President’s Message February 2013

I think the lilies are some of the most appreciated of flowers, and so Sean Ryan’s presentation at our February meeting should be very interesting. We are scheduled for the library in Atascadero for our March meeting, which will feature a presentation slanting toward the north end of the county and points north.

We are planning lots of great field trips for the late winter and early spring, and we will keep you posted.

– David Chipping

Quercus douglasii

Quercus douglasii

Blue Oak

Bonnie’s drawing on this cover of the Obispoensis includes an acorn, a couple of leaves and a two individual blue oak (Quercus douglasii) trees from Shell Creek.

This species of oak is extremely common in a vertical band through the center of our Chapter area. It is most common east of the Santa Lucia crest and west to the San Juan River drainage. It occurs only occasionally near the coast where it is replaced by the coast live oak (Q. agrifolia). In the Carrizo Plain area the Tucker oak (Q. john-tuckeri) replaces it.

Unique coloring

I suspect all of us who know the tree know it as blue oak. Its common name refers to its bluish green deciduous leaves and/or its pale gray bark. Other names I’ve found include iron oak, mountain white oak, or mountain oak. The light blue/gray color is particularly evident when compared to evergreen oaks such as liveoaks (Quercus agrifolia, interior live oak (Q. wislizeni) and gold cup oak (Q. chrysolepsis), all of which live within or near the blue oak range. But remember, both leaves and bark are quite variable in color based on where the tree grows.

Leaves and bark are lighter (i.e., more gray or blue when the tree grows in open groves on sunny south and west facing slopes and darker and greener where moisture is present such as north and east facing slopes).

Blue oaks prefer well drained soils so they tend to be found on foothill slopes surrounding California’s Central Valley. Yes, blue oak is endemic to California, which means that it is found naturally only within the political boundaries of California.

A great deal is known about the ecology of the blue oak. So much that it is difficult to chose what to emphasize in a general piece such as this. When I did a web search of Quercus douglasii a fantastic tell-all forest service website headed the list. The web address of this site is One thing I will mention about the web site is that the small amount of stuff I knew already I noted was correct. This leads me to conclude that the vast amount of detail I didn’t know is also true.

Ground cover

One item worth mentioning is the ground cover of herbs Bonnie has drawn around the base of the oak trees. The species found in this area within the drip line of the tree’s canopy are quite different in composition and abundance from the species outside the drip line. Several hypotheses have been proposed for this phenomenon. First, the deep roots of the oak bring up nutrients from deep in the soil where they are below the reach of the shallower-rooted herbs. Because the leaves are a “leaky” system, some of the water soluble nutrients get deposited on the surface of the leaves where they are washed off and drop to the soil under the tree. It has also been noted that during the hot parts of the day, cattle seek shade under the trees. While there, they deposit undigested or unabsorbed nutrients under the tree. Either way, it is hypothesized that there is higher nutrient availability under the tree’s canopy than outside it.

Blue Oak and California native ethno-botany

I will make just a quick note on native California peoples use of the blue oak acorns. All writers discussing California native ethno-botany acknowledge that acorns of this species and most other oak species were gathered and used. In a list of acorns used by the Native Californians that I found on the internet, blue oak tops the list. Essentially all references refer to it as producing the “sweetest” acorn. I assume that means it has the best flavor, which should mean it has the lowest tannin content. Tannins are complex chemicals that are not only bitter tasting, but also interfere with digestion by creating blockages in the digestive tract.

Since tannins are water soluble, they are removed by leaching. Native Californians usually leached acorn meal by placing it in a basket and then placing the basket in running water. I’ve heard people ask where they found the water for all the required leaching. Today, if one wants to eat acorns, one must use treated tap water. That would prove to be quite expensive. One must remember that pre-European Native California populations were relatively small and scattered. There was no Mexican- or European-style field agriculture (except within the Colorado River Valley) in California.

There was habitat manipulation as was discussed by our recent banquet speaker, Kat Anderson, but the smaller population and low impact vegetation manipulation would mean that most streams would flow longer into the dry season and be less polluted than we no find them today. They could simply have been able to put their acorn meal filled baskets into any nearby water course with no ill effect.

