Centennial Development at Tejon Ranch

Centennial Development at Tejon Ranch

The LA County Board of Supervisors will consider whether or not to approve the proposed Centennial development next Tuesday, December 11.

Although this project is located in LA County, we believe this is an issue that impacts all of California, both in terms of our biodiversity and the precedent it sets for sprawl at the Wildland Urban Interface. Tejon Ranch is one of the most biodiverse areas of California, containing 14% of California’s native flora and a third of our native oaks. What’s more, it’s situated in a high fire hazard severity zone, putting future residents in harm’s way. We are advocating for the conservation of this land in its entirety.

 

Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolium)

Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolium)

ETHNOBOTANY NOTES: Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolium) Cathy Chambers

Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolium is a wonderful, hardy, native California evergreen shrub. It can be a good screen in the yard, growing up to 6 feet fairly quickly. It tolerates soils from serpentine to clay, to sand. It is not as flammable as other chaparral shrubs. It is a great forage plant for bees, butterflies, and other insects, as well as birds. You will find it to be a foraging hub in your yard when it is flowering, and then the fruit will feed birds. The red berries were eaten by many native Californians as well. They also contain some cyanide compounds and must be roasted, wilted, or boiled before eaten. The hard wood was used to  make many tools including bows. I remember my Mom, an east coast transplant, making wreaths for the door at Christmas. The berries are ripe in red clusters in November and December making it perfect for making holiday decorations.


Photo by Stan Shebs and shared under Creative Commons 3.0 license

 

Membership News

The brilliant red berries of the Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) usually herald the advent of holiday season. And they are certainly a gift to many hungry animals in winter. It was thus rather surprising to find two large old shrubs in full bloom at the Fiscalini Ranch just a couple weeks ago. Their blossoms provided a gift of a different kind to dozens of monarch butterflies seeking nectar and water after their long journey from up north. I love native plants, not only for themselves, but for their enormous importance for sustaining wildlife.

Your gifts of membership are what sustain the chapter and ensures our vital work in conservation, education, horticulture and plant science continues to grow and flourish.

If you want to have an even bigger impact, consider a gift membership to CNPS for someone special for the holidays. Your recipient will receive all the benefits of membership over the course of a year including Obispoensis, Flora, The Bulletin, and Fremontia newsletters, as well as opportunities to participate in field trips, informational programs and our annual CNPS banquet. It’s easy to do. You can fill out the form on the back of the newsletter and send a check or go to our web site and click on About > Join > Join / Renew. You will be directed to the statewide CNPS web site. You can then choose the appropriate gift level and click on the small box that says “I wish to give a gift of membership” above the Comments section. You’ll be guided through the rest of the necessary steps to establish the gift. Happy Holidays!

– Holly Sletteland

Invasive Species Report – Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Invasive Species Report – Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

The extremely invasive Foeniculum vulgare is in the carrot (Apiaceae) family. It is native to Southern Europe and is problematic in coastal California and is also present throughout the western US all the way to Texas. I’ve encountered Fennel on Santa Catalina Island and Santa Cruz Island. Clusters of Fennel may be found in disturbed areas, mostly roadsides and fields. Fennel is an aromatic perennial with a thick deep taproot and which grows to 5 to 10 ft. tall forming dense stands producing thousands of seeds that birds and rodents consume. Seeds may survive several years. Feral pigs are attracted to it and love its roots! Fennel crowds out native plant species and can drastically alter the composition and structure of many plant communities, including grasslands, coastal scrub, riparian, and wetland communities.

The cultivated varieties of Fennel are seldom invasive. The leaves are finely dissected and the plants produce yellow flowers on compound umbels. Fennel is a difficult, labor intensive plant to control. Small infestations can be dug out. Large plants are hard to dig out. Preventing seed production by lopping stems is vital so cutting Fennel repeatedly is advised. Grazing with goats can knock the plants down. Burning doesn’t work because Fennel quickly recovers, but if linked with herbicide treatment may be an effective method.

– Mark Skinner

Foeniculum vulgare, David Chipping

Photos courtesy of David Chipping

President’s Message December 2018

President’s Message December 2018

In past issues of Obispoensis, I have noted some of my observations on the impact of invasive plants in our state – their negative effects and a bit on their historical introductions. My musings on the origins of such a domineering presence by these plants,  led me to machinations on how alterations to our California landscape invariably trigger chronically weedy areas that don’t seem to ever go away. It is unfortunate that once the native landscape is significantly altered, invasives race in and dominate for, well, forever!

There are examples of this all around us, where invasives out compete their native counterparts by germinating earlier, by flowering earlier or flowering later, by flowering more abundantly, or by simply over growing them. In fact, I’d be willing to wager that every time a land parcel on the Central Coast is disturbed, its ability to return to its former, diverse self is seriously hindered, if not eliminated. Can someone show me a landscape that has successfully regenerated to its former self after significant disturbance?

