April in Pinnacles National Park

April in Pinnacles National Park

Diana and I spent a Sunday in early April this year, visiting the Pinnacles National Park from the west side, near Soledad, CA. It was a drizzly day, making the rock formations appear surreal – larger than life. If you have not walked the park, the trails are wide and gentle, easy for those who take their time. It is the perfect place to take the whole family for an outing.

This is a magic place and it has had a loyal fan club for a long time. The property was protected during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt in the early 1900s. We may know the Pinnacles as heap of giant rocks and caves, aligned along the west side of the San Andreas Fault in San Benito County. Its lesser twin, the Neenach Formation, is located 195 miles to the southeast on the eastern side of the fault.

A walk in the Pinnacles during March and April is a feast for the eyes, with an abundance of wildflowers throughout the park. I wanted to briefly share with you some of the highlights of our visit and encourage you to make a stopover there when traveling north.

Clearly, the first assault on the senses when leaving the parking lot on foot is the grand, odd-appearing rock designs dotting the landscape. Then, amongst these giant pillars, are the plants that add to one’s wonder and excitement. It was the plethora of larkspur (Delphinium parryi) that first caught our eye, some upwards of 7 feet tall, in large, dense, purple-blue clusters. \

As we rounded the bend in the trail among crevasses and tall boulders, we noticed mats of dark-green liverworts (Asterella sp.) covering the stony surfaces, showing their umbrella-like spore capsules suspended atop them. These primitive plants seek the damp and shaded rock areas in the deepest parts of the canyon.

Turning around to see what grew on the southern exposures, which receives more light, we found significant coverings of a tiny dudleya, Dudleya caespitosa, coating the rock faces. These small, silver-leaved succulents, no larger than a quarter in diameter with their bright yellow inflorescences, were all linked together by tiny rhizomes resembling spaghetti, running over the rock faces and creating one giant carpet. We’d never seen anything like it.


Delphinium parryi
Asterella sp
Dudleya caespitosa

On our way towards the top of the ridge, we found a number of plants that we have rarely seen in our county. The vividly orange, western wallflowers, Erysimum capitatum, were mixed with golden monolopia, M. lanceolate. Additionally, there were the large, eye-catching Venus thistles, Cirsium occidentale var. venustum, with their enchanting and vibrant shocking-pink hues, along with a small attractive, chalk-white buckwheat, Eriogonum saxatile, growing near the top among the rock outcrops.


Erysimum capitatum and Monolopia lanceolate
Cirsium occidentale
Eriogonum saxatile

As we crossed the rocky ridge and descended the eastern side, we encountered a large area, over an acre in size, covered in tiny terraces, filled with the lowly resurrection plant, Selaginella bigelovii. For those not familiar with this plant, although it is a higher plant, it is called a spike moss, and very closely resembles a non-vascular bryophyte. It is endemic to California and remains dormant for most of the year, but it quickly greens up during the rainy season. So here, on the enormous exposed rock face, grows this tiny plant and nothing else.

Further down the eastern slope, we found two more beauties, Fremont’s monkey flower, Mimulus fremontii, a very small plant, no more than four inches tall, with a tubular magenta flower and two golden stripes angled into its center. These plants are clearly ephemeral and could be easily missed because of their size. Their flowers are easily twenty times the size of the few visible leaves, leading us to wonder where the energy comes from to put on such a floral display.

The other discovery was a mariposa lily, Calochortus venustus, known as the butterfly mariposa lily. The word
“mariposa” is Spanish for butterfly. These large flowers stood high on plants, well above the annual grasses at their base.

I find that a more careful study of mariposa lilies can be fascinating, because each flower is slightly different. This is partly because they change as they open; a newly opened flower bears little resemblance to its older, pollenated selves. Yet, if one looks more closely, the distinctive markings that adorn so many in the genus, vary among flowers in placement, size, color, and intensity. To me, this dance of color and shape reminds me of the intricate motifs found in Native American art. It is as if each flower has its own unique facial alignment, in the way features identify an individual on a human face. Next time you encounter a mariposa lily in bloom, gaze into its “face” and observe the minute and detailed spender within. Make sure you have a 10x hand lens with you at that time.


Selaginella bigelovii
Mimulus fremontii
Calochortus venustus

Walking in our natural surroundings is a great activity. We breathe the fresh air, we see the remarkable and intricate patterns of the landscape, and our heart beats a bit faster as we head up the trail. We native plant enthusiasts are fortunate to have these opportunities to explore and be healthy!

Bill Waycott

Seed Exchange Reminder

Seed Exchange Reminder

Hopefully many of you are remembering that we will have our first seed exchange before the October meeting.

If you are interested in participating, now is the time to start closely observing your plants for seed formation and maturation. I have already started taking a few seeds from my Ranunculus californicus (buttercup), Lepechinia calycina (pitcher sage), and Heuchera maxima (island alum root). With a neighbor’s permission I have wandered her pasture collecting seed from Callindrinia ciliata (red maids). By the time this appears in the newsletter I suspect I will be gathering from my Stipa pulchra and Melica californica. So hone your observational skills, get close to your plants, and collect seeds!

