California’s Fall Colors

As one drives around in September, brilliant yellows, cheerful whites, subtle pinks, and even chartreuse greet us from bushes and roadsides. Except for the bright red leaves on Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobium, few of our lower elevation natives have the brilliant red, orange, and yellow leaves that festoon mountains and eastern areas, yet many of our fall flowers and leaves have their own unique if subtle charm. This is when our fall-blooming DYC’s come into their own.

Even the lowly Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis, one of the few dioecious, shrubby, non-showy composites that I know of, has its “Fifteen minutes (or 1-2 months) of fame.” The subtle yellow staminate flowers of the male plant, aka “Mr. Fuzzy-Wuzzy,” shine with pride, and are quite fragrant, especially in bright sunshine.

The white, powder-puff plumes and smaller blossoms of the female plants, aka “Mrs. Fuzzy-Wuzzy,” greet those who have the eyes to see them. This is indeed the season of yellow flowers. Prominent are the “diaspora” members of the Haplopappus genus, i.e., the various Golden Bushes, Hazardia, Ericameria, and Isocoma spp. The Mock Heather, Ericameria ericoides, looks as if its tops were spray painted. The tarweeds, Hemizonia, Centromadia, Deinandra, and Madia spp., Rabbit Brushes, Ericameria and Chrysothamnus spp., Goldenrods, Solidago spp., and Telegraph Weed, Heterotheca grandifolia, also greet the viewer.

White is represented by both flowers and plumes. Various Lessingia spp. bloom in the fall including one appearing late enough to be known as the “Christmas Daisy.” A few late-blooming Buckwheats, Eriogonum spp., Morning Glories, Calystegia spp., and Mexican Elderberries, Sambucus mexicana, are evident. The Dandelion-like plumes of the composites, the pheasant feather-like plumes of the Western Mountain Mahogany, Cercocarpus betuloides, and the fluffy plumes of the Cottonwoods, Populus spp., also liven the fall vegetation.

Pink is seen in the Twiggy and other Wreath Plants, Stephanomeria spp., maturing Buckwheats, Eriogonum spp., and the ubiquitous Naked Ladies, Amaryllis belladonna. But chartreuse?  This is found in the rare but, in places, locally abundant Seaside Birdsbeak, Cordylanthus rigidus ssp. littoralis. A spectacular display can be seen on State Route 1 between Vandenberg Village and Allan Hancock College, where Deer Creek crosses the highway. Ah yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

As plant lovers we should not only see our subtle fall beauty, but should be sharing this vision with others. Check Field Trips for our mid-October Burton Mesa Chaparral tour at the La Purisima Mission.

— Charlie Blair

Water Issues

October was, thank goodness, another quiet month as far as development project review was concerned.

I attended and gave input to in what appeared to be an interesting project being conducted by the Corps of Engineers concerning coast erosion and beach sand management along the coast, and supposedly issues such as rising sea level. This is being performed on behalf of the SLO Council of Governments. My disappointment cannot be overstated. I was present at scoping meetings a year ago, and now find a year later that they have paid no attention to  the effects of rising sea level on habitat and people around Morro Bay, and when I asked about their consultation with the National Estuary Program, their people didn’t even know we had such a program, or that the Corps did studies on sedimentation in Morro Bay. In their economic evaluation they considered only the economic value of beach attendance by the public and not erosion and stuff like the possible long-term risk to coastal properties. No wonder New Orleans flooded.

In other water related issues, the continued downward trends on the elevation of the groundwater surface along the coast south of Pismo Beach may be close to putting the groundwater-­ supported coastal lakes such as Black Lake at risk. The once-impressive peat wetlands of Black Lake Canyon just east of Highway 1 were drained and destroyed in the  1980s as springs dried up, and now the fate of the other wetlands is in question. I mention this as water use in the Nipomo Mesa area and the allocation of groundwater is becoming the subject of litigation between water management agencies.

