April 1, 2017 Carrizo Plain Field Trip

April 1, 2017 Carrizo Plain Field Trip


This is an exact quote from a CNPS member on seeing the super-bloom on the Carrizo Plain. Below is Marlin Harms’ picture of our field trip. While national press has focussed on the wonderful color in the Temblors, there are great flower displays on the west side of Caliente Mt., including the largest displays of desert candle I have ever seen. Color seekers might consider the trail through the wooden gate just north of the corrals where the road comes closest to the hills after passing Wallace Creek.

CNPSSLO with Temblors

April Field Trip to the Carrizo Plain. Photo by Marlin Harms.

Desert candles

Desert candles on the west side of Caliente Mt. Photo by David Chipping.

If you are going to see the bloom in the Carrizo Plain, go quickly. The bloom is still increasing as this goes to press in mid-April, but hot days will take a fast toll. With luck the colors will hold through the first couple of weeks in May. There is a lot of yellow, so there are a few pages from the downloadable Plants of the Carrizo Plain, available on our chapter web site.

Places on the Carrizo Plain worth visiting

(1) Belmont Trail, the first paved cross street south of the California Valley fire station. About a mile after pavement ends is an area of vernal pools. Continue east, crossing 7 Mile road and ending on Elkhorn Road.

(2) Go south on Elkhorn Rd., pass under the large PG&E power lines, pass the Wallace Creek San Andreas fault site until the road turns east right up to the edge of the steep Temblor Range. This is where the “big color” is that has attracted international attention.

(3) Continue south to Hurricane Rd., and drive east up to the top of the Temblor Range (high clearance recommended). The bluepurple colors are Phacelia and the orange Mentzelia. A redder purple is Eremalche. Yellows are the two Monolopias and Leptosyne.

(4) return to Elkhorn Rd. return past Wallace Creek, under the power lines again and turn west on Simmler Rd. Many of the species of the Temblors are here plus blue Delphinium and Lasthenia. Cross the south end of Soda Lake.

(5) Reach paved Soda Lake Rd., go south to visitor center.

(6) explore southward along Soda Lake Rd. or (7) drive to the top of Caliente Mt, next road (dirt) south of visitor center. (high clearance strongly recommended).

(8) From summit continue west past the avionics tower a couple of miles, before returning. This is a “don’t miss” mass of color and one of the largest displays of Desert Candle ever seen.

Don’t be just a ‘big color’ person. It is likely that there will be a lot of later flowering species through the summer and into the fall.

Oak Ordinance and Eagle Ranch Development

Conservation News by David Chipping

Against what earlier seemed to be against all odds and to our grateful surprise, the Board of Supervisors approved the Oak Protection Ordinance. CNPS really called out the troops, with Holly Slettland mounting a support petition that gained over 1,000 signatures. We had help from Janet Cobb, of the California Wildlife Foundation, other out-of-the-area conservation organizations, the Sierra Club, Audubon, and a host of others. We and the trees thank everyone, and a shout-out to all you good CNPS members that either wrote a letter or testified at the meeting.

In other news we wrote a comment letter on the EIR for the Eagle Ranch development in Atascadero. This takes ranch land to the southwest of the city, and adds several hundred houses. The number of units has been vested by the original E.G. Lewis tract maps from the early days of Atascadero, and the issue is placement with the least environmental damage. We expressed concern over serpentine endemics and riparian setbacks.

South Central Coast Invasive Species Eradication Project


There is a weed removal initiative underway called the South Central Coast Invasive Species Eradication Project. Funded by the Wildlife Conservation Board and matching partners the $600K project joins CalIPC with multiple partners in a merged region of San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County with help from the Weed Management Area of San Luis Obispo County. This effort is targeting weeds with a realistic chance of eradicating 95% of their populations in five years.

