Invasive Species of the Month – Cortaderia jubata

Invasive Species of the Month – Cortaderia jubata

Invasive Species of the Month

Jubata grass (Cortaderia jubata)

Mark Skinner

There is an intense infestation of Jubata grass on the California coast. As almost everyone knows it mars the most
beautiful places such as Big Sur. On their web site California Invasive Plant Council (CalIPC) describes that Jubata grass is native to northern Argentina, Bolivia, Peru Chile and Ecuador. It was grown in France and Ireland from seed collected in Ecuador. It may have come to California from France and was first seen in 1966. Jubata grass has been called the “marriage weed” as honeymooners dragged the plumes behind their cars in Big Sur. Oy! What a mess!

Jubata grass flowers from late July to September. No pollination is necessary for reproduction. Flowers are female
only, which produces viable seed. Each plume may contain 100,000 seeds! Plants may have 1 to 30+ plumes. I started removing Jubata grass in the mid 1990’s with Jack Biegle and John Nowak, just north of Oso Flaco boardwalk.
I’ve been at it ever since and removed hundreds from the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, San Luis Obispo, Cambria and
Vandenberg. I’m happy to report that from the many hundreds that were in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes there are only about twenty remaining.

Sudden Oak Death (SOD) in SLO County

Sudden Oak Death (SOD) in SLO County


Terrible news for the Coast Live Oak and Tanbark Oak of our County. CNPS was a major contributor to the collection of leaves on possibly suspect oak and bay trees. Locally organized by CNPS’ Lauren Brown and Cal Fire’s Kim Corella , volunteers sampled bay trees as ‘carriers’ of the disease’s spores, which up to this year did not come south of Monterey County. The leaves were sent up to the labs in the Bay Area, and for the first time there were a large number of infections found, especially along Santa Rosa Creek. Other sites were Vineyard Drive, Cypress Mt. Rd., the west side of Atascadero, Cal Poly in Stenner Creek amd Leaning Pine Arboretum and on Prefumo Canyon Rd. This was a major shock, primarily because of the breadth of the newly found infections.

There is no cure. Prevention is through good sanitation in limiting the transport of spores. To learn more about the visible symptoms on infected leaves, go to the SOD website:

Image is of the Bay tree, courtesy of Marlin Harms


Suzette and I would like to invite any and all members, new or old, to please volunteer to help at this year’s annual plant sale on Saturday, November 5th.

There are many jobs to be done and I can always match you to something that fits best for you. Some jobs are setting up chairs and tables, un-loading plants, directing traffic, assisting with plant sales, and answering plant related questions. It’s a great way to meet new people, talk to old friends, learn plant names, and get some exercise. We will have books, posters, T-shirts, … ooh did I forget to say volunteers get first pick on plants before the sale starts. e-mail John Nowak or call 805/674-2034 with any questions. Just indicate hours that you can help. We will also be at the Chapter Meeting on the 3rd. Until then Happy Gardening,

John and Suzette

Generous Donation

Our Chapter would like to thank the anonymous donors of $1,000 to the Malcolm McLeod Scholarship Fund. This fund supports student research and has aided many students in projects that have contributed greatly to our knowledge of the flora. If you would also like to help students in their research, please look at our web page on the fund.


There will be a selection of seeds that were left from the seed exchange available at the plant sale. Many of these are
seeds that are not available commercially. It will be your chance to experiment with growing natives from seed. Our seeds are collected from member gardens, or, in a few cases, from other areas with permission. Seeds are sometimes from cultivars. Plants in garden environments often have ample opportunity to hybridize and some do so readily. For those reasons what might grow might not be exactly what you expect.

Our seeds are not subjected to germination testing. In many cases seeds will germinate readily. Some are known to be difficult. For advice on what might work see the book Seed Propagation of Native California Plants by Dara E. Emery (often available from our book sale). Wildflowers are usually reliable though much depends upon the environment where you are trying to grow them.

Some of the seeds may have been damaged by insect activity. I have tried to not include those but some may have escaped my attention. I do appreciate some of the insect activity because it means our natives are supporting the insects that are needed by other creatures that live with us. Most birds, even the nectar consuming ones, raise their
babies on insects.

For all the reasons above our seeds are inexpensive and the numbers of seeds in the packets are usually very generous. There are no guarantees however.

Chapter Meeting

Nov 3, 2016 – Thursday – 7pm

Dave Fross of Native Sons Wholesale Nursery will give a presentation entitled “Home Ground, Forty Years Among the Natives.”

Meet at the Veterans Hall, 801 Grand Avenue, San Luis Obispo.

Chapter Council Meeting recap

For those who were unable to attend last month’s CNPS Chapter Council meeting in Morro Bay, I will to share with you my take on the research data presented during the Conservation Symposium and its framing of the impacts of climate change on possible California native plant migrations.