David Chipping, Professor of Geology (Emeritus), Cal Poly State University David Chipping was educated at Cambridge, England and Stanford, California. His doctoral thesis addressed the displacements of rocks along the San Andreas fault and the configuration of ocean basins in to which the rocks were deposited. He is active on the Board of the San Luis Obispo Chapter of the California Native Plant Society and has served as the statewide Conservation Director for that organization. David is currently leading a joint project between CNPS-SLO and Friends of the Carrizo Plain to develop a photographic collection of the entire flora within the Carrizo Plain Monument.

Get Involved with CNPS-SLO

There’s no time like the present to volunteer for a role with CNPS. There are several possibilities to help you find your niche within this awesome group of people. Here are some of the things going on in our chapter.

  • The annual plant sale, for people who like to talk to the public and encourage them to use native plants. To be held Saturday, November 7 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at the Pacific Beach High School, next to Target on Los Osos Valley Road, in San Luis Obispo. Contact John Nowak (
  • The rare plant monitoring group, for people who have time to help find rare, and sometimes rarely seen, native species, and keep tabs on their development.  Contact David Keil (
  • The plant propagation group, for people who like to tinker with native seeds and plant propagation. Contact Bill Waycott (
  • The Sudden Oak Death fungus assessment team, for people who are concerned about plant pathogens that attack native plants on the central coast.  Contact Lauren Brown (
  • The Hoover Herbarium volunteer group at Cal Poly, for people who want to really get into the details of our local flora.  Contact Jenn Yost (
  • The plant conservation committee, for people who are keen to monitor environmental policies, insuring they are fair, accurate, and transparent.  Contact: David Chipping (
  • The San Luis Creek at the Mission Plaza restoration project, for people who want to see local native landscapes in our communities.  Contact Bill Waycott (
  • The Website and Facebook group, for people who are creative and familiar with social media.  Contact Judi Young (
  • The public outreach group, for people who like to meet the public and help set up the booth with books, pamphlets, and CNPS apparel.  Contact Linda Chipping (
  • The native plant photography group, for people who want to document the plants and habitats of this area, as well record the effects of climate change over time.  Contact Marlin Harms (

Also, there are a few positions open needing your involvement:

  • Chapter Secretary (if interested in taking on this important role for our chapter, please contact Jim Johnson –
  • Hospitality coordinator and Newsletter editor (if interested in taking on either of these fun-filled tasks, please contact Bill Waycott (

Be sure to signup for our electronic announcements via email using the green form on the right of this screen.

Bill Waycott, President of the San Luis Obispo chapter of the California Native Plant Society
Native Plants in the Landscape – November 2015 Meeting

Native Plants in the Landscape – November 2015 Meeting

Native Plants in the Landscape – Cultivating the natural beauty of the Central Coast

This is a photographic tour of California Native Plant use in the landscapes of Madrone Landscapes over the last 38 years.

Madrone Landscapes has been designing, installing and maintaining gardens throughout San Luis Obispo County, emphasizing California Native plant use, since 1977.  Rick Mathews is founder and president of Madrone Landscapes, Design-Build Maintenance firm, based in Atascadero.

As a landscape contractor for nearly four decades, Mathews has incorporated the use of California native plants since the 1970s. The wisdom of this approach has repeatedly become apparent, through several drought cycles. Madrone continues to favor natives in their designs, as this presentation will convey.

Thursday, November 5, 2015, 7:00 p.m. Meet at the Veterans Hall, 801 Grand Avenue, San Luis Obispo.

Antirrhinum ovatum

Antirrhinum ovatum

Oval Leaved Snapdragon

Drawing by Bonnie and article by Dr. Malcolm McLeod below appeared in the November, 1991 Obispoensis.  

