“The chance to lead CNPS is a dream come true. Much of what we love in California is here because it was saved by CNPS. I believe the Society’s greatest successes are still ahead, and I am honored being chosen to serve.” –Daniel Gluesenkamp, new Executive Director of CNPS.
Welcome, Dan! The SLO chapter is pleased and excited to have you on-board and leading us into the future.
Press Release: http://cnps.org/cnps/press/20120702-ed.php
All the action seems to be in the south county. I am commenting on the Recirculated Draft EIR for Laetitia Winery, which appears to be a well constructed document describing a less than desirable project. There have been some reductions in the project, and possible alternative designs are much better for oak and water conservation than the project as currently described. The proposed project consists of the agricultural cluster subdivision of 21 parcels (totaling approximately 1,910 acres) into 106 lots, including 102 residential lots of one acre each; four build-able open space lots totaling approximately 1,787 acres; and approximately 25 acres of internal residential roads. Approximately 6.6 percent of the 1,910-acre project site would be developed by residential lots and internal access roads. Oak woodland and coastal scrubs are at risk.
A much larger project involves annexation and development of the hills east of Price Canyon. The parcels of South Ranch, Loughead Ranch and Godfrey Ranch are combined as the 1,264 acre Spanish Springs Specific Planning Area. This is composed of 422 single family homes, 51 multi-family and 360 senior-housing units, 150 hotel rooms, a 9-hole golf course, vineyards and more. Not much room for nature. As you may know a much smaller annexation at Los Robles del Mar was turned down by LAFCO, which is now being sued by the developers. Water was an issue in that project, and remains a key issue for Spanish Springs.
On a brighter note I would like to thank State Parks for killing a large number of the pampas grass that was invading the botanically rich coastal terrace north of Arroyo de la Cruz. This terrace is probably the richest botanic treasure in the county. I will encourage members to get back to me in identifying small areas that they consider of exceptional botanic value that could be defended from invasive weeds through our labors. Last week I encountered an almost pristine patch of Monardella undulata in the Los Osos dunes with a single large veldt grass clump in the middle… I yanked that sucker and it felt really, really good.
— David Chipping
Thursday, June 7, 7 p.m.
Veterans Building 801 Grand Avenue, San Luis Obispo
Nuri Benet-Pierce is a Research Associate at San Diego State University and is currently working on various taxonomic problems in the genus Chenopodium, the “goosefoots.” She has also worked on pollen hetero-morphism in the monocot family Haemodoraceae, which entailed field work in Australia and resulted in a publication (Australian Systematic Botany 22: 16-30, 2009). Nuri is co-author of the Chenopodium and Dysphania treatments for The Jepson Manual 2. Her work on Chenopodium has resulted in the recognition of a new species in California, Chenopodium littoreum Benet-Pierce & M. G. Simpson (Madroño 57: 64-72, 2010). Her presentation will review how this recognition came about and address some basic taxonomic issues in Chenopodium.
The next chapter meeting is Thursday, October 4, 2012.
Plant ID Workshop
Before the June 7 chapter meeting starts we are having a free plant ID workshop for our members and other participants who are interested in practicing their identification skills, learning the local flora, and looking at live material more closely in a casual and fun setting.
The workshop for the June 7 chapter meeting will cover the California tarplants (also known as tarweeds). Several aromatic, sticky, summer blooming native wildflowers in the composite family can be found in the grasslands around SLO county. We will focus on identifying and learning the important characters for the most common species.
The workshop will be from 6:15 to 7 p.m.
Please join us for this fun and informative event!
Hoary Stinging Nettle
Urtica dioica subsp. holosericea
This month’s plant is one most of us try to avoid. This is because of the trichomes (hairs) that cover its stem and leaves. The hairs have a bulbous base filled with a fluid that when deposited on unprotected skin causes a burning or stinging sensation. Bonnie has drawn a couple of these hairs. It turns out that the irritating fluid is most effective if deposited in a cut. To insure this cut, the sharp point of the hair breaks off leaving a jagged tip which when dragged along the skin results in a tiny cut. While the cut is being made, lateral and/or downward pressure on the hair’s base causes the fluid in the hair to be forced up and out the hollow hair stem to be deposited in the fine cut caused by the broken tip. That is, the stinging hairs are each tiny hypodermic needles.