The morning started off with the research of Ellen Cypher of the Endangered Species Recovery Program at CSU Stanislaus. Her work focused on the preservation of the endangered Bakersfield cactus (Opuntia basilaris var. treleasei) and the two options of either working with the few existing natural populations that still exist within the habitat range or establishing new populations outside its range. Due to advances of land development in the Southern San Joaquin Valley, populations of this cactus have been severally reduced and biologists are testing the concept of assisted migration by planting new populations to prevent species extinction. At this time, her attempts to extend the range with new, permanent populations has been only partially successful due to several factors, the greatest of which is the ongoing drought.

Jessica Wright of the Pacific Southwest Research Station, US Forest Service was next, speaking about her work with valley oak, (Quercus lobata) in an attempt to identify elite strains that are better adapted to changing climates. Several valley oak populations were sampled throughout California in 2012 by collecting acorns and measuring the mother trees that produced them. Subsets of the acorns were extensively planted at two locations in 2013 in Northern California for observation. Those trees are now three years old and are being measured for growth parameters (size and architecture) as compared to the mother trees. DNA of these young trees has also been sampled in order to measure genetic similarities between each acorn subset and the investigation any connection with field performance. In the end, it is hoped certain subsets can be identified having adaptive capabilities for use in maintaining the overall health of valley oak as it is subjected to climatic changes.

The next presenter was Todd Esque of the Western Ecological Research Center, US Geological Survey speaking about the migration of Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) towards more northern and cooler (higher elevation) environments. His research surveyed all of the
Joshua tree habitat throughout the Mojave Desert in California and southwestern Nevada, with preliminary findings that indeed this species is not reproducing well across most of its range, except in areas with higher elevation and/or more northerly locations. These data suggest that global warming is having a significant impact on the reproductive proficiency of the trees.

Alexandra Syphard of the Conservation Biology Institute was next to present, speaking about her extensive work in making comparisons between climate changes models. I found her work fascinating, noting how complex these models can be – requiring super computers to crunch hypothetical scenarios with multiple factors. The bottom line of her talk was that as the number of variables
increases (urban growth, fire, invasive species, climate change, habitat loss, etc.), the modeling of plant species distribution gets affected by each and every factor simultaneously, thereby demanding extremely accurate inputs to generate these models which we really don’t have at this time. Thus, the modelers continue, looking for the exact combination of factors to mimic what we see
going on in nature.

The Symposium concluded with a talk by Jerre Stallcup, Chief Resources Officer and Senior Conservation Ecologist in San Diego County, giving a history of land preservation efforts in Southern California. She spoke of the successes and failures in land conservancy, stressing the need to stay intimately involved in the stewardship of each protected parcel long after its acquisition, lest the quality and productivity of each land holding becomes compromised, ultimately losing a great portion of its value to the community.

Bill Waycott


Bill Waycott

President, CNPS SLO Chapter

Tips for Buying the Right Plant for Your Garden

After last week’s hot spell (last week of September) when Los Osos hit 98°F in the shade; a good feeling came over me. Back in the day when I was a kid I always remember a hot Indian summer before a normal rainy year. So keeping this in mind I’m hoping this fall will bring lots of the wet stuff and get all the plants you purchased at the sale off to a good start. So I’m going to go over some of the basics for buying the right plant for your garden.

First, it’s important to think of others that come to visit your garden. I’m not just talking about your friends but other critters, such as birds, squirrels, gophers, moles, deer, rabbits … you get the picture. If you have a deer problem, it will limit your selection. Likewise, if you want to bring bees, birds, and beneficial insects to your garden such as Monarch Butterflies you can do this by selecting your plants ahead of
the sale.

Second, most important, if the rains don’t come you will need to be Mother Nature and water until the plants become established. This would mean a good soaking over the Winter, twice a month until April. After that pay attention and water at least once a month over the first Summer depending on your soil type. Los Osos, Nipomo, etc. more water and clay soils less water every three weeks during the summer, just watch closely.

If you’re lucky and you already have established plants then the idea would be to select something that can co-exist with what you already have. Remember like playing music, less is best. Avoid the temptation to create a botanical garden and focus on simple design. Also, remember that bugs always want to destroy our best intentions. I like to use water spray on leaves to control aphids, spider mites, thrips, and to knock down oak moth caterpillars. If needed, consult your local nursery for other options.

Lastly, picking the right plant for the right spot. Sounds simple, but this is the most difficult task. Like a small boat on a large sea, the wrong plant in the wrong spot will die for sure and you won’t be happy. Going back to my first topic, look at the big picture, sun, shade are very important. Soil, drainage, are number two on the list. Think about when you go out on a hike, what’s growing on the trail. Well-drained, sunny slopes have manzanita, ceanothus, buckwheat, and lupine but shady areas have more organics, oaks, ribes, ferns, coffeberry, and hummingbird sage, love it there.

