Digitization of herbarium specimens—capturing images and label data in digital formats—remains an enormous task for the world’s herbaria. For 22 institutions in the U.S. state of California, this job has become easier with a new 4-year, $1.8 million National Science Foundation grant (Award # 1802301) to establish a new California Phenology Thematic Collections Network (TCN). Spearheaded by Dr. Jenn Yost, Director the Hoover Herbarium at the California Polytechnic State University, this new network aims to image over 900,000 herbarium specimens from the oldest records, the most diverse families, and most threatened families in California. California is a biodiversity hotspot and home to more than one third of all U.S. plant species, emphasizing the need to understand this diverse and changing flora through herbarium records. The region’s herbaria already have a strong history of collaboration in the Consortium of California Herbaria, and this project aims to strengthen and expand the capabilities of this community of universities, research stations, natural history museums, and botanical gardens.
The project is trailblazing not only in its ambitious digitization goals and cast of collaborating institutions, but also in its research aim: to better understand flowering time shifts by recording flowering (i.e., phenological) data for each specimen digitized over the course of the grant. Flowering time is an important biological phenomenon for science, society, and biodiversity, and herbarium specimens can provide rich data on how flowering times vary across time and space. This project builds upon recent advancements in standardization and sharing of phenological data, including the Plant Phenology Ontology and data standards developed in collaboration with the New England Vascular Plants TCN, to capture phenological data. Furthermore, the project will digitize specimens of 250 taxa currently monitored by the California Phenology Project and National Phenology Network, empowering future cross-comparisons of specimen-based and observational phenological data. The institutions involved in this project will explore several workflows for capturing phenological data: from specimen sheets during imaging, from label text using a new Attribute Mining tool, and from images using crowd-sourced Notes from Nature expeditions that engage a broad audience of citizen scientists, students, and volunteers to produce phenological scorings. With the efforts of this community of California herbaria, the project hopes to build a strong foundation for the future of capturing phenological data from herbarium specimens.
All specimen images and records produced in this project will be publicly available for research, education, and outreach via the CCH2 portal, an open-source, web-accessible database platform widely used by other collections and TCNs. The project will also develop new tools in CCH2 to mine, explore, and store phenological data, and all data will be aggregated and available through the iDigBio portal. For Cal Poly, this means a lot of great changes. We have hired Katie Pearson as the Project Manager and she is now based here in San Luis Obispo. We have purchased an imaging station to image 40,000 specimens over the next few years. Annie Ayers, a Cal Poly undergraduate and CNPS board member, has been hired as a curatorial assistant. Our workflows are changing and pretty soon, you’ll be able to look at our specimens from the comfort of home!
The project runs from 2018 – 2022. Jason Alexander from UC Berkeley is the Data Manager and Katie Pearson is the Program Manager. The tools, techniques, and data generated as part of this project will expand the value of herbarium specimens in addressing society’s problems. More information can be found at http://www.capturingcaliforniasflowers.org or by emailing email@example.com. This project is funded by the Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program of the National Science Foundation. Many California herbaria are contributing to this Thematic Collections Network.
Volunteer at the Hoover Herbarium
During the volunteer sessions at the Hoover Herbarium, people can take part in any number of activities. One of our primary responsibilities is mounting new specimens. This involves taking dried and pressed plants and glueing them to paper. When we mount plants, we do it in such a way that those specimens will last for hundreds of years. Each specimen is a physical record of what plants occurred where and when. Without this valuable information we wouldn’t know when a species goes extinct, expands or contracts its range, or where species occur. After mounting, the specimens are databased and geo-referenced. Then they are filed into the main collection. We have over 80,000 specimens at the Hoover Herbarium. We are also working on a SLO Voucher
Collection, which will contain one representative specimen for each species in the county. Volunteers look through our specimens and pick the one that should be added to the Voucher Collection. Additionally, we are actively working on our moss and lichen collections. Volunteers can choose what aspects of the work they would like to participate in. Any and everyone is welcome. The Hoover Herbarium is located on the 3rd floor of the Fisher Science Building (33) in rooms 352 and 359. Starting Sept 18th, the herbarium volunteers sessions will be Mondays from 3-5 pm and Fridays 9 – 11 and 1 – 3 pm.
