Birds and Blossoms Field Trip

Birds and Blossoms Field Trip

Learn bird calls and plants of the El Moro Elfin Forest in the town of Los Osos. This park on the south end of Morro Bay supports more than 200 plant species and 110 bird species in its brackish marsh, riparian woodland, pygmy oak woodland, maritime chaparral, and coastal dune scrub plant communities. Our hike leader, naturalist and Audubon guide Jessica Griffiths, will help us learn bird songs and calls to aid in identifying birds even when you cannot see them. Native plants of the Elfin Forest and their associations with birds will be discussed. Total distance will be 2 miles with 100 feet elevation gain and will be mostly on the boardwalk loop. The 16th Street entrance of the Elfin Forest has wheelchair access. The hike is expected to take about 2.5 hours.

This trip is limited to 25 local CNPS participants to allow quiet conditions for listening to birds and because of space limitations on the boardwalk. To reserve a spot on this hike, email Bill Waycott at the email address below, add “Audubon” in the subject line, and make sure to specify how many people will be in your party. Parking is limited to a few spots at the road ends or along adjacent roadsides, so carpooling is recommended. The meeting spot for the start of the hike will be sent to those who RSVP.

Bring water, snacks, hat, sturdy shoes, and dress in layers for changing weather. For this hike, binoculars and a field notebook for taking notes are recommended. Plant and animal lists for the Elfin Forest can be found here. There are no bathrooms at this park but public bathrooms are available approximately 2 miles away at the South Bay Community Center and adjacent Los Osos Community Park at 2180 Palisades Avenue, Los Osos, CA 93402.

California Native Plants that Attract Birds

California Native Plants that Attract Birds


Plant these natives to attract birds to your garden.

Don’t forget that insect eating birds will visit most of these plants when looking for spiders, gnats, flys, moths, etc.

