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I volunteer at the botanic garden Tuesday mornings. The display of yellow Viola on the undeveloped portion of the hills was wonderful this year and it occurred to me that there would be lots of seeds. I would really like to have the propagation crew at the garden try to grow some of these as I think they would make a nice addition to our gardens. Granted they disappear in the heat of the summer but they could make a nice groundcover under some of our shrubs and need no water in the dry time. So I approached Eve. Eve is the person who started the garden as an extension of her senior project at Cal Poly. She was receptive to the idea. I asked if I could take a bit more for other uses. Again the answer was yes and extended to some of the other plants on the hills. So when I thought the seeds might be ready I ventured out.
These are hills that are brown in the summer. They are covered with oats and ripgut and some other not so nice plants. But there are patches of Viola and Sidalcea and Sisyrhincium. So I had a goal of collecting all three. Finding those patches was not always easy. The plants disappear into the dried grasses. But I could ﬁnd some. And in my wandering looking for patches I was excited to discover that not only are there the invasive sorts of grasses but there was lots of Stipa pulcra, some Melica californica, Melica imperfecta (or at least a different kind of Melica), Elymus triticoides (I think), Elymus condensatus, Hordeum bracyantherum and the most exciting ﬁnd, for me, was some Danthonia californica. I am not collecting seeds of those grasses because they are not represented in great numbers and I want all the seed that’s there to possibly increase populations. But I am collecting the seeds of the Viola, Sidalcea, and hopefully the Sisyrhincum.
However, patience is a requirement. Finding the patches of Viola was not nearly as challenging as ﬁnding the seeds ready to gather. I am honing my observational skills and getting up close and personal with the plants. I was looking for black, ripe seeds so black drew my attention. Often the black was a little beetle that I saw only on violets. Is this a good bug or a bad bug? I have no idea. But if it is providing food for the birds in my book it’s a good bug. Perhaps it’s one of those specialist bugs that only use one plant. Questions. Down on my knees I can see the developing seed capsules and I have observed that as they ripen they lift and point to the sky. Once ripe, the capsules pop open. Sometimes a few seeds remain in the opened capsule. Whether these are defective or not I don’t know but I have collected them. At least they are black. Picking a few capsules early results in green seeds. I have picked a few, unopened but upturned, which have resulted in the sound of popping seeds in the paper bags at home. I have gotten some black seeds out of these. My favorite ﬁnd is to see the open capsule, still green, and ﬁlled with black seeds. Treasure! But it has taken weeks of venturing up on the hill to get a few tablespoons of seeds. Some of these will ﬁnd their way to the seed exchange.
The Sidalcea is another story. I found that many of the ﬂowers did not develop into seeds, but in some areas there were more that developed than others. Does this reﬂect the presence of more pollinators in some areas than others? In some areas the stalks were half gone. Are they browse for deer? More observations lead to more questions. But I did collect a few seeds that seemed to be ripe. The capsules on these plants seemed to dry with the seeds remaining in the capsule. But as they dried they would separate a bit and I found that if I just brushed my ﬁngers across a capsule seeds would fall into my hand. I found capsules with just a few seeds remaining so assumed these were ripe. I don’t have many seeds of these but after sharing with the botanic garden a few will end up at the seed exchange. You should want these. I have a Sidalcea grown from seed that has been blooming for several months in my garden. I think it’s beautiful.
As for the Sisyrhincium, I don’t have seeds yet and am not sure that I will. Those patches, which were so obvious and seemed so huge when they were covered with their blue-purple blossoms, are very hard to ﬁnd when there is no ﬂower to beckon. Those that I have found are not yet ripe. The capsules are still green and I don’t know if I will have any luck ﬁnding ripe seeds. But I am going to try.
What about not having the right shoes? The shoes I wear at the botanic garden are really old worn out hiking shoes with that open mesh sort of fabric for breathability. They are really great grass seed collectors. Those seeds penetrate through the open mesh and through my smart wool socks and into my skin. Almost intolerable. Before I drive home I have to remove my shoes and get rid of those seeds. I am pleased to ﬁnd that they collect Stipa seeds too which means that there are plenty of Stipa seeds to be had. But I am very conscious of the fact that I don’t want to be transferring these seeds to the trails so they are no longer used for hiking.
Reminder: Seed exchange before the October meeting.
Image courtesy of jkirkhart35 | https://www.flickr.com/photos/jkirkhart35/
Some of the most notorious invasive plants such as Carpobrotus, slender leaved ice plant, and cape ivy come from South Africa. Another quite bad one is Veldt grass (Ehrharta calycina). This bunch grass has wide (1/4″) leaves, is glaucous (grey-green) until it matures and turns maroon. From the road it has red tops which turn blond. The seed stems can reach chest height. It is a perennial that produces an incredible amount of seeds and grows throughout the year near the coast, living off fog drip, but mainly follows the rainy winter. Veldt grass is awful because it crowds and overwhelms other plants.
