. The fragile flower has altered the course of development in the 55,000-acre Santa Rosa plain stretching from Cotati to Windsor. In the 1980s and 1990s, the words Blennosperma bakeri were almost blasphemy to developers and farmers who discovered the daisy-like flower on their land, and ran up against stiff state and federal laws aimed at protecting them and the dwindling number of vernal pools where they thrived.

Milo Baker died a quarter-century before the flower that bore his name — like the spotted owl in North Coast forests — became the axis in a battle between environmentalists and developers. Endangered species weren’t discussed in his lifetime. Yet, he fought his own uphill battles at the junior college to gain support for his growing herbarium and a life’s work seen as esoteric. After he died, a science wing was named for Baker, but it wasn’t big enough to house his collection, which eventually went to Sonoma State. ”He was pretty much alone, caring for those wildflowers,” former student and longtime assistant Vanette Bunyan once lamented. ”He had a show every year, and more people came from out of town than from in town.” With a digging tool, a field press and newspaper, he embarked on weekend botanical treks to list North Coast plants. It was a massive project, he said, ”undertaken for the sheer pleasure of finding out what seed plants grow in this vast and varied region.”

Although in death he would be most closely associated with Baker’s Blennosperma, violets were his first love. The wildflower garden at his Kenwood ranch flourished with violets grown from seeds sent by correspondents all over the world.

Baker, an Iowa native, came to California as a child. It was on a 100-mile walk to his first teaching job in Modoc County that he began to collect his first specimens. Much of the flora of eastern Shasta, Modoc and Lassen counties was made known through his work, including the Modoc Cypress, named Cupressus bakeri in his honor.

He moved to Sonoma County in 1901, beginning a 20-year period he called ”my Rip Van Winkle sleep. ” During that time, he developed his wildflower garden, earned a master’s degree from Stanford, and was a trustee of the new Santa Rosa Junior College until he was recruited for the faculty. Still, he never let up on his field studies, leading students on scouting trips in his black Model-A Ford for several weeks every April, then sending them out the day before his annual wildflower show to gather specimens he then spent all night meticulously identifying. It was a single-minded pursuit that blurred the lines between work and leisure. That didn’t matter to Baker. After retiring in 1945 he remained curator of the North Coast Herbarium, served as president of the California Botanic Society and occasionally taught.

His scientific ambitions exceeded his declining physical abilities, a fact he defied. He taught his last class in field botany at 90. Weeks before his death, he was planning a trip to the Trinity Alps and still hoping to collect violets on Alaska’s Mount Whitney. Curious to the end, he urged an assistant just before he died, ”Come again, and tell me all of your secrets.”

Baker was enamored of the mysteries of the natural plant world in the way his contemporary Luther Burbank was beguiled by how man could improve on nature. His was an irrepressible drive to understand the intricate life under his feet. He once wrote in one of his plant lists that “the names may change from time to time but the plants remain unchanged and unmindful of attempts to classify them.” Baker did not foresee the development that would one day threaten those fields of wildflowers. But his meticulous documentation was a key step in saving them so many years later.

[This entry was quoted from a website entitled 50 Who Shaped Our Century put online by the Santa Rosa, California, Press Democrat] currently available here(ref. Arctostaphylos bakeri, Blennosperma bakeri, Callitropsis [formerly Cupressus] bakeri, Delphinium bakeri)

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With a CNPS membership you will receive discounts on CNPS-published books and posters, a subscription to Flora, and if you choose Milo Baker as your home chapter, the Milo Baker CNPS Chapter newsletter.

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