Conservation April 2012

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

President’s Message April 2012

Our annual North County meeting at the Atascadero AARP building was a success as Ryan O’Dell showed us serpentine-loving plants from all over California, and reinforced the unique nature of this difficult habitat. I expect we will have quite a few trips that will look at serpentine, especially in places like Reservoir Canyon.

We also had a short but excellent presentation from the Atascadero Land Preservation Society, which has been very successful in protecting lands. Their most exciting current project is in the “Three Bridges” area of Highway 41 about a mile west of the last stoplight, and noted for the excellent sycamores. CNPS hopes to work with ALPS in identifying plants and other issues.

We should be planning for California Native Plant Week (April 15-21) and Heather Johnson will be coordinating garden tours.

As I write this, the outlook for wildflowers is dimming by the day as there is no rain in sight, and so our field trips might be a little less rewarding than usual. However I was up at the serpentine springs on Pennington Creek and they were awash in poppies, seep spring monkey flower, paintbrush and sneezeweed, so there are some bright spots.

We will be updating on both our web page and the facebook page. Our annual field trip to Shell Creek is coming up (no Vets Hall meeting this month) and we shall keep our fingers crossed. Shell Creek has never let us down completely! ! !

− David Chipping

Chapter Meeting 5/3/2012

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

Cambria Wildflower Show

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

Students of all ages FREE. All others, a $3 donation

Mini Plant ID Workshop Series – Manzanita

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)


Book Talk

“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.


Chapter Meeting March 1, 2012

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.


Monolopia lanceolata

Monolopia lanceolata

Hillside Daisy

monolopia-bonnieThis 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

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

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.


by Dirk Walters, illustrations by Bonnie Walters | Dirk and Bonnie Walters are long-time CNPS-SLO members, contributors, and board/committee participants. In addition to his work at Cal Poly, Dirk is the current CNPS-SLO Historian.

President’s Message March 2012

After our February show of wildflowers seen on favorite field trips in San Luis Obispo, we are coming to the AARP Center, adjacent to the Atascadero Lake Pavilion, for our annual North County meeting and some seriously good botany.

This is an opportunity for those of you who don’t normally like to drive over the grade at night to hear our excellent speaker, look at our impressive book table and mix and mingle with other native plant fans.

The Meeting is March 1, social at 7:00 p.m., program at 7:30. Ryan O’Dell will speak on the serpentine floras of California. (see details). 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.

In our desire to create more activities north of the grade, we are interested in contacting any people who would like to offer suggestions for field trips, garden tours, restoration projects and more. CNPS hopes to work closely with the Atascadero Land Preservation Society, and they might give a short presentation at our meeting. We are also considering activities such as a conference/ workshop on ethnobotany, extending our evening meetings to have plant-ID workshops before the main meeting, and we welcome other ideas.

-David Chipping

Conservation, March 2012

The Chapter Board approved a strong letter of support to a granting agency that might fund dune scrub restoration at Audubon’s Sweet Springs Marsh. This mainly addressed restoration of upland habitats on the new eastside extension.

We are continuing to work with State Parks to try to increase weed control around Shark Inlet, and are hopeful for an attack by NRCS on Cape ivy in the wetland restoration area of Chorro Flats adjacent to Morro Bay State Park. In Los Osos Oaks, a small Clarkia population was being buried in veldt grass, which is being removed by hand.

We are requesting that members with easily portable GPS take the coordinates of any unusual plants they see, so that they can be relocated. This is especially important in an era of global warming when invasions of non-native species can be expected.

-David Chipping

Fellow Award to Dr. Dirk Walters

Fellow Award to Dr. Dirk Walters

Fellow of the California Native Plant Society CNPS presents the Fellow award once a year as a means of awarding special recognition to persons who have made an outstanding contribution to furthering appreciation and conservation of California native flora and to the success of the Society.

On the recommendation of the Board of Directors of CNPS, the Chapter Council has elected Dr. Dirk Walters to be made a Fellow of the California Native Plant Society.

Dirk Walters has been active in the conservation of native plants since his arrival in California in the late 1960s, where he joined and became an active member of the newly formed San Luis Obispo Chapter serving in leadership positions on both the Chapter and State level. Dirk has blended his position as a Professor of Botany at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with the interests of CNPS by arranging for Chapter meetings on campus and encouraging student membership.

Walters has performed botanical monitoring on beheld of CNPS’s conservation program and has influenced planning at the Hearst Ranch and other locations in San Luis Obispo County, In the early 1980’s Dirk, along with his wife Bonnie, undertook the work of monitoring the threatened and endangered Nipomo Lupine, publishing “The Natural History of the Nipomo Lupine (Lupinus nipomensis Eastwood)” in the journal Crossoma.