If you haven’t guessed the plant by now, it’s the true stinging nettle, Urtica dioica subsp. holosericea. Our common or hoary stinging nettle is a subspecies of a very wide ranging species that is found throughout the North American and Eurasian continents. The new Jepson Manual indicates that our subspecies are native. However, the Eurasian subspecies, U. dioica ssp. dioca, is an extremely widespread weed as it has been widely introduced in North America. Apparently there is at least one unconfirmed report of the Eurasian subspecies in California.
So what does one do if one runs into a patch of stinging nettle? My professor in college told us to “wash the itchy area well and then douse it with rubbing alcohol which will cause the itch to disappear in one-half hour.” He would then add, “If you do nothing the itch will go away in 30 minutes.” I’ll let each of you decide whether to treat stinging nettle irritation or not.
Dr. Rhonda Riggins added one additional stinging nettle story. On field trips, when she would find stinging nettle, she would say that she was so strong, that the nettle didn’t bother her. To prove it, she would grab a nettle plant and pull it out. Her students were impressed. However, she had a trick! She was careful to limit her exposure to the palm of her hand where she, as well as most of us, have thick calluses. In other words, the delicate hairs couldn’t penetrate these calluses, so didn’t cause any harm.
Stinging nettles are partial to moist soils and are found most often near streams. They can also be found near springs or in hollows in coastal sand dunes that are low enough to approach the water table. The genus name, Urtica, is derived from Latin and means “to burn” referring to the stinging sensation one receives when brushing up against the plant. I have to admit that I prefer to say the genus name reminds us that to come in contact with this plant (h)urts! Also of note, is that stinging nettle pain begins immediately on contact. This is in contrast to poison oak (Toxicodendron diversiloba) which usually takes ½ hour or more to stimulate your immune system for itching that lasts much longer than ½ hour.
The species epithet, dioica, is short for dioecious. Dioecious is a fancy botanical term for stamens and pistils borne in separate flowers on separate plants, Therefore the plants are considered to be unisexual or bearing either staminate (male) or pistilate (female) flowers but not both.
According to The Jepson Manual our western variety of stinging nettle is the hoary (stinging) nettle. “Hoary” is used in the common name to indicate that this subspecies has many more stinging hairs than the other subspecies found in California.
The common name, nettle, is used for many plants, not just ones possessing stinging hairs. It’s used for any plant that possesses hairs that look like they might sting. Our most common example of this use is the totally unrelated mint, hedge nettle, Stachys bullata.
Hedge nettle is common along streams too. Having spent all these words, telling why you should avoid this plant, I need to point out that the Eurasian subspecies of this plant has been widely used in the old world as a spinach substitute and rennet. Boiling denatures the irritating fluid and softens the hairs. Boiling the roots can produce a yellow dye. Stems produce a strong fiber which has been favorably compared to another stem fiber, linen.
Bonnie’s cover for this Obispoensis was used for a banquet program cover back in 1984. We have no record of it ever being used as a newsletter cover. We would welcome a note form anyone who might remember it (firstname.lastname@example.org or 543-7051). You might notice something else about the appearance of the drawing. It has much more fine detail than Bonnie’s drawings used in Dr. Keil’s and my textbook or more recent newsletters. This is because it was done to size (3½ x 3½ inches) using fine drawing pens. It was not drawn to be reduced or enlarged. Bonnie’s more recent drawings are done with in less detail because they are meant to be reduced. Also, Dirk encourages simple drawings that distill the plant down to basic characteristics.
The plant is P. heterophyllus (or Penstemon heterophylla) depending on which flower book is used. I’ve seen both in the literature. The most recent Jepson Manual uses the name, P. heterophyllus. The correct ending depends on whether one considers the genus name, Penstemon, to be masculine or feminine or neuter. Of course, in reality, it is both as the flowers contain both male stamens and a female pistil. But in Latin, which all scientific names are considered, almost everything has to be assigned a gender whether it was appropriate or not. Second, in Latin, an adjective usually has the very same ending as the noun it modifies. For example, the scientific name for our common black sage is Salvia mellifera. However, following Latin rules can create exceptions. The most common one is with trees.