When you read it you will see lots of similarities with our current drought situation as well as the much hoped for possibilities of an excellent rain year. Yea, el Niño! If we get the rain, we just may have a once a decade or so treat to witness. We can only hope. Malcolm was a long-time member of our chapter who served several years as out chapter president. He served many years as our rare plant coordinator.  Malcolm mentions many names of people who came to see this rare event.  They are a whose who of local last generation including naturalist-rancher Eben McMillan and botanists Clare Hardham and Clifton Smith. In 1991, the Carrizo Plains area was not yet a National Monument but a Natural Area administered by the Bureau of Land Management and the Nature Conservancy.  It’s the presence of this species, as well as  number of other plant and animal species, that aided in it being designated a National Monument in 2001 by President Bill Clinton.  

– Dirk Walters, illustration by Bonnie Walter


Gardening in deer-prone areas

This article helps you determine if you have a low, moderate, or high level of “browse” and suggests the appropriate methods for combating the problem.

Also included is a  brief list of plants that have shown some success when gardening in deer-prone areas.


Planning for the Plant Sale

Planning for the Plant Sale

Now that summer is almost over, the long dry days and warm nights will give way to cool crisp mornings and as autumn approaches . . . The Plant Sale. (more…)

A long, hot summer

A long, hot summer

Conservation Updates

Summer has been quiet, thank goodness, concerning large threats to native plants. The drought and associated water restrictions are smothering a lot of development plans, at least for the moment.

Topaz Solar Plant


Rare Plant Program – Mona Robison

Rare Plant Program – Mona Robison

Dear SLO rare plant enthusiast:

SLO County will have a visitor from the CNPS state office, Mona Robison.  She was recently hired by CNPS to coordinate the State’s Rare Plant program (see attachment).  Prior to CNPS, Mona has had a rich and diverse involvement with CA native plants. (more…)

CNPS Chapter Council Meeting – 30 and 31 May 2015, Quincy, CA

CNPS Chapter Council Meeting – 30 and 31 May 2015, Quincy, CA

Chapter Council meetings are held quarterly at locations somewhere in California/Baja California. They are attended by interested members and the public. Designated representatives from each of the thirty-five Chapters attend, as do the directors of the board, officers, CNPS staff, and interested members. (more…)

Mission Plaza – San Luis Creek Restoration Project

Mission Plaza – San Luis Creek Restoration Project

Earlier this year, SLO city officials approached CNPS with the idea of restoring the deteriorated riparian habitat, which runs through the downtown adjacent to the Mission Plaza, with California native species. Our local chapter has embraced this project with great enthusiasm. (more…)

Landscaping in drought

As we search for answers to deal with the prolonged drought, I’m sure many of you are wondering what this summer will do to your landscape?

Luckily, most of you are well ahead of the game because you already have planted California native plants in your garden. You prepared years ago for this knowing that someday we would have a drought. Now the question is, what can I do to help my plants make it through the summer? I am taking the position of hunkering down and taking care of what you already have. Likewise, hold off on new plantings until after summer this coming fall.

Now this month’s topic. Can I use grey water to keep my natives alive? The answer is yes. However, first we must evaluate the requirements of our existing native plants.

Some may be able to go dormant and make it through this summer with very little water such as the salvias. Also, well established native shrubs or trees, five to ten years old, such as pine, cypress, and manzanita will need maybe one good soaking mid summer. Other plants such as Woodwardia, Penstemon and Ceanothus may require extra moisture monthly depending on your soil type. So where do we turn to get this water?

One solution is grey water. But before you start collecting grey water there are a couple of tips you should know.

First there are two types of gray water, clean and dirty. Clean would be the water you collect while waiting for the shower to heat up. This water is preferred for edible plants or natives that are not well established.

Examples of dirty water would be water coming from your washing machine, dirty dish water or kitchen sink rinse water. This water should be used within 24 hours in order to avoid bacterial build up. Dirty grey water can be used to water well established trees, shrubs and ground covers. If you wish, you can allow this water to settle for 24 hours in a larger container. Remove safe water from only the top three quarters of the container. This will allow the solids to settle and the top water will be much cleaner.

I hope this helps a little with this subject. Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions about gardening over the summer, Until I see you again, Happy Gardening.

