A Monterey Pine Tree Threw a Seed at Me

Technically, the Monterey pine tree threw the seed at my spouse who was standing on the deck outside of
our house enjoying some sun. After the loud crack of a pinecone bursting open, one papery-winged seed
wafted down onto the deck. Even though we live in the Monterey pine forest of Cambria, I had never seen
a Pinus radiata seed.

I planted the seed in a pot and placed it with the other pots containing native plant seeds I obtained at the
fall seed exchange. In preparation for collecting seeds later in the year, I have been checking out the CNPS-SLO website.

Some of the things you will find on the Resources page are:

  • An explanation of why native plants are important with links to more information.
  • Beautiful illustrations and photos accompanied by detailed information about specific featured plants.
  • Seed Collection and Saving for the Casual Gardener, by Marti Rutherford gives tips for collecting,
    cleaning, and saving seeds.

On the state CNPS website, I found a post entitled California Native Plant Propagation by Matt Teel that
includes seed collecting how-to tips and photos. If you do not already have a copy of Seed Propagation of
Native California Plants by Dara Emery, check out June’s book sales table at the next meeting.

by Linda Poppenheimer

Pinus radiata Radiata_Pine large

A Monterey pine seed with the wing that
enables the seed to flutter downward
slowly like a descending helicopter,
enabling a further dispersal than would
be allowed from just dropping a seed out of
the cone. Photo by Phil Bendle


Succulent Smuggling Comes to the Central Coast

Succulent Smuggling Comes to the Central Coast

Last spring, the story of a Dudleya smuggler in Mendocino County hit the news when an observant person noticed something odd while waiting in line at the local post office. (Here’s a link to one of the news outlets covering that story.)

Now we have our own case of Dudleya smugglers caught stealing the native succulents from the cliffs in Big Sur. Read about that story here.

In both these instances, a concerned observer noticed odd behavior and acted on it. Customs was called to check the shipments from the Post Office, and the woman observing the poachers in Big Sur took photos of the smugglers and their license plate. If you see something, say something.

John Chesnut has created a beautiful article on propagating Dudleya – you can read it here. And if you are out and about and see someone stuffing plants in to a bag or prying Dudleya’s off a cliff, contact local law enforcement or CDFW. Our local office doesn’t have a phone number, but you can send an email to AskMarine@wildlife.ca.gov.

Belmont Field Office and Laboratory350 Harbor Blvd., Belmont, CA 94002No general lineNo general fax
Eureka Office and Laboratory619 2nd St., Eureka, CA 95501(707) 445-6493(707) 445-6664
Fort Bragg Field Office and Laboratory32330 N. Harbor Dr., Fort Bragg, CA 95437(707) 964-9078(707) 964-0642
Los Alamitos Field Office and Laboratory4665 Lampson Ave., Suite C, Los Alamitos, CA 90720(562) 342-7100(562) 596-0342
Monterey Field Office and Laboratory20 Lower Ragsdale Dr., Suite 100, Monterey, CA 93940(831) 649-2870(831) 649-2894
Sacramento Field Office1812 Ninth St., Sacramento, CA 95814No general line(916) 445-6458
San Diego Field Office and Laboratory3883 Ruffin Rd., San Diego, CA 92123(858) 467-4201No general fax
San Luis Obispo Field Office and Laboratory3196 South Higuera St., Suite A, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401No general line(805) 542-4609
Santa Barbara Field Office and Laboratory1933 Cliff Dr., Suite 9, Santa Barbara, CA 93109(805) 568-1231(805) 568-1235
Santa Rosa Field Office5355 Skylane Blvd., Suite B, Santa Rosa, CA 95403(707) 576-2882(707) 576-7132

Maintaining Garden Tools

Maintaining Garden Tools

February is pruning month and with all the rain its time to get out the pruning tools. A dull, unsharpened tool can be dangerous to use so it is wise to sharpen them before use. Some general rules about sharpening tools.