Trees were considered by the Romans to be feminine. Therefore the masculine noun for the oaks is Quercus but the adjectives that make up its specific epithet must be feminine. So we get the scientific name for the coast live oak, Quercus agrifolia. The other exception is when the noun or the adjective is irregular. When this occurs, one almost just has to memorize the endings since rules don’t seem to work. At least, I haven’t been able to make consistent sense out of them.
I’ve found two common names for this plant. They are foothill penstemon and blue bedder penstemon. The former name refers to it habitat or range. It is widespread in the interior foothills up to over 5,000 feet (1700 m) throughout much of interior California.
I’ve observed it to be particularly common in the mountains behind Santa Barbara and in the Sierra Nevada. (We should see much of it on the President’s Trip this coming June 16-17.) I’ve found it to be quite variable in flower color. Most of the time it is a bright bluish pink color, but it can be pinkish blue or even completely blue. Its habit is to branch profusely with its branches lying flat until they turn up at the tips.
Note Bonnie’s habit sketch. This habit would make it an excellent plant to fill in a flower bed, thus the latter common name, bedder penstemon. Although blue flower color is less common than pink, many of the pictures of this plant I saw on the Web were of plants bearing large, dark blue flowers. I interpret this observation to mean that what are being put on the Web are garden plants selected for their larger size and bluer colored flowers. Since the plant is commonly found on disturbed edges of roads and paths or where vegetation is scattered, I suspect it should readily adapt to the organized disturbance we call gardening. Oh, most important, the most easily recognized character of this species is its YELLOW BUDS!
Lastly, I haven’t mentioned the family to which this plant belongs. If you think it is obviously in the figwort family you would be behind the times. It seems that a number of species were hiding in this family. Recent taxonomic work using newly discovered tools of DNA sequencing and sophisticated computer based comparison methods discovered their deceit. Before the availability of these modern tools, taxonomists depended on characters that were relatively “visible” to the naked eye or simple microscopic and biochemical characters. Similarity was determined by the taxonomist’s gestalt and/or with the help of relatively simple computer programs that assess similarity.
One obvious character that separated the old Scrophulariaceae from the old Plantaginaceae (plantains) was the size of their flowers. Plantains had very tiny, tightly clustered flowers so that casual observers would often not even know they were in full bloom when they were. In contrast, almost all the old Scrophulariaceae had large, readily visible flowers. So, seemingly it was easy to tell the two families apart. But, if one got out the microscope and examined the tiny flowers in the plantain family, one discovered that they were, in fact, just tiny figwort flowers. This became clearer when the newer computer analysis determined that most of the genera of these two families fell out in same cluster, i.e., they were more similar to each other than they were to the few genera left in Scrophulariaceae – e.g. figwort, Scrophularia. So, beautiful, large-flowered foothill penstemon was transferred to its rightful place in the formally all small-flowered Plantaginaceae.
Our Chapter Board has voted to make a substantial financial contribution to the purchase of more serpentine habitat above the City of San Luis Obispo. We believe that as serpentine floras are some of the most unique assemblages in California, our money will be well spent.
As you may remember, our chapter made a cash contribution to the purchase of the Wild Cherry Canyon, which would extend Montana de Oro Park to Avila. This has been stymied by P.G.& E. failing to complete needed actions, which if not completed quickly, would kill the purchase. We hope this issue will be resolved promptly.
We are pleased that the Local Agency Formation Commission is blocking Pismo Beach’s annexation of lands on it’s eastern edge, although the blockage is based on water supply and not degradation of oak and Pismo clarkia habitat.
We are still collecting plant lists from all parts of the County. These are being posted on our web site. Keep them coming.
− David Chipping
Bonnie’s drawing is a generalized drawing representing two species commonly called ice plants. They both are fairly common along the coast and within freeway and railroad right-of-ways. The two species are Carpobrotus chilensis and C. edulis. They should be easy to distinguish. According to the new Jepson Manual, C. chilensis has smaller flowers (3-5 cm compared to 8-10 cm) and leaves (4-7 cm as compared to 6-10 cm in C. edulis).
Flower colors are reported to be different as well. C. edulis produces yellow petals while petals in C. chilensis flowers are reddish to pinkish. However, color can be misleading as the yellow flowers of C. edulis dry pinkish.Newly dry flowers in both species are quite showy.