To be rid of it, manually pulling mature plants, including the buried crown of the plant is necessary or resprouting will occur. But this also this often stimulates seed germination. Manual removal must be repeated as seedlings appear from the seedbank. Serious infestations can be sprayed with a grasss-speciﬁc herbicide such as Fusilade. Timing is critical, especially after the ﬁrst several inches of rain. Some applicators report that postemergence treatment to plants over 4 inches tall is much more effective compared to treating smaller plants. If your locale has had Veldt for a long time keep at it until the seed bank is exhausted. The task is very difﬁcult in drought and easy in wet years.
Best wishes weed warriors.
We will be keeping an eye on a proposed agricultural cluster on the Jack Ranch, situated on the ﬂanks of the hills behind Country Club Estates and Rolling Hills Estates in the Edna Valley. Clustering would seem at ﬁrst glance a good idea, as it can minimized the total impact of structures on open space. However potential negatives arise from the extra house lots allowed as a clustering incentive, and the fate of the created contiguous open areas under potential conversion to row crop or grapes. It is likely water supply will be an issue, as the Edna Valley has serious water supply issues.
Due to the ability of germinated grasses to ‘ride out’ the February drought that decimated our wildﬂowers, this is a spring of very tall grasses and thick stands of noxious pests such as veldt grass. As the drying grasses are tall enough to stand above the shrubs, the intensity of the infection to the dune ecosystem can readily be seen to those entering Montana de Oro Park. A group of interested parties, including CNPS, discussed with John Sayers (California State Parks) about getting some independent funding brought in for grass control, overcoming institutional barriers to use particular removal methods, and prioritizing areas for experimental treatment. It was pointed out that much of the greenbelt around Los Osos was acquired with outside money from agencies on the basis of the exceptional quality of the habitat and the high content of rare species. We will propose that investing in veldt removal with be protecting past investment, rather than declaring in a decade that the money was wasted.
Join the Conservation Committee
As we conclude the 2015-2016 active season, I encourage chapter members to consider joining the conservation committee with the speciﬁc job of keeping a close eye on the cities where they dwell. If you follow local city politics and building plans, your knowledge would be a welcome addition that you might consider for the 2016-2017 season. The more eyes we have, the better the ﬂora might be protected.
The prune-ability of Arctostaphylos has been well known in the nursery industry for many years. I’m going to discuss my experience with the species I’m most familiar with, Arctostaphylos morroensis.
The Morro bay manzanita grows in and around the Los Osos area. It has seeds that can survive many years in sandy soil. I have found them germinating in yards located around Montaña de Oro State park. In many cases these plants come up in areas where their large stature would not be appropriate. Rather than removing them, I have transplanted some, or have talked the owners into letting me shear them into a hedge shape. In most cases, I ﬁnd that the plants are doing very well. They seem to live for many years under this intense pruning. The plants have maintained a much smaller stature, which is what the home owners wanted. They have developed a much denser canopy and their leaves have a much lusher color.
The only downfall I have found is the new growth can be a magnet for aphids. The aphids invade the new growth before it matures causing a red appearance as the insects drain the chlorophyll out of the new shoots. This new growth can also become deformed causing a very ugly mess. However, don’t worry, you can prune off the infested new growth and then apply a soapy spray solution. It maybe necessary to redo this treatment three times tonrid the plant of all the aphids. There is also a reduction in leaf spot. Leaf spot can be a real problem on the
older, mature leaves. Since the leaves are being trimmed all the time, the leaf spot cannot take hold.
So now that you know a little bit more about Arctostaphylos morroensis and its abilities, I hope you will consider it as a hedge substitute. If you have any plant questions, please ﬁll free to e-mail me. Until then, Happy Gardening!
Desert Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides)
Desert evening primrose (Oenothera deltoides) is in full bloom at Shell Creek as I write this. So it
seemed appropriate to resurrect a drawing Bonnie drew back in 1981. It is one of her earlier drawings since it shows a lot of shading. The flowers are white and the plant starts out as a small mound and then spreads-out across the surface of the ground. It can reach several feet across. Fruits are produced along the full length of the branches. However, if you go to Shell Creek in summer and fall you will probably find little trace of it. This is
because as the branches dry out, they turn upward forming what resembles a largish bird cage. Lastly, the dried plant breaks off and joins the other tumble weeds bouncing around and distributing its seeds.
The species has several common names, including birdcage evening primrose, bird cage plant, basket evening primrose, lion in a cage, and devil’s lantern, or as I’ve been simply calling it, desert evening primrose. As my preferred name implies, it’s found in the deserts, from eastern Washington through California, Nevada, Arizona
and into northern Mexico. The common names that refer to “cages” are references to its bird-cage shape the dried plant takes just before it tumbles away.
According to The Jepson Manual, it has five recognized subspecies. This would be expected by a plant occupying such a large range with so many variations in habitat. It prefers well drained soils so it is very common on desert sand dunes thus another common name is dune evening primrose. In our area it is found in the valleys of the interior Coast Ranges, especially in sandy or well drained soils. The area around Shell
Creek is the most northwestern extent of its range of which I’m aware. At Shell Creek it’s most numerous in the sandy alluvial fan east of Shell Creek.
