Gardening Tips for Planting California Natives

With winter on the way, now is the time for us to think about planting California native plants. When we plant in the winter, or rainy season as I like to call it, we take advantage of the moist soil conditions to help establish our plants. Plants planted in the rainy season do most of their growing underground with root development. When spring comes, they respond to this establishing period by sending out new shoot growth. By summer, they are ready for the long dry months ahead and will survive on monthly waterings.

There are some basic guidelines to follow when planting natives. We can break these guidelines into five steps.

Step one: plant selection
step two: hole size
step three: soil amendments
step four: planting
step five: watering

Most people have an idea about where they want a plant to go in their yard. This is where the problem of what plant is best for what location comes into play. The best advice I can give here is to do your homework. There are many good books available which cover this subject; also, you can ask your local nurseryman for advice if you need a quick answer.

Digging a hole for your plant can be a serious problem, especially if you live on top of a rock pile or some kind of impervious clay layer. The best rule of thumb is to dig a hole, twice the width of the root ball and at least that same amount of depth. You might have to add water and let it soak in to be able to achieve this goal.

Amending your soil is something that has become a personal choice. Lately some studies have indicated that this might cause problems when plant roots leave the amended area. I am inclined to amend when the soil is very poor, such as pure sand. You can amend your soil by adding some kind of nursery product, such as redwood soil conditioner, or by adding an organic product.

Planting is the most important part of the five steps. Care must be taken when removing the plant from its container. A gentle tap on the bottom of the container will usually loosen the plant. If this does not work, the container can be cut and the plant removed. Inspecting the roots is done at this time. If the roots are tightly bound, loosen them gently with a tool. Mix the excavated soil with soil amendments, if desired; place soil in bottom of the hole so that the top of the root ball is slightly higher than the surrounding soil. Fill hole half full with soil and firm soil in with a stick. Fill remaining portion of hole and firm soil in again. Build a water basin with the remaining soil.

Watering your native plant is the fifth step. Care must be taken to water deeply, but infrequently once established. Newly planted natives must be kept moist until established or watered adequately by rainfall. Once established, monthly waterings throughout the summer may be required.

Good luck and Happy Gardening, John Nowak, Plant Sale co-Chairperson

President’s Notes December 2017

PRESIDENT’S NOTES FROM BILL WAYCOTT

As CNPS enthusiasts, we often are out in the natural surroundings, enjoying the landscapes, breathing fresh air, and getting some exercise. Who hasn’t been out on a trail or a path lately to experience a native plant community or stroll through an oak woodland? For those of us with adventure in our blood, a trip down a trail is our passport to what we study and admire out in nature. The SLO chapter has monthly field trips to destinations around the Central Coast and beyond, where we regularly get out and observe the details of plant life. And, we find this sort of activity quite fulfilling!

Have you ever wondered how that trail you were using recently, came into existence and how it has been maintained over the years? Trails are built and maintained by people! In the past, most of this trail work was funded by government agencies like the CCC – Civilian Conservation Corps – in the 1930s and 40s, and now by a new CCC – California Conservation Corps. However, with decreases in government funding, most of the initiative and work devoted to trail creation and maintenance occurs through local, non-profit organizations.

Trail work occurs regularly here on the Central Coast and CNPS participates in these activities from time to time. During October and November of this year, we hosted two trail crew days in the Irish Hills, removing brush that had grown into the path and reworking the trail treads by moving rock and soil into place where it had slipped away. The trail work occurred in the Irish Hills, where the vast majority of plants trimmed back were Buck brush (Ceanothus cuneatus), Leather oak (Quercus durata), and Chaparral pea (Pickeringia montana). The tools used were pruning shears, loppers, small saws, and a rogue hoe. The area of focus was the Old Prospector Trail, a trail built three years ago by volunteers in association with the City of San Luis Obispo. The trail name comes from a route used by miners roughly 100 years ago to access cinnabar and chromium mines in the Irish Hills. This trail follows much of that route, climbing out of Froom Canyon through a side canyon to higher elevations where the remains of an old mine and ore processing area are still very much in evidence today. These hills are nearly all assembled of serpentine rock and contain great swaths of endemic plants.