– John Nowak

Rare Plant Group Formed

By pooling local resources, members of the California Native Plants Society (CNPS) along with students and faculty at Cal Poly University have created a rare plant working group to address the twin tasks of monitoring rare plant populations on the central coast, while also identifying new ones that have gone unnoticed thus far.

On May 9, Dr. David Keil led a group of ten volunteers though a rare plant training workshop at Laguna Lake Park. At the start, each participant was handed a list of 17 rare and endangered species to search out and identify as being present in the area. The list was created from several online databases, prepared through thousands of personal sightings and herbarium specimens collected over many years. To view one such database, go to

Laguna Lake Park in the city of San Luis Obispo is made up of two distinctly different habitats. One is alluvial soil deposited in and around Laguna Lake through centuries of erosion and flooding. The other is a 500 ft. hillock made of serpentine rock, which is mostly stone and very little soil.  Many of the rare plants that are present in this park occur there because of its unique landscape, either the extremes of shifting soil humidities
on the lowlands, or uncommon and nearly barren mineral deposits on the uplands. The challenge this time was to encounter the hard-to-find plants, preferably in bloom, knowing we are in the middle of a major drought.

Of the 17 species on the list, 12 have been given a designation of “1-B,” meaning they are very rare, possibly endangered, localized to few locations within SLO county or in even fewer cases, in scarce pockets spread over a couple of counties. The five species not designed as “1-B,” are listed as “4,” meaning they are more abundant but placed on a watch-list for review from time to time.

rare-plant-group2By the end of our three hour “treasure hunt,” the group had identified 14 of the species on the list. In some cases we found very few individuals, only one clubhaired mariposa lily (Calochortus clavatus, var. clavatus) and one Eastwood’s larkspur (Delphinium parryi, subsp. eastwoodiae) in bloom, while on the other hand finding several thousand San Luis startulips (Calochortus obispoensis) and carpets of Brewer’s spineflower (Chorizanthe breweri) ablaze with visiting butterflies and bumblebees.

The rare plant work of CNPS is just one facet of the many skills this organization brings to bear in our diverse and burgeoning state. I, for one, find it fascinating that within the very small area of Laguna Lake Park, only one square mile, there are 12 species of plants that exist there and almost no
where else on this big, wide planet. Now that’s awesome!!

– Bill Waycott


Wild pigs vs. salt marshes

Inspired by David Keil’s fantastic workshop last meeting on the plants of the Morro Bay tidal marsh, I decided to do some exploration there, armed with his excellent identification key. I ran into a conservation issue that I did not expect to see in a salt marsh … massive damage by pigs rooting in the rushes at the edge of the pickleweed, presumably for the roots of the rushes [photo below].

I have no idea how long it will take this mess to mend itself, but it is happening on both sides of the tidal channel east of the South Bay Boulevard bridge. I did not find any damage west of the bridge, although it appears that the drought has shut down a lot of the freshwater flow coming out of the dunes onto the marsh.

On other fronts, I am happy to report that none of the many projects known to be in the works has come ripe for CNPS action this month. The county citizenry has been sufficiently scared by the drought to question large new developments, and many future projects will have water
availability as a prime consideration. Water is not a concern, apparently, in the Atascadero area when the County Supervisors downgraded the Level of Severity for Water Supply for the Atascadero Subbasin from a recommended Level III (most restrictive to development) to complete removal of any LOS designation. This might have more to do with the development of Eagle Ranch than lack of worry about Salinas River underflow to their
well field, but who knows… just seems like a strange move in this time of extreme drought. The Atascadero subbasin drains right into that most critically at-risk basin, the main LOS III Paso Robles Basin.

The conservation committee can only react to issues brought to its attention, so if you see something in your local area, let us know as we don’t follow some of the local governments very closely.