Genus/Species Part Used When Specific Birds
Acacia Greggii Seeds Summer Mourning Dove
Atriplex species Leaves/Seeds Sum/Fall Finches, Quail, Sparrows, Towhees
Abies concolor Leaves All-year Blue Grouse, Red Crossbill, Clark’s Nutcracker Pygmy Nuthatch
Acer macrophyllum Seeds/Buds/Flowers Spr/Sum/Fall Evening Grosbeak, many others
Acer negundo Same as macrophyllum in all categories
Achillea borealis. Seeds Summer Goldfinches
Adenostoma fasciculatum Seeds Summer Goldfinches
Alnus rhombifolia Nesting Spring Warblers
Seeds Summer Pine Siskin, Goldfinches
Buds Spring Cedar Waxwings
Alnus rubra Same as rhombifolia all categories
Amelanchier alnifolia Fruits Summer Many Species
Antirrhinum multiflorum Flowers/Seeds Spring/Sum Hummingbirds & seed eaters
Aquilegia species Flowers Spring/Sum Hummingbirds
Arbutus menziesii Fruit Fall Band-tailed Pigeon, Varied Thrush, Long Tailed Chat
Arctostaphylos species Fruit Sum/Fall Jays, Grosbeaks, Mockingbirds, Fox Sparrow
Flowers Late Win/Early Sp. Hummingbirds
Artemisia species Leaves All-Year Sage Grouse, Quail
Flowers /Seeds Spr/Sum /Fall Towhee
Asclepias species Stems, nests Spring Orioles
Aster species Seeds Fall Finches, Sparrows
Baccharis species Seeds Sum/Fall Finches, Sparrows
Beloperon californica Flowers Spr/Sum Hummingbirds, Finches, Sparrows
Ceanothus species Seeds Sum/Fall Quail
Cephalanthus occidentalis Seeds Sum/Fall Ducks
Cercis occidentalis Seeds/Flowers Spr/Fall Hummingbirds, Gold Finches
Cercocarpus species Seeds/Leaves Sum/Fall Blue Grouse
Chilopsis linearis Seeds/Flowers Spr/Fall Hummingbirds, Doves
Chrysothamnus species Seeds Sum/Fall Finches, Quail, Pine Siskin
Comarostaphylis diversifolia Flowers/Fruits Spr/Sum/Fall MANY SPECIES!
Cornus species Flowers/Fruits Spr/Sum/Fall MANY SPECIES!
Cupressus species Seeds Sum/Fall Red-breasted Nuthatch & others
Delphinium cardinale Flowers Spr/Sum Hummingbirds
Mimulus (Diplacus) species Flowers Spr/Sum Hummingbirds
Dudleya species Flowers Spr/Sum Hummingbirds
Eleocharis species Seeds/Culms/Tubers Fall Ducks, Teals,Geese, Scaups, Swans, Rails, Sandpipers, Snipe
Encelia californica Seeds Spr/Fall Sparrows, Finches
Equisetum species Stems/Rootstocks All-Year Geese, Swans, Waterfowl
Eriogonum species Leaves/Seeds All-Year Finches, Juncos, Sparrows, Towhees
Eschscholzia species Seeds Summer Quail
Forestiera neomexicana Fruit Summer Quail, Robin, Other Fruit Eating Birds
Fragaria species Leaves/Fruit All-Year MANY SPECIES!
Fraxinus species Seeds Fall Quail, Finches, Grosbeaks, Cedar Waxwings, Wood Ducks
Galvezia speciosa Flowers Spring Hummingbirds
Geranium species Seeds Summer Doves, Quail, Towhees
Helianthus species Seeds Fall Seed eating birds, Goldfinches, Bush Tits
Heteromeles arbutifolia Berries Winter Blue Birds, Robins, Band-tailed Pigeon
Heuchera maxima Flowers Spring Hummingbirds
Juglans californica Nuts Winter Jays
Keckiella species Flowers Spr/Summer Hummingbirds
Lavatera assurgentiflora Flowers/Seeds Sum/Fall Hummingbirds/Seed eaters
Lepechinia calycina Flowers Summer Hummingbirds
Lonicera species Flowers/Berries Spr/Sum/Fall Hummingbirds, Towhees, Robins, Thrashers, Bluebird
Lupinus species Seeds Summer Quail, Dove
Mahonia nevinii Berries Summer Bluebirds, Thrashers, Robins, Towhee
Mahonia aquifolium Berries Summer Thrashers, Robins, Towhees, Others
Malacothamnus species Seeds Fall Bush Tits/Others
Mimulus species Flowers Summer Hummingbirds
Monardella species Flowers Summer Hummingbirds
Penstemons species Flowers Spr/Sum Hummingbirds
Pinus species Seeds/Bark All-Year Jays, Nuthatches, Many species!
Platanus racemosa Fuzz/Seeds Spr/Winter Seed eaters, fuzz used by Hummers for nesting
Prunus species Berries Summer Jays, many others
Quercus species Seeds Fall/Winter Jays, Hummers, Many species!
Rhamnus species Berries Summer Jays, Thrashers, Berry eaters!
Rhus species Berries Spr/Sum Thrashers,Towhees, Many species
Ribes viburnifolium Berries/Flowers Win/Sum Hummingbirds, Thrashers, Towhees
Ribes species Berries/Flowers Win/Sum Hummingbirds, Jays, Thrashers, others
Rosa species Hips Sum/Fall Thrashers,Towhees Jays,Others
Salix species Insects/Catkins All-Year Many Species Use Galls
Salvia species Flowers/Seeds Spr/Fall Hummingbirds, Seed eaters
Sambucus species Berries/Flowers All-Year Many, Many Species
Scrophularia species Flowers/Seeds Spr/Sum Hummingbirds, Seed eaters
Shepherdia argentea Berries Summer Berry eaters
Sidalcea species Seeds Summer Thrashers, Seed Eaters
Solanum species Berries Summer Berry eaters
Stachys species Flowers Summer Hummingbirds
Trichostema lanatum Flowers Summer Hummingbirds
Washington Filifera Dates Sum/Fall Cedar Waxwings, Others
Epilobium (Zauschneria)sp. Flowers Sum/Fall Hummingbirds

Reference: Las Pilitas Nursery, with permission of Bert Wilson. Edited by Al Naydol and members of the San Luis Obispo Chapter of the California Native Plant Society.