Some of the people on the Malcolm G. McLeod Annual Shell Creek Field Trip might have noticed quite a few of the flowers were fading, desert evening primrose flowers open in the evening and close up in the morning. That is, their large, fragrant, white flowers are open mostly at night when it’s dark. The white flowers would make them visible in the twilight and darkness. The flowers are very odoriferous at least in the evening. The large, white, night-blooming, odoriferous traits indicate that the species is pollinated by moths, probably hawk moths.
Before 1969, the genus, Oenothera, was huge and included species given the common names evening primrose for the night blooming ones and sun cups for the day flowering ones. Sun cups and evening primroses share, with other members of its family, Onagraceae, four separate petals. In fact, the flowers of the Onagraceae, have a number of distinctive set of characteristics which makes them easy to recognize. They produce flowers that possess four sepals, four petals, eight stamens, attached to the top of a generally thin, often long tube constructed from the bases of the sepals, petals and stamens (hypanthium). The hypanthium arises from the top of the usually four-parted ovary. This means the ovary is said to be inferior or below all the flower parts. This can be summarized asCA4 is short for calyx which is the collective term for the 4 sepals; CO4 stand for the corolla, the collective term for the 4 petals. A8 is the abbreviation for androecium, which translates as the “male things” which are the 8 stamens). G4 stands for gynoecium (female thing) which represents the four-parted ovary, style and/or stigma. The circled four indicates that the 4 subunits (carpels) that make up the gynoecium are fused into a single pistil (visual unit of the gynoecium within a flower). The most conspicuous character that separated plants with the common names, sun cups and evening primroses, is the stigma. A look at Bonnie’s drawing will show it to have four hair-like stigma branches. Only true evening primroses (Oenothera) have this trait. The rest of the old, un-split genus Oenothera display a single wide hemispherical cap. At first, all these species were put into the single genus, Camissonia. Unfortunately this is no longer the case as the knob-stigma species are now scattered into several genera with differences of opinion as to how many. One last point, these are EVENING primroses not primroses. I bring this up because a number of web sites left off the evening in the name evening primroses when giving their lists of common names. I know that common names are not regulated, but to call them simply, primroses, I find totally confusing. True primroses are in the totally unrelated family, Primulaceae. The Primulaceae have flower parts in 5’s. That is, they have 5 sepals, 5 fused petals and 5 stamens placed in front of the petal lobes. The ovary is superior and has only a single cavity, not 4, inside. A common weedy member of the Primulaceae is scarlet pimpernel which is a weed in almost all of our gardens. At least it is in those of us who are not great gardeners.
Lauren Brown crafted our chapter’s comments on the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes (GND) Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and Environmental Assessment(EA). The CNPS SLO Chapter fully supports the proposed management Alternative B (moderate increase in wildlife and habitat management, incremental increase in visitor services and environmental education). If budget considerations do not allow implementation of Alternative B, we would support Alternative A (no action), where the current level of management and public use opportunities are maintained. We strongly oppose Alternative C (minimal wildlife and habitat management and the Refuge is closed to the public), as written, for the following reasons: (1) the minimal level of monitoring and maintenance described in Alternative C is insufficient to ensure the continued existence of these species within the Refuge; (2) we concur with the findings of the EA that a decrease in the current level of invasive species management, as proposed in Alternative C, will increase the threat of invasive species to degrade and potentially destroy wildlife habitat within the refuge, and adjacent to the refuge; (3) decreased oversight will fail to detect newly introduced invasive species; and (4) feral swine must continue to be controlled due to the damage they cause.
El Villaggio Development
CNPS was represented by Dr. Neil Havlik in our opposition to the proposed annexation and development of the El Villaggio development on Los Osos Valley Road and Calle Joaquin (the southwest corner of the intersection). Dr. Havlik testified that (1) the City’s General Plan requires that new development in the Irish Hills stay below the 150 foot elevation line. The current proposal ignores that restriction and extends well above that line in two areas of the property. One of these locations contains at least two plant species of concern in the City’s General Plan (Chorro Creek bog thistle and clay mariposa lily) and likely others. The nearby Vineyard Church was developed in the County (which had and has no elevation limit for development) and should not be used as a justification for the City abandoning its stated policies; (2) even if rare plants are “protected” by a 50 ft. buffer, the project will likely affect the hydrology required by the bog thistle; (3) there are serious wetlands impacts including so-called restoration of Froom Creek which is essentially destructive channelization, and apparent destruction of wetlands along Calle Joaquin.
Sadly, the SLO City Council was unanimous in letting the project move forward, so that our next opportunity to stop the project will be the issuance of an EIR.
Cape-Ivy gall fly + weeds
In other issues, the chapter is supporting the proposed release of Cape-Ivy gall fly, following may years to testing that the gall fly will only affect cape ivy. We wrote a support letter to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) at the request of California Invasive Plant Council. Several other issues regarding dangerous pests that we will be considering are the impacts of new giant tumbleweed that has arrived from the Central Valley, the spread of Sahara mustard in Los Osos, and the migration of polyphagous shot hole borer as it moves north from the LA Basin, killing a wide variety of trees. People interested in working on these issues should contact me or Mark Skinner who is taking over from Lauren Brown on weed issues.