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.
Polypodium californicum

Polypodium californicum

Common Polypody or California Polypody

Bonnie’s drawing this time represents a fern recently found in the Los Osos Elfin Forest. The fern is the common or California polypody (Polypodium californicum). It was found by Al Normadin while scouting for his recently led trip in the Elfin Forest. It is a quite common and widespread fern on the Central Coast, where it is commonly found growing along edges or out of cracks in rocks. It is especially common on north facing slopes.

However, I was surprised to find it reported from the Elfin Forest. This is because ferns generally require consistently available soil moisture. Since the Elfin Forest Reserve’s sandy soils tend to lose their moisture and it doesn’t rain for over six months, one would not expect to find many fern species here. I suspect these particular ferns are able to do so because they occur in shade near or under the pygmy oak over-story where the oaks provide shade and extra moisture. The extra moisture comes from the ability of the pygmy oaks to condense water on their leaves and twigs from the common coastal fogs. This fog drip can add over 20 inches of extra water to that which falls from the clouds.

Even the extra moisture from fog drip might not be enough to support California polypody were it not for this particular fern‘s ability to go into an extended period of dormancy. That is, the living green leaves simply die back to the under ground stem (rhizome) and decompose during the dry months. Therefore this fern actually totally disappears from view during the rainless months of the year.

This disappearance probably explains how it could be present, yet not recorded in a species list. Then when moisture returns to the soil, the buds on the rhizome produce one to several new leaves. A note about all of our native ferns, the only visible vegetative structures one can observe without digging are the leaves. Stems and roots are all below ground. California polypody appears quickly after the first rains of autumn.

Bonnie’s main drawing actually shows two non-seed producing plants. The larger one, as stated above, is the common or California polypody or Polypodium californicum. The smaller, but more numerous is some kind of moss. I have no idea what kind. Mosses and their closely related liverworts and hornworts are usually neglected in nature books.

Neither mosses nor ferns produce seeds. Seeds are complex multi-cellular reproductive structures that consist of at least three parts. These include the outer, protective seed coat whose cells contain DNA that is identical to the mother plant, a food supply (endosperm) often consisting of cells controlled by 2/3 mother and 1/3 father DNA, and an embryo whose DNA is one-half from each parent.

Seeds allow land plants to disperse over a land environment. Mosses and ferns do not produce seeds, yet they too are land plants. So by what devise do they disperse over land? They use spores.

Spores are simple, unicellular structures that are enclosed in a thick wall. Like seeds, spores usually are capable of a period of dormancy before they can germinate and grow. In the true plants (Kingdom Plantae, which includes mosses, ferns and seed plants) all spores contain a single set of chromosomes (haploid). In all true plants, spores are always produced in a capsule-like structure called a sporangium, each of whose cells contains two sets of chromosomes (diploid). Since the cells of the sporangium are diploid and the spores produced inside are haploid, something special must happen to at least some of the cells inside the sporangium. This special type of cell division occuring when a single diploid cell (spore mother cells) divides its chromosome number in half producing four haploid spores is meiosis. All sexual organisms do this process some time in their life cycle.

The stalked sporangia in common polypody are produced in clusters on the underside of leaves. These clusters are termed sori (plural) or sorus (singular). Bonnie has drawn a portion of the underside of a leaf lobe showing several sori. A typical, single, tiny, stalked fern open sporangium is also shown.

When these haploid spores germinate, they do not produce the fern plant one sees growing in nature. They produce a tiny, barely visible to the naked eye, haploid plant known as a gametophyte. This little plant, (not shown) produces the sex organs that produce either the sperm or the eggs. These gametophytes live on the soil surface where periodically there is moisture enough to create a film of water over soil and plants. The sperm then swims through this film of water to the egg. The fertilized egg grows into the typical visible fern plant that Bonnie has drawn.