Family Sketch and Plant Hike – Three Bridges

Family Sketch and Plant Hike – Three Bridges

What is there to see when it’s blazing hot? Lots! Bring the family for a sketch and plant walk at shady Three Bridges Preserve in Atascadero. The trees are cool and shady, and there may still be water in the creek! Some plants are sleeping (summer dormant), but some are still blooming and there’s always birds, insects, maybe even mammals. This is an easy loop trail where we’ll stop and draw and name a few plants. It’s aimed at 5-10 year olds, but all are welcome. Art materials are provided and you can take your sketchbook home.

Bring water, snacks, hat, sturdy shoes, and dress in layers for changing weather.  A plant list for the Three Bridges Preserve can be found on our website here. There are no bathroom facilities along the hike route.

Please sign the liability waiver HERE to register for this event.

CANCELED: Back Roads of the Carrizo Plain

CANCELED: Back Roads of the Carrizo Plain

THIS TRIP HAS BEEN CANCELED DUE TO FORECAST OF RAIN. Possible rescheduling of this Carrizo Plain trip in late April. Check back here for details. In the meantime, we recommend you check our calendar here for the many other hikes, wildflower show, native plant sale, workshops, and meetings CNPS-SLO and others are sponsoring in April and May. You can also plan your own trip to the Carrizo Plain and we encourage you to check the BLM Carrizo Plain National Monument website and social media for most up-to-date information on the status of the wildflower bloom, and travel and safety conditions at this beautiful remote area.

Remember, seasonal wildflower blooms can vary from year to year even week to week. They are not simply a theatrical production for human enjoyment. They are important ecological events when plants use flowers to create seeds for their future generations. The flowers deviously attract and feed butterflies, native bees, birds and other animals to increase their seed production. Recent weather events like rain, drought, wind and freezing temperatures along with longterm climatic change and human activities can affect the amount and types of wildflowers that bloom at any one point in time. We encourage you to enjoy the variety of a bloom when you are hiking, look for animals visiting flowers, and see if you can detect subtle changes and how environmental conditions are shaping that bloom. As the season progresses, you can also look for and learn about the interesting shapes and sizes of developing seeds. Protect the bloom by staying on trails.

—————————————————BELOW CANCELED——————————————————

This year, the chapter’s spring field trip to the Carrizo Plain will focus on the southwestern side of the valley, as well as a possible ascent up Caliente Mountain Road. This outing will last the entire day. Only vehicles with high clearance (HCV) can be used on this field trip. HCV ground clearance should be 9 inches or higher. Please make carpool arrangements on your own before the event if you do not have a HCV. Limited seating in an HCV may be available at meet-up location, but not guaranteed.  Otherwise, participants without space in an HCV may wish to tour on their own the main roads in Carrizo Plain that do not require an HCV. Many roads in the Carrizo Plain can be difficult to travel after recent rains. Make sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas as this is a remote area without nearby services.

Meet at the Santa Margarita Park and Ride Lot on the Santa Margarita/CA-58 East exit off Highway 101, Lat/Long 35.383290, -120.628037.

Please sign the liability waiver HERE to register for this event.

A plant list for the Caliente Range of the Carrizo Plain can be found on our website here. You can also go to our website here to purchase wildflower books for Shell Creek, Highway 58 and the Carrizo Plain; some items are ebooks which need to be downloaded before you hit the trail. Some of the ebooks are free!

Bring water, lunch, snacks, hat, sturdy shoes, and dress in layers for changing weather.  Come prepared because this is a long and fun day. There are limited bathroom facilities along the hike route. Rain or threat of rain cancels or postpones this trip.

Photo: Caliente Range on East side of Carrizo Plain, 2023, Bill Waycott

Spring Family Sketching Hike

Spring Family Sketching Hike

Spring has sprung and everything is different at Three Bridges Oak Preserve in Atascadero. The plants are sprouting leaves, flowers are blooming, and birds are singing. There are plenty of textures, leaves, lichens and maybe mushrooms are still mushrooming. This is an opportunity to slow down and really look at what’s around us. This easy loop hike is stroller-accessible, not too steep (most likely no water in the creek crossing by this date), and will be two hours in length. We will be stopping to draw and talk about the plants we see. The hike is aimed at kids aged 5-10 years and their families; however, all are welcome. No experience is necessary and all drawing materials are provided. Free! Contact Judy Johnson-Williams with your questions judy_j-wATixDOTnetcomDOTcom

Bring water, snacks, hat, sturdy shoes, and dress in layers for changing weather.A plant list for Three Bridges Oak Preserve can be found on our website here. Rain or threat of rain cancels or postpones this trip.