First, always wear gloves when sharpening tools. Most of us remember the old sharpening stone used to sharpen steel tools and implements through grinding and honing. My father had a hand driven sharpener and I love to sharpen tools so as to watch all the sparks fly. This type of sharpener has now been replaced with electric motors, but the idea is the same. Electric sharpeners are only to be used for sharpening lawn mower blades, shovels, hoes, and hand held hedge clippers. Again wear gloves and eye protection when sharpening tools. Never use electric sharpeners to sharpen hand pruners – it’s not safe.

So, how does one safely sharpen hand pruners? There are a few new hand-held sharpeners on the market now. One is a small hand held sharpener that has two sharpening blades and has a hand guard. This is a very safe type of sharpener and is available at most garden centers. The second small sharpener is the old 8-inch long sharpening or whetstone. This type of stone requires some motor oil to allow blade-to-stone contact. This is the best way to sharpen hand pruners and branch loppers.

There are many YouTube videos on how to use a sharpening stone or whetstone and I would suggest investigating them to hone your sharpening skills. If anyone needs some extra advice on pruning techniques or what to prune, please contact me at gritlys@gmail.com.

Until next month, Happy Gardening!
John Nowak, Plant Sale co-Chairperson

Winners and losers under the impact of intense drought

As we have just experienced an intense and prolonged drought, a team of scientists has just published in Nature Climate Change Letters an analysis of impacts in the Carrizo Plain. They quantified the responses of 423 species of plants, arthropods, birds, reptiles and mammals to California’s drought of 2012–2015—the driest period in the past 1,200 years for this global biodiversity hotspot.

The article by Prugh and others was published in Nature Climate Change Letters “Ecological winners and losers of extreme drought in California” August 20th, 2018 The report states that plants were most responsive to one-year water deficits, whereas vertebrates responded to longer-term deficits, and extended drought had the greatest impact on carnivorous animals. Perhaps surprisingly, locally rare species were more likely to increase in numbers and abundant species were more likely to decline in response to drought, and this effect was remarkably consistent across taxa and drought durations.

Of the mammals, California ground squirrel, San Joaquin kit fox and Giant kangaroo rat fared badly, while Southern grasshopper mouse and Short-nosed kangaroo rat were successful. For birds, barn owls and western meadowlarks declined, while killdeer and roadrunner populations remained stable. The rare Blunt-nosed leopard lizard suffered, but the coast horned lizard and side-blotched lizard were little affected. Spiders and scorpions declined, but certain beetles did well.

As was obvious to most people, nearly all plants were impacted, but certain hardy species such as Calandrinia were successful in the absence of competition. The study concludes that while extreme droughts can produce substantial short-term declines in the abundance and diversity of species, these disturbances may play a vital role in the long-term maintenance of biodiversity by inducing periodic die-offs of dominant species and subsequent opportunities for rare, yet fast-growing, species.

This study is especially useful as climate change projections indicate that extreme, extended droughts will become more common, as well as the maximum summer temperature, and the duration, intensity and timing of the rainy season.

As far as SLO Chapter is concerned, I am hoping we can work with Cal Poly, BLM, and the Friends of the Carrizo Plain to institute a long term monitoring program in which we can collect photographic and quantitative data on the conditions at different parts of the greater Carrizo Plain. There are already ongoing experiments in which exclosures are used to exclude
larger animals and, in an inner fence, rodents from the grasslands, but I don’t know of any broad vegetation assessments apart from the CNPS-generated vegetation map which was a snapshot of conditions, and is governed by the dominant plants rather that the complete population.

I would propose that this spring, we get together a group to select a series of areas that will be linked to GPS coordinates, and that the sites would be revisited and photographed (and possibly inventoried) a couple of times per year, and over many years. I am intending to meet with faculty at Cal Poly to see if they would see a way to direct a series of student projects in a similar effort.

-David Chipping

Wildflowers of San Luis Obispo + Wildflowers of the Carrizo Plain

Wildflowers of San Luis Obispo + Wildflowers of the Carrizo Plain

A pair of wildflower books that ship together for one low price.

SLO Wildflowers bookBook #1: Wildflowers of San Luis Obispo County

Second edition, edited by David J. Keil, Ph.D. 8.5 x 5.5 inches. City of San Luis Obispo and San Luis Obispo chapter of the California Native Plant Society.

Book #2: Wildflowers of the Carrizo Plain

Fourteen pages, printed on heavy card stock paper. San Luis Obispo chapter of the California Native Plant Society.


