Are you interested in vegetation sampling? Do you have a favorite plant community, alliance or association? Then please contact Melissa Mooney, chair of the newly-enlivened Vegetation/Plant Communities committee of our SLO Chapter (email: We’ve been in touch with Julie Evens and Jennifer Buck of the State CNPS Vegetation Program, and will be coordinating with the folks in the East Bay Chapter who are doing similar work. First order of business will be to prioritize what communities need focus for possible assessment and mapping and lay out our goals. Serpentine communities? Morro manzanita maritime chaparral? Valley Oak Savanna? Get those ideas coming and lets do some sampling!

Announcing the CNPS 2018 Conservation Conference

Announcing the CNPS 2018 Conservation Conference


WHO: Over 1,000 attendees from California and beyond.

WHAT: Two days of pre-conference workshops and field trips and three days of scientific sessions, keynote speakers, social and arts events, and more.

WHERE: Los Angeles Airport Marriott, 5855 West Century Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA,

WHEN: Thursday, February 1, through Saturday, February 3, 2018 (pre-conference workshops & field trips January 30-31)

WHY: Whether your career centers around natural resources or you just love native plants, the CNPS Conservation Conference will have something for you. From professional skills training and scientific sessions to field trips and special events, you will have many opportunities to connect with like-minded others, while learning about current research and trends, and contributing to future plans for California’s native plants and natural habitats.

Stay tuned for details! Everything you need to know about this conference is posted at  Register now!


President’s Update

The CNPS Conservation Conference is approaching and I am really excited! I remember well my experience at the 2015 conference in San José. I was like a kid in a candy shop. With a plethora of concurrent sessions on specific topics of intrigue, spread over three days, I was in a wonderful place – my insatiable curiosity for everything California native plants was fully gratified.

These conferences are only held once in three years. This time there are two days of workshops leading up to the conference, with topics that run the gamut from using technology to assessing different components of plant communities to creating natural landscaping and habitat gardens, from legislative action and CEQA to rare plant search and rescue, from black and white line drawing techniques and macro photography to a primer on the use of computer programs like Calflora and Calscape. Five field trips are also being offered during that time. Possibly, there is something here for everyone and it’s only the beginning!

These workshops will fall on Tuesday and Wednesday, 30th and 31st January 2018. The conference itself begins Thursday morning and runs through Saturday afternoon, 1st, 2nd and 3rd February 2018. So, what’s your interest? Environmental Justice? Lichens and Bryophytes? Fire Ecology? Climate Change in Native Landscapes? Rare Natural Communities? Citizen Science? Invasive Plants? Coastal Conservation? Oaks and Oak Rangeland? Horticulture? Grasslands and Prairies, Vegetation Mapping? Chaparral Ecology? Restoration? Native Plant Pathogens? Current Research (Student Presentations)? All the above?

The best opportunity for increasing one’s awareness on the current successes and challenges for California native plants will be at this conference! With 21 workshops, 5 field trips, over 300 presentations in 23 themed sessions, student poster sessions, botanical art, photography, music, and poetry, CNPS bookstore, and most importantly, the opportunity to learn, share, connect, and have fun all in one place – the LAX Marriott Hotel – at reasonable rates and convenient access from all over the state, this is our time and place!

Log on to “” to learn more, get details, and get enthused. Join over 1,000 fellow native plant aficionados in this CNPS ritual where science is fun. Rub shoulders with the experts and make a bunch of new friends. You know plants provide this planet with the food we eat and the air we breathe. Educating ourselves and advocating for the native plants that surround us every day, is an exciting opportunity to improve our quality of life and contribute to an infinite body of knowledge that continues to grow. So, come and join us at the Conference!!

– Bill Waycott

Climate Change Working Group


David Chipping (

The CNPS Chapter Council elected to explore how we might deal with issues associated with climate change, and a statewide working group is starting up with me as Chair. One thing I would love to do is to make SLO Chapter a ‘test bed’ for different approaches to the problem. I invite anyone interested to contact me and share their views.

To kick things off I see the following key issues for our consideration:

  • What do climate models say about the most likely changes in climate that might reasonably be expected?
  • Looking at our plant species and vegetation, where are the greatest risks given the expected climate change, in terms of many changes that might be expected. Use some existing methodology for assessing and ranking multiple risk factors.
  • 3) Start doing vulnerability analyses of CNPS listed plants in our chapter area. This will include seeing what happened during the extreme stressor of the drought we have just experienced.
  • Gain better knowledge of existing trends, including initiating plant surveys and gaining information on historic population distribution. Lots of field trips and field work here. We would work at the individual species and the grosser level of ‘vegetation’.
  • Examine what our chapter would recommend regarding future CNPS actions and policies. For example, would we support “assisted migration” in which a plant at risk of extirpation would be transplanted into areas it has never historically occupied?

Do we, after assessing that there are too many variables that could affect future conditions, throw up our hands and leave it to Darwin to sort out?

October Seed Exchange


The seed exchange is back. The workshop time slot (6.00-7.15) before the October meeting is reserved for our second seed exchange. So think seed collection. There will be a few minor differences. There has been a request to provide a picture of the plant that the seeds will become. This will help those who might not be familiar with the names choose plants they want to try. Our chapter will supply seed envelopes so we will be asking those bringing seeds to just bring a bulk collection of cleaned seeds labelled with genus and species, where and when it was collected and a picture. There is no need to spend your time separating into little envelopes.