Educating, hiking, teaching, plant-selling, writing, and advocating appreciation of native plants by the public are all activities Dirk is accomplished at. He has lead numerous field trips and produced many plant lists for different areas of San Luis Obispo County, has authored, co-authored, and contributed to academic and local publications including Vascular Plant Taxonomy and Wildflowers of San Luis Obispo, California. For many years has set up and staffed CNPS booths at community events and actively promoted CNPS with other conservation organizations that he is involved with.

Native Garden Tours

Our second annual native garden tour will take place April 15 through 21, 2012, as a part of California Native Plant Week, which overlaps
with Earth Week.

Last year we had city gardens, country gardens, large and small gardens, but all were interesting and educational.

If you would be interested in having your garden on this year’s tour, please call Heather Johnson at 528-­‐0446.

Gardens should be open at least one day during Earth Week, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (your choice of day(s) of the week).

Please let us know as soon as possible so we can get accurate publicity started.

Thank you,

Heather Johnson

Community Recognition Award

Community Recognition Award

The Community Recognition Award was presented to Susan Grimaud at the Annual Banquet for her work at Pismo State Beach, Oceano Campground Native Plant Garden, and North Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove.

The inscription reads, “With great appreciation of your  dedication, knowledge and service in creating a California Native Plant Garden in the San Luis Obispo south county dunes area. Your extensive knowledge of, and gardening with, California native plants has enriched our community and visitors. Your contribution as Co-Chair, gardener, plant propagator, and garden tour leader has significantly enhanced the educational component of the California Native Plant Society.”

Pismo Clarkia – Clarkia speciosa ssp. immaculata
by Mardi Niles, which graces Susan’s plaque


To the CNPS Awards Committee and CNPS members: When Mardi Niles convinced me that I should attend the CNPS banquet because Bill Shearer was to be given the Hoover Award, little did I expect that there was a hidden plot! I was rushing down the last crumbs of some baker’s luscious lemon torte, when I heard Mardi announce my name and couldn’t believe my ears. What bafflement! What surprise! You did fool me…

The plaque of recognition that I was so graciously handed for my work at the Oceano Native Plant Gardens will be a treasured memento. It is adorned with Mardi’s lovely Pismo Clarkia artwork. And the evening will certainly be one to remember. I do appreciate this kindness on your part.

In 1993, when Grace and Jack Beigle asked me to join them working on the Oceano Native Plant Gardens at Pismo State Beach, it not only became just a new activity, it enriched my life immensely. They became my mentors and I enjoyed working with them for many years until they moved away. Now Bill Shearer and I continue with the help of a group of extremely dedicated volunteers, many of whom have been with us for a very long time. So, in honoring us, you honor them, too. We have a good time when we meet every Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., sometimes at the Nature Center on Pier Ave.. and more recently, on the first and third Tuesdays when we meet at the Monarch Butterfly Grove. There, for the last few years we have had a good deal of success in removing African veldt grass and replacing it with native dune vegetation. This has been a source of much satisfaction for us all. We hope that you will come and see some of our progress and if you’d like join us in our efforts.

Well, now you have inspired me to keep doing better, to become ever more committed to those native plants that we love. Thank you, CNPS, for all the work that you do and for the generous recognition that you bestowed on me.

Sincerely, Susan Grimaud

Native Plant Week 2012 and Earth Day Weekend Figueroa Mountain

Saturday, 21 April 2012 9:00 a.m.

Title: Native Plant Week and Earth Day Weekend Figueroa Mountain

LPNF and CNPS Wildflower, Native Plant Week, and Earth Day Weekend Figueroa Mountain, at the Figueroa Fire Station.

The Santa Lucia District, Los Padres National Forest (LPNF) will hold one of its eleventh annual Wildflower Weekends on Figueroa Mountain in conjunction with the California Native Plant Society. This tour will feature a local celebration of the second California Native Plant Week (3rd week in April, the14th-22nd this year).

Meet: at 9 a.m. at the Fire Station on Figueroa Mountain Road. Turn left at the SR 154- Figueroa Mountain Road intersection near Los Olivos, and proceed to the Fire Station parking lot. This will be a “drive and stroll” tour of this year’s spectacular display.

Bring: sturdy shoes, lunch and liquids, and camera and binoculars recommended.

Call Helen Tarbet at 925-9538 ext. 246 or Charles Blair, 733-3189, for details.

President’s Message January 2012

Another year! How they fly.

I am hoping that the current rainfall deficit remedies itself and we will have a great year of wildflowers.