Membership News

There is a passage in John Muir’s First Summer in the Sierra that has always stuck with me:

In the great Central Valley of California there are only two seasons — spring and summer. The spring begins with the first rainstorm, which usually falls in November. In a few months the wonderful flowery vegetation is in full bloom, and by the end of May it is dead and dry and crisp, as if every plant had been roasted in an oven.

John Muir

That pretty much describes the seasons in a lot of places in SLO County as well, although I’ve always thought February marked the advent of spring in the California foothills. In a year like this one with what used to be called “normal” rainfall, you can count on a flush of early blooms – manzanitas, milkmaids, buttercups, fiesta flowers and more. It’s the cycle of renewal we count on each year, just like we count on your support to keep our programs going. We thank all of our new and renewing members this month.

European Beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria)

European Beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria)


Ammophila arenaria is in the Poaceae family. It is native to northern Europe and spread from plantings from the late 1800s to the late 1900s. Andrea Pickart has written that European beachgrass is the most pervasive exotic plant species currently threatening coastal dunes on the west coast of the U.S. and is invasive in every major dune system from Santa Barbara County to the northernmost dunes of Washington and has widely displaced a native dune grass, the circumboreal American dune grass (Elymus mollis).

In San Luis Obispo County, Ammophila arenaria was planted for sand stabilization and has spread throughout the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes and Morro Bay. It was planted to aid construction of the La Grande Dance Pavilion in the early 1900s south of Arroyo Grande Creek. It is a perennial grass 1 to 4 ft tall, with long, rigid, tough, waxy blades with sharp tips. European beachgrass spreads from rhizomes. Ammophila rhizomes may survive in the ocean and can be redeposited onshore to create new populations. Populations may extend inland to over half a mile.

From its ability to trap and stack sand Ammophila may create tall, steep and durable foredunes that excludes other vegetation and eliminates habitat for dune arthropods, California Least Terns and Western Snowy Plovers. It is a threat to rare plant species such as Surf thistle (Cirsium rhothophilum) and Beach spectacle pod (Dithyrea maritima). Interest in controlling Ammophila began about 1980, but success was not encountered until the 1990’s. Implementation of control efforts on a large scale are underway throughout the west coast. Digging out Ammophila is labor and cost intensive and may harm archaeological sites. The most successful method involves spraying Imazapyr. This may be followed with a controlled burn to create space and conditions for native plant restoration.

Text and photos by Mark Skinner


Armchair Tidepooling: Who’s Who in the Tidepools

Marlin Harms will give a presentation in the Mind Walk series (Central Coast Parks Association) at the Inn at Morro Bay on Feb. 4. His program will feature his photography as well as aspects of biology and ecology of the organisms that live there.

Meetings start at 10:15, but may be standing room only by starting time as there is limited seating.

Free to members of CCSPA. $3 non-members. Details here.

Soils, minerals, fungi and more

The upcoming presentation is on plants that uptake nickel as a biological weapon to combat insect predation, and the insect that is beating the system reinforces the connectedness between plants and other features of the natural world. In the Carrizo Plain there are plants that only grow in salty soils, or gypsum rich soils, or iron-rich friable soils. Some are dependent on the fungal population, some on forced absence of other species generated by the soil chemistry which eliminates competition. The fungi, which have shown up in profusion this year have a completely different roster of species in the Cambria pines (great January field
trip by the way), and in the Los Osos Oaks. Without the mushrooms, dead stuff will accumulate on the ground, and the fungi chew into the pine needles and old branches to release the nutrients for the next generation of plants. That is why CNPS, in a resolution made several decades ago, stated that it was ‘more than just plants’ in considering ecosytem integrity.

There is, of course, always a problem in these days of human activity in the
natural environment. As Mark Skinner points out, we have introduced weeds that are great ‘generalists,’ have a rapid and early growth cycle, and abundant seed production. These can cover the substrate, denying the space needed for the fruiting of mushrooms, and eliminating space for natives. Sometimes the soils that are still ‘nasty’ as far as the aliens are concerned, will become the last stands for important parts of the California flora.

-David Chipping