Building a Pollinator Garden

It’s late February 2021 and we are running an online plant sale with our pick up date in SLO on March 20. CNPSSLO contributor Jen Lopez put together the following notes on creating a pollinator garden with the plant selections we are currently offering. 

These plants are appropriate for gardens throughout SLO County and most of California. All are drought resistant, tolerate some summer water, and will look beautiful when planted together.

Start with a slightly staggered row of shrubs along the back – possibly planted as a hedgerow with close spacing so that they intermingle as they grow

  • Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’ (if you don’t have a deer problem) or Ceanothus ‘Julia Phelps’ (if you’re in North County with deer) or Ceanothus ‘Dark Star’ (if you’re in South County or along the coast and have deer)
  • Frangula californica syn Rhamnus californica – Although the blooms are almost unnoticeable to us, they’re essential to some of our smallest native insects. Very garden-tolerant, slow-growing shrub, with a neat and attractive appearance year round.
  • Prunus ilicifolia ssp. lyonii – Beautiful shrub with tremendous wildlife value.
  • Heteromeles arbutifolia –  Toyon is one of the most valuable wildlife shrubs, the others being willow, coffeeberry, and elder. Although sizable, you’ll never regret finding space for toyon in your garden.
  • If you have more space and clay soil or a high water table, add native elder and willow.

Next, add subshrubs in front and in between

  • Salvia leucophylla ‘Point Sal – will grow taller in partial shade, but stays low in full sun. Surprisingly tolerant of summer water and clay soils, but will rot in standing water.
  • Eriogonum fasciculatum ‘Warriner Lytle’ – buckwheats are some of the most valuable natives for our pollinators and are almost always buzzing with activity when in bloom. This variety grows2-3 times as wide as tall but its size is easily controlled by late-winter pruning.
  • Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. griseus ‘Yankee Point’
  • Baccharis pillularis ‘Pigeon Point’

Complete your pollinator banquet with native perennials and deer grass

  • Epilobium canum – bumblebees cut hole in the base of the flowers in order to reach the nectar! These will spread gently but won’t wipe out surrounding plants.
  • Asclepias fascicularis – plant a minimum of three of these as they are essential food for Monarch caterpillars. More is better! If they begin to look weedy they can be cut back to stimulate new growth -but please leave trimmings at the base of the plants in case there are butterfly eggs present.
  • Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Blue Springs’
  • Sisyrinchium bellum ‘Rocky Point’
  • Muhlenbergia rigens
  • Solidago spp.

COVID-19 Announcement

A Message from the President

Out of concern for the health and safety of our members and dedicated volunteers, the Board of the San Luis Obispo Chapter of CNPS has had to make some heart-wrenching decisions. As you know, in response to the Covid-19 virus pandemic, state and local agencies have ordered all individuals to stay home except as needed to maintain essential needs. We do not know exactly how long this will last. Of course, this makes it difficult for us to count stamens and pistils together and share in person the “epic” flower displays we’ve come to know and love. We will, however, come through this. We encourage you to visit native habitats within walking distance of your home (while maintaining physical distancing, of course.)

In the meantime, though, we have decided the following:

  • All field trips, including the Santa Rita Road bike ride scheduled for April 19, are cancelled;
  • May 7 General Membership meeting is cancelled;
  • May 16 Plant Identification Workshop has been cancelled; we hope to reschedule it in spring, 2021; and
  • June 4 General Membership meeting is cancelled; we hope to bring you an alternative format with possible virtual reports from our McLeod scholars.

We are still working out the details of our coordination with UC Berkeley on the 2020 Sudden Oak Death Blitz scheduled for May 15-18 to ensure it can be conducted consistent with social distancing guidelines. We will keep you informed as details emerge.

As we move into the summer months, we will revisit our meeting schedule; perhaps we will be able to hold an August general membership meeting as we did last year, but at this time we just don’t know. This will be a “wait and see” event.

To those who worked so hard on setting up these activities: especially Mindy Trask, Kristen Nelson, Melinda Elster, Gage Willey, Judi Young, Cindy Roessler, our speakers who had to change their plans, Bill Waycott, and so many others – I can’t name them all -we thank you for all your time and effort.

We are learning new things! The Board met last week via Zoom videoconference, and we have plans to use this venue again in three weeks or so to see how things have progressed. We also plan to use this tool for the Board meeting currently scheduled for May 12. Who knows, perhaps this can become a tool for our general meetings also.

We want to stay in touch with you, and we want to hear from you. Our newsletter will continue to be produced electronically, and we hope to reformat it and produce it more frequently, with exciting tidbits for the stay-at-home nature of our lives these days. There will no longer be a mailed hard copy. Our newsletter editor, David Chipping,, is open to receiving contributed content from members, as well as ideas about desired content. If you have a special story, article, or photo, or just want to say hello, please drop us a line or check in on our Facebook page. Stay safe, and I hope we all stay healthy.