Each cluster (sorus) contains a few score of sporangia. Let’s say 60 sporangia. Each sporangium produces approximately 60 spores so a single sorus would be expected to produce 60 x 60 = 3,600 spores. Each leave produces about 20 sori, so the number of spores produced per leaf would be 72,000. Each individual fern plant produces at least 10 leaves so the number of spores per plant is now 720,000. But the California polypody is a perennial and it produces spores almost every wet year of its life. If we are conservative and say a given fern individual encounters only five wet years during it life, then during that individual’s five-year life, it will produce 3,600,000 spores.

How many of these spores must be successful in order to produce a stable population of fern plants? The answer is only two! What happens to the individuals that could have been produced from the other 3,599,998 spores? They die. If 3 or more are successful, the ferns population increases, if only one or none then the fern population decreases.

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.

Coreopsis Hill

*** updated driving directions and parking info March 11, 2013 ***

Title: Coreopsis Hill
Description: Saturday, March16, 2013, Annual Hike to Coreopsis Hill, sponsored by CNPS, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Dunes Center; led by Lauren Brown, Dirk Walters, and other local botanists.

The hike will begin about 9:30 a.m. (please plan to arrive between 9:10 and 9:30) at Beigle Road and will be a casual walk through the dunes to the top of Coreopsis Hill. This is a moderate hike, about 3 hours round-trip. Dress in layers, bring water and snacks, and have your “Dune Mother’s Wildflower Guide” by Dr. Malcolm McLeod for the trip.

For more information call Lauren Brown at 460-6329 or 570-7993. Heavy rain cancels this trip (light rain, bring appropriate clothing).

If you are in the SLO area or points north, we will meet at 8:30 a.m. outside the SLO Vets Hall then head south (see directions below).

Directions from the north: Take Hwy 101 south from SLO. Turn right (west) at the new Willow Road off ramp (Exit 180). Proceed west on Willow Road for about 4.3 miles, to Highway 1. Turn left (south) on Highway 1 and proceed for 2.7 miles, to Oso Flaco Lake Road. Turn left (west) on Oso Flaco Lake Road for 2.5 miles. Look for a 6 ft. tall wire mesh fence and galvanized steel gate.

Directions from the south: Take 101 north to Santa Maria and take the Main Street exit toward the town of Guadalupe. Turn right onto Highway 1 and head north to Oso Flaco Lake Road (about 3 miles north of Guadalupe), turn left onto Oso Flaco Lake Road and proceed 2.5 miles to Beigle Road (on left). to the State Park parking area (about 3 miles).

Parking: We will have people posted at the entrance of the USFWS fenced road to direct parking. The gate will be open by 9:10 and closed at 9:30. Please be on time as this gate will be locked during the hike. Park in the State Park lot (there is a fee) and walk back to Beigle Road (about ½ mile; 15 to 20 minute walk). Parking along Oso Flaco Lake Road is hazardous and should be avoided. CNPS volunteers will be posted at the end of Beigle Road.

The Oso Flaco Lake State Park lot is another ¾ miles west of Beigle Road, if you need to use a restroom before the hike (there are none along the hike route). Parking along Oso Flaco Lake Road is hazardous and should be avoided.

Note: Pets, tobacco products, and alcohol are not allowed on the Refuge, including the parking area. Pets may not be left in cars in the Refuge parking area.

IN CASE OF RAIN: There will be a presentation at 10 a.m. at the Dunes Center on “Plants of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes.”

Start Time: 9:00
Date: 2013-03-16

Reservoir Canyon and Bowden Ranch

Title: Reservoir Canyon and Bowden Ranch
Description: Reservoir Canyon and Bowden Ranch

Moderate hike through wooded Reservoir Canyon and then over the backbone ridge for a
fine wild flower display on serpentine soils, ending at the High School.

Meet at the eastern corner of SLO High School parking lot near corner of Johnson Ave. and San Luis Drive.

A few cars will caravan hikers to trailhead in Reservoir Canyon (first right turn off north Hwy 101 after leaving SLO). Hike is five miles, elevation gain of 1000 feet, total time of 3.5 hours.

Once completed, owners of cars parked at the trailhead will be driven back to retrieve
their cars.