The weeds selected for removal include:

  • Limonium ramosissimum – Algerian sea lavender
  • Limonium duriusculum – European sea lavender
  • Elymus farctus ssp. boreali-atlantucus – Russian wheatgrass
  • Cirsium arvense – Canada thistle
  • Linaria dalmatica ssp. dalmatica – Dalmation toadflax

The sea lavenders are at threat to Cordlylanthus maritimus ssp. maritimus – salt marsh bird’s beak and Suaeda californica -California seablite. They have appeared along the boardwalk in Morro Bay State Park In the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes. Russian wheatgrass can take over areas that are habitat for Atriplex leucophylla – Saltbush, Beach-Bur, Red Sand-Verbena and Dunedelion.

The agencies eradicating the weeds will track their progress through CalWeedMapper that CalIPC arranged. Partners will meet annually to report on progress.

The Sargent Cypress Botanical Reserve: A Hammock Forest

The Sargent Cypress Botanical Reserve: A Hammock Forest

Author: WOODY FREY, Professor emeritus, OH Department, CalPoly, San Luis Obispo. This article was first published in Pacific Horticulture and is reprinted here with permission.

Cupressus sargentii

Six miles north of San Luis Obispo, California, up a winding road off Highway 101 at an altitude of about 2,500 feet is what the locals call Cuesta Ridge. Here is found a remarkable grove of trees  some 700 acres of Cupressus sargentii. The area, which is known as the Sargent Cypress Forest, was first mentioned in the 1900s by a U.S. Geological Survey team. Charles Sprague Sargent included the tree in the description of Cupressus goveniana in his Silva North America (1896). Willis Lynn Jepson named C. sargentii in honor of Sargent, author of the monumental Silva and first director of the Arnold Arboretum. Image: By Eric in SF

Sargent cypress forests form plant communities found only in California on serpentine soil atop fog-shrouded mountains from Zaca Peak in Santa Barbara County to Red Mountain in Mendocino County. The forest on Cuesta Ridge, in the Santa Lucia Mountains of San Luis Obispo County, is the only undeveloped site that can be easily visited. A paved road was built along the ridge and through the forest as part of a firebreak system in the late 1960s. Sargent cypress trees in this area grow close together and forty to fifty feet in height. Their lower branches fall and the trunks become bare with fibrous, rough, dark reddish or grayish brown to almost black bark. Many trees, especially along the road, have had additional branches removed as part of the early firebreak activities. Looking through the forest of older trees and seeing these pole-like trunks one may imagine that they have been conveniently placed to support a thousand hammocks. Sargent cypress forms a fire-dependent closed cone coniferous plant community. The cones, which remain on the trees for many years, need heat to open and to treat the seeds for germination. Since there has not been a significant fire in the area since the late 1930s, there are few seedlings. Sites of many old fires, however, are evident from the even-aged stands of reseeded trees that give the scene an undulating checker board pattern.

(Obispoensis editor’s note… since this article was published, the Highway 41 fire swept unevenly through the forest and hundred of trees sprouted in the ashes).

Many of the trees appearing to be seedlings are in fact stunted due to poor soil and harsh growing conditions on the exposed ridge. Pygmy forests of stunted trees can be seen in some areas. The soil is derived from serpentine rock formed during the Jurassic Age. Exposed to air and moisture it turns reddish from large deposits of waterborne iron. The soil is alkaline, coarse, gravelly, porous, highly mineralized, low in calcium and high in magnesium. Although thirty to fifty inches of rain fall each year, most is quickly lost through the loose soil. Plants in this area probably depend on moisture from fog to survive. The tree line seems to follow the mean fog line, and the forest starts and stops abruptly because of this. There are some unusual plants in the Sargent cypress forest, many of which show forms and shapes adapted to the serpentine soil darker green and thicker leaves, bushier, more compact habit, and brighter flowers. Many of these plants have considerable ornamental potential.