Native Plants for Your Nipomo Garden

Native Plants for Your Nipomo Garden

This presentation will introduce you to California native plants that do well in the soils and climate of Nipomo, and to pollinators you can attract to your native plant garden. Zach Tanner with CNPS-SLO will discuss how to select and grow these plants in your garden with photos of the recommended plants and a question and answer period at the end. Free to all at the Nipomo Library and no reservation is required.

This event is co-sponsored by the Nipomo Native Garden. The website for the Nipomo Native Garden has photos and a list of suggested native plants for the Nipomo area including sun/shade preferences, flowering season, soil type, mature size, and more. Print out and bring this list so you can mark it as you learn in the presentation about different plant species. We have a SLO County native landscape planting guide on our chapter website that is especially helpful with five easy garden projects and steps to get your yard ready for a native garden. More resources for designing and maintaining native plant gardens are at our CNPS SLO website here.

Take a walk at the Nipomo Native Garden to see examples of beautiful native plants that thrive on the Nipomo Mesa. Volunteering at the garden on the first Saturday of the month from 9am to noon is a good way to learn from the experts who regularly help at the garden about the basics of caring for these local plants.

After you learn about native gardening in Nipomo, get your native plants at the spring native plant sale that the San Luis Obispo chapter of the California Native Plant Society expects to hold on Saturday, April 20, 2024. A few weeks before the sale, our website will feature descriptions of the plants that will be available at the sale and allow pre-ordering. Browsing and purchase of plants will also be available on April 20th. Check our website in late March for details on the spring plant sale.

Photograph of sand mesa manzanita (Arctostaphylos rudis), a shiny evergreen shrub that grows on the Nipomo Mesa and attracts hummingbirds and bumble bees.

Garden Maintenance

My garden is small compared to the ones I manage in my horticulture business, but it’s still a hideaway for the birds, bees and native plants. It’s calming and is a source of tranquility for myself and my family. During difficult times, and I’m sure you have experienced them and know what I mean, the backyard can be a peaceful and serene place. Sometimes however, the garden can also create stress.

Gophers, spider mites and water bills, to name a few, can detract us from our beautiful garden. But keeping this in mind, we must remember we share this space with the critters and the insects. These are all part of the fabric of nature. Just like fertilizer and compost, gas and electricity bills, we have to budget for this special place. It doesn’t matter if it is a drought resistant native garden or even a cactus garden. There will be maintenance involved. Weeding can take us away from family and friends, however, I have found over the years, for me, the yard has been a great investment.

When I think about the hours of enjoyment I have experienced watching the birds, bees and plants in my garden grow, these times have been some of the best I ever had. So looking forward to the future and what it might hold, I’m hoping you will find that the investment of time, energy and money in your garden, is one that is well spent. Until next time, collect rain water and happy gardening.

John Nowak

Your spring wildflower garden

The Garden Corner

It’s time to start thinking about planting your wildflower garden with the winter rains coming soon. As in years past, we are beginning our rainy season late with a dry fall so far. This doesn’t mean we will have a dry winter, but this dry pattern is important when it comes to sowing our wildflower garden.

The best gardens start with the onset of rain. But if we put out our seeds too soon, the birds will eat them and the sun will bake the rest. So keeping this in mind, we can still prepare the site to be planted by raking the area smooth. Soil amendment is not necessary. Go through the seeds you have acquired, which, of course, you bought at the plant sale. Get everything ready so that when the storms start to line up you are ready to sow your seeds. Two days in advance of a rain event, complete the following steps: First, rake the top one inch of soil to loosen it; Second, using a light hand, spread seeds over the area that is to be your wildflower garden; Third, using your rake, go over the area once again to ensure there is soil-to-seed contact. Finally, and the best part, ‘do the stomp’ by walking all over the area to compress the soil. Then wait for the rains to come.