Melissa Mooney

President, SLO Chapter CNPS

Invasive Species Report: Purple Ragwort (Senecio elegans)

Invasive Species Report: Purple Ragwort (Senecio elegans)

An attractive member of the Asteraceae (Sunflower) family Senecio elegans is an erect annual herb, up to 1 ft. tall and to 1.5 ft. wide. It is native to Southern Africa and is distributed along coastal California. In northern San Luis Obispo County there are groups at San Simeon Point and at the other end of the county in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes. Local CNPS members have located them in the Dunes as follows–1984: Hidden Willow Valley by Malcolm McLeod and Austin Griffiths; 1986: Kathleen Jones; 1990: south of Oso Flaco Lake by Lynne Dee Althouse and David Keil. Germinating following rainfall, leaves have blades which are deeply cut (pinnately lobed), into several toothed lobes and are sticky to the touch. The spectacular fuchsia colored, daisy-like inflorescence bears flower heads lined with black-tipped phyllaries (leaf-like plant part located just below a flower). They contain many (100+) deep yellowish disc florets at the center. Each has 13+ fuchsia colored ray florets. The flower heads turn into fluffy white seeds, ready for the wind to disperse the seeds. Senecio elegans is an escaped invasive weed where it spreads rapidly, displacing indigenous vegetation such as Dunedelion (Malacothrix incana). Control is achieved by pulling it before flowering. I’ve been able to easily pull many hundreds in the Dunes south of Oso Flaco.

Mark Skinner: Invasive Species Chair

Photo: Mark Skinner

The Morro Manzanita Chaparral Natural Community

The Morro Manzanita Chaparral Natural Community

by Melissa Mooney

In our November 2019 newsletter we discussed the Los Osos Habitat Conservation Plan, a plan prepared by the County of San Luis Obispo to address the impacts of development in Los Osos. In that plan there is a great deal of discussion of the Morro manzanita, Arctostaphylos morroensis, a plant that is listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as Threatened under the authority of the federal Endangered Species Act. It is also a list 1B species, indicating rarity in California and elsewhere. What may not be as well known is that Morro manzanita is also the dominant vascular plant species of a rare natural community known as Morro manzanita chaparral, the Arctostaphylos morroensis Shrubland Alliance, as defined by the Manual of California Vegetation (Sawyer, Keeler-Wolf and Evens, 2009). This is an example of a natural community that is dominated by a listed species. Not all sensitive natural communities are.

Morro manzanita chaparral has a global ranking of G1 and a State ranking of S1, which is the highest (and rarest) ranking a natural community can have. Remember the Giant coreopsis scrub that we reviewed in our last newsletter? That community was G3, S3, also sensitive, but not as sensitive as the Morro manzanita chaparral, at least according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) VegCAMP program. The Program and the CNPS Vegetation Program review the rankings, which are based on the NatureServe’s Heritage Methodology.

Morro manzanita chaparral occurs in three primary areas in the Los Osos/Montana de Oro area. It occurs north of town in the Elfin forest and northeast of the Middle School; south of town on the north-facing slopes above Highland and Rodman Drive; and in two large stands in Montana de Oro State Park. The Plant Communities committee of the SLO Chapter has sampled each of these areas using the Rapid Assessment techniques of the VegCAMP program, and we have found that in the 4 stands sampled, the cover of Morro manzanita varies from 23 to 85 percent, with the average being 53 percent. Other species occurring in these stands include chamise, wedge-leaved Ceanothus (Ceanothus cuneatus), and coast live oak. There are many other species, such as monkeyflower, black sage, and phlox-leaved bedstraw (Galium andrewsii), but they occur at very low cover values. The stands are almost impenetrable due to the low shrubby branches of the manzanita, and if it weren’t for already created trails in some of these areas, it would be difficult to walk through them. Two stands we sampled are located on north slopes; one on a south slope, and another on a fairly flat surface. On the Geologic Map of the San Luis Obispo-San Simeon Region (1979), all are shown to be on dune sands, but there are outcroppings of soft shales in the Cabrillo Heights area.

Many interesting mushrooms, bryophytes, and lichens occur in this community.

Pixie cup image

Pixie cup

Coral fungus

Coral fungus

Manzanita flowers

Manzanita flowers

One of my favorite lichens is the pixie-cup lichen (Cladonia sp., see photo), which can be found on the moist soils alongside the trails beneath and sometimes on the lower bark of the Morro manzanitas. There are several species in the area. One very rare species, Cladonia firma, occurs primarily in the coastal sage community just north of the Morro manzanita chaparral in the Morro Dunes Ecological Preserve, but it also filters into the chaparral in some areas where the two communities intermix as a mosaic. A unique mushroom I found two years ago in the stand south of Highland Drive is the coral mushroom (Ramaria sp., see photo). I almost felt as if I was underwater when I saw it! It was growing under the manzanita in colonies with other mushrooms.

