Dedicated to the preservation of California's native plants

The mission of the California Native Plant Society is to increase understanding and appreciation of California’s native plants and to conserve them and their natural habitats through education, science, advocacy, horticulture and land stewardship.

June Speaker Presentations from our 2021-2022 McLeod Scholarship Recipients

How Invasive Species and Soil Chemistry Shape the Vertic Clay Endemic Annual Plant Communities of the San Joaquin Desert

Emma Fryer is conducting research at Cal Poly with Dr. Nishi Rajakaruna on the assembly of the vertic clay endemic flora of the San Joaquin desert. The San Joaquin Desert hosts a community of annual flowering plants that are largely endemic to vertic clay soils, and which occur in a distinctive patchwork-like pattern in good bloom years. These blooms, which have drawn much attention in the past ten years, form a pattern of color that reflects the heterogeneous pattern of soil texture and chemistry across the landscape. Through a combination of greenhouse studies and fieldwork, the ways in which invasive annual grasses and competition have combined with soil properties to shape this community of unique annual plants can be determined. The diverse ways those factors combine to determine the niche of each species provides insight into this community assemblage, species’ adaptations to chemically and physically harsh soils, and the effect that invasive annual grasses are having on the many rare species found within the San Joaquin Desert. Despite extensive study of the flora and ecology of extreme substrates (e.g., serpentine) in California, there has been essentially no research on the diverse flora of vertic clay substrates, nor this form of edaphic endemism.

Emma Fryer

Habitat and Life History Divergence of a Rare Serpentine Ephemeral, Erythranthe serpentinicola

Annie ZellAnnie Zell is conducting research with Dr. Dena Grossenbacher at Cal Poly, focused on the habitat and life history divergence between sympatric (co-occurring) populations of the seep monkeyflower complex (Erythranthe guttata). Specifically, Annie is studying how co-occurring populations of Erythranthe serpentinicola – a rare annual – and Erythranthe guttata – a common perennial – remain as distinct species. While answering basic biological questions about the phenotypic, phenological, and physiological divergence between these two closely related species, Annie has located several new populations in San Luis Obispo County and possibly found evidence for hybridization.

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Preserve the Reserve


Proposed Dana Reserve Project Should be Substantially Reduced in Size or Rejected

What is the project?

The Dana Reserve Specific Plan (DRSP) project proposes development of 1,291 residential units and commercial development on a 250-acre site located southeast of Willow Road and Hetrick Avenue on the Nipomo Mesa. The project is situated at the very eastern edge of the Callender coastal sand dune complex, an area that contains unique resources, some of which are found nowhere else in the County. As presently conceived, the project threatens thousands of mature coast live oak trees with destruction. Five of the proposed neighborhoods, including 637 residential units, are located within existing oak woodland or chaparral habitats.

What about the mature Coast Live Oak Trees?

The project is seeking a Conditional Use Permit to authorize the removal of over 3,400 coast live oak trees under the County’s Oak Woodland Ordinance. In June 2021, when San Luis Obispo County issued the Notice of Preparation of Draft EIR and Initial Study, only 18 acres of 117 acres of oak woodland were proposed to be preserved on site.

Maritime Chaparral?

In addition to this loss of oak woodlands, the project would significantly impact recovering maritime chaparral (often called Burton Mesa Chaparral), including several rare and/or CNPS special status plants. This is a recognized natural community in the Manual of California Vegetation and is one of the rarest in San Luis Obispo County. The habitat is rapidly decreasing on the Nipomo Mesa.

What about those 388 acres of “Mitigation?”

San Luis Obispo County has already entered an MOU with the applicant claiming the project provides benefits to the County (perhaps prematurely), one of which is stated to be the permanent conservation of 388 acres of oak woodlands “or similar habitat” located offsite, in an area identified as Dana Ridge. This is identified in the Initial Study (pg. 8) as a mitigation for loss of oak woodlands. Most of the area is not even visible from Nipomo. We believe this to be a vastly inappropriate mitigation for the loss of more than 3,000 oak trees and 99 acres of oak woodlands. The offsite location is in an entirely different watershed, does not protect maritime chaparral, does not contain the one characteristic species, Arctostaphylos rudis, and several other characteristic and/or special status species, that make up the on-site maritime chaparral habitat, and is not threatened with development.

 Are there other issues?

YES. Additional serious issues include water availability and exacerbation of existing traffic effects. The proposal contrasts significantly with surrounding residential development, and is inconsistent with several County policies, including the South County Area Plan and the County Land Use Ordinance.

CNPS SLO response to the NOP

Read the CNPS SLO response to the Notice of Preparation.

What can you do?

We urge you to talk about this project with your friends and neighbors. Contact your Supervisorial representatives. Please join us in opposing this vastly oversized project and arguing for a much-reduced alternative that avoids the significant impact to oaks, maritime chaparral, and rare plant species.

We will update this page when the Draft EIR is released. You can get more information at the County’s website:


June 2 – Chapter Meeting with presentations from our 2021-2022 McLeod Scholarship Recipients


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