WORKED TIRELESSLY: BLANCHE TRASK
acknolwedged by
ALLAN SCHOENHERR
1999
in
Natural History Of The Islands Of California
University of California Press
California Natural History Guide 61
491 pages

Chapter 7 - The Outer Southern Channel Islands: San Clemente, San Nicolas, and Santa Barbara. Page 318:
"The first thorough plant collections on San Clemente Island were made by Blanche Trask, who moved to Santa Catalina Island in 1895. For twelve years she worked tirelessly to document the flora of the Southern Channel Islands. However, it was not until 1963 that Peter Raven published the first comprehensive account of the flora of San Clemente Island. Robert Thorne added to it in 1969 at the same time that he updated his Santa Catalina Island Flora...."

"As of now 382 different plants have been recorded from San Clemente Island, 272 of which are considered to be natives. With seventeen species, the island harbors the greates number of single-island endemic plant species of any of the California islands. Six of these species are federally listed as endangered; indeed four of these were the first plant species added to federal list after the Endangered Species Act was passed. In all, more island-endemic plants are found on this island than on any other California island."


OBSERVATIONS OF A NATURALIST FROM THE 21st CENTURY
Robert Roy van de Hoek
December 2000

Blanche Trask, poet-explorer-naturalist, did most of her California wild nature exploration and writing on the Channel Islands of Southern California. She was a resident of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island in Los Angeles County, California from 1895 to 1915 (spanning 20 Years). Her winter home was located adjacent to the Tuna Club in Avalon, but she also had a summer home at the Isthmus where the Institute of Environmental Studies of USC is currently located. Many people that I speak to are surprised to learn that San Clemente is also in Los Angeles County.

Blanche Trask did travel outside of Los Angeles County but not very often. Blanche Trask explored some of the desert mountains of the west, such as the San Jacinto Mountains, Colorado Desert, Death Valley, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and Yellowstone. Many people have acknowledged her contritubitions over the last 100 years in published literature. Allan Schoenherr is thus far the last in a long list of scientists to recognize her contribution.

Allan Schoenherr notes that 17 endemic plants are restricted to San Clemente. It would be of interest to note if Blanche Trask was the first person to make note of these to the world of science. In addition, what percentage of the 272 native plants now known for San Clemente, did Blanche Trask also collect. The exact number we will never know, but the round numbers of how well Blanche Trask knew the floristic natural history of San Clemente would be of interest.

It seems appropriate at this time to use the description by Alice Eastwood, contemporary friend and colleague of Blanche Trask, to elaborate on what Allan Schoenherr wrote about San Clemente Island, in order to give a more complete picture of her explorations. "Mrs. Trask describes the descent into any of the canyons leading to the sea as hazardous. The sharp volcanic rocks are completely hidden by dense vegetation. Trifolium tridentatum grows 4 to 6 eet high and the long thick stems spread vine-like so that to avoid being tripped, hands and feet are both needed to crawl down the steep defiles. Sailing around the island, Mrs. Trask could count the groves of Lyonothamnus up the canyons, and, near the summits, the oaks."

"Mrs. Trask spent three months on San Clemente Island in 1903. Here specimens were sent to me for identification, but both specimens and list were lost in the earthquake and fire of 1906. However, a fine descriptive account which was published in the Proceedings of the Southern California Academy of Sciences in 1904, described the appearance and habitat of some important species that Lyon did not list. Among these weree the two oaks, Quercus chrysolepis and Q. tomentella, Crossosoma californicum, heretofore listed only from Guadalupe and Santa Catalina islands, and Lavatera assurgentiflora, the tree or bush mallow restricted apparently to San Miguel, San Clemente, and Anacapa islands."

"The caves were evidently used as homes by the Indian inhabitants, as indicated by the traces that they have left."
The quote is from 1941 (San Clemente) for Eastwood's Channel Islands Flora.

Indeed, Blanche Trask appreciated the desert landscapes of the southwest, as noted in her letters to Willis Jepson, but the California Channel Islands were her "sense of place." Indeed, the Channel Islands have a "desert feel" to them, if one spends some time on them. The Geography of Hope for Blanche Trask is undoubtedly Santa Catalina Island, but San Clemente and San Nicolas Island were a close second to Catalina.

The above narrative was written and compiled by Robert Roy van de Hoek, December 7, 2000, for educational and inspirational purposes in the hope of someday adding the last three "southern" islands (San Clemente, San Nicolas, Santa Catalina) to the five islands that already make up Channel Islands National Park. Blanche Trask would whole-heartedly approve of an "All Eight Channel Islands" National Park. It is only fitting that these three "southern" islands be added to the "name-sake" of the National Park. If not, I propose that we change the National Park name to more accurately reflect truth: "Five Channel Islands National Park." My point is that this "great" National Park is not "greater" but "lesser" as the current name would suggest. The northern Channel Islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel) are a much greater distance from Santa Barbara Island than the three "southern" islands in question. These three "southern" islands are not far from Santa Barbara Island, which, by the way, already is in the National Park. Each of the three "southern" islands is roughly 20 miles from Santa Barbara Island but in different compass directions. San Clemente is "South," San Nicolas is "West," and Santa Catalina is "East."




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