An excellent example of how permanent the impact of disturbance can really be, is clearly illustrated along the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way, not far from my house, where it winds through vineyards south of the SLO County Airport. According to historical records, that rail line was completed in 1895. As one walks through the area today, it is choked with the usual cast of characters; two species of mustards (Brassica sp.), wild oats (Avena sp.), bristly ox tongue (Helminthotheca echiodes), prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola), Italian thistle (Carduus pycnocephalus), milk thistle (Silybum marianum), purple vetch (Vicia villosa), Canadian horseweed (Erigeron canadensis), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum), curly dock (Rumex crispus), and a Class B noxious species, Russian knapweed (Rhaponticum repens); all of this along with an occasional coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis).

So, for more than 120 years, this area has been left to the quirks of nature to restore itself to its former self. And in a century’s time, only an few coyote brush grow there, along with a gang of opportunists, better able to thrive than the natives they’ve replaced. Like the zebra and guagga mussels in the Great Lakes, and the Asian collared doves in North America, the introduced and now naturalized exotic plant species are here to stay, at least for the conceivable future.

As we approach land development going forward, we now know that if we disturb the land, the chance of realizing a full restoration event on that parcel is next to impossible. We also know restoration is an expensive proposition (plants, irrigation, and management), that more than likely will end in failure, as well. It is tough! Hence, the more competitive, more aggressive introduced species that abound in disturbed areas here, are now actually part of the “new normal” – they’re here to stay. The way I see it, it’s time we welcome these visitors as permanent residents in this environment, and therefore, integral participants in our California landscape.

Bill Waycott

Chapter Meeting: Carrizo Ecological Reserves, George Butterworth

Chapter Meeting: Carrizo Ecological Reserves, George Butterworth

CHAPTER MEETING Dec. 6th  2018 – Thursday – 7:00 pm

  • Veterans Hall, Monterey and Grand, SLO
  • Mixer and Browse Sales Table 7:00 pm, Program 7:30 pm

Program: Carrizo Ecological Reserves, George Butterworth

George grew up in the Central Valley. Among his first memories were cattails and red-wing blackbirds, and crops and orchards. He spent 30 years in Southern California, graduating from UCSB in history. He taught tennis for many years. He came to the Carrizo Plain in 1993 and started collecting plants and enjoying the nature. When California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife acquired south Chimineas in 2001, he worked on the botany there as a volunteer. This led to his getting on the payroll. He continues to botanize both the Chimineas and Carrizo.Plain, and was a major force in producing the digital Plants of Carrizo Plain book. A great number of the photo illustrations are by George.

Growing Native Plants from Seeds is Fun

Growing Native Plants from Seeds is Fun

For a native plant novice like me, joining the California Native Plant Society seemed like a good idea so I became a member of the San Luis Obispo chapter. My spouse and I attended our first meeting a year ago last October. That is where I met Marti and the real fun began.

When we arrived at the San Luis Obispo Veterans Hall for the meeting, there were several folding tables set up containing bowls, cups, and bags filled with native plant seeds. I spotted a box with little brown envelopes and another with tiny pencils. Some people were pouring small amounts of seeds into envelopes and writing on them.

We did not have any seeds to share so we were standing there not sure what to do when Marti approached me. Marti assured me that it was not necessary to bring seeds to participate and she encouraged us to select some seeds to try growing for our yard.

Walking up to one of the tables, I realized that we might have some difficulty identifying the seeds because the containers were labeled with botanical names. Sigh.

My spouse noticed one that said Lupinus succulentus. Aha, surely that must be a lupine. Every year, I admire the lupines that grow on the surrounding hillsides and I was excited by the prospect of growing some myself. We asked someone and learned that yes, the seeds were lupines. We carefully put some seeds in an envelope and labeled it.

Moving on, I found Marti’s seed stash. I was pleased to see that she had attached pictures to her seed packets and included their common names. I recognized the photo of the tidy tips and we carefully poured some itty-bitty seeds into another envelope.

With help, we identified three more species of seeds to try including California buckwheat, coffeeberry, and purple needlegrass. Why I waited until January to sow the seeds remains a mystery. I placed the pots on the deck outside of our dining room so I would remember to water them periodically.

The day I spotted the first tiny lupine seedling poking its head through the soil, I was almost giddy with excitement. Other seedlings soon joined it. Watching the plants grow, develop buds, and then unfurl their flowers was fascinating. Only one of the California buckwheat seeds germinated. It grew into a small plant that seemed ready to graduate to the yard this fall so I planted it in a small fenced-in section of our yard to safeguard it from hungry deer.

There is something magical about growing a native plant with your own two hands. Perhaps it is because it connects us to a time when people lived in harmony with the rest of nature.

Read the whole story here.

