Coast Live Oak

Coast Live Oak

Dirk Walters, illustration by Bonnie Walters

Oaks have been in the news a lot recently. Essentially all of it has been bad from the Oak’s point of view. First, there was the clearing of valley (Quercus lobata) and blue (Q. douglasii) oaks in the Paso Robles area. and then the spread of Sudden Oak Death (SOD) into our county. The notes along with Bonnie’s drawing were the Obispoensis cover back (more…)

Common (White) Yarrow (Achillea millefollium)

Common (White) Yarrow (Achillea millefollium)

Common (White) Yarrow (Achillea millefollium)

The plant discussed in this issue of the Obispoensis is one that I’ve wanted to take on for a long time, but could never bring myself to ask Bonnie to draw. Since we are using photos to illustrate it by, I think it’s time. One look at the leaves will indicate the reason for my reluctance. The leaves, which are up to four inches long and two inches wide, are divided two or three times into hundreds (thousands) of long, thin, needle-like segments which are weakly aromatic.

The species epithet (millefollium) translates into ‘thousand (mill) leaf (follia). The leaves spiral up the stem getting smaller higher up the stem. The flowers are small and clustered in heads which are themselves crowded into flat topped clusters. Most plants in the wild produce whitish flowers but occasionally one finds plants baring yellowish or pinkish tinged flowers. These have been selected for deeper colors for use in the garden.

There are many sites on the web that offer these ‘colored’ varieties for sale. The species is extremely variable which would be expected by its essentially worldwide range. It’s found throughout the Northern Hemisphere and just about everywhere in the Southern Hemisphere where humans have settled. A plant with such a wide a distribution as well as a strong correlation with human habitats would certainly be considered an introduced weed. I knew it in the roadsides and pastures of the Midwest, North East and in various weedy and native habitats here in California.

So, where is it native?

One can find any answer you want to believe on the Web. In fact, if I’d been asked where it was native before researching this article, I’d have said Eurasia. I found at least one web site that would have agreed with me. However, a majority of botanical sites as well as the Jepson Manual give its native range as “the entire Northern Hemisphere! So accepting it as a California native plant, where does it grow in California. Answer, practically everywhere there’s they can get sufficient water. Yarrow is found from sea level to over 10,000 feet in a wide variety of habitats (including weedy ones) throughout that altitudinal range. One of the better local places to find it is in our coastal dunes where it can be found spreading across the base of dune slip faces. As such it is serves as an important dune stabilizer. I should point out it is that because of its extreme variability common yarrow has had many scientific names applied to it, but recent thinking have reduced most of them to varieties.

How did it get its name?

The genus, Achillea, was applied to the plant by the Father of Taxonomic Botany, Linnaeus himself in the 1700’s. He named it in Honor of the Greek hero, Achilles. Why did he name it after a non-botanical war hero who was killed in the Battle of Troy? Again if one should look up this plant on the Web, one would find lots and lots of sites that discuss its medicinal uses, many with warnings they are not guaranteeing its effectiveness. In the 17-hundreds yarrow was considered a panacea or a cure-all. The story goes that Achilles was charmed and no weapon could harm him. He’d the protection via his mother dipping him in the river Styx when he was a baby. The River Styx was the transport medium for souls to get to Hades (the land of the dead). However his mother was afraid he would drown if she let go of him completely; so she held him by his heel which therefore did NOT come in contact with waters granting protection. So at Troy, Achilles was killed by a poison arrow which nicked his unprotected heel.

Why bring up Achilles Heel? According to the story told by my major Professor, no modern Pharmacopeia (an official list of medicinal plants) contains yarrow. I.e. after extensive testing, experts have determined that yarrow has NO medicinal value. That Achilea millefolium has no medicinal value “is in fact yarrow’s Achilles heel”.


  • Put it under your pillow and you will dream a vision of your future spouse
  • Snort it as snuff
  • Stick it up your nose to either (a) stop a nose bleed, or (b) to start a nose bleed to let blood out of your head to relieve a headache
  • Stick it in the other end and it stops your piles from bleeding
  • Use it as a shampoo and it will prevent baldness
  • Use it in Devil Worship… it was once called ‘The Devil’s Nettle” and maybe not so silly… it was a salad ingredient in the 17th Century, and was mixed with hops to make a more potent beer in Sweden and parts of Africa. Now your’e talking.