Also occurring within this community is the Indian Knob mountainbalm (Eriodictyon altissimum), a species that is listed by the USFWS and the CDFW as Endangered. It is also a 1B species. This species occurs in only a few other areas in San Luis Obispo County, at Indian Knob near San Luis Obispo, and in Hazard Canyon at Montana de Oro. It appears to establish clones from rhizomes, and, like the Morro manzanita chaparral, is fire-dependent.

Morro manzanita chaparral is a very rare natural community that is seriously threatened. It’s location near Los Osos provides a unique habitat for contemplation, exercise, and enjoying nature. However, in some areas, it is being loved too much. Individual plants are being trimmed haphazardly by unofficial trail makers. Erosion of the very sandy soils is sometimes severe, creating extensive scars, exacerbated by foot and horse traffic. The issue of fire clearance to keep the public safe needs to be studied and addressed if it proves to be detrimental. And, although some populations are preserved, as always, we need to be ever vigilant of development being proposed within the area.

Photo Credits: Inside the Manzanita Canopy: David Chipping, Coral Fungus: Melissa Mooney, Morro Manzanita Flowers: David Chipping, Cladonia sp. Melissa Mooney


Two components of the Morro Manzanita Chaparral Natural Community. Left: Galium andrewsii; Right: Ceanothus cuneatus var. fascicularis Photos: David Chipping

Meet our Social Media Intern, Kieran

Kieran Althaus joined our team last fall doing Social Media work along side Judi Young for the chapter. He is soon going to start his Masters Degree at Cal Poly in Biology with Dr. Matt Ritter and Dr. Jenn Yost. In the mean time he is staying occupied with the Plant Science Club at Cal Poly, as well as working on a variety of Botany projects.

Poetry Initiative for the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

This is a Call for Ecological Poetry/Prose/Art and Discourse throughout SLO County to unite with the cause initiated 50 years ago. Gathering stories to be Stewards of the Earth, this perspective can help direct hope for Earth, Forever.

If you have a venue or poem and would like an Earth Day Poem reach out to Mary Uebersax, EarthTones Gifts, Gallery & Center for Healing 805-238-4413

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

Matteo Garbelotto’s Letter on our next Sudden Oak Death (SOD) Blitz

We had some great results last year and participation continued to be good, but we need to work hard to keep a solid involvement of our communities. The USFS has just released the 2019 tree mortality data, and in 2019 alone, a million tanoaks were dead because of SOD. SOD is moving to new Counties outside of the current area of infestation, and even in our Bay Area neighborhoods, SOD of 2019 is not the same SOD of 10 years ago: different distribution, new local outbreaks, and new hosts are emerging, as the disease becomes more and more established in its new home. Two new dangerous SOD strains are at the doors of our forests, and – believe it or not- the SOD Blitzes are the only hope for their early detection. If these new strains arrived and spread in our forests, they could deliver a fatal blow to our forests: by collecting symptomatic plant material in your neighborhood, volunteers will make the most significant contribution possible to intercept these strains. Starting in 2019, we are asking participants in the SOD blitzes to quantify their effort to stop SOD: this information will be essential to leverage assistance money from the State. We also have enhanced the benefits for tree care professionals who participate in the blitzes: besides offering free bay and tanoak tests for their clients, we now offer them free enrollment in a satellite program called Oakstep, that allows them to test oaks for infection by SOD. Let’s try to increase participation by tree care specialists: it could be enormously beneficial to everybody.

Set aside May 15 and May 16 for the SLO County SOD Blitz. Details in the next issue of Obispoensis.

A Few Rare Dune Natural Plant Communities

A Few Rare Dune Natural Plant Communities

Everyone’s been to the beach, yes. But how much have we looked around to see what vegetation patterns are there to greet us? San Luis Obispo County dunes, and the Oceano dunes surrounding Oso Flaco Lake in particular, are awesome places that are full of rare plants and at least three rare natural communities, as defined by the Manual of California Vegetation (Sawyer, Keeler-Wolf and Evens, 2009). Let’s explore them. And remember, we give these communities names only to make it easier for ourselves to talk about them. We draw lines around them as we see them repeating in nature, but plants don’t always adhere to our neat little coloring books and boxes. There is really a continuum in vegetation; we separate areas mostly for our own convenience.