As I write this I am preparing, along with several other chapter members, to attend the CNPS Conservation Conference in San Diego. When you look at the program and talk abstracts, it is clear that everything from art to anthropology, plant taxonomy to computer science, can play a role somewhere within the CNPS mission to protect our flora. The new school curriculum developed with John Muir Laws also shows what fun it can be.

For most of our chapter members the accent is on pleasant recreation and meeting great people, and we aim to mix up the science and the fun as much as possible during the year. We are loading the chapter web sites with area-specific plant lists and identification guides (to which you can contribute!), will be running lots of field trips and otherwise trying to make knowledge about the SLO flora more accessible to more people.

We welcome members who will open up their gardens and private lands to field trips, and we are interested in starting forums on such things as native plant gardening.

We will have our March meeting in the North County again and have an excellent speaker who will talk about plants across the county line in southern Monterey County.

I hope to meet all of you during one of our many activities.

–David Chipping


and here are some pictures from the Conservation Conference, courtesy of Kristie Haydu. Thank you for the pictures, Kristie, and keep ’em coming!


Conservation January 2012

On January 7 the SLO Tribune ran a story “Shrimp Hunt Threatens Housing” in which stated that a search for a protected fairy shrimp, a denizen of vernal pools, would have to be completed before a “massive housing development” could be started. Of course, the headline should have read “Housing Threatens Shrimp”, but our concept of protecting vernal pools and ephemeral wetlands on their own merit, along with their Downingia and other wetland flowers, has vanished with Supreme Court rulings. The only protection lies in the presence of certain animals protected under the Endangered Species Act, the pools and the plants having little leverage in land use decisions. I urge Paso Roblans who know of vernal pools on private land that might be protected in some way to contact me.

The Carrizo Plains plant photo collections continue to grow, and the team is close to getting most of the species recorded. Recent vegetation mapping by the Dept. of Fish & Game and CNPS have defined new plant alliances (defined by a key dominant species) and plant associations (co-associations of plants that are repeated through the landscape) in the Carrizo Plain and southern Central Valley. Thirtyeight new associations were found; the Carrizo Plain keeps surprising us.

Several people have remarked to me that the plague of Pine Pitch Canker seems to have abated, although scattered mortality is still seen. Similarly, there is still no evidence that Sudden Oak Death disease has crossed the county line from Monterey County. However if this drought persists, trees will weaken and may become more susceptible to infection, so I want everybody to be on the lookout for trouble.

–David Chipping

2012 Banquet

2012 Banquet

San Luis Obispo Chapter of the California Native Plant Society

Morro Bay Community Center

1001 Kennedy Way, Morro Bay

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Social Hour 6:00

Pot Luck Dinner 7:00

Chapter Business 8:00

Program begins 8:30


The Life of an Oak

Click to view in bookstore

Native plants shine as the perfect answer to recreating local habitats in home gardens. By selecting the right plants for the right place, according to guidelines from local ecosystems, gardens become oases of beauty with a minimum of care and maintenance. Our featured guest, Glenn Keator, will highlight this concept.

Designing California Native Gardens, Keator and Middlebrook

click to view in bookstore

Dr. Glenn Keator is a freelance botanist, writer, and teacher specializing in native plants and related floras. He received his doctorate in botany at UC Berkeley and currently teaches at San Francisco Botanical Gardens, Regional Parks (Tilden) Botanic Garden, and Merritt College in the Landscape Horticulture department. Glenn has had a life-long interest in growing plants and has many trips to various parts of Mexico over the last 35 years.

He has written several books on California natives as well as others including The Life of an Oak: an intimate portrait, Introduction to Trees of the San Francisco Bay Region, Complete Garden Guide to Native Perennials of California, and Complete Garden Guide to Native Shrubs of California. His most recent book, co-authored with Alrie Middlebrook, is Designing California Native Gardens: The Plant Community Approach to Artful, Ecological Gardens.

Here are some pictures of our 2012 Annual Banquet

Thank you

to Nancy Shearer and Marti Rutherford

and Mardi Niles and Kristie Haydu

for submitting these photos

Book Talk, February 2012

Nevin Smith has spent his life growing native plants and exploring the wilderness areas of California. During the 1980s, his articles on natives appeared in Fremontia and, finally, he was prevailed upon to put the articles into book format. That book is Native Treasures. We have been without copies to sell for two years, but now have books available.

There are chapters on manzanitas, ceanothus, ribes, lupines, sages, buckwheats, oaks, penstemons, and many more. Native Treasures is, indeed, a treasure and a joy to read. Easy to dip into when have a question about a specific plant; delightful to curl up with on a cold foggy day to read about all the glories you might try to grow in your own garden.