Sketch of Cupressus sargentii by Bonnie Walters

Bulbous plants, found deep in the soil, may last many years. One plant of Chlorogalum pomeridianum var. pomeridianum (soap plant) I have been keeping track of for twenty-five years. Zigadenus fremontii is most common, Friiillaria biflora and F. lanceolata, the chocolate and checkered lilies, are sparse. A special treat in late spring is Calochortus obispoensis, with its hairy, multi-colored petals.

Carex obispoensis covers the damp forest floor in many places, remaining green during the summer from the fog that condenses on overhanging branches and drips to the ground. Sidalcea hickmanii ssp. anomala is a rare spring-blooming herbaceous perennial in the Malvaceae that is endemic in the forest’s northwest edge. (Obispoensis editor’s note… after the Highway 41 fire the Sidalcea became very common for a few years) Chorizanihe breweri, a low and compact herbaceous buckwheat, grows in reddish drifts in open spaces on the rocky soil. A rock fern, Onychium densum (Indian’s dreams or cliff-brake), is common elsewhere, but rare this far south. Unusual strains of Ceanothus cuneatus (buck brush) have flowers of a much brighter blue than those found elsewhere in California. Monardella palmeri, a pennyroyal, is associated with the serpentine soil; on hot days it permeates the air with its pungent minty odor.

A visit to the area is always worthwhile if only to enjoy the outstanding views from the ridge. But spring is perhaps the best time to visit. Everything is fresh and green; most plants are in bloom; and the lichens present a kaleidoscopic display of color and pattern. The chaparral on the outskirts of the forest also is in bloom –  Fremontodendron califomicum var. obispoense spills its yellow flowers over the ground; Ceanothus foliosus and

Dendromecon rigida with their blue and yellow flowers stand out against the backdrop of the magnificent Actostaphylos obispoensis, a taller shrub with pink or white flowers.

Although the forest and its surroundings have been touched by mining from the early 1900s to the 1950s and by the firebreak activities of the 1960s, the area has not experienced much development. For this reason, in 1968 the Sargent Cypress Forest and surrounding areas totaling 1,300 acres within the Los Padres National Forest were designated a botanical reserve.

(Obispoensis editor’s note…I thought we have enough about the Carrizo Plain, and as there is a new road into the Cypress grove, it would be a worthwhile excursion for coastal folks. Thanks to Heather and Jim Johnson for finding this great article  Older members will recall that our chapter got formed as a result of conservation activism against a giant firebreak that USFS was planning through the heart of the tree grove. Visitors will now see a “doghair forest”, where trees are crowded together, small and in competition with each other for resources. This is typical after wildfire results in simultaneous seed release).

Californians Restore Nature in Their Neighborhoods and Gardens with Calscape.org

Californians Restore Nature in Their Neighborhoods and Gardens with Calscape.org

Calscape – Restoring nature one garden at a time

The goal at Calscape is to help Californians restore nature in their neighborhoods and gardens, and to save water in the process. We can do this by providing in-depth
information about which plants are really native to any location in the state, helping to determine which ones to select, listing sources where the plants can be purchased, and then giving details about how to grow them.

The idea for Calscape comes from the notion that if our gardens were to transition from exotic to native landscapes, eventually they would become an extension of the
natural open spaces that surround them. This, in turn would create a continuous natural habitat right across the urban spaces, providing incredible benefits to all living
things. Of the more than 300,000 visits annually to the State CNPS website, roughly 200,000 are directed towards Calscape!

The estimates for which plants are native to any location in California are based on almost 2 million field occurrences of native California plant species collected over the last 150 years by the participants of the Consortium of California Herbaria. Seven variables are used to predict whether or not a given location should be included in a given plant species’ natural range:1. elevation; 2. annual precipitation; 3. summer precipitation; 4. coldest month average temperature; 5. hottest month average temperature; 6. Jepson geographic subdivision; and 7. distance from a known plant occurrence.