– Dr. Dirk Walters (



The Unique Flora of the Central Coast


On Feb 13, 10:15 AM Marlin Harms will present “The Unique Flora of the Central Coast,” a tour of SLO County’s wildflowers that will include noteworthy photos as well as some life history features of both familiar wildflowers plus less well-known endemic and endangered species. He will offer some locations to see wildflowers, some of which may be new to those who aren’t ardent CNPS field trippers.

Part of A Mind Walk series, Morro Bay Veteran’s Hall, 209 Surf St., Morro Bay. Free to Cent. Coast State Parks Assoc. Members, $3 for others.

In Memoriam: “Jack” Beigle

Many members of our chapter will remember with a smile the work done by Jack and his wife Grace in supporting our chapter and for his work in association with Kathleen Jones (the Dune Mother) in the protection of the south county dune system. Jack also played a major role in a pampas grass eradication program,
and helped bring the very first conference of the just formed California Exotic Plant Council (now CalIPC) to Morro Bay. He was a State Park Docent, particularly at the Oceano Dunes Center and Butterfly Preserve. Jack died in December in Pacific Grove, and is survived by his wife, Grace and children.

Invasive Species of the Month – Brassica tournefortii

Invasive Species of the Month – Brassica tournefortii

Sahara Mustard

Sahara mustard is annual from the Mediterranean and has been spreading rapidly into coastal San Luis Obispo County. It is in Los Osos, Grover Beach, Oceano, the Nipomo Mesa and the Santa Maria River. Sahara Mustard first appeared in North America in 1927 in Coachella Valley and has spread throughout the Sonoran Desert. It grows in disturbed areas: mainly roadsides, dirt roads and construction sites. Locally it has spread from sticky seeds on pick-up truck tires, construction equipment, rodents and from wind. One of the awful qualities about this weed is that it out-competes native plants, especially annuals, simply because it grows very densely.

Sahara mustard image

Basal rosette (David Chipping)

The 3 to 12 inch deeply lobed leaves exist as a rosette which is low, only several inches above the ground. The small, pale yellow flower stalks may reach 4 feet and produce zillions of seeds (actually up to 9,000 seeds) that are viable for more than 3 years.

Controlling Sahara mustard may be done by hand pulling. It is easier to pull than Black mustard. Sahara mustard is prolific and annoyingly often grows amongst tree and shrub plantings: pulling is the only option in this instance. It is best to pull when they are emerging. Once seed pods develop, the plant will set seed after it has been pulled, so it should be removed from the site.

When away from native plants monotypic Sahara mustard may be sprayed with Telar, Milestone, Garlon 3A or Transline (they are all broad leaf herbicides). Grazing is not a good idea because there is are toxic compounds in the seeds.

– Mark Skinner

featured image: The pale yellow flower, with 4-7 mm petals, and siliques, growing to 3-7 cm long (David Chipping)

Oaks, Oil, and Trailheads

Conservation Update January 2017

Oak Ordinance

CNPS has met with SLO County Planning staff and with U.C. Extension in regard to developing a permanent oak ordinance. We have argued for total protection of valley oak, and for a concentration in controlling oak clearances for alternative agricultural land uses among other things. The language of the preliminary oak ordinance posted on the (more…)

CNPS State Meetings

President’s Notes – Feb 2017

I attended two state-level meetings last month in Berkeley, CA and want to briefly share some of the details with you.

The CNPS State Board meeting was held Friday afternoon (Dec. 2nd 2016) and the State Chapter Council meeting was held Saturday and Sunday morning (Dec. 3rd and 4th 2016). I think it is important that we know this organization has a statelevel work force that has its finger on the pulse of vital plant conservation, government oversight, and public engagement issues. For an overview of what CNPS does statewide, please refer to the CNPS Strategic Plan.

At the Board Meeting, we heard the reports on a myriad of topics: Finances, Budget, Audits, Membership, Fund Raising, Planned Giving, Strategic Planning, Botanist Certification, Landscape Professional Certification, Phytophthora Control, Calscape Website Review, Plant Conservation, Books, Board Responsibilities, Elections, Litigations, and Fellows Recognitions.

At the Chapter Council Meeting, we heard about Alliances and Leadership, a CEQA Overview, Engagement on the Local Level, and Working with a Dedicated Volunteer Base. We heard a report on work done by the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden to restore several rare plant populations around the SF Bay Area. There were also  breakout sessions on Education, Membership, and Logistics. Saturday evening’s banquet speaker was Jim Shevock, on The First Land Plants: the diversity and distribution of Bryophytes in California.