By Linda Poppenheimer


Photo: A buckwheat grown from seed after 8 months, Linda Poppernheimer

Botta’s pocket gopher

Botta’s pocket gopher

Last month we discussed California ground squirrel problems, this month I will focus on the gopher aka Botta’s pocket gopher (Thomomys bottae). For most of us, gophers can sometimes be a headache but a livable one. They come and go between you and your neighbor’s yard, only losing a couple of plants a year. For yards like these I recommend using gopher root baskets. These baskets are designed to last for years and will allow the plants some long-term safety against limited attacks. The wire baskets come in different sizes to fit whatever you plant; 1 qt., 1 gal., 3 gal., 5 gal., and 15 gal. Place the wire baskets around the roots before planting. I prefer never to use gopher poison, as the likelihood of some non-target animal eating the dead gopher is not acceptable.

For those who have a severe problem with gophers, I recommend using a gopher gasser. The gasses will travel down the tunnel and the gopher will succumb to carbon dioxide. The most important thing in using gopher gassers is the soil must be well irrigated. The water will trap the smoke inside the soil particles allowing the gasser to be more effective.

I have to mention gopher trapping. There are many traps to choose from, its up to you to consider trapping. I do trap gophers but only in those yards that have severe infestations.

If you have any direct questions, you can always contact me at gritlys@gmail.com. Until then, Happy Gardening;

John Nowak, Plant Sale co-Chairperson


Image: Chuck Abbe [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Salvia spathacea (Hummingbird Sage)

Salvia spathacea (Hummingbird Sage)

The cover of this Obispoensis is another beautiful water color by Heather Johnson. When I chose this beautiful and accurate representation, I expected that I could just go to my archive and update an article I had already written. To my surprise, Bonnie hadn’t drawn and I hadn’t written anything about it. I’m going to use the excuse that Hummingbird sage is so distinctive and so common that we took it for granted that everyone already knew it. It was one of the first California wildflowers I learned after I arrived in California from the Midwest. In our area Hummingbird sage can grow in an extensive mat. Its leaves are large (10 in (20 cm) long and 3 in (8 cm) wide). The leaf surface appears quilted. Its family affiliation (Mint or Lamiaceae or Labitae) is shown clearly in Heather’s water color. Its large red, two-lipped tubular flowers appear in our area by March and last well into summer and are borne in tight clusters; the clusters climbing upward resembling the balconies of an oriental pagoda. The two stamens and single style extend from under the upper lip in succession. The stamens appear first and after all the pollen has been removed they are replaced by the stigma at the end the style. Mint family characters also shown are the opposite leaves and the square stem. Unfortunately, the characteristic mint odor characteristic of this family is fruity (I smell lemon), but either way it’s not discernible in Heather’s art.

I’ve found three common names for this mint. They are crimson sage, hummingbird sage, and pitcher sage. The first two names are readily explainable. The usual flower color is dark red (crimson) and red is the color of flower that hummingbirds frequently visit. The name, pitcher sage, requires a little history. When I came to California in the late 1960s, the only wildflower books readily available were authored by the Southern California botanist, Phillip Munz, and emphasized Southern California common names. In those books Salvia spathacea was given the common name ‘pitcher sage’. So, we botanical oldsters probably remember it by that name. However I remember that hummingbird sage was always the name used on field trips in our area even then and the name, ‘pitcher sage’ was used for a completely different shrubby mint, Lepechina calycina, which grows in the interior mountains of our chapter area.

Based on my observations and the numerous accounts on the web, hummingbird sage has a place in a California Native plant garden, especially gardens away from the coast. It prefers partial shade, but where it doesn’t get too hot it can tolerate sun. It even does well under oaks. It even prefers clay soils rather than sand. For areas that have many deer, they seem to avoid eating it. Its  large flowers with lots of nectar make it great for attracting and feeding hummingbirds. I suspect the best situation in which to plant them would be an area that is visible, but little trod upon. Here it can even become a sort of ground cover. I found no real  references for its use in medicine other than for ailments in which its wonderful odor might be helpful. According to the book on Chumash Ethnobotany, the Cumash didn’t have a name for it although the early Spanish settlers did. Some suggested it might make a decent tea. No member of the genus, Salvia, was in any of the indices of books on poisonous plants I have in my library.

Dirk Walters

Help is needed at the sales table

Please open up your calendars!! Isn’t that refreshing? I’m NOT asking for money, only a little bit of your time.

You may have noticed the book and tee shirt table in the back of the meeting room each month, it not only serves as a free library before the meetings but it also generates quite a bit of the capital we need to keep our group funded. Problem is, this spring Linda, David, and myself are spread too thin. That’s where YOU come in.

We could use some help behind the counter at some of our meetings and events. You can be as involved as you like: selling and writing receipts, report on the sales after the meeting, even order books. Please consider a few hours to keep us operating! If you’re interested send me a note, and I can give some of the dates and details. I’d love to hear from you! It’s really a task you’ll enjoy- what could be better than talking to other plant enthusiasts and helping them find a suitable book/poster or good looking tee?

AND THANK YOU to all of you that have helped many a cold evening by setting up or packing up our inventory!!! Many hands really does make light work.

-June Krystoff-Jones, Retail Sales Manager