Most identification manuals indicate that the two species can be separated on the shape of their succulent leaf cross-sections – rounded triangular in C. chilensis and sharp triangular in C. edulis. C. edulis is said to have the leaf angle pointing away from the stem axis bearing a few teeth toward their tip. I have to admit that I haven’t observed that character particularly in our area.
After indicating how different these two species are, I need to report that the literature also reports that they hybridize. In other words, separation may not be quite as easy as the characters would indicate.
I find the common name, ice plant, to be misleading, but understandable. First, let’s look at the misleading part. There is nothing in their appearance that indicates ice. Their ranges, like most of us people in Southern California, avoid areas where any significant ice would be found. I suspect the water in their succulent leaves would quickly freeze if they were exposed to severe or even extended near freezing temperatures. Growing ice crystals in their water filled cells would destroy cell membranes causing cell death which leads to leaf and plant death. So where does the common name, ice plant, come from?
I believe this is an example of a common name being more stable than the scientific name. Until the early to middle of the last century the species now found in Carprobrotus, along with a number of other cultivated succulent ground covers, were all included in a single large genus, Mesembryanthemum. Some even separated Mesembryanthemum into its own family Mesembryanthemaceae due to their showy petals. Today, there is essential unanimity that not only should old genus, the Mesembryanthemum, be split up but that it belongs in the family Aizoaceae. The non-ice plant genera in the Aizoaceae lack showy flowers because they lack showy petals. Think New Zealand spinach, Tetragonia expansa.
There is a plant still in the genus, Mesembryanthemum, whose stems and leaves surfaces are covered with large silvery cells that resemble ice crystals at a distance. This species, Mesembryanthemum crystallinum, is occasionally found around Morro Bay. I believe the common name for this species with this distinctive surface feature became the default common name for all the species in the broadly defined genus, Mesembryanthemum.
In older flower books, C. chilensis is said to be native to coastal California. How could this be? I’m guessing that it was a very early introduction. I assume it went like this: An early merchant ship delivered its cargo to southern Africa. It didn’t have a full load to pick up there, so it filled out its cargo hold with ballast. In the early days, ballast consisted of soil dug up from a nearby beach. That beach soil contained seeds and probably also pieces of ice plant. (I observed a “dried” succulent growing off a several year old herbarium sheet at my undergraduate school.) The ship then sailed to Chile and/or California where it picked up a full load of paying cargo. To make room for this paying cargo, it just dumped the African soil on New World beaches. It makes sense to me that this happened before the first botanical surveys were done in California so that the species was recorded as “native.” It should also be noted that C. chilensis appears to me to be a little less invasive than is C. edulis. That is, native plant diversity seems to be diminished less.
Oh, I haven’t given the individual species common names besides the generic name, ice plant. The only name I know for C. edulis is freeway ice plant. The edulis part of the scientific name refers to the fruit being eaten by southern African peoples. A source on the internet noted that young leaves were also cut up into salads. The Jepson Manual gives C. chilensis the common name of sea fig. This is a much better name than the older, and I assume politically incorrect, name Hottentot fig. Both species were widely planted as a ground cover, especially on steep, bare slopes. I believe they are no longer recommended for this purpose. Their leaves and stems are heavy; their roots are shallow. Thus, when the soil becomes saturated, the shallow roots and heavy wet stems and leaves actually increase soil slumping. Of course, this was exactly what they were planted in the first place to prevent.
Saturday, May 5, 9:00-11:00 am
Local CNPS members are invited to join members of The Land Conservancy and the Ag and Natural Resources Committee of San Luis Obispo County for a special hiking tour of the Learning Among the Oaks Trail at Santa Margarita Ranch
The next couple of months will have many of our members going east to camp and explore our California deserts.
Here are some books we carry on our book table that you can use on your explorations. And, they are great reading even if you aren’t venturing over to the deserts!
The best desert flower/plant book is certainly California Desert Flowers by the Morhardts. Very comprehensive, easy to use, excellent photographs. A great book. $30, and 284 pages.
The California Deserts, An Ecological Rediscovery by Bruce Pavlik gives the reader a broad yet in-depth view of the desert areas including geography, animals, insects, plants and their adaptations, past historical events and impacts, and current threats. $28, and 365 pages.