The San Luis Star Tulip (Calochortus obispoensis), Chorro Creek Bog Thistle (Cirsium fontinale, var. obispoense), and San Luis Obispo Sedge (Carex obispoensis), endemic to a 100-mile radius of the city of San Luis Obispo, are abundant within this unusual landscape. Great swaths of Leather oak cover the north-facing slopes in a cascade of verdant textures. Giant tufts of California fescue (Festuca californica) are conspicuous along the trail in spots, creating waves of gray-green foliage. Perennial creeks flow over blue-green serpentine where the bog thistle, Western columbine (Aquilegia eximia) and two sneezeweeds (Helenium bigelovii and H. puberulum) can be found in bloom nearly all year. Several more rare species are found in these Irish Hills, which makes this area so special.

All CNPS members are invited to join a trail crew from time to time. A schedule of trail crew days taking place in the City of San Luis Obispo’s Open Space can be found at the Ranger Services page of the City’s website. A schedule of trail crew days outside the city limits of San Luis Obispo, can be found halfway down the page on the Central Coast Concerned Mountain Bikers (CCCMB) website. CCCMB builds and maintains trails for all outdoors user groups (hikers, bikers, equestrians, and trail runners). For trail crew activities in Santa Barbara County, link to the events calendar at Los Padres Forest Association and for activities in Monterey County, link to the Trail Program, at the Ventana Wilderness Association’s website. So, the next time we use a trail, let’s remember those who have built and maintained it.

Invasive Species: Dittrichia graveolens (Stinkwort)

Invasive Species: Dittrichia graveolens (Stinkwort)

Dittrichia graveolens is in the Asteraceae family. It is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe. Stinkwort is erect, growing to 2.5 feet. It typically has a conical shape but can have a round appearance. It’s sometimes confused with Russian thistle (tumbleweed). It flowers from September to December and produces tiny seeds. Stinkwort’s foliage has sticky hairs covered in resin that truly stinks and sticks to and stains skin.

Stinkwort was first reported in Santa Clara County in 1984 and has increased at an exponential rate. It likes disturbed soil in urban areas and is in San Luis Obispo county. For example, in San Luis Obispo, there is a stand on California Blvd. near the corner of Foothill.

Due to its shallow root system stinkwort can be controlled by handpulling and bagging. It would be wise to wear protective clothing especially gloves. Stinkwort can cause contact dermatitis. Mowing, grazing or burning are not effective controls. In fact, stinkwort poisons livestock. There are no biocontrol agents. The most effective herbicide is likely aminopyralid with triclopyr (Capstone). A good time to spray is when the plants have emerged or are bolting, prior to flowering. The earlier the better as the oils in mature foliage makes it harder to control with herbicide. Stinkwort was discussed at the most recent Weed Management Area meeting at the County Ag Commissioner’s office.

Sources:

DiTomaso, J.M., G.B. Kyser et al. 2013. Weed Control in Natural Areas in the Western United States. Weed Research and Information Center, University of California. 544 pp.

Brownsey R, Kyser G, DiTomaso J. 2013. Stinkwort is rapidly expanding its range in California. Calif Agr 67(2):110-115.

Image by Javier martin (Own work) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sudden Oak Death Not Found in SLO’s 2017 SOD BLITZ

Sudden Oak Death Not Found in SLO’s 2017 SOD BLITZ

Kim Corella from Cal Fire has been heading up the search for Phytophora ramorum, the cause of Sudden Oak Death (SOD). She shared the 2017 SOD BLITZ results for SLO County, noting enormous participation with 289 trees sampled! Kim wanted to thank everyone who participated in this year SOD BLITZ. She notes that we were very concerned about gathering more samples in 2017 to determine the extent to which SOD was in SLO County, and is happy to report that 2017 SOD BLITZ was all negative, Apparently the 2016 SOD BLITZ survey showed false positives. The 2017 SOD BLITZ samples were tested by two completely different DNA tests and also by trying to culture out the pathogen on specialized agar.

Streamside samples at specific streams in the county showed San Carpoforo creek positive for SOD for the second time. It was found positive in 2012 the year the drought began and again this year. P. ramorum was cultured out on specialized media for these samples by UC Davis, which means the physical pathogen is present on the media. This creek watershed begins in Monterey County and additional surveys along San Carpoforo creek will take place next spring to determine if the positive is coming from SLO County or from Monterey County. Since we don’t know the origin of infested plants that are allowing the stream to be positive, we can’t say that SOD is in SLO County.