Bring adequate water, snacks, and dress in layers for the weather; a hat and sturdy shoes is advised.

Info.: Bill Waycott, 459-2103 (

Rain cancels.

Start Time: 08:30
Date: 2013-03-30

Shell Creek

Shell Creek

Title: Shell Creek
Description: Malcolm McLeod Annual Field Trip Meeting to Shell Creek co-lead by Dirk Walters and David Chipping.

This is our monthly meeting for April.

Meet at the SLO Vets Hall, 801 Grand Ave. (corner of Grand & Monterey Street) at 8:30 a.m. and/or Santa Margarita park and ride at 9:00 a.m.

Bring your “Wildflowers of Highway 58” plant guide by Dr. Malcolm McLeod or plan to purchase one for $10 on the trip.

For more information call Dirk Walters at 543-7051 or Lauren Brown at 438-4645.

Start Time: 8:30
Date: 2013-04-06

Spring La Purisima Burton Mesa Wildflower Walk

Title: Spring La Purisima Burton Mesa Wildflower Walk
Description: Meet at the La Purisima Mission Parking Lot, corner of Purisima and Mission Gate Roads (2295 Purisima Rd. Lompoc) at 9 a.m. for this annual California Native Plant Society and Sierra Club spring tour of the beauties of the Burton Mesa Chaparral.

This is turning out to be a fair year for wildflowers, annuals, as well as shrubs. Optional afternoon tour.

Sturdy shoes, lunch & liquids, camera and binoculars advised.

For more information, call Charlie at 733-3189 or Connie at 735-2292.

Start Time: 09:00
Date: 2013-04-07

Carrizo Plain

Title: Carrizo Plain
Description: Meet at Hwy 101 and 58, the Santa Margarita park and ride, at 8:00.

We’ll try to get up on Caliente Mountain, so you will need a truck or SUV, or have a ride arranged in one. Before 4/13 I will help organize rides; some may have extra seats or some may need a ride. Please help with gas money if you’re a rider.

Rain cancels. Wow! If it rains April 13 that will be amazing. Very little rain so far. Rain just before April 13 means we’ll go somewhere else on Carrizo besides the mountain.

All day trip. Have clothes for any weather, water, food, and a full tank of gas.

Sign up with George Butterworth, leader: 438-3641,
Start Time: 08:00
Date: 2013-04-13

Los Padres National Forest

Title: Los Padres National Forest
Description: Los Padres National Forest (LPNF), Southern Monterey County.

Join us for an exploration of the area northwest of Mission San Antonio known as Indians, within the Milpitas Special Interest Area, LPNF. We will travel along the headwaters of the San Antonio River and over into the headwaters of the Arroyo Seco River. Both rivers are part of the Salinas River watershed. This area has an unusual mix of plants and geological formations.

Meeting points: Meet in SLO at 7:30 am at Santa Rosa Park. In Templeton at 8:00 am at the Park & Ride, west side of US Hwy 101 at Los Tablas Rd. Head north on US Hwy 101 and just north of Bradley; take G18 that becomes G14 to Jolón. Turn onto Mission Road and meet here at 9:00 am. Take Mission Road to Del Venturi Road that becomes Milpitas Road and ends at Memorial Park, LPNF.

Meet at Memorial Park at 9:30 am.

Be sure to have a full tank of gas before leaving town.

Bring adequate water, lunch, and dress in layers for the weather; a hat and sturdy shoes is advised.

For info, call Bill at (805) 459-2103 or Mardi Niles (805) 489-9274
Start Time: 07:30
Date: 2013-04-20

Cambria Wildflower Show

Title: Cambria Wildflower Show
Location: Cambria Veterans Bldg
Description: 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.

Cambria Wildflower Show at the Cambria Veterans Bldg, Main Street and Cambria Drive.

For more information or to volunteer to help, call (805) 927-2856 or e-mail Students of all ages FREE. All others, a $3 donation.

Saturday and Sunday, April 27 (12 pm-5 pm) and 28 (10 am-4 pm)

Start Time: 12:00
Date: 2013-04-27

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