Our History

The California Native Plant Society (CNPS) was formed in August 1965. A few months later, G. Ledyard Stebbins, Dora Hunt, Tom Fuller, John Tucker, and Mary Ann Wohlers set a meeting for December 13, 1965 to establish a Sacramento Valley Chapter (SVC) of CNPS.  SVC was the first chapter of the new CNPS to be created.  Early activity of the chapter was primarily field trips and monthly meetings, held in conjunction with the C.M. Goethe Arboretum Society (which supported the arboretum at Sacramento State University).  The first field trip was in February 1966 to the Dixon vernal pools, later to become the Jepson Prairie Reserve. Field trips to vernal pools continue to be part of the chapter’s annual field trip schedule.  The earliest known program was given by James B. Roof who spoke on “Adventures with California Native Plants” at the March 1966 meeting.  A complete list of programs since then can be found here

Plant sales have been an important activity of the chapter since the late 1960s.  The sales were held at California State University Sacramento (CSUS) until 1996, and in conjunction with the CSUS arboretum until 1976.  Until 2007, and the full functioning of the chapter’s nursery Elderberry Farms, many of the plants offered at the sale were grown by chapter members at home. By 1985, the plant sales had become large enough to need additional plant stock from commercial nurseries and Cornflower Farms, which still supplies plants, was one of the first nurseries to participate. The Fall sale has been at the Shepard Garden and Arts Center since 1997.  The Spring sale has had many different locations over the years, but has been at the chapter’s nursery Elderberry Farms since 2011.


Conservation is a core activity of chapter members. Although the early focus of SVC was monthly meetings and field trips, by the late 1970s, and especially with the formation of the Conservation Committee in 1981, the chapter members became more and more involved in conservation issues.  The vernal pools at Phoenix Field, the American River Parkway, proposed development of Bannon Island, and Del Paso Regional Park all received dedicated attention from SVC members in the 1980s.  In 1982, the chapter received the Sacramento Audubon Society’s annual award for active conservation work.  Of core importance to the chapter’s work over the decades has been the region’s vernal pools. Today the chapter is deeply committed to conservation and preservation.

While the chapter has been offering plant sales since the 1960s, a more recent focus on horticulture has led to the creation of a demonstration garden at the Sacramento Old City Cemetery (1997–2019), formation of the chapter’s own native plant nursery Elderberry Farms (since 2007), and an annual garden tour called Gardens Gone Native (since 2011).  The demonstration garden, nursery and the tour help support and promote an increasing interest in gardening with California native plants.

Become part of the chapter's legacy!

The Sacramento Valley Chapter of CNPS is an organization run by volunteers. As a result, the activity and focus of the chapter reflect the skills and interests of its members over time.  Please consider adding your skills and interests to the chapter’s efforts to increase understanding and appreciation of California’s native plants.

Scroll to Top