The next State-level meeting is scheduled for March 10th to 12th 2017 in Santa Barbara Co. Included in the meeting is an all day field trip to Santa Cruz Island on Sunday the 12th. I would encourage anyone interested in attending this meeting to contact me for more details (

CNPS is a non-profit organization with complete transparency. At the local level, our bi-monthly Board meetings are open to all members. Please participate.

– Bill Waycott

Hoover Award – 2016

Hoover Award – 2016

Bill Waycott was recognized with the 2016 Hoover Award for his contributions to appreciation and preservation of the San Luis Obispo native flora. The honor, named for Dr. Robert Hoover, was presented to Bill Waycott at the January banquet. Prior recipients meet yearly to select an honoree judged for their accomplishments in education, conservation and chapter support.

Teachers are supposed to inspire their students. I am sure they do. But sometimes students also inspire their teachers. As a Teaching Assistant at UC Santa Barbara in 1970, one of my students was Bill Waycott. Bill loved plants, loved the field trips, loved the plant ID. He became very enthusiastic about California flora and developed an abiding interest of it. In 1971 we went our separate ways, and seldom saw or heard from each other. But I always remembered his interest and enthusiasm.

In 1996 I became the Natural Resources Manager for the City of San Luis Obispo. Imagine my surprise and delight when my wife (who had also been one of my students) told me that she had met Bill at her work, that he lived in town and was married (to Diana, yet another of my students) with two daughters. We hooked up again.

Bill’s work had him traveling a lot, so he only belatedly got back into native plants; that old interest and enthusiasm was still there. Eventually, he became more and more active in the SLO Chapter of CNPS. In 2011, when the Field Trip board position became vacant, Bill saw an opportunity to participate more fully. He soon became the Field Trip Chair and continues in that capacity today. In addition to organizing our many field trips, he is often the trip leader. It is a position that lead to his interest in furthering CNPS outreach and building connections with other like minded groups. This includes co-sponsored field trips as well as opportunities to host educational tables at activities, such as with the Central Coast Concerned Mountain Bikers.

Bill has brought a new enthusiasm to the chapter. Along with long-time CNPS member John Chesnut, he brought the state Rare Plant Treasure Hunt, a citizen-science program, to San Luis Obispo county. He has participated in many rare plant hunts statewide, and was recognized for attending the most outings in 2014. In 2015, Bill was elected President of our local chapter. In that capacity, Bill continues to expand outreach opportunities for the chapter. Coordinating with the City of San Luis Obispo, CNPS has partnered to restore the native flora along San Luis Creek in Mission Plaza. During these drought years, he has arranged participation in KCBX radio programs to inform the public about drought tolerant native plants for the yard.

Like many of our members, he has a great interest in collecting seed and growing native plants. He has grown plants and provided them for the annual plant sale, and for use at our many booth opportunities during the years. He was unanimously reelected chapter President in 2016. Bill has also extended his interest and commitment to CNPS to the state organization. He was elected a Chapter Council representative to the State Board, and recently assumed the position of Vice President.

Yes, students can and do inspire their teachers. Bill has inspired all of us over the years. It is with great honor and pride that we recognize his services and accomplishments for us as our most recent winner of the Robert F. Hoover Award.

– Neil Havlik

CNPS Workshops and Professional Training

The Plant Science Training Program specializes in providing workshops for professional botanists, biologists, and ecologists to teach the skills and provide the tools and resources for conducting sound scientific surveys for rare plants, rare plant communities, vegetation, and wetlands. Discounted registration fees are offered to CNPS Members.

  • Mar 1-3 Vegetation Mapping Location: Redlands. Instructors: Julie Evens, John Menke, Todd Keeler-Wolf
  • April 4-6 Introduction to Plant Identification – Part II Location: Auburn. Instructor: Josie Crawford
  • Apr 18-20 Introduction to Plant Identification – Southern CA Location: Frazier Park & Tejon Ranch. Instructors: Nick Jensen
  • May 2-4 San Luis Obispo County Flora Location: San Luis Obispo County. Instructor: David Keil
  • May 17-19 Introduction to Plant Identification – Part I Location: Berkeley. Instructor: Josie Crawford
  • Jun 7-8 Rare Plant Survey Protocols Location: Redding, CA & Hog Lake, near Red Bluff, CA. Instructors: Heath Bartosh, Aaron Sims
  • Oct 3-5 Vegetation Rapid Assessment/Relevé Location: Bodega Bay. Instructors: Jennifer Buck-Diaz and Anne Klein
  • Date TBA Wetland/Riparian Plant Identification
  • Date TBA CEQA Impact Assessment