The seed exchange is an opportunity to share seeds from native plants which are growing in your landscape. We will not sell seed. Do remember the legal issues of seed collection. It is illegal to collect seed from private property and public spaces without permission. If you happen to have access to rare plant seed DO NOT collect it. That seed should be reserved for seed banks and those with the skills to nurture the plant to maturity.

Keep in mind that a collection of plants grown from seed has more genetic diversity than plants grown from cuttings. Depending upon what your goal is that may be a positive point. But garden grown plant seed is not ideal for restoration planting. One would want the more pure genetics of a wild population to use for restoration. Plants grown from seed might not be like the parent plant.

There is an article on our website under resources that has information on seed collection and cleaning (link). You might find it helpful. Find it under Resources, Growing Natives, Seed Collection and Saving for the Casual Gardener.

Conservation Analyst position

The New CNPS Southern California Conservation Analyst position

CNPS is the voice for the preservation of California’s native flora. Many times, CNPS is the only party at the table negotiating for native plants and their places; too often, that seat is left vacant due to the fact that we have limited capacity to take on all the important conservation battles. Now, as the pace and scale of change across California increases and Federal dynamics become more challenging, it is even more critical to maintain a strong voice for native plant conservation. We need to increase our capacity to do so, and Southern California is the first place to start.

Recently CNPS received a generous bequest from Elizabeth C. Schwartz that is providing the opportunity to increase our conservation efforts. Others are making donations to match Elizabeth’s gift, so that CNPS can expand conservation staffing to better serve SoCal. This new CNPS Southern California Conservation Analyst position will support SoCal CNPS Chapters and conservation volunteers, helping grow their capacity to engage in important local conservation work. They will also engage in strategic work when plant conservation needs span multiple CNPS Chapters, advancing CNPS conservation policies, bringing together partners, and acting as CNPS’s lead representative in these regional
initiatives and processes.

It is important that this position be ongoing, since conservation success often require years of dedication and persistence. You and your Chapter can help secure the future of plant conservation in Southern California by pledging your support today. Your help will ensure that plant science and sound conservation advocacy are at the table when desert lands are at risk, when OHV routes are analyzed, where forest and grassland management is in question, and when conservation opportunities need someone there, time and again, to let decision-makers know the importance and uniqueness of the flora. Please, consider making a gift to support the SoCal conservation position; share your thoughts
with CNPS staff and your chapter leadership; and most importantly please lend your voice when important, urgent conservation issues come to your attention. Thank you in advance for your help.

Conservation Update

Another summer has passed, and there are a few clouds on the horizon.

  • The Froom Ranch project is of great concern, as it impacts Chorro Creek Bog Thistle, wetlands, and violates City policy regarding the maximum elevation for development.
  • The Las Pilitas quarry project appears to be coming up again now that the political balance on the Board of Supervisors has changed, but we don’t know what changes will be proposed to justify resubmission.
  • The Eagle Ranch development in Atascadero seems to have taken a step backward based on financial issues with the City, but we have no specific details.
  • The Avila Ranch Project in southern San Luis Obispo does not have any apparent impact on native plants.
  • We have protested any changes to Carrizo Plain National Monument.

– David Chipping

President’s Message April 2017

Native Plants are the Best! The great out-of-doors is becoming an increasingly popular destination in our communities. On one of the guided plant-walks this spring, organized by the City of San Luis Obispo’s Park and Recreation Dept. in the Reservoir Canyon Natural Reserve, more than 100 participants turned up at the trailhead, on a Sunday afternoon. There were people of all ages from toddlers in backpacks to seniors, all prepared for a guided tour through the natural splendor of our coastal hills. As I observed all the excitement of getting out in nature, I recalled the results of a study I had seen, emphasizing that children spend more time outside their homes and class rooms, in natural surroundings – just being kids.

The crowd at the Reservoir Canyon Trailhead. Photo by Bill Waycott.

In the article published in The Guardian newspaper, Aug. 16, 2010, Jon Henley reports there is a growing body of knowledge illustrating the importance for children to be out in nature. Results of studies done in the past several years suggest that if children don’t spend time in nature as they mature, their development as individuals is impacted, and the whole society, is too. In one Kaiser Family Foundation study, the average amount of time eight-to-18-year-old Americans spend using “entertainment media”, has grown to more than 53 hours a week; that’s about 7.5 hours per day.

The study said this is a problem that needs to be addressed, because the consequences of not allowing our children to play independently, out-of-doors are becoming commonplace. And, that time spent in nature, playing independently – a free-range childhood, as it were – can have a large beneficial effect on health.

Free and unstructured play in the outdoors boosts problem-solving skills, focus and self-discipline. Socially, it improves cooperation, flexibility, and self-awareness. Emotional benefits include reduced aggression and increased happiness.  The use of “green exercise” has been shown to produce rapid improvements in mental wellbeing and self-esteem, even when done only five minutes a day, especially by young people.

Therefore, the consequences of not getting outdoors and learning what nature has in store for us, can be sobering.  It’s a problem that modern technology cannot address, at least not at this stage, since excessive dependency on technology is what brought us to this point in the first place.

And, while in nature, our curiosity for what’s all around us grows and flourishes to the point where the natural images that we often see, begin to repeat themselves and by repeating, bring us to a greater appreciation of whatever surrounds us.  In this part of the world, it’s our unique assortment of verdant native plants that cover the landscapes, that help to restore our sanity.  Just five minutes in nature will help to equilibrate my senses and give me a more positive outlook on life.  And, while I am there, I will greet my old friends Ceanothus, Carex, Castilleja, and Coreopsis, just to name a few!!

-Bill Waycott

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.

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