An in-depth look at a plant – what makes it special, it’s characteristics, where to find it in the natural landscape, and other notables. Common non-native and invasive plants are occasionally reported about.
The 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.
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
Dirk Walters, illustration by Bonnie Walters Oaks have been in the news a lot recently. Essentially all of it has been bad from the Oak’s point of view. First, there was the clearing of valley (Quercus lobata) and blue (Q. douglasii) oaks in the Paso Robles area. and...read more
Common (White) Yarrow (Achillea millefollium) The plant discussed in this issue of the Obispoensis is one that I’ve wanted to take on for a long time, but could never bring myself to ask Bonnie to draw. Since we are using photos to illustrate it by, I think it’s time....read more
Caliente Mountain is the highest spot in the County, and forms the western side of Carrizo Plain National Monument The oak on Caliente Mountain. is Tucker's oak, a scrub oak with blue-green, spiny leaves that stands a little over head height but can reach to 7 meters....read more
O.K.... so we’re not Vermont. However we do have some pretty fall color displays. If you like the gold of aspen, you will see the same colors in our closely related cottonwood stands, both trees belonging to the genus Populus. Cottonwoods are riparian trees, and the...read more
Introduction October and November are when our Chapter gets serious about growing native plants. We have a November meeting devoted to it as well as our annual plant sale. This got me to remembering some articles written and drawings drawn by Alice G. Meyer that are...read more
California Goldenrod (Solidago velutina ssp. californica or S. californica) The photo by Dr. David Chipping that accompanies this note are of the California goldenrod (Solidago velutina ssp. californica or Solidago californica). According to Dr. Hoover in his Vascular...read more
Desert Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides) Desert evening primrose (Oenothera deltoides) is in full bloom at Shell Creek as I write this. So it seemed appropriate to resurrect a drawing Bonnie drew back in 1981. It is one of her earlier drawings since it shows a...read more
Coyote melon Bonnie’s drawing for this issue of Obispoensis is based on a picture sent to me by George Butterworth. The species, Cucurbita palmata, has many common names. The ones I found on the web include coyote melon, coyote gourd, desert gourd, palmate-leafed...read more
Kellogg Oak The following is an article from February 1993. It was chosen by the editor to spare me the choice since Bonnie and I were away in late October. We totally agree with his choice; we had totally forgotten about it. The repeat of this article reminds me that...read more
Oval Leaved Snapdragon Drawing by Bonnie and article by Dr. Malcolm McLeod below appeared in the November, 1991 Obispoensis. When you read it you will see lots of similarities with our current drought situation as well as the much hoped for possibilities of an...read more
Creek Dogwood For this issue of the Obispoensis, I’m going out on a limb so to speak. Since the plant is a very small tree or moderately sized shrub, that limb will prove to be slender. The plant is the red osier, creek, or as stated in the new Jepson California...read more
Spear Orache, Spear Salt Bush As I write this article, it’s August in the year of California’s third most severe drought. There’s not much out there in bloom. So I’ve retreated to one of the few places where plants are doing anything. Yes, I’m returning to the coastal...read more
Red Maids Bonnie’s drawing for this issue of Obispoensis is of a plant that is found throughout the western United States as well as spreading north into British Columbia. It has also been recorded in a couple of South American countries. It is especially common in...read more
We are going back into the archives for this cover of Obispoensis. The landscape is a drawing of the Shell Creek area that Bonnie drew for the December 1991 cover. The inset is an ID drawing of the leaves and acorn of the valley oak. Why would one want to combine...read more
Filaree Erodium moschatum & E. cicutarium I assume it is not news to anyone that California in general and the Central Coast in particular has been experiencing an extreme drought. That means that most native plants that are adapted to this situation have been in...read more
Vernal Pools occur where there is moderate to large sized “natural” depression with no outlet. The depression has to be large enough to capture enough rainfall to fill the pond to some depth. The water collects in the lowest point in the depression. There also must be...read more
All three of Bonnie’s drawings this time are of manzanitas. One is a repeat of the endemic rare plant commonly known as Morro manzanita or Arctostaphylos morroensis. As you will see, it is included here to serve as a basis of comparison. The other two drawings are...read more
Bermuda Grass It’s November in a very dry year which was preceded by a dry year. Most native plants are waiting for the rains. The small amount of rain that fell in the last week in October I doubt will be considered significant, i.e., sufficient enough to initiate...read more
Bush Poppy A funny thing happened while Bonnie and I were working on the drawing and article for and about the plant discussed in this issue of Obispoensis. Before we started, we consulted Dirk’s list of past drawings and could not find any entry for Bush Poppy,...read more
Coastal catchfly Late summer or early fall (or more appropriately “late dry season”) is a downtime in our local wilds, especially true when we've had no significant rain after December. Even the animals seem to be resting. But if one looks carefully in our coastal...read more
Coastal Morning Glory (California) The plant featured on the June 2013 cover of the Obispoensis was chosen because of a request. It is the California, coast, island, or wild morning glory (Calystegia macrostegia). The common name, false bindweed, is sometimes used...read more
Flannel Bush This month’s cover drawing by Bonnie Walters is a repeat of flannel bush, Fremontodendron californicum. It was last used on the Obispoensis cover back in 1991. Does anybody remember it? Fremontodendron classification It is being reused now due to a...read more
Asparagus Fern or Bridal Creeper This month’s plant is a South Africa native that has become naturalized in Southern California where there has the potential to become an extremely troubling weed species. It is already considered so in some localities in Southern...read more
Why is the Death Cap mushroom so deadly? On New Year's Day I visited a favorite, and normally productive, chanterelle patch outside San Luis Obispo to discover an enormous fruiting of the dangerously toxic death cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides). My culinary...read more
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...read more