I’ve included this article regarding information on the collection and cleaning of seeds for you to download.

by Marti Rutherford

Seed Collection and Saving for the Casual Gardener

This document talks about Why and When to collect native plant seeds and offers tips for collecting and storing seeds. By Marti Rutherford, CNPS-SLO, April 2016

Conservation: GND

Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes

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.

David Chipping

Malcolm McLeod Annual Field Trip Meeting to Shell Creek

Saturday, April 2, 2016, Malcolm McLeod Annual Field Trip Meeting to Shell Creek co-lead by Dirk Walters and David Chipping. This is our monthly meeting for April. Meet at the San Luis Obispo Veterans Hall, 801 Grand Avenue (corner of Grand & Monterey Boulevard) at 8:30 a.m. and/or the Santa Margarita Park & Ride (intersection of Hwys. 101 and 58) at 9:00 a.m.  Bring your “Wildflowers of Highway 58” plant guide by Dr. Malcolm McLeod or plan to purchase one for  10 on the trip. For more information call Dirk Walters at 543-7051 or Dave Chipping at 528-0914.

Seed Exchange Planned for October

Seed Exchange Planned for October

A seed exchange is being planned as an activity for the workshop time slot before the October meeting. Learn about how to gather, how to prepare, and a bit about seeds in general. This should provide a fun event for those interested in growing natives from seed.

This seed exchange is intended for native plants on your property.  If collecting elsewhere, make sure you have the correct permits or permissions. Collection of seeds without permission is illegal. If you have rare plants please do not collect seed for this exchange. You might want to coordinate with the rare plant group to possibly collect those seeds for seed banks.

Seeds should be labelled with Genus and species if known. Label also with date, location obtained and your name.  Either prepare individual packets (recycling junk mail envelopes works here) or bring in bulk but have envelopes for people to use.  It is preferred that seeds be cleaned but this is not absolutely necessary. This is intended as a free exchange. Do not plan to sell seed.

If you don’t want to participate in the exchange but would be willing to donate seed for the fall plant sale please label your seed as above and give to Marti Rutherford.  In addition the propagation group would like to experiment with seeds that are difficult to germinate. These are often not appropriate for the casual gardener because of the germination difficulty but the group could play with some seed treatments to see what might improve germination.  Seeds from plants such as manzanita, bush poppy, matilija poppy, blue eyed grass, wooly blue curls fall into this category. We recognize that there is some debate about whether garden grown plants are a good source of seed for restoration, but this will allow us to experiment with techniques.

Any seed left behind at the exchange will either be packaged to sell at the plant sale or given to individuals in the propagation group.

By Marti Rutherford

Seed Collection and Saving for the Casual Gardener

This document talks about Why and When to collect native plant seeds and offers tips for collecting and storing seeds. By Marti Rutherford, CNPS-SLO, April 2016

Invasive Species Watch

I’m pleased to start an Invasive Species Watch column to Obispoensis. I’ve been in the invasive species removal business since 1999 mainly working in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes and San Luis Obispo Creek. Those that know me many not think of me as a warrior however many people (thanks CCC’s!) and I have been battling bad guys such as Arundo, jubata grass, veldt grass, European beach grass, Russian wheat grass (some of the most insidious weeds are grasses!) cape ivy and ice plant for a long time. The satisfaction of this work arrives when a formerly infested area is re-taken by native plants. The best memory I have is from 2002 when a heavy veldt grass infestation was sprayed out at the then Tosco Buffer (now Phillips 66) which was followed by a lush wildflower display of goldfields, dune larkspur, owl’s clover, baby blue eyes, blue dicks, sky lupine, and fiddleneck. I’m still working on the same weeds and I’m seeing progress: Russian wheat grass and jubata grass have been nearly eradicated from the Dunes!  In future pieces I’ll be describing specific invasive species and what’s being done to control them.

by Mark Skinner

CNPS Chapter Council Meeting Update

I recently attended the CNPS Chapter Council meeting, held from March 11 to 13, 2016 in Southern California. The Chapter Council is the governing body of CNPS where representatives from each of the 35 chapters throughout the state along with administrative staff, meet during a weekend every three months to discuss the current issues facing this organization.  If there is a need for new policy or changes to existing programs, the council deliberates the issues and takes a vote to accept or reject.

The meeting was held in the Deane Dana Friendship Park Nature Center on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, over looking the Long Beach Harbor.  On Friday afternoon, I participated in the State Board meeting where it was decided to expand the administrative group by opening an office in the SF Bay Area.  During the Saturday session, there were presentations by the executive director, the legislative liaison, the board president, and the director of conservation.  Highlights included news of a budget surplus and the idea of creating a rain-day fund, the need to support new legislation currently moving through the California Senate and Assembly, the new five year strategic plan, new publications (available at the CNPS May meeting), and a presentation on the newly protected lands in the California deserts.  Sunday, I attended a workshop on BMPs (best management practices) for preventing the spread of the new strains of Phytophthora fungus that have contaminated some commercial nurseries in this state.  In the workshop, we learned how to grow healthy California native plants without exposing them to these diseases.