Many thanks to Lauren Brown for heading up the CNPS end.

NEW VEGETATION COMMITTEE BEING FORMED

Are you interested in vegetation sampling? Do you have a favorite plant community, alliance or association? Then please contact Melissa Mooney, chair of the newly-enlivened Vegetation/Plant Communities committee of our SLO Chapter (email: mjmoon@charter.net). We’ve been in touch with Julie Evens and Jennifer Buck of the State CNPS Vegetation Program, and will be coordinating with the folks in the East Bay Chapter who are doing similar work. First order of business will be to prioritize what communities need focus for possible assessment and mapping and lay out our goals. Serpentine communities? Morro manzanita maritime chaparral? Valley Oak Savanna? Get those ideas coming and lets do some sampling!

Announcing the CNPS 2018 Conservation Conference

Announcing the CNPS 2018 Conservation Conference

ANNOUNCING THE CNPS 2018 CONSERVATION CONFERENCE – SAVE THE DATE!

WHO: Over 1,000 attendees from California and beyond.

WHAT: Two days of pre-conference workshops and field trips and three days of scientific sessions, keynote speakers, social and arts events, and more.

WHERE: Los Angeles Airport Marriott, 5855 West Century Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90045www.marriott.com/LAXAP

WHEN: Thursday, February 1, through Saturday, February 3, 2018 (pre-conference workshops & field trips January 30-31)

WHY: Whether your career centers around natural resources or you just love native plants, the CNPS Conservation Conference will have something for you. From professional skills training and scientific sessions to field trips and special events, you will have many opportunities to connect with like-minded others, while learning about current research and trends, and contributing to future plans for California’s native plants and natural habitats.

Stay tuned for details! Everything you need to know about this conference is posted at http://conference.cnps.org.  Register now!

SEE YOU THERE!

President’s Update

The CNPS Conservation Conference is approaching and I am really excited! I remember well my experience at the 2015 conference in San José. I was like a kid in a candy shop. With a plethora of concurrent sessions on specific topics of intrigue, spread over three days, I was in a wonderful place – my insatiable curiosity for everything California native plants was fully gratified.

These conferences are only held once in three years. This time there are two days of workshops leading up to the conference, with topics that run the gamut from using technology to assessing different components of plant communities to creating natural landscaping and habitat gardens, from legislative action and CEQA to rare plant search and rescue, from black and white line drawing techniques and macro photography to a primer on the use of computer programs like Calflora and Calscape. Five field trips are also being offered during that time. Possibly, there is something here for everyone and it’s only the beginning!

These workshops will fall on Tuesday and Wednesday, 30th and 31st January 2018. The conference itself begins Thursday morning and runs through Saturday afternoon, 1st, 2nd and 3rd February 2018. So, what’s your interest? Environmental Justice? Lichens and Bryophytes? Fire Ecology? Climate Change in Native Landscapes? Rare Natural Communities? Citizen Science? Invasive Plants? Coastal Conservation? Oaks and Oak Rangeland? Horticulture? Grasslands and Prairies, Vegetation Mapping? Chaparral Ecology? Restoration? Native Plant Pathogens? Current Research (Student Presentations)? All the above?

The best opportunity for increasing one’s awareness on the current successes and challenges for California native plants will be at this conference! With 21 workshops, 5 field trips, over 300 presentations in 23 themed sessions, student poster sessions, botanical art, photography, music, and poetry, CNPS bookstore, and most importantly, the opportunity to learn, share, connect, and have fun all in one place – the LAX Marriott Hotel – at reasonable rates and convenient access from all over the state, this is our time and place!

Log on to “conference.cnps.org” to learn more, get details, and get enthused. Join over 1,000 fellow native plant aficionados in this CNPS ritual where science is fun. Rub shoulders with the experts and make a bunch of new friends. You know plants provide this planet with the food we eat and the air we breathe. Educating ourselves and advocating for the native plants that surround us every day, is an exciting opportunity to improve our quality of life and contribute to an infinite body of knowledge that continues to grow. So, come and join us at the Conference!!