Death Valley and the Northern Mojave by Tweed and Davis is a lovely book to look at and to read. Exquisite photographs celebrate this stark and lonely landscape. Desert travel advice is offered, with geology, vegetation, plants and animals and past history. Each specific area is mentioned with pictures and travel directions. $23, and 196 pages.
California’s Eastern Sierra by Sue Irwin is the traveler’s guide you need as you drive up Highway 395. The photography is outstanding. Every area is covered with advice for the traveler on what to see and how to get there all the way north to Bridgeport. After you see this book you will want to visit every area mentioned. $20, and 144 pages.
Happy reading and happy travels.
– Heather Johnson
About Malcolm McLeod
Dr. Malcolm McLeod was a professor of botany in the Biology Department at Cal Poly from 1979 until his full retirement in 1993 and an active member of the San Luis Obispo Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (SLOCNPS) from 1973 until he died in 2006.
Dr. McLeod was a charismatic and inspirational chapter leader that served tirelessly on numerous committees and held several offices including president, recording secretary, and rare plant botanist. He was an educator, rare plant advocate, pioneer of native horticulture, photographer, author, and scientist with an uncanny ability to recognize species long believed to have been extirpated. In 2004 his vast contributions were recognized when he became a CNPS Fellow, the highest honor awarded by the Society.
About the Scholarship Fund
As part of Dr. McLeod’s continued memorial, SLOCNPS created the Malcolm McLeod Scholarship fund that is intended to encourage the study of botany by providing financial support to outstanding students in our region. Interested students are required to submit a brief letter that describes their research and how it relates to the overall mission of CNPS, a letter of recommendation, a timeline, and a budget that outlines how the funds will be spent. Awards typically range from 100 to 500 dollars. Award recipients give a presentation about their research at a local chapter meeting.
Helping Local Botany Students
Since its inception, the McLeod Scholarship has been awarded to several local botany students.
- Jenn Yost received the award in 2008 for her research on local adaptation and speciation in goldfields (Lasthenia spp.) and members of the genus Dudleya. Ms. Yost has since gone on to pursue her Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
- Carlos Torres was awarded a McLeod Scholarship in 2010 to conduct an out-planting study in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes ecosystem with two of our County’s most imperiled species, Gambel’s watercress (Nasturtium gambelii) and marsh sandwort (Arenaria paludicola). Carlos has gone on to become the restoration coordinator for the local land conservancy.
- Kristie Haydu, who was recently elected recording secretary for the chapter, received a McLeod award in 2011 to identify and map plant biodiversity hotspots in San Luis Obispo County with geographic information system (GIS) that can be used to establish long-term conservation strategies and influence planning decisions.
- Taylor Crow was awarded a scholarship in 2013. He was a second year master’s student at Cal Poly, graduating under the direction of Matt Ritter. Taylor spent his graduate career working on Swanton Ranch because of the wonderful amount of plants and surf breaks. He got his start as a botanist in David Keil’s and Dirk Walter’s plant taxonomy class. Taylor spoke at our chapter meeting in June, 2013.
- In 2014, the McLeod Scholarship was awarded to Natalie Rossington to study the distribution and ecology of native populations of Layia jonesii and Layia platyglossa in Reservoir Canyon.
Graduate and undergraduate botany students from Cal Poly, Cuesta College, and Allan Hancock College are eligible to apply.
Growing the Fund
SLO-CNPS would like to see the McLeod Scholarship fund continue to grow. Growth of this fund will provide more substantial awards to a larger number of students. Education is expensive and as costs continue to rise, scholarships of this nature are increasingly important for students pursuing higher education. In addition, student research can furnish CNPS with valuable data to inform plant conservation issues and policy.
Students are ultimately the next generation of CNPS and they will continue our mission well into the future. Over the last few years we have received several donations to the Scholarship fund in memory of Dr. McLeod. Please consider making a year-end and tax deductible donation or bequest to the Malcolm McLeod Scholarship fund.
For more information regarding donations please contact Linda Chipping.
Submitted by Matt Ritter and Kristie Haydu
The City of Grover Beach is moving ahead with a portion of the West Grand Avenue Master Plan with approval of a hotel-resort complex west of Highway 1 and north of Grand Avenue. This is an area currently used for parking and for equestrian staging for those using both the beach and the dunes seaward of the Oceano Campground.