Parking permits are required Monday through Thursday, 7:00 am through 10:00 pm; and Friday, 7:00 am through 5:00 pm. You can either buy a $6 day pass, a $4 3-hr pass, park in a metered space, or park off campus and walk in. Questions: email Jenn Yost at firstname.lastname@example.org
Acting on the nomination submitted by our chapter, the State Board recognized Dr. David Keil as a Fellow of the California Native Plant Society at its September meeting. He has been an active CNPS member; was a Cal Poly botany professor for over 37 years; and, through research and writing, has made significant contributions to California’s native flora.
Dave earned his B.S. in 1968 and M.S. in 1970 from Arizona State University in Tempe, and his Ph.D. from Ohio State University. Dave joined Cal Poly faculty in 1976, and two years later was appointed Director of the Robert F. Hoover Herbarium. His collection totals over 30,000 specimens, most of them housed at the Hoover Herbarium. He joined CNPS shortly after his arrival, and in 1978, served as the Chapter President. In earlier recognition of his generous contributions to our chapter, Dave was the recipient of the 1989 Hoover Award. He has led numerous chapter field trips for the San Luis Obispo chapter, some planned with detailed plant lists, some spur of the moment.
Dr. Keil has also presented chapter meeting programs and workshops on a regular basis. His broad knowledge of the county flora allowed him to surprise those attending with new discoveries, unusual findings, as well as his great slides. For anyone not familiar with county flora, Dave would answer any question. His small workshops conducted before chapter meetings include oak identification, plant collecting, rare plant training and a new grass identification key. In 2009 Dave’s participation on a ‘quick’ CNPS committee to develop a one page tri-fold of common plants for distribution by the City of San Luis Obispo became the 86 page Wildflowers of San Luis Obispo, California. It was an enormous success. As this nomination is being written, he is doing the proof reading on the revised second edition. After Dave’s retirement from teaching at Cal Poly, he was recruited to serve as chapter Vice President and has done so since 2016. He has always been a chapter resource.
At the state level he participated on the Rare Plant Scientific Advisory Committee from 1998 through 2001. Since 2009, he has served as a member of the Fremontia Editorial Advisory Board. From 2014 through 2016, Dave reviewed student grant applications with the Education Program Grants Subcommittee. On an annual basis since 2009, Dave has conducted multi-day plant science workshops on California flora for the State Education Program. For the workshop held in April 2018, Dave watched the county landscapes closely, knowing that the drought was adversely impacting the flora, but he was confident the workshop would be successful, and it was.
In the world of service to botanic science, he had made significant contribution to The Jepson Manual Project. He authored the Key to California Plant Families and served as the editor and primary author of the Asteraceae for both editions of The Jepson Manual. Key writing has always been one of Dave’s strengths, and it is a major part of the long-lasting legacy he has created throughout his career. For the second edition of The Jepson Manual, Dave authored a new key to families that encompasses the major taxonomic revisions that had taken place since 1993 and served as co-editor for the entire manual. His ability to track nomenclatural changes and translate them into meaningful morphological characters in all the major plant families was crucial for the writing of the new family key. Part of what makes Dave’s keys so valuable is that they are written with field botanists in mind, anticipating user misinterpretation on minor characters. This can only be done if the key writer is familiar with every other possible plant, which Dave usually is. Dave has authored over 130 species descriptions mostly in the Asteraceae, but also in the Poaceae and Ranunculaceae. Four taxa have been named in Dave’s honor: Ancistrocarphus keilii Morefield, Erigeron inornatus (A. Gray) A. Gray var. keilii G.L. Nesom, Wedelia keilii B.L. Turner, and Chrysanthellum keilii B.L. Turner.
During his more than 37 years as a professor at Cal Poly, Dave taught courses in general botany, plant taxonomy, field botany and biogeography. He was awarded the university’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1980. Each year Dave traveled around California with his field botany students, teaching them the elements of California flora. Students have described the course as both the hardest and best course they have taken during their college careers. Classes taught by Dave were often a life changing experience for students. One former student said, “I…was accepted into the ecology program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. During my year there, I took Dr. David Keil’s plant systematics class, which converted me from ecology to botany.”
Dr. Keil joins chapter members Dr. Dirk Walters and Dr. David Chipping as Fellows of CNPS. Past Fellows from the chapter include Dr. Malcolm McLeod and Alice and Bud Meyer.