Calscape uses an interactive format where each user selects a series of options for the following plant characteristics:

  • Your location (an address)
  • Plant type preferences (from annual herbs to trees and vines)
  • Sun vs. shade
  • Soil drainage capacity (from slow to fast)
  • Water requirements (from low to high)
  • Ease of care (from easy to difficult)
  • Common uses (from ground covers to hedges to bird gardens)
  • Availability in nurseries (from easily available to difficult to find)
  • Fragrance preferences
  • Flower color preferences
  • Flowering season preferences
  • Height of the plants

Calscape also offers a series of gardening tips:

  • How are California native plants different?
  • How to choose and place the desired plants: soil conditions and topography, sun and shade conditions, etc
  • How to plant California natives
  • How to water California natives: watering new plants vs. watering established plants; drip irrigation vs. overhead sprinklers vs. hose watering,
  • How to weed and control pests in California native gardens

Please visit Calscape on line and learn what a fantastic tool it is. Tell your friends about Calscape. Show them how easy it is to select native plants for their specific needs.

-Bill Waycott

San Luis Obispo County Sudden Oak Death Blitz 2017

San Luis Obispo County Sudden Oak Death Blitz 2017

Sudden Oak Death (SOD) is a serious exotic disease that is threatening the survival of tanoak and several oak species in California, including coast live oak. Currently SOD is found in 16 coastal counties, from San Luis Obispo to Humboldt counties. SOD spreads from infected California bay laurel leaves to oaks during wet weather. Management options are available but they are only effective if implemented before oaks and tanoaks are infected, so timely detection of the disease on bay laurel is essential! This is where volunteers like you can help can help out and sample suspected bay laurel leaves at this year’s SOD Blitz in SLO County. The purpose of the SOD Blitz is to inform and educate the community about the disease and its effects, get locals involved in detecting the disease, and produce detailed local maps of disease distribution. The maps can then be used to identify those areas where the infestation may be mild enough to justify proactive management.

The SOD Blitz begins with a training session/presentation where information on the disease and its symptoms on both oaks and California bays are presented, as well as how to collect and record samples of bay leaves. Volunteers then collect suspected bay leaves as well as information about trees and locations over the week-end. Collecting is done individually or in groups, and you can collect as many or few samples as you have time available before dropping off samples at the collection locations by noon Monday. All collecting materials will be handed out at the trainings. Suggested survey and collection locations will also be posted at the trainings, although you are welcome to identify your own property or area of interest. The collected samples are placed in bins at designated collections spots by Monday before noon so they can be sent to the Berkeley Lab for processing.

This year, we will expect to have at least 2 free training sessions, one in North County and one in San Luis Obispo, and all materials needed for collecting will be provided.

The 2017 SOD BLITZ

Training sessions:

  • Thursday May 11 from 1-4 pm at SLO County Department of Agriculture, 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo, CA (limited to 50 participants, registration is suggested but walk-in are welcome as long as space is available). Those of you that have collected past and want to collect in your areas in 2017, please let us know before the Blitz and we provide an updated map.
  • Friday May 12, 6pm to 8pm, SLO County Atascadero Library, Martin Polin Community Room, 6555 Capistrano Ave, Atascadero, CA.

Collecting will take place on Saturday and Sunday, May 13 and 14.

Register for Training: http://ucanr.edu/2017sodblitztraining Additional information will be posted on this website and we will include a reminder in the May newsletter. Contact Lauren for additional information lbrown805@charter.net, 805-460-6329.

Identifying Invasive Oak Pests and Diseases in San Luis Obispo County workshop

FREE Workshop & DPR CEU’s are applied for

April 20, 2017 at the Atascadero Library, 6555 Capistrano Ave, Atascadero

1:00 pm –1:15 pm Check-In
1:15 pm – 1:30 pm Welcome and Introductions, Lauren Brown, California Native Plant Society, San Luis Obispo County
1:30 pm –2:15 pm Goldspotted Oak Borer: Life Cycle, Identification and Management, Speaker: Kevin Turner and Kim Corella, Cal Fire
2:15 pm – 3:00 pm Identification, Impact and Management of Shot Hole Borer, Speaker: Akif Eskalen, University of California, Riverside
3:00 pm – 3:15 pm Break
3:15 pm – 4:00 pm Sudden Oak Death: Identification and Management, Speaker: Kerri Frangioso, University of California, Davis
4:00 pm – 4:30 pm Questions for speakers