Turri salt marsh

– David Chipping

Chapter Meeting – Michael Kauffmann

Thursday, June 4, 2015, 7 p.m. at the San Luis Obispo Veterans Hall, 801 Grand Avenue, San Luis Obispo

Exploring the Conifers of the Pacific Slope

Over the past 10 years Michael Kauffmann has explored most of the mountain ranges in the West with a particular focus on the Klamath Mountains. In his explorations, he has worked to better understand the region’s ecology through the eyes of conifers—one of the Earth’s oldest lineages of plants. California, Oregon and Washington nurture one of the richest assemblage of conifers in the world and Michael’s books Conifer Country and Conifers of the Pacific Slope help define their ecology and biogeography. Join Michael for an arm-chair journey into the Klamath Mountains and beyond—where we will explore ancient plants that survive in the West’s most exhilarating landscapes.


Michael Kauffmann with a windswept foxtail pine

Michael Kauffmann has a MA in Biology from Humboldt State University and is an educator at the elementary through college level. He has written three books, including co-authoring the just-released Field Guide to Manzanitas. He has lives in Kneeland, California with his wife Allison and son Sylas and in his free time enjoys backpacking, photography and plant exploring. Michael’s books will be available at the talk.

The next Chapter meeting is the October “Dessert Potluck,” Thursday, October 1, 2015. Bring a dessert and photos and videos of your summer travels to share.

Call to Horticulturists

With the successful creation of the rare-plant working group during the past few months, I would like to suggest our chapter broaden its horizons a bit more by assembling a horticulture working group. I bring this point up because CNPS is one of a very few organizations that can speak from expertise and confidence about how to successfully manage a landscape during an extended water crisis. Most of us are willing to admit now, Californians must move away from growing exotic, over-irrigated lawns and gardens, and embrace the fact that low water, sustainable landscapes are the only viable alternative.

We have already seen this transition towards low-water plantings in our neighborhoods. California gardens are on the move! We all know our local green spaces and environs can become more ecology-friendly when local native plants are placed in and around our homes and cities.

With this commitment by our local chapter to support the transition to native plants, we can utilize the abundant resources available in this area. These include those who garden with natives already, those who raise and sell natives to the public, those who work in environmental management and habitat restoration, as well as those studying botany, ornamental horticulture, and landscape architecture at local colleges.

Thus, I am asking anyone with a knack for gardening and/or serious landscape experience to contact me by e-mail. With a dozen or so volunteers, we can put together a strong working group. Then branch out to communities in our area by extending a hand of support and guidance.

– Bill Waycott

Chapter Meeting – Connie Rutherford

Chapter Meeting – Connie Rutherford

Title: Chapter Meeting – Connie Rutherford
Location: San Luis Obispo Veterans Hall, 801 Grand Avenue, SLO
Description: Thursday, May 7, 2015, 7 p.m. at the San Luis Obispo Veterans Hall, 801 Grand Avenue, SLO
Does the Endangered Species Act Help Recover Listed Plant Species? The federal ESA is one of our premier environmental laws, but are our plants any better off? Using examples of listed plant species from the central coast counties, Connie will talk about some of the progress that has been made, as well as the setbacks that have been encountered along the way, in furthering conservation and recovery efforts.
Connie Rutherford is Listing and Recovery Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Ventura-based office. She is an alumna of UC Santa Cruz and Humboldt State University, and spent several adventurous years in the field in Alaska, the Pacific northwest, Haiti, and the Mojave Desert before settling down in Ventura to a real job and family life. Early in her career, she worked to put a lot of plant species ON the list of endangered species; now she works to get them OFF.
Pre-Meeting Workshop: At 6:15 p.m. Dave Keil will lead a workshop on identification of salt marsh plants before the meeting.
Start Time: 19:00
Date: 2015-05-07

Conservation May 2015

As I explained in last month’s newsletter, we didn’t expect to wring any more concessions from the County, and so that now a solar developer can take a 40 acre parcel and turn it to solar without an environmental impact report, just a biological study where CNPS will be notified of the project but, apparently, has no avenue through which to recommend changes without going through an expensive appeal process.

