Conservation blog October 2018

CONSERVATION NOTES

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:

David Chipping

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

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….

Ellen Cypher

Clarkia speciosa subsp. immaculata (Pismo Clarkia)

Clarkia speciosa subsp. immaculata (Pismo Clarkia)

Pismo Clarkia

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…)

Why Grow Natives from Seeds?

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…)

Five Morros Field Trip

Five Morros Field Trip

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…)

Spring Wildflowers in Northern Santa Barbara County

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…)

Seed Exchange

Seed Exchange

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

Gardening Corner

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…)

Plant Associations and the Geology of the Morros

Plant Associations and the Geology of the Morros

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…)