The next Chapter Council meeting is scheduled for 3rd to 5th June in the Tahoe area and 9th to 11th September in San Luis Obispo County. As the local hosts of the September meeting, we are starting preparations now. Members with an interest to participate in the planning and logistics for this meeting are asked to contact Bill Waycott (bill.waycott@gmail.com). We will need to arrange for a couple of meeting venues, organize meals for 75 plus participants, prepare a list local accommodations and camping options, schedule field trips, and invite a banquet speaker. As with all Chapter Council meetings, this meeting will be open to local member participation.  Please help us prepare.

Our local SLO Chapter Board of Directors held its bi- monthly meeting Thursday evening, 17th March 2016 in the community room of Whole Foods Market in San Luis Obispo.  Our next meeting will be Thursday, 19th May 2016 from 6 pm to 8 pm. All members are welcome to participate.

For more information on topics covered in the March Chapter Council meeting and the SLO Chapter Board of Directors meeting on 17th March, please contact Bill Waycott (bill.waycott@gmail.com).

  1. New legislation moving through the CA Senate and Assembly
  2. New five year CNPS Strategic Plan
  3. The latest information about the CA Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan
  4. Notes from the SLO Chapter BOD meeting on 17th March 2016


Conservation: Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes

The Guadalupe Nipomo Dunes National  Wildlife is presenting a Comprehensive  Conservation Plan and its Environmental  Assessment  to the public with a comment  period that ends on April 16. A public  meeting will be held at the Ramona Garden  Park  Center in Grover Beach on March 22, 5:30-7:30.

The Refuge’s Draft Vision  Statement is “To conserve the dynamic  landscape and imperiled natural  resources…” and “… we protect the Dunes  Complex for everyone’s enjoyment…” and  “…the service works cooperatively with  other agencies, nonprofit organizations… .”  The history is that the refuge has probably  been successful in the protection of certain  species, especially snowy plover, and CNPS  serves on an advisory committee regarding  weed abatement.  Issues of public interaction  have improved lately.

The plan cites three alternatives. Alternative A is  “No Action” which would continue management  as in the past. Alternative B increases actions to  protect species, and increase interaction with  the public. SpeciWic mention is made of  protecting habitat for La Graciosa thistle and  marsh sandwort, while directing foot trafWic  away from plover nesting areas. Alternative C is  rather troubling, as it “will take into  consideration the forecasted decline in budgets  for the NWRS, proposes to reduce or eliminate  many of the current management activities  occurring on the refuge, as well as close the  refuge to all public access.”  The clear interest of  CNPS is support of Alternative B, but also to  offer CNPS as a more active partner in  conservation of the dune habitat. Alternative C  must not happen as it would, among other  things, shut CNPS out of the refuge and access to  Coreopsis Hill. You can send comments to:  PaciWic Southwest Region, Refuge Planning, U.S.  Fish and Wildlife Service; 2800 Cottage Way,  W+1832; Sacramento CA 95825

You can email comments to  fw8plancomments@fws.gov  including  “Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes CCP” in the subject line.

David Chipping

Botanical Excursion Foray

Botanical Excursion Foray

The 21st Annual Spring Outing Botanical Excursion Foray, Retreat, and Escape to the Environment Brought to you by the new Bryophyte Chapter of the California Native Plant Society!

Friday to Monday, March 18-21, 2016 North Coast Range near Occidental, California

Founded in 1996, SO BE FREE is a series of West Coast forays started by the Bryolab at UC Berkeley, but open to all botanists. The main focus is on bryophytes, but we also encourage experts on other groups to come along and smell the liverworts. We welcome specialists and generalists, professionals and amateurs, master bryologists and rank beginners.

SO BE FREE is held each spring, somewhere in the Western US, associated with spring break at universities. Evening slide shows and informal talks are presented as well as keying sessions with microscopes. In addition to seeing interesting wild areas and learning new plants, important goals for SO BE FREE include keeping West Coast bryologists (and friends) in touch with each other and teaching beginners.

To see pictures and information from past outings, visit the SO BE FREE website (http:// ucjeps.berkeley.edu/bryolab/Field_Trips.html).

Early Registration Deadline is Dec. 15, 2015. Regular registration Deadline is Feb. 19, 2016

Flyer (http://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/common/images/SBF21_announcement.pdf).

Newsletter Editor and Hospitality Positions are Open

Newsletter Editor and Hospitality Positions are Open

Newsletter Editor and Hospitality Positions are Open! Our chapter is looking for a Newsletter Editor to produce our chapter newsletter, Obispoensis. If you like to write, edit and do a little page layout design, this position is perfect for you.

The newsletter is published eight times each year, monthly October through June except January. No previous experience is necessary. Contact Bob Hotaling, rahotaling@gmail.com or Bill Waycott, bill.waycott@gmail.com.

The Hospitality committee arrives at meetings early to organize and set up refreshments. Contact Mardi Niles (805) 489-9274, mlniles@sbcglobal.net or Bill Waycott, bill.waycott@gmail.com, (805) 459-2103.

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