We are still waiting the final EIR on the Arroyo Grande oilfield. There is massive public concern about exploding oil trains that is causing decisions on the Conoco-Phillips rail spur to be delayed. There are some disturbing projects being proposed that CNPS must watch with care about to enter the pipeline. Two of them are in the Avila area, with one being Wild Cherry Canyon on land that nearly got bought for State Parks, and a second as amendments to the San Luis Bay Estates Master Development Plan and General Plan that would allow development near the club house at the golf course. A map of the proposed San Luis Bay Estates plan shows it on a now grassy slope immediately north of the tennis courts and parking, which are both due north of the highway bridge. The same developer, Rob Rossi, is proposing about 100 single- family homes, a 100- to 120-room hotel, and about 50 retirement units near the Blacklake clubhouse (or possibly an estimated 110 to 130 residential homes, about 130 hotel rooms, 100 retirement units and 25 spaces for recreational vehicles as proposed to Nipomo Community Service District). Water demand in the Blacklake project would be mitigated through removal of golf greens. These days the main issue in any new development is demand for additional water, and this is of central interest to CNPS , where our primary interest would seem to be habitat conservation. Our interest lies in the increasing restrictions on application of water for horticulture, as native plant gardening is a central interest to our members. The drought is now placing native plant communities such as oak, Monterey pine, Morro manzanita and other species at great risk where the plants have been conserved in an urban setting. This is commonly a mitigation that allowed development in these plant communities, and the plants persist and young plants are recruited under “normal” rain conditions. We are now seeing massive die-off of young plants in areas that are never watered, and there are limitations on the amount of grey water that can be allocated to their salvation in the garden environment. Cambria residents should try to keep young pines alive so that the famous forest will persist, although the large older trees appear to be doomed in many parts of the forest where mortality rates are locally very high.

What can you do to save water that would otherwise go down the drain? Plug the shower drain and scoop water into buckets to transport out to the yard. Save sink water, vegetable washing water in buckets at the sink. Smell worse? Do whatever needs to be done to keep those natives alive without pouring good drinking water on them.

— David Chipping

Conservation April 2015

CNPS addressed the SLO County Planning Commission three times, and the Board of Supervisors once regarding plans to change local zoning to allow solar and wind projects to be ‘fast-tracked’. As a result it seems CNPS will be notified when a project enters the fast track system, and in a surprise move, County said it let us look at botanic reports. We also got the maximum acreage to be considered by a ministerial position to be reduced from 160 acres to 40 acres. How much of this will stick when the Board of Supervisors make a decision on March 24th, but I don’t expect to get much more in the way of concessions.

As I stated last month, CNPS is strongly for alternative energy, but just want to avoid needless destruction of valuable habitat in the process. We had requested that the requirement that land be “disturbed” before entering Fast Track be extended to 40 acres rather than the current cap of 20 acres. CNPS has been hanging out all on its lonesome in this issue, so there does not be much political pressure to give us what we want.

Given that CNPS, upon being notified about a project, could warn of the potential presence of rare plants, we are going to try to locate the positions of all plants of CEQA significance that may exist in herbarium records. That way, when we are notified, we can make an intelligent response.

I was asked to go on a tour of the Topaz Solar Farm with a group of people to look at the conditions inside the panel array blocks. I am happy to report that they were surprisingly good, with grass and fiddleneck being more robust under the panels that in open areas. As several people have addressed possible negative impacts to carbon sequestration when grazing land is converted to panel fields, it would seem that the way the panels have been designed won’t have significant impact in this regard. It seems reduced evaporative stress counters the reduced light under the panels. Topaz will use sheep to graze under the panels, so much of their land has gone from dry grain farming to sheep meadow. One suspects that weedy native annuals such as fiddleneck and phacelia will persist on the site. Attempts to introduce native bunch grasses under the panels seem to be of their land has gone from dry grain farming to sheep meadow. One suspects that weedy native annuals such as fiddleneck and phacelia will persist on the site. Attempts to introduce native bunch grasses under the panels seem to be successful.David Chipping