Chapter  Meeting,  February 2, 2012

Chapter Meeting, February 2, 2012

Thursday, February 2, 2012–Groundhog Day

Program: Dirk and David’s Best Spring Plant Walks Illustrated

Veterans Hall, 801 Grand Avenue, San Luis Obispo

7:00 pm: Social time, refreshments and browse our book table

The meeting begins at 7:30 with a little time for chapter business and announcements, followed by the presentation.

Camissonia cheiranthifolia

Camissonia cheiranthifolia

Beach sun cup

Camissonia cheiranthifolia is one of the few plants that bloom year around along our coast. It is found most commonly on the unstable, sandy hillocks immediately in-shore from the beach. It can also occasionally found on disturbed sandy soils away from the immediate coast, but this is very rare. Its range is from southern Oregon to just into Baja. In the northern part of it range it is basically a perennial herb. It becomes somewhat woody in the southern portion of its range. Being somewhat in the middle, it can be either in our chapter area (San Luis Obispo county). It is quite variable here. Behind the windy beaches it’s a flat ground cover, while in sheltered areas it is taller and less spreading.

I’ve seen a few green plants with no surface hairs, but most of our plants are more or less hairy. Some petals have red spots at their base while others lack these spots. What looks like a very large bud arising from the angle between the leaf below the flower and the stem in Bonnie’s drawing is actually the elongate fruit, which becomes twisted as it matures. Flower size is also quite variable.

Before 1969 beach sun cups were in the genus Oenothera. At that time the common name applied to this entire genus was “evening primrose.” So, Camissonia cheiranthifolia would have been called “beach evening primrose” or simply and misleadingly, beach primrose. However that common name is quite misleading; primrose is a name better applied to a totally different and unrelated group of plants in the true primrose family (Primulaceae) which include the shooting star and the pimpernel.

The only trait that sun cups and true primroses share is their general tubular shaped flowers. Sun cups (with other members of its family, Onagraceae) have four separate petals instead of the five fused petals found in the primroses. In fact, the flowers of Onagraceae, including the sun cups, have a distinctive set of characteristics. They produce flowers that possess four sepals, four petals, eight stamens, attached to the top of a generally thin, elongated ovary which displays a four-parted structure.

The distinctive characteristics of the Onagraceae family can be summarized as CA4 CO4 A8/G 4 . CA is short for calyx which is the collective term for the sepals. CO stands for the corolla, the collective term for the petals. A is the abbreviation for andrecium, which translates as all the “male things,” the stamens. G stands for gynoecium (female thing), which represents the four-parted ovary, style, and stigma. The circled 4 indicates that the four subunits (carpels) that make up the gynoecium are fused into a single pistil.

Why did Dr. Peter Raven separate the sun cups from the evening primroses when they share so many family characters? First and most easily observed is the stigma. A look at Bonnie’s drawing will show it to resemble a single, wide, hemispherical cap as opposed to the four hair-like stigma branches found in the true evening primroses. A second trait is harder to determine. True evening primroses produce their flowers at dusk and bloom through the night and fade in the morning. Sun cup flowers open at dawn and bloom during the day. This means the two genera have different pollinators since their flowers are open at different times of the day.

Evening primroses would be expected to be visited by night-flying animals such as moths whereas sun cups would be visited by day-flying ones. While researching tidbits to include about beach sun cups, I came across the discussion of the species in the book by Mary Coffeen titled Central Coast Wild Flowers. In it she reprints part of an article about the Morro Bay Sand Spit by my friend and former Cal Poly professor, Wayne Williams. In it he describes the pollination of beach sun cup and as follows:

“The plant’s bright yellow flowers cover new sand deposits everywhere along the sand spit, enhancing dune stability. Its blossoms face down wind. The pollinator is an exceptionally large bumblebee (Bombus sp.). We have all heard how bumblebees manage to fly despite the aerodynamic engineering theory that would render them landbound because of their weight and size. These bees deftly approach the beach primrose flowers by flying upwind for greatest flight stability. Their powerful thorax muscles and large size allow them to survive within this niche, gathering food and pollinating, because of the downwind direction of the primrose corollas. Since the primrose is decumbent where wind speed is slowest, the bees can also work over large territories. I have watched these bees and have never seen any other species pollinating beach primroses at the sand dunes. This symbiosis between plant and insect allows both the plant and the bumblebee to thrive and reproduce.”

Just imagine how much observation time required to allow one to come up with this kind of natural history fact. There are lots more yet to be discovered. That’s why natural areas like the Elfin Forest are so important.

by Dirk Walters, illustrations by Bonnie Walters | Dirk and Bonnie Walters are long-time CNPS-SLO members, contributors, and board/committee participants. In addition to his work at Cal Poly, Dirk is the current CNPS-SLO Historian.