Randall Morgan

November 7, 1947 – June 6, 2017


It is with deep sadness that we report the death of Randy Morgan, founding member of our chapter, past president, and CNPS Fellow.

Many people have fond memories of Randy, and we are sharing some of them here. Also, see our July August 2017 Newsletter for more information.

The Randall Morgan Collections and Santa Cruz Natural History Initiative was developed in consultation with Morgan himself in spring 2017. The Initiative aims to honor, preserve, and build upon the legacy of Morgan’s own projects and collections.

Randy requested that those who wanted to honor his memory do so in the form of a donation to this initiative. Our chapter board voted to donate $1,000. We encourage CNPS members to donate, and match our contribution.

To contribute online go to the Norris Center web site.


A Sprinkling of Randy Morgan’s Major Achievements (in his own words)

Fellow of the California Native Plant Society; founding member and past president of Santa Cruz County chapter.

Research associate, Santa Cruz City Museum of Natural History (SCCMNH) (and employed as taxidermist for SCCMNH ca. 1962-1970).

Publication of An Annotated Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Santa Cruz County (2005).

Discovered many previously unknown or unrecognized plant and insect species, nearly all in California (e.g. Ohlone tiger beetle, Sandhills robberfly, Lockheed manzanita, Scotts Valley polygonum, several rein-orchids, and many clover species). Also re-discovered several species thought to be extinct (Antioch flowerwasp, glabrous popcorn-flower, Scotts Valley spineflower).

Documented the native flora of Santa Cruz County with a collection of 5,000-plus herbarium voucher specimens, along with plant lists for several hundred local sites.

Specialist in Trifolium (clover) systematics. Principal world authority on the subject essentially by default.

Documented the insect fauna of Santa Cruz County with a systematic collection of about 80,000 specimens, 1989-1999 (currently housed at UCSC Museum of Natural History Collections).

Active in conservation efforts since at least 1980, including advocacy for local endangered species and ecosystems. Worked for public and scientific recognition for a number of important and highly threatened local centers of endemism (i.e. biological “hotspots”) which had been all but unknown at the time, in particular the Zayante sandhills, Scotts Valley grasslands, and Soda Lake. Instrumental in public acquisition of several parks and preserves including South Ridge, Quail Hollow Park, Westside Greenbelt, Glenwood Grasslands, etc. Education regarding invasive species. Advocacy for observation-based rather than dogma-based ecological practices.

It is with deep sadness that we report the death of Randy Morgan, founding member of our chapter, past president, and CNPS Fellow. Randy devoted his astonishing intellect and love of nature to the study of Santa Cruz flora, insects, and also birds, and has been instrumental in the protection of many of its most precious and unique habitats.

Personal Recollections

Here are some recollections of Randy (or R if you prefer) shared by his CNPS friends and collaborators. If you would like to add a story or your thoughts for others to enjoy, please do email your story to Jackie Pascoe at countrymoosie@gmail.com.

Laurie Kiguchi
Randy’s findings were key to the ultimate protection (often after protracted CNPS efforts) of the Martin Road sandhills property (threatened by vineyards), Quail Hollow Ranch Park (eyed for mining), Arana Gulch (slated to be car dealerships), Westside Greenbelt, Glenwood (slated for housing), and other areas in the county-in addition to species and habitat protection imposed on developers such as the sand quarries, Polo Ranch, individual landowners, etc. I can attest to this personally after years of consulting in resource management of sensitive plants and habitats, often with Randy’s input. Randy’s fingerprints are probably on virtually every significant habitat protection, preservation, and resource management effort in the county over the past 40 years.

Janell Hillman
Randy was Chapter President from 1991 through 1993. He has been Rare Plant Coordinator from the Chapter’s inception (mid 1970s). Randy has led numerous field trips, given lectures, testified at public meetings, and developed plant lists and maps for most sensitive areas of the County that have proved indispensable to the local chapter’s conservation efforts. In just one example, his research in the Sandhills of Ben Lomond and Felton was instrumental in conveying to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors the importance of this rare habitat that is found nowhere else in the world. The flora and fauna of the county would surely not have the protection they do and we in Santa Cruz might not have the open space and greenbelt land that we do, if Randy had not dedicated his life to highlighting these sensitive areas and the organisms that inhabit them.

Chris Lay
Chris Lay, Administrative Director of the Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History at UC Santa Cruz: “When I look at plants I’ll be very satisfied if I can just tell you the species name. But Randy, he recognizes the diversity within the construct of what we call a species. He’ll be walking in the grassland and he’ll pull out one individual plant and say, ‘You know what, the hairs on these leaves and the length of the petioles (etc.) don’t quite match up with the way we describe this species.’ He’ll just sit there and ponder: ‘I wonder what’s going on here.’ His specimens are like that. He’ll collect all the oddities-and he’ll FIND them. He’ll find the one specimen that doesn’t look like all the rest. He sees this other dimension that most of us don’t. He’s constantly looking for diversity. And what he’s seen in his lifetime is that, okay maybe not many species have gone extinct or been extirpated from these landscapes around here, but the diversity within what we call a species everywhere in the county has diminished significantly.”Continuing Randy’s Legacy: Santa Cruz Natural History Initiative

Laurie Kiguchi: “A small group of us (including Randy) has been working together to develop an initiative to support Randy’s wishes on how his work and vision can be continued into the future. Administrative Director Chris Lay, and Faculty Director Karen Holl have been key players in this effort, coordinating the countless hours of work that students and many [others] have volunteered. Support from the UCSC Greenhouse (Jim Velzy) and Arboretum (Brett Hall and Steve McCabe) have been invaluable as well. In honor to him, R preferred that people donate to this effort.”

The outcome is the Randall Morgan Collections and Santa Cruz Natural History Initiative. Its aim is to provide ongoing stewardship of Randy’s collections, and to provide “opportunities for UCSC students to develop similar observational and taxonomic skills at environmentally sensitive sites in our county.” As noted on the initiative web page, “his voucher collection of over 10,000 plants and plant surveys from over 500 locations spanning the last 35 years forms the basis of our understanding of the current botanical diversity within the Santa Cruz Mountains and Central California. Morgan’s insect collection includes over 70,000 specimens collected over an 11-year period from 39 sites in Santa Cruz County.”

“Randy was truly a special person,” Laurie Kiguchi said. “While he would be the first to admit his life was not always how he would want it to be, he was true to himself and was a steadfast and loyal friend. His interests, dedication, and commitment were paramount through his final hours, and live on in his work and all those he has inspired. I hope they will continue to do so for years and generations to come. That will be his gift to us and our gift to him.”

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