While the Hotel is on land that has been thoroughly trashed, we are concerned that traffic will be displaced onto dune vegetation on the State Park side of Grand Avenue.
CNPS is also reviewing the Draft Nipomo Community Park Master Plan. The preferred plan has way too much building, including a community center that should not be displacing open space. An alternative plan is preferable, but both the alternatives involve conversion of coastal dune scrub into sports fields. While it is true that dune scrub in the park is being inundated by veldt grass, no mention is made of its general rarity, nor is any attention given to veldt grass control in the park. The EIR preparers seem to want to avoid maritime chaparral, but want to mitigate losses within the park. There are also substantial losses of oaks within the park, which becomes quite an issue when you see the ongoing devastation of oaks at the new freeway interchange.
BLM is now requiring permits for field trips with more than five cars, or more than 25 people, and permit costs can be as much as $100. I will be working on getting a blanket MOU with BLM to exempt CNPS field trips from fees, which also apply to educational institutions such as Cal Poly. I believe permits are not altogether a bad idea as they allow BLM to track use for management purposes, but find the steepness of the fees to be outrageous. I believe everything can be negotiated to the benefit of both BLM and CNPS. Don’t blame CPNM staff for this . . . it is part of a broader policy implementation.
− David Chipping
In lieu of a program, we will hold our first ever Plant ID Workshop at 6pm, followed by CNPS chapter business meeting at 7pm.
Kristie Haydu will be speaking about her work mapping rare plants in SLO County. She is a graduate student in the Biology department at Cal Poly, chapter secretary, and recipient of the McLeod Scholarship.
Thursday, May 3, 2012. Veterans Building, 801 Grand Avenue, San Luis Obispo
Cambria Wildflower Show Sat 4/28 12-5 & Sun 4/29 10-4 at the Cambria Veterans Bldg, Main Street and Cambria Drive
Imagine the visual feast of more than 500 bouquets of wildflowers and all under one roof!
The purpose of this show is to enhance the enjoyment of the area’s native plants.
CNPS will be there with a large assortment of wildflower and plant literature.
For more information or to volunteer to help, call 927-2856 or e-mail email@example.com.
Students of all ages FREE. All others, a $3 donation
Announcing a new offering from SLO-CNPS
Dr. Matt Ritter and Kristie Haydu
Recently several members of SLO-CNPS were sharing ideas about how to incorporate more plant taxonomy, field botany, and actual plants into our monthly chapter meetings. We had the idea of having free mini plant ID workshops before the chapter meeting actually starts for our members and other participants who are interested in practicing their identification skills, learning the local flora, and looking at live material more closely in a casual and fun setting.
We will be hosting the first mini plant ID workshop at our next monthly meeting on May 3, 2012 from 6:00 to 6:45 pm. The focus of this mini workshop will be manzanitas (Arctostaphylos spp.).
Please bring a copy of the new Jepson Manual, if you have one, and a hand lens. Collections of several of our local manzanita species will be provided. Workshop participants may also bring in their own manzanita collections to identify.
Please join us for this exciting new opportunity, which is sure to be fun and informative event!
Image: copyright Lavonne Gaddy (Thank you to Lavonne for granting permission to use this lovely image)
“Wild Lilies, Irises, and Grasses, Gardening With California Monocots” has been around for a few years. If you haven’t picked it up at the book table, I recommend you take a minute to look it over. This is a book that offers so much information in a very readable format. Almost every page has excellent pictures and truly lovely pen and ink drawings throughout the book.
A monocot is generally defined as petals, stamens and other flower parts by three. Leaf veins run parallel to the length of the leaf. Most monocots grow from bulbs, corms, or rhizomes. This book covers such diverse natives as lilies, erythroniums, fritillaries, calochortus, trilliums, alliums, irises, orchids, grasses, sedges, rushes, agaves, yuccas, nolinas, and palms. I get a kick out of growing some of the plants covered in the book and have learned how to succeed with some of these monocots because of this book.
Be sure to look for this at the book table next month in Atascadero, or order your copy right here today.
