Featured Plants

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.

Salvia spathacea (Hummingbird Sage)

Salvia spathacea (Hummingbird Sage)

The cover of this Obispoensis is another beautiful water color by Heather Johnson. When I chose this beautiful and accurate representation, I expected that I could just go to my archive and update an article I had already written. To my surprise, Bonnie hadn’t drawn and I hadn’t written anything about it. I’m going to use the excuse that Hummingbird sage is so distinctive and so common that we took it for granted that everyone already knew it. It was one of the first California wildflowers I learned after I arrived in California from the Midwest. In our area Hummingbird sage can grow in an extensive mat. Its leaves are large (10 in (20 cm) long and 3 in (8 cm) wide). The leaf surface appears quilted. Its family affiliation (Mint or Lamiaceae or Labitae) is shown clearly in Heather’s water color. Its large red, two-lipped tubular flowers appear in our area by March and last well into summer and are borne in tight clusters; the clusters climbing upward resembling the balconies of an oriental pagoda. The two stamens and single style extend from under the upper lip in succession. The stamens appear first and after all the pollen has been removed they are replaced by the stigma at the end the style. Mint family characters also shown are the opposite leaves and the square stem. Unfortunately, the characteristic mint odor characteristic of this family is fruity (I smell lemon), but either way it’s not discernible in Heather’s art.

I’ve found three common names for this mint. They are crimson sage, hummingbird sage, and pitcher sage. The first two names are readily explainable. The usual flower color is dark red (crimson) and red is the color of flower that hummingbirds frequently visit. The name, pitcher sage, requires a little history. When I came to California in the late 1960s, the only wildflower books readily available were authored by the Southern California botanist, Phillip Munz, and emphasized Southern California common names. In those books Salvia spathacea was given the common name ‘pitcher sage’. So, we botanical oldsters probably remember it by that name. However I remember that hummingbird sage was always the name used on field trips in our area even then and the name, ‘pitcher sage’ was used for a completely different shrubby mint, Lepechina calycina, which grows in the interior mountains of our chapter area.

Based on my observations and the numerous accounts on the web, hummingbird sage has a place in a California Native plant garden, especially gardens away from the coast. It prefers partial shade, but where it doesn’t get too hot it can tolerate sun. It even does well under oaks. It even prefers clay soils rather than sand. For areas that have many deer, they seem to avoid eating it. Its  large flowers with lots of nectar make it great for attracting and feeding hummingbirds. I suspect the best situation in which to plant them would be an area that is visible, but little trod upon. Here it can even become a sort of ground cover. I found no real  references for its use in medicine other than for ailments in which its wonderful odor might be helpful. According to the book on Chumash Ethnobotany, the Cumash didn’t have a name for it although the early Spanish settlers did. Some suggested it might make a decent tea. No member of the genus, Salvia, was in any of the indices of books on poisonous plants I have in my library.

Dirk Walters

Vitis californica (California grape)

As well as reddish fruits, this variety of wine grape produces bright red leaves in the fall. Enter DNA to the story. Several DNA studies proved that the cultivar ‘Roger’s Red’ is truly a hybrid between the native California grape and the European wine grape Vitis vinifera var. Alicante Bouschet.

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Clarkia speciosa subsp. immaculata (Pismo Clarkia)

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).

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Viola pedunculata (Johnny-jump-up)

Wild (California, yellow, or grass) violet, pansy or Johnny –jump-up This botanical illustration was created by Mardi Niles using a Micron 005 #1 Archival Ink pen and Prismacolor Verithin colored pencils on Bristol Regular paper. It will be the first of several...

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Common Milkweed (kotolo) Asclepias eriocarpus

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...

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Coast Live Oak

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...

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Common (White) Yarrow (Achillea millefollium)

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....

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Fall Color

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...

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Ceanothus hearstiorum

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...

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Solidago californica

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...

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Oenothera deltoides

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...

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Cucurbita palmata

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...