Dave receiving his award Photo: Melissa Mooney. Laurel wreath: Mardi Niles
California ground squirrel aka Beechey ground squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi), may look cute or even cuddly, but ground squirrels could be the worst things to hit your garden since your cousin came to visit in his RV. No, seriously, this last year saw an explosion of the squirrel population due to the late but heavy March rains which brought a profusion of good things to feed the ground squirrels. And multiply they indeed did.
First, don’t use poison to control squirrels. The possibility of poisoning another species unintentionally, such as an owl, a hawk, or a turkey vulture is too problematic. Instead, I opt to capture the squirrel in a live trap then remove them to the wild, or to Pacific Wildlife Care to feed their rehab birds. Selecting a live trap can be complicated. I prefer the larger live trap to capture the critter. I use a combination of peanut butter and birdseed to bait the trap, placing it on the trap trigger. Once I catch the squirrel, I cover the trap with a towel so as to calm the little guy down until I can release him in another suitable place, which is up to you.
Next month we will cover gopher control. Until then, Happy Gardening.
John Nowak, Plant Sale co-Chairperson
I’m introducing a new artist with this cover of the Obispoensis. The artist is Heather Johnson, who paints beautiful renditions of California native plants, so I asked her if she would allow them to be displayed on the Obispoensis cover. Thankfully, she agreed and has sent me several. I was really taken by the first one I looked at! It was of a leafy twig of the California grape in fall color. California grapes are widespread through Northern California where they favor, but are not restricted to, stream sides. However, I was surprised by Heather showing them having bright red color. If you are seeing the cover in black and white, I recommend that you go to cnpsslo.org and see them in their brilliant red color. The leaf color rendition produced by Heather closely matches the color of the leaves I saw in photos on the Web.
There is a problem with the leaf color however, and trying to resolve it lead me to a very interesting story. This is because the usual fall color of California grape leaves is pale yellow not red. So where did the red come from. It turns out that the entire story of its finding and selection is well known and is worth a google search. In late October 1983, Roger Raiche of the U.C. Berkeley Botanic Garden, first saw a California grape with bright red leaves growing alongside Palmer Creek Road in rural Sonoma County, west of Healdsburg, California. He collected cuttings, rooted them in the green house and finally planted them out in the botanic garden. They grew easily and with minimal care and little water. Later he gave cuttings to a garden volunteer who was also a member of the local California Native Plant Society Chapter. She donated a flat of them to her CNPS Chapter’s plant sale. She labeled the flat simply “Roger’s red grape.” When those plants were sold, the name was born, although the cultivar ‘Roger’s Red’ has never been registered or patented.
So far we find we have a cultivar with very unique fall color that was found growing wild. But, we still haven’t discovered the origin or the red color. It turns out careful observation of the cultivar ‘Rogers Red’ indicated that it’s not pure Vitis californica and that it shared characteristics with the European wine grape (Vitis vinifera). Further observations limited the possible ancestor to a particular variety of commercial vine grape commonly grown for its reddish fruits. The red fruits of this variety were used to add extra color to red wines. This variety was and still is Vitis vinifera ‘Alicante Bouschet’ and has been grown in California for years. As well as reddish fruits, this variety of wine grape produces bright red leaves in the fall. Enter DNA to the story. Several DNA studies proved that the cultivar ‘Roger’s Red’ is truly a hybrid between the native California grape and the European wine grape Vitis vinifera var. Alicante Bouschet.
This California native (hybrid) is extremely popular and is widely available at nurseries and probably CNPS native plant sales around the state. It’s easy to grow and tolerates many different soils, watering regimes and different levels of shade. Its major fault might be its rapid, aggressive growth. It will require taming. Its fruits are edible, but the seeds are large and the flesh is thin. Not a great ‘eat-off-the vine’ fruit but they can be turned into a nice drink.
INVASIVE SPECIES REPORT
Conicosia pugioniformis Narrow leaf iceplant
Conicosia is in the Aizoaceae family. It is a succulent perennial with a crowded basal rosette of smooth, bright green, upright, linear leaves. Clustered with the leaves are stems with brilliant yellow flowers. All this on top of a carrot like root. It’s capsule fruits are dry at maturity.
Conicosia is abundant on coastal dunes. It seems like nearly anywhere I travel in the back dunes from Oceano to Guadalupe—there they are—they’re so darn ubiquitous! Conicosia crowds out native plants and is a prolific seed producer.
