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 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.
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.read more
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).read more
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...read more
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. Six miles north of San Luis Obispo, California, up a winding road off Highway 101 at an...read more
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...read more
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