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Congress designated the Kiavah Wilderness in 1994 under the California Desert Protection Act. It is located in the Scodie Mountains in Kern County, ca. 24 km (15 mi) east of Lake Isabella and 24 km (15 mi) west of Ridgecrest, and encompasses a total of 137 mi2 (354 km2) with elevations ranging from 1000 to 2200 m (3500–7294 ft). The Wilderness is ecologically important because it occurs in a transition zone between two floristic provinces, the Sierra Nevada of the California Floristic Province and the Mojave Desert of the Desert Province. It is of cultural significance because it has a rich history of Native Americans harvesting pinyon pine nuts and inhabiting the land. Prior to the study ca. 290 vascular plant taxa had been documented, primarily along roads and the Pacific Crest Trail. Jim Shevock and Barbara Ertter made significant collections and contributions to the floristic inventory during the 1980s and early 1990s, and LeRoy Gross added valuable collections in 2005 and 2006. The purpose of the project was to inventory the vascular plant taxa throughout the Kiavah Wilderness, document special status plants, and assess invasive non-native plants. The project took place in 2013–2015, and 68 days were spent in the field. It coincided with three severe to exceptional drought years, the driest span for the site in recorded history. During the study large stands of Pinus monophylla, found in the Wilderness and much of the Southwest, experienced large die-offs. About 1300 plant specimens were collected for the study, which are deposited at RSA, CAS, and UCR. In total, 70 families, 240 genera, 457 species, and 477 minimum-rank taxa were documented, including those collected previously. A total of 28 non-native taxa (5.9% of the flora) and 26 special status plants (5.4%) were documented. Three special status taxa previously documented in the Wilderness were not relocated: Lewisia disepala (Montiaceae), Cordylanthus rigidus subsp. brevibracteatus (Orobanchaceae), and Delphinium purpusii (Ranunculaceae). A range extension for Eriophyllum mohavense (Asteraceae) was documented.

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© 2017 Erika Gardner

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