Thursday, 7:00 p.m., March 1, 2012, AARP Center, adjacent to the Atascadero Lake Pavilion, Atascadero
To reach the venue, take Highway 41-West to Charles Paddock Zoo, turn SE (left) onto Santa Rosa and then left on Avenal. AARP is a long single story building close to the Avenal/Pismo Avenue intersection.
The speaker is Ryan O’Dell, a Natural Resources Specialist (Botany/Soils/Paleontology) with the Bureau of Land Management in Hollister, California. He has a BS in Plant Biology and an MS in Soils and Biogeochemistry from UC Davis. Ryan has been studying the serpentine ecology of California since 2000. His areas of interest in the field of serpentine ecology are plant tolerance, revegetation, and endangered plant species recovery.
Program Title: Serpentine Flora of California
Program Summary: California contains approximately 2,300 square miles of ultramafic rock (dunite, peridotite, and serpentinite), collectively called serpentine. Geologically, serpentine is oceanic crust and mantle which has been tectonically emplaced on land. Serpentine soils are extremely stressful for plant growth due to their adverse chemistry including low nutrient levels (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium) and high heavy metal content (magnesium, nickel, chromium). The complex interaction of serpentine soils, topography, and microclimate in California has resulted in the evolution of unique serpentine tolerant flora and a high diversity of serpentine endemic plant species.
Vegetative cover on serpentine varies from moonscape barrens to grassland to chaparral to conifer forest. California has one of the highest proportions of serpentine endemic plant species in the world. 669 plant species are classified as strongly associated with serpentine in California. Of those, 164 species are rated as strict serpentine endemics. This presentation will highlight the fascinating serpentine flora and serpentine endemic plant species from several localities distributed throughout California.
This drawing was done for an Obispoensis cover by Bonnie back in 1993. It is on one of our wildflowers that may make an appearance in the eastern portion of our Chapter area. It is extremely common on the Carrizo Plain where it can turn hillsides a bright yellow in good years. A site on the internet reported that 2005 and 2011 were particularly good years. It can also be found on the tops of small rises and mounds. I have not seen the plant at Shell Creek, but I know it to be present in road cuts just a few miles to the east. The species is mostly restricted to Southern California interior coastal ranges and the Mohave Desert. It is listed as inhabiting grasslands and openings in foothill woodland and chaparral. In our area it definitely prefers to grow where vegetation is sparse. This is probably why it is particularly showy on south and west facing slopes in the Temblors.
gray-scale photo of M. congdonii
The plant is Monolopia lanceolata. It is one of our many yellow-flowered members of the sunflower family or Asteraceae (Compositae). I’ve always called the plant by the common name, hillside daisy, but it appears that there are two new common names spreading through the literature. These are “common monolopia” and “common false turtleback.” The second name (common monolopia) alludes to the fact it is the very widespread and tends to form huge colonies where it does grow. The problem with a plant like hillside daisy is that, although it is very common, there is hardly any thing written about it other than barebones taxonomic and ecological data. This makes writing anything about it rather difficult.
Now, enter a third common name, “common false turtleback.” This one is totally new to me. The true turtlebacks are in the genus in the sunflower family, Psathyrotes. According to the literature, the two species in the genus Psathyrotes are found throughout much of the desert southwest. One species, P. ramosissima, is clearly the model for the turtleback name. It is a low shrub that forms a gray mound which, in the drawings and photos, clearly resembles the back of a gray turtle. The problem, at first glance, resides in the flowers. The largish yellow flowers of the hillside daisy just don’t resemble the smallish, inconspicuous flowers of the true turtlebacks. Turtleback ray flowers lack the showy, flat ligules found in most species of Monolopia.
gray-scale photo of M. congdonii
Back in 1993, The Jepson Manual had four species in the genus Monolopia. The new Jepson Manual has five due to the transfer of a species from the genus Lembertia. The new addition is a rare plant known as San Joaquin wooly threads or Congdon’s woolly threads and is a federally listed rare plant, Monolopia (Lembertia) congdonii. This species is found in a very few scattered locations on the Carrizo Plain and has been more or less removed from the rest of its historical range. It has very small, inconspicuous heads that superficially resemble the heads in the true turtlebacks. Non-flowering monolopias and the turtlebacks are similar. Both have gray stems and foliage. Both produce heads surrounded with prominent gray bracts.