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…)