Do not step on a plant with dried capsules: the seed will stick to the bottoms of your shoes! Due to a thick root it is hard to pull. If one snaps off the leaves on the soil surface it will grow back, therefore a shovel is best. Chemical control is best achieved by spraying a liquid mix containing 1.5% glyphosate 1.5% surfactant. It is best to spray before flowering. (We caution that the use of glycophosate is under legal challenge as a possible carcinogen.)
THE GARDEN CORNER
With the Fall season almost upon us it’s time to start planning on preparation for the Winter season. The most important item on the list is weed control. By applying mulch now you will save lot of labor in the future (next Spring & Summer).
Any forest product four (4) inches thick will stop weed growth, but it can also affect desirable plants from thriving if you don’t follow the rules. So start by checking and marking any California native plants, like Baccharis, Lupinus, or Eschscholzia californica, before spreading mulch. Once all desirable plants are plotted using marker flags or sticks, spread a thick layer of clean chips of any forest product four inches thick to suppress weed growth. Leave a one-foot space around desirable plants with no mulch. This will prevent trunk rot. While mulching is not always 100% effective for weed control, it can definitely help mitigate the majority of grass weeds.
Happy Gardening; John Nowak, Plant Sale co-Chairperson.
We are still awaiting the Draft EIR for the Froom Ranch development at Highway 101 and Los Osos Valley Road. We are also watching very carefully the Trump Administration orders to BLM to examine the oil leasing potential of all of its holdings. This is not a problem for most BLM lands in the County, as most are situated on geology extremely unlikely to contain oil deposits.
The county has been extensively drilled over the last century, with most being dry holes, although there is some potential in northern Santa Barbara County, the Huasna area, and some lands adjoining the Carrizo Plain National Monument. We will address any new lease sales as they occur. There are no chances of Morro Rock being drilled, as some conservation organizations have suggested.
We are also following the Diablo Canyon Decommissioning Process very closely, and attended panel hearings.
Lastly, we are also following developments in the Sustained Groundwater Management Act regarding the protection of surface waters:
Many visitors to the Carrizo Plain in 2018 were expecting to see the showy displays of wildflowers that earned the area the “Superbloom” designation in 2017…but they came away disappointed. So where did all the wildflowers go? In a word:
underground. Most wildflowers in the Carrizo Plain and other arid lands around the world are annuals, a strategy in which the plants complete their life cycle in a single growing season and wait out the dry season as seeds. In the meantime, the seeds are stored in the soil not too far below the ground surface, in what is called the soil seed bank. Those seeds sprout and grow into recognizable plants when temperature and moisture conditions are just right and any additional barriers to germination are overcome.
Some perennial plants do grow on the Carrizo Plain and similar landscapes. This type of plant survives through one or more dry seasons as fleshy roots, bulbs, or similar structures—which also are underground. Among the perennials you can find on the Carrizo are blue dicks, larkspurs, and various wild onions. Even these plants may not show up every year, waiting until years of “normal” rainfall to push stems above ground and produce leaves and flowers.
Each type of annual plant needs a different combination of moisture and temperature to stimulate seed growth. Native
wildflowers (those that evolved in this region over thousands or millions of years) generally do best in years when abundant rain occurs during the cool months of mid-winter. Many native plants produce a cluster or “rosette” of leaves at ground level during the winter and do not send up a flower stalk until the weather begins to warm up in the spring.
The ubiquitous nonnative grasses—most of which evolved in the Mediterranean region of Europe—generally respond to warm fall rains. Some of the more familiar nonnative grasses are red brome, soft chess, foxtail barley, and wild oats. When this area receives early rainfall, the nonnative grasses get a head start on the native wildflowers and turn the hillsides green. By putting down roots early in the growing season, these annual grasses are able to capture and absorb any rain that falls, leaving too little available for the native wildflower seeds to grow or survive beyond the seedling stage. Thus, years when rains begin early while temperatures are still warm and rains come regularly throughout the fall and winter have been called “grass years.”
A different set of conditions is needed to produce the masses of native flowers known as “Superblooms.” These tend to occur in years with abundant winter rainfall that does not begin until the cooler months of late fall and follows several years of drought. Germination barriers can take several forms. Some plants produce chemicals in the seed coat (the outermost layer of the seed) that must be leached out by repeated wetting before the seeds can sprout. Others have such hard or thick-walled seed coats that mechanical action such as rubbing or grinding by soil particles is needed before water can penetrate. And still others—particularly those that grow in vernal pools—need to be immersed underwater for some time to allow fungi and other decay organisms to break down the seed coat. Many years—even 50 or more!—may pass before seeds of a given type of wildflower are ready to start growing again. For this reason, the endangered California jewelflower was thought to have disappeared from the Carrizo Plain entirely, until an observant biologist spotted it in the late 1980s.
