Oscar Clarke, a self-taught botanist, author and founder of the Herbarium at UC Riverside recently passed away at the age of 93. Known as a “walking encyclopedia of local natural history,” he started the UC Riverside herbarium in 1966 and was its curator until 1979 still visiting and volunteering at the herbarium as recently as last year. He was a friend and mentor to many botanists, naturalists, and ethnobotanists in our region.
Bob Muns in remembering various “grand old botanists” he has worked with over the decades particularly admired Oscar Clarke. “Oscar was a good friend. He was a real naturalist of the old school. He knew and tasted everything. He was one in a million. His energy, enthusiasm, and vast knowledge of birds, insects, and plants inspired us all.”
If you have a copy of his 2007 book, The Flora of the Santa Ana River and Environs you know what an informative and special book this is. This guide represents a culmination of Clarke's lifetime natural history study, and in many ways it mirrors Oscar’s personality, brimming with ideas, many images, and just crammed with interesting and useful details. It is easy to use, and very enjoyable to read so it was immediately popular with a broad range of people. Its popularity has caused a problem however--it is almost out of print.
So the publisher, Heyday press, is in a quandary. They are running out of Oscar Clarke’s wonderful book and since they are a non-profit, are relying on contributions of $8,000 to reprint the book. Recently we received a note from Oscar’s wife, Marsia Alexander-Clarke, outlining a fundraising effort she and friends are publicizing “Of all possible memorials for Oscar, this would be the most important one. He was so very proud of this book and it has been very well received. It is so important to keep it in print.”
Grace Carroll from Heyday (who is overseeing this effort) is hopeful but speaks plainly. “We need a big boost to get us to our goal. If [CNPS] chapters wanted to spread the news of our fundraising through their own networks that could be tremendously helpful - one or two major donors could make all the difference. If we do not reach our fundraising goal the book will stay out of print.”
So how can we help insure this very useful and inspiring book stays in print?
Our Orange County Chapter has sent $200 to Heyday to help with the publication and you can send whatever you can afford to help the effort. Donations can be made directly to Heyday books at: https://heydaybooks.com/support/. Please select “general support” on the next page and write a note that the gift is for Oscar Clark’s book. Otherwise a check can be sent directly to Heyday Books, PO Box 9145, Berkeley, CA 94709.