So in conclusion, I’m expecting a good chance of rain, if my gut feeling and childhood memories come through. Of course, we will have lots of good people working the sale this year so if you have special plant request, email me at and I will see what I can do. For now, happy gardening; Suzette and I will see you at the plant sale.


Ceanothus hearstiorum

Ceanothus hearstiorum


October and November are when our Chapter gets serious about growing native plants. We have a November meeting devoted to it as well as our annual plant sale. This got me to remembering some articles written and drawings drawn by Alice G. Meyer that are in the Historians files. The mechanical typewriter written and her hand drawn copies on are on 8½ x 14 paper. I don’t think they were published in our chapter newsletter as I don’t remember us ever using that format. I think Alice may have produced them back in the 1970s or 1980s for the Morro Coast Audubon Society. If so, I hope they will forgive us for reprinting them. They’re too good to lie forgotten in a file somewhere.

Alice, along with her husband, Henry (Bud), were our Chapters first members to be elected Fellows of the State CNPS. Alice was extremely interested in native plant gardening and had a fantastic native plant garden in her Los Osos back yard.


Alice and Bud Meyer: Fellows of CNPS

It was Alice who suggested in the Early 1970’s that our Chapter have a Native Plant Sale! She then went ahead and planned it. The first one was small and contained only plants grown by Chapter members as well as a few plants propagated by Cal Poly Students in a Native Plants Class several years before and that were scheduled to be thrown out. It was quite successful! The Chapter has had a plant sale the first Saturday in November ever since.

Alice ran the sale until 1990 when the current plant Sale Chair, John Nowak, took over. Note, we have had ONLY two plant sale chairs since the early 1970s. This points out one of the strengths in our Chapter. Our member often have a long term commitment to the tasks required for running a CNPS Chapter.

Enough history, let’s let Alice tell us about a fantastic native garden plant in her own words.

Dr. Dirk Walters


Ceonothus hearstiorum

by Alice G. Meyer

The Hearst mountain lilac grows on low hills near the coast, just north and south of Arroyo de la Cruz on the Hearst Ranch. It is not known to grow anywhere else, and, is a rare and endangered plant. It is a spreading prostrate shrub, known botanically as Ceanothus hearstiorum (See-an-OH-thus hearst-ee-OH rum). Horticulturally, it is an ideal ground cover, 4 to 8 inches tall, handsome all year , but especially when it flowers in March and April. The shrub is not widely available, but some growers do propagate it.

Hearst mountain lilac grows best on the coast, in full sun. Inland, it prefers filtered sunlight, and should have some supplemental water during the hot months. Once established, it will survive on the coast with normal rainfall, but will tolerate some summer water. In dry years it needs extra moisture to maintain it best appearance. An observant gardener will note stress and take necessary action. Inland supplemental water during the hot months is a must.

Wherever it is grown, good drainage is important, and there should be no basin around the shrub as water standing around the trunk will cause bacterial problems. When planting, it is better to plant it on a slight mound, so that water runs outward towards the drip line, but the soil should not be piled up around it higher than it was in the container.

ceonothus hearstiorum
Photo by Stan Shebs
  • The edges of the dark green leaves are curled downward between the veins, making them seem notched and giving the leaves a crinkled appearance.
  • The deep wedge-wood blue flowers are in tight, upward facing racemes ½ to 1½ inches long.
  • Each flower is no more than 1/8 inch across.
  • If you remove one flower and inspect it with a magnifying glass you will find that it has a stem (pedicel) of the same color as the flower, and the five pointed sepals fold inward to the center around the three-parted stigma.
  • The spaces between the petals are like five rays extending from the center to the edge of the flower.
  • Near the outer edge of each ‘ray’ a yellow stamen rises, and at the very edge another petal extends outward. This petal is thread-like at the base, and at its outer edge it widens out to a spoon-like shape with a bowl about 1/16 inch long.

Because the flowers are so small, a great many are crowded into each raceme. The groups are beautiful, but close inspection of an individual blossom reveals its complex structure.

Should you grow this shrub, it is advisable not to let too many layers of branches build up on top of the shrub, as it will tend to die out underneath. Keep the shrub very prostrate. Where the plant is native, it is browsed by deer and cattle, and this tendency is thus resolved.

Management of Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge

An update from our Conservation Committee on the management of Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has been developing a management plan for the wildlife refuge, and CNPS conservation committee gave input. To put it very simply, they presented three alternatives (A) keep on doing what they have been doing (B) Do more (C) Do less. They opted for (A), while CNPS wanted (B).

USFWS tacked on a few items from the (B) list, including wild pig control and predator management to aid snowy plover and least tern, but seem to be cutting back on some critical things. They “would reduce …. invasive vegetation control to when staffing resources or partnerships allow. We would annually monitor for the listed La Graciosa thistle and marsh sandwort” As invasive veldt grass is the greatest threat to the entire dune system, any reduction of control will, in the end, result in loss of the dune ecosystem. All this is, alas, budget driven..

–David Chipping