In the driest years, annual plants may bloom when they are only an inch or two high, producing only one or a few flowers, and they may or may not live until the few seeds are mature. But because they do produce at least some seeds in most years, usually at least a few of those seeds are ready to grow each year. In the “off” years these small, scattered plants are hard to find, unlike the showy patches that can be seen from miles away in the wetter years. Luckily for visitors to Superblooms come along once every decade or so. We can only guess what type of year 2019 will be….
Saturday, November 3, 2018
Please join us at
Pacific Beach High School
11950 Los Osos Valley Road SLO
(at the Target intersection) (more…)
Text by Dirk Walters; art by Mardi Niles.
I chose the Pismo clarkia because it grows in the area surrounding Mardi’s home and nowhere else. It grows naturally in about 20 occurrences from the southern Edna Valley, south through the foothills and valleys of the Southern San Luis Range, ending east of Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande (Huasna Valley). (more…)
by Marti Rutherford
You have probably wandered the nursery isles looking for the ever more popular native plants being sold. Do you ever consider how those plants have been propagated? Many, if not most, native plants in the nursery trade are propagated by cuttings. The nursery person knows what the plant will look like and behave like. And (more…)
Saturday, June 23
Five of the Morros of San Luis Obispo County
Join us for a day on the Morros and learn which plants grow on each of these volcanic plugs. Ascend one, two, or more. Here are the start times. (more…)
Charlie Blair: Chapter Northern Santa Barbara County Liason
2018 has been a surprisingly good year for spring wildﬂowers. Except for the January deluge and some good March storms, this has been a fairly dry year. In late September, 2017, several spot ﬁres burned along Rucker Rd. just north of Mission Hills near Lompoc, California. In spite of sparse rainfall, there has been encouraging (more…)
I know it seems too early to be thinking seeds. Many of my plants are just starting to bloom. I just wanted to remind those who are interested that the seed exchange is going to take place ate the October meeting before the main program. Let a few of your garden native plants go to seed and bring the seed to the seed exchange. More information will follow in newsletters to come. There is information on seed collection available on the cnpsslo website under the resources/growing natives tab (link). Marti Rutherford
A Commentary by John Nowak, Plant Sale co-Chairperson
The other day, while checking out at the grocery store, the cashier noticed my CNPS hat and asked me, “How do you become an environmentalist?” I thought for a moment and then I told him “I would start at home.” (more…)
This photograph, taken from Cerro San Luis, shows Bishop Peak, Cerro Romauldo, and in the misty distance, Hollister Peak. The hills on the extreme left margin of the picture are the serpentinite ridge that backs Cuesta College, and the hills of the extreme right right margin are the western portion of West Cuesta Ridge. One of the obvious visual features is the dark chaparral scrub of the peaks, and the brown of the late spring grasses (more…)
Submitted to SLO Tribune
At the San Luis Obispo city Planning Commission meeting of Jan. 24 regarding the proposed continuing care facility known as Villaggio at the Froom Ranch, several commissioners wondered aloud if the project was not “a good project in the wrong place.” This came after a presentation that showed the project seeks removal of several important environmental constraints that constitute a grant of special privilege to the project sponsors. What are these constraints? What do the project sponsors seek? And how are these removals “special privileges”? (more…)
Wild pigs are again active in Morro Bay, causing damage while rooting for the tuberous reeds in the brackish freshwater seep zones close to the high tide line. This time they are at Shark Inlet. We last saw them in 2015 on both sides of the South Bay Boulevard bridge, and neither of the locations appear to have recovered. (more…)
From time to time, our chapter has talked about creating a Wildflower Alert. Well, there is a healthy display of wildflowers this year along the new ridge trail in the Reservoir Canyon Open Space near San Luis Obispo. From the parking lot (see map), walk along the road for 100 ft., through the fence opening on the right, and then over the new bridge at the falls. Once across the bridge, bear right and start up the hill. Pictured here below are some of the flowers seen the weekend of April 21st, 2018. Link: http://gis.slocity.org/Documents/TrailMaps/rescanyon_bowdenweb.pdf
To view the article, click here