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Quercus Kelloggii

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...

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Antirrhinum ovatum

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...

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Cornus sericea

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...

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Atriplex patula

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...

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Calandrinia ciliata

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...

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Valley Oak Snag

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...

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Erodium moschatum

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...

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Vernal Pool with Downingia

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...

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Mystery Manzanita in the Elfin Forest

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...

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Cynodon dactylon

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...

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Dendromecon rigida

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,...

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Silene laciniata

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...

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< 2017 >
November
  • 02

    7:00 pm-9:00 pm
    11-02-2017
    SLO Vets Hall
    801 Grand Ave, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401, USA

    Speaker: Dena Grossenbacher, Alpine plant diversity on Yosemite’s Sky Islands

    Dena Grossenbacher is a new Assistant Professor of Botany at CalPoly. She is broadly interested in how plant-environment interactions generate and maintain plant diversity, and the processes underlying the origin and extinction of species. She uses the California flora,
    especially monkeyflowers, to address these questions because of their astonishing variation both among and within species.

    Dena received a Bachelor’s degree in Botany in 1999 from University of Washington, was a field botanist in the Pacific Northwest and the Yosemite region from 2000-2008, and received a Ph.D. in Population Biology from UC Davis in 2013 with Maureen Stanton. She did postdocs studying mating system evolution at University of Minnesota and at Washington State University before arriving at Cal Poly
    in January 2017.


    Chapter meetings are generally held the first Thursday of the month at the San Luis Obispo Vets Hall on Grande Ave near the corner of Monterey Street.

    Our meetings kick off with a social time that begins at 7:00 p.m.  This  is a time to sample the treats that members have brought along to share,  and browse the book table. The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. with some  brief announcements before the program begins.

    Speakers and notes from Chapter Meetings are documented in each  Obispoensis newsletter. Please see the Obispoensis archive for PDF file  of each newsletter.

  • 04

    9:00 am-2:00 pm
    11-04-2017
    Pacific Beach High School
    11950 Los Osos Valley Rd, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405, USA

    It’s the annual event you’ve been waiting for. Create your drought-tolerant native garden with help from CNPS-SLO!

    Local native plant enthusiasts are hosting a sale of water-thrifty California Native Plants. Tips and advice for all garden situations available at no additional charge.

    Hundreds of plant varieties for yards and gardens will be available. Many are excellent for attracting birds and butterflies to your garden. Native plants are adapted to this area so they save water, and reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizers.

  • 11

    8:30 am-11:30 am
    11-11-2017
    Costco SLO
    1540 Froom Ranch Way, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405, USA

    Saturday, Nov. 11th, 8:30 am to 11:30 am

    Work Crew, Old Prospector Trail, Irish Hills

    Meet in the Costco parking lot, adjacent to the Costco gas station, Los Osos Valley Road, SLO. From there, we will walk to the trail.

    Join hikers who want to help keep trails in good shape. We will be using loppers to remove branches of Ceanothus and other chaparral plants out of the trail, then cache the cut pieces off the trail.

    The upper half of the trail was completed in October, so work will focus on the lower half. Total distance will be 3 to 4 miles with a 500 ft. elevation gain. Use a small backpack to bring water, snacks, and sunscreen. Wear sturdy shoes, bring gloves, a hat, and layered clothing, as needed. Contact Bill Waycott, (805) 459-2103, bill.waycott@gmail.com.

    Rain cancels.

  • 21

    11:00 am-4:00 pm
    11-21-2017
    Growing Grounds Farm Wholesale Nursery
    3740 Orcutt Rd, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401, USA

    Growing Grounds Farm is a non-profit wholesale nursery located in San Luis Obispo. Growing Grounds offers California natives, Mediterranean perennials, succulents, restoration and mitigation plants, a wide variety of grasses, and a selection of perennial herbs.

    Growing Grounds Farm is a wholesale nursery and does not sell directly to the public except on the 3rd Tuesday of each month from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m