Common Milkweed (kotolo) Asclepias eriocarpus

Common Milkweed (kotolo) Asclepias eriocarpus

common milkweed-imageThe cover drawing and article for this issue of the OBISPOENSIS was written and drawn by Alice Meyer. She was a very active member (and first Hoover Award Recipient in the 1970 and 80’s. She is the one who named our newsletter, OBISPOENSIS, and served as its editor (and typist) for the many years. She is also responsible for setting up the first successful chapter plant sales as well as recruiting our current Plant Sale Chair. She didn’t restrict herself to CNPS. She was also active in the Morro Bay Audubon to which she submitted a number of articles entitled “MEET A NATIVE PLANT’. Below is one of those articles. It was chosen since milkweeds are so important in the conservation of the Monarch butterfly and is being encouraged as a garden plant. Members of this genus serve as the primary food source for Monarch butterfly larva. While eating the milkweed leaves, the larva incorporate the milkweed toxins into their bodies and its these milkweed toxins that protect the Monarch larva from most predators.

I do need to mention a taxonomic update. In her first paragraph Alice places the milkweeds in the taxonomic family, Asclepiadaceae. This was where it was placed up until the 1990’s. Today the two families of milky sapped species [milkweeds (Asclepias) and dogbanes (Apocynum)] have been combined into the single family, Apocynaceae. Milkweeds are primarily temperate in distribution while the dogbane relatives are primarily tropical. Classical taxonomic work always accepted these two families as very closely related. Modern taxonomic studies (including DNA work) have discover the relationships to be intertwined which required their unification into a single family. A number of these formally separated but closely related families have now been combined.

-Dirk Walters

MEET A NATIVE PLANT Asclepias eriocarpus

Milkweed is a perennial plant of the milkweed family (Asclepidiaceae) family. The species shown is common in the Coast Ranges, Sierra Foothills south to Coastal Southern California from 100 to 2000 ft. The species shown is Asclepias eriocarpa (as-KLEP-i-as aor-ee-CARP-a). Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on this plant. The plants are erect and sturdy from 18-36” tall, with leaves 3-4” long, in whorls of 3 or 4 leaves. These are covered with fine hairs, which make them look and feel like flannel. Stems and leaves contain a milky juice, a form of latex.

The clusters of flowers appear in May at the ends of stems between the leaves. The structure of the flowers is very unusual. The corolla is cut into 5 petals. These are turned down so the hide the calyx. The stamens stalks are joined into a tube and the five ‘hoods’ are attached to the base of the column; this is the ‘crown’ of corona, and in this species the crown is pink or purplish. It is actually the nectary of the flower. The flower and its stem is creamy white. In the center of the flower is a fleshy column or tube formed by the stalks of the stamens, capped by the stigma, hiding the two tubes of styles leading down to the ovaries.

The pollen in each anther-cell is a waxy mass of different anthers and adjacent masses of different anthers are attached to a cleft gland. This resembles tiny saddle-bags, clipped together, and if a bee catches her foot in the cleft she may pull out and fly away with two pollen masses to fertilize another flower. To do this, she must get her foot caught in the cleft of another flower.

The probabilities of a bee catching a foot in the cleft of two different flowers, first to collect the pollen sacs, then to deposit them in another flower is so remote that this is called ‘lottery pollination’. When a flower is pollinated its stem enlarges and the petals fall off. The calyx remains at the base of the downy seed pod which becomes 3 to 4” long and the remains of the hoods hang on to the tip of the pod for time. When the pod is ripe, and dry, it splits lengthwise, revealing neat rows of seeds, each with a parachute of fine hairs attached. As soon as the these hairs are dry, the seeds will fly away on the wind to be dispersed. Flowers that have not been pollinated along with their stems, wither and fall away.