– Bill Waycott

Climate Change Working Group

PROPOSED CLIMATE CHANGE WORKING GROUP

David Chipping (dchippin@calpoly.edu)

The CNPS Chapter Council elected to explore how we might deal with issues associated with climate change, and a statewide working group is starting up with me as Chair. One thing I would love to do is to make SLO Chapter a ‘test bed’ for different approaches to the problem. I invite anyone interested to contact me and share their views.

To kick things off I see the following key issues for our consideration:

  • What do climate models say about the most likely changes in climate that might reasonably be expected?
  • Looking at our plant species and vegetation, where are the greatest risks given the expected climate change, in terms of many changes that might be expected. Use some existing methodology for assessing and ranking multiple risk factors.
  • 3) Start doing vulnerability analyses of CNPS listed plants in our chapter area. This will include seeing what happened during the extreme stressor of the drought we have just experienced.
  • Gain better knowledge of existing trends, including initiating plant surveys and gaining information on historic population distribution. Lots of field trips and field work here. We would work at the individual species and the grosser level of ‘vegetation’.
  • Examine what our chapter would recommend regarding future CNPS actions and policies. For example, would we support “assisted migration” in which a plant at risk of extirpation would be transplanted into areas it has never historically occupied?

Do we, after assessing that there are too many variables that could affect future conditions, throw up our hands and leave it to Darwin to sort out?

October Seed Exchange

OCTOBER SEED EXCHANGE – Marti Rutherford

The seed exchange is back. The workshop time slot (6.00-7.15) before the October meeting is reserved for our second seed exchange. So think seed collection. There will be a few minor differences. There has been a request to provide a picture of the plant that the seeds will become. This will help those who might not be familiar with the names choose plants they want to try. Our chapter will supply seed envelopes so we will be asking those bringing seeds to just bring a bulk collection of cleaned seeds labelled with genus and species, where and when it was collected and a picture. There is no need to spend your time separating into little envelopes.

The seed exchange is an opportunity to share seeds from native plants which are growing in your landscape. We will not sell seed. Do remember the legal issues of seed collection. It is illegal to collect seed from private property and public spaces without permission. If you happen to have access to rare plant seed DO NOT collect it. That seed should be reserved for seed banks and those with the skills to nurture the plant to maturity.

Keep in mind that a collection of plants grown from seed has more genetic diversity than plants grown from cuttings. Depending upon what your goal is that may be a positive point. But garden grown plant seed is not ideal for restoration planting. One would want the more pure genetics of a wild population to use for restoration. Plants grown from seed might not be like the parent plant.

There is an article on our website under resources that has information on seed collection and cleaning (link). You might find it helpful. Find it under Resources, Growing Natives, Seed Collection and Saving for the Casual Gardener.

Conservation Analyst position

The New CNPS Southern California Conservation Analyst position

CNPS is the voice for the preservation of California’s native flora. Many times, CNPS is the only party at the table negotiating for native plants and their places; too often, that seat is left vacant due to the fact that we have limited capacity to take on all the important conservation battles. Now, as the pace and scale of change across California increases and Federal dynamics become more challenging, it is even more critical to maintain a strong voice for native plant conservation. We need to increase our capacity to do so, and Southern California is the first place to start.

Recently CNPS received a generous bequest from Elizabeth C. Schwartz that is providing the opportunity to increase our conservation efforts. Others are making donations to match Elizabeth’s gift, so that CNPS can expand conservation staffing to better serve SoCal. This new CNPS Southern California Conservation Analyst position will support SoCal CNPS Chapters and conservation volunteers, helping grow their capacity to engage in important local conservation work. They will also engage in strategic work when plant conservation needs span multiple CNPS Chapters, advancing CNPS conservation policies, bringing together partners, and acting as CNPS’s lead representative in these regional
initiatives and processes.

It is important that this position be ongoing, since conservation success often require years of dedication and persistence. You and your Chapter can help secure the future of plant conservation in Southern California by pledging your support today. Your help will ensure that plant science and sound conservation advocacy are at the table when desert lands are at risk, when OHV routes are analyzed, where forest and grassland management is in question, and when conservation opportunities need someone there, time and again, to let decision-makers know the importance and uniqueness of the flora. Please, consider making a gift to support the SoCal conservation position; share your thoughts
with CNPS staff and your chapter leadership; and most importantly please lend your voice when important, urgent conservation issues come to your attention. Thank you in advance for your help.

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