It’s important to provide extra water, if necessary, at least every two weeks. Otherwise if the rains come, sit back and watch your wildflowers grow! Until next time, happy gardening! If you have any questions about sowing your wildflower garden, please contact me at:

John Nowak

Ethnobotany Notes: Catalina Cherry

What should I plant in my yard this fall before the rains begin? People are often asking me this. I like to consider what Doug Tallamy told us at the CNPS state conservation conference a couple of years ago about planting trees and shrubs that are foraging hubs for insects and birds. He mentioned several genera that fed lots of caterpillars, which in turn feed lots of birds.

cherryOne of these was the genus Prunus. You may recognize this as a fruit tree genus including cherries, apricots, plums, and peaches. It attracts butterflies, bees, and pollinating flies. One of my favorites is the Prunus lyonii, or Catalina cherry. It has beautiful green foliage, is drought tolerant, and according to Las Pilitas nursery, it tolerates clay soils well. It is closely related to the native shrub called Islay (Prunus ilicifolia). Islay was harvested for the kernels inside of the pit. Jan Timbrook notes in Chumash Ethnobotany that one hat of islay was worth two hats of acorns.

The kernel of the cherry needs to be removed from the pit (you may eat the thin skin of fruit in the process if it is ripe first). Then you must boil the kernels and rinse the water several times, then smash the kernels and then leach like acorns to remove the cyanide that naturally occurs in the kernels. Since the native Islay was not available at the time, I decided to try this with the Catalina cherry growing in my Mom’s yard. (Catalina cherry is used in the horticultural trade and can be bought and planted easily). I gathered the pits that had accumulated on the ground, cracked them open, boiled and leached the kernels, then made little balls out of them. They kind of tasted like cooked beans, bland but nutritious. My curiosity was satisfied. I’m not crazy about the kernels as food, but I love the shrub with its gorgeous bright green foliage. The pictures below are from Morro Bay State park where it was planted between the campsites.

As I am writing this, I am thinking about the fact that we have our annual native plant sale coming up on November 2. I have been planting the plants that I have written about over the last year in my own garden, and I hope that you find some that will be perfect for yours as well. I’ll see you there on November 2.

Cathy Chambers

Seed Collection of Early Bloomers

I’ve collected my first seeds of 2019. Buttercup seeds are turning brown even as more buds open. Collecting will be an ongoing process which I can do easily since it is in my garden. This is just a reminder that seed season is upon us. As this newsletter is for both May and June and we won’t have another issue until October, this is my only opportunity to urge you to think of collecting seed for the seed exchange which will be held just before the chapter meeting in October.

We had more than seventy different species of seeds available last fall thanks to contributions from many of you. It would be fun to have more species and more people participating. We don’t mind duplicates. Perhaps there is genetic diversity between the seed from your yard and the seed from someone else’s. It all depends on pollen and the pollination. I have little ‘babies’ growing from seed I obtained at the seed exchange. I have a few Allium unifolium. The seeds did not germinate well for me and they don’t look happy. Time will tell. It’s fun to try though. The Ericameria ericoides are doing better.

Whether they will like my environment remains to be seen, but if they continue to survive I will have several to play with. It would be beautiful to have that splash of yellow in my yard. I planted Penstemon centranthifolius seeds from 2016 which were at our exchange several years ago. I made a mistake on that though. I planted them next to some Penstemon heterophyllus which germinates readily. I should have known better. Rain or watering may have knocked the seed into a different slot. It’s much better to plant similar things farther apart. Since my seed germination trays are out on tables by the garage and open to the wind and the birds I am not positive at this point that it’s really P. centranthifolius. It could be P. heterophyllus. Again time will tell. As they mature the plants will look very different.

I hope that some of you who got seed from the exchange have had success and will be enjoying the benefits of lots of plants with just a bit of time, soil and water. My favorite time is when the seeds first germinate. It’s fun to see what I can grow and what just doesn’t like my methods. It’s a bit of work to keep moving the plants up but once planted in the garden I can point to them and proudly say “I grew that from seed.” I hope to see you at the seed exchange in October.

-by Marti Rutherford