-Alice G. Meyer

Carrizo Plain April 1 2017

Carrizo Plain April 1 2017

Images submitted by Nancy Chalk who attended the CNPS-SLO annual field trip to Shell Creek to view the Carrizo Plain wildflowers

Images submitted by Steve Schubert who attended the CNPS-SLO annual field trip to Shell Creek to view the Carrizo Plain wildflowers

Would you like to see your pictures posted here?

Just fill out the form below and include a link to your Google Drive or Dropbox images.

Please send only pictures you took yourself to observe copyright laws, and tell us where and when you snapped your photos. If you can, please also include the name of the flowers shown either in the title of the image or in your email.

You may also wish to email them to our webmaster directly at info.cnpsslo@gmail.com.

Thank you for participating in our community!

Wildflower post

7 + 11 =

Carrizo Plain March 23 2017

Carrizo Plain March 23 2017

Ken & Gina Robinson report from Elkhorn Road, March 17

“Found this specimen on March 17, 2017 along Elkhorn Road – Desert Candle (Caulanthus inflatus)”


Allison Gong also sent an image taken on the Carrizo Plain on March 23, this one of Fiddlenecks

“Hello, I took this picture of young fiddle necks (Amsinckia menziesii var. intermedia) on Soda Lake Road on 23 March 2017.”

M.O. sent this image of Soda Lake overlook, taken March 23

Yes, that blue is water in Soda Lake!  Baby Blue eyes (Nemophilia menziiesii) as reported earlier remain on the overlook hillside facing Soda Lake. Distant yellow swaths of color above Soda Lk. are presumably the same as that pictured above.
Sorry I cannot recall exactly which hillside we surveyed many years ago and found the greatest plant diversity of all our many many miles of transects across all of the NM.  It was near the entry into the NM, on R side of Soda Lk rd.  as one enters from Hwy 58.  A 3 member crew, Jeremy took the vehicle to the far side of the hill in order to pick us up at the end of our transect.  But then he rejoined us to ask what was taking us so long.  It was all the plant names we were recording–the longest list of any of our hundreds of plots–such reflected the diversity of plants at that transect.  There were a few grasses there, but mostly wildflower annuals

Nancy Chalk sent these images from Shell Creek Road, Highway 58

“Still building out. Not peaked. Creek is flowing nicely! The baby blue eyes are just emerging. The creek is flowing nicely. I saw a few wild alliums, baby blue eyes, purple owls clover and desert dandelion. I walked the creek as I look for lillies. Those are elusive! Anyway, besides gold fields and tidy tips and fiddlenecks … we are a couple weeks out from peak.”

Would you like to see your pictures posted here?

Just fill out the form below and include a link to your Google Drive or Dropbox images.

Please send only pictures you took yourself to observe copyright laws, and tell us where and when you snapped your photos. If you can, please also include the name of the flowers shown either in the title of the image or in your email.

You may also wish to email them to our webmaster directly at info.cnpsslo@gmail.com.

Thank you for participating in our community!

Wildflower post

10 + 12 =

Carrizo Plain April 2006 and more

Carrizo Plain April 2006 and more

Richard Pradenas has shared his images from the Carrizo Plain

Many of these images are from April 2006, some from August or October to show contrast of seasons.

“I’m fairly certain I have the names of the flowers correct for all but #13 “WildPurpleGila”; if anyone can identify this please let me know.”

Would you like to see your pictures posted here?

Just fill out the form below and include a link to your Google Drive or Dropbox images.

Please send only pictures you took yourself to observe copyright laws, and tell us where and when you snapped your photos. If you can, please also include the name of the flowers shown either in the title of the image or in your email.

You may also wish to email them to our webmaster directly at info.cnpsslo@gmail.com.

Thank you for participating in our community!

Wildflower post

13 + 12 =

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