Closest to the beach, but not actually on the beach, are what are called dune mats, the Abronia latifolia-Ambrosia chamissonis Herbaceous Alliance and its associations. Some of you may know this as central or southern foredunes (Holland’s Preliminary Descriptions of Terrestrial Natural Communities of California, 1986), others as pioneer dune communities (Holland and Keil’s California Vegetation, 1995). In this community, sand verbena and beach bur-sage are characteristically present. It has a global ranking of G3 and a State ranking of S3, meaning it has less than 21-100 viable occurrences, or occupies a certain rather small area. Dune mats are characteristically found on small hummocks in between sandy areas within about a quarter mile of the surf zone. You might also see sea rocket and the invasive European beachgrass here. Rare plants found here include the surf thistle (Cirsium rhothophilum) and beach spectaclepod (Dithyrea maritima).

Remember that dune communities exist in an unstable environment, with frequent winds, salt spray, and shifting sands. As mentioned above, the communities also shift and sometimes blend into each other. And in extremely protected areas in between the hummocks we often find dune swales containing wetland vegetation. We’ll save those wetland types for another time, but let’s move on to another upland dune community.

Inland from the foredune community and on slightly more stable soils, we find silver dune lupine-mock heather scrub, the Lupinus chamissonis-Ericameria  ericoides Shrubland Alliance and its associations. Again, this community has other names such as central dune scrub (Holland 1986, referenced above), and dune scrub communities (Holland and Keil, 1995). Hoover’s Vascular Plants of San Luis Obispo County, 1970 refers to these areas as coastal sand plains. In this community, either silver dune lupine or mock heather is “conspicuous.” This community also has a ranking of G3 S3. This community can extend far inland, to almost 3 miles (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2016). Here you might also see sea cliff buckwheat, California poppy, and occasionally, giant coreopsis (now Leptosyne gigantea), which blends into the next community. If you’re lucky you might find the den of a burrowing owl here, or even see an owl. Rare plant species found here include Blochman’s leafy daisy (Erigeron blochmaniae), dune larkspur (Delphinium parryi ssp. blochmaniae), and Kellogg’s horkelia (Horkelia cuneata ssp.sericea).

Giant Coreopsis

South of Oso Flaco Lake is a very rare natural community that many of us have visited and know its location well as Coreopsis Hill. Did you know that the community is called Giant coreopsis scrub? Its official name is Coreopsis gigantea Shrubland Alliance, but as we all know, the major dominant plant species, giant coreopsis, has had its name changed to Leptosyne gigantea. (But note that Leptosyne gigantea is not considered a rare plant.) In our area, this community inhabits the stabilized backdunes, but further south it occurs on bluffs immediately along the edge of the coastline. This community is ranked G3 S3 and is also considered sensitive. According to the Manual of California Vegetation, wherever the giant coreopsis occurs at greater than 30 percent relative cover, we can call the community giant coreopsis scrub. It typically co-occurs with Ericameria ericoides, Artemisia californica, and other dune-lupine-mock heather scrub species. Coreopsis Hill is its northernmost natural occurrence. This is the community shown on our front cover this month. These are only three of our rare natural communities that inhabit dunes along our coastline. Again, it is important to point out that there are variations and subdivisions within these types; these are called Associations. Some associations have been identified and classified; others have not. This means there is more work for our Plant Communities committee to do!

-Melissa Mooney


Invasive Species Report: Poison-hemlock (Conium maculatum)

Poison-hemlock Conium maculatum

Poison-hemlock Conium maculatum

A member of the Apiaceae (Carrot) family Poison-hemlock is a biennial native to the Europe and North Africa and is a common weed, widespread in California. Poison-hemlock may germinate throughout the year. First year plants are low-growing and may overwinter in mild climates and plants resemble carrot plants. Stems are erect, hollow, smooth and bright green with purple-reddish blotches. Leaves grow to two feet long and are tri-pinnately compound. In late spring, robust plants reach 5-8 feet tall and produce numerous umbel-shaped clusters of tiny, white, 5-petaled flowers. Poison-hemlock grows in moist areas such as pond sides, creek
banks and flood plains. It tends to grow in dense thickets and when the plants have dried out it is very difficult to walk through and the dead canes are toxic! It is notorious for displacing other vegetation. Plants reproduce only by seed and seeds may survive to about 3 years. Each flower produces two gray–brown seeds. There are hundreds of seeds on each plant. Poison hemlock is highly toxic due the toxin coniine. Seeds have the highest concentration of coniine. All parts of the plant are poisonous. Cattle are especially vulnerable. There are limitations to controlling this plant: do not cut, burn or graze. Pulling it is one of the best options and it’s especially important to pull out the root.

-Mark Skinner, Invasive Species Chair

Chapter Meeting: Rare Plant Meets New Technology: Snakeroot Science

Lynne-Dee Althouse

Lynne-Dee Althouse

CHAPTER MEETING, ATASCADERO, Mar 5th 2020 Thursday – 7pm social, 7:30pm program

Kiwanis Hall, adjacent to clubhouse, Atascadero Lake

Kyle Nessen and Lynne Dee Althouse

Snakeroot, a common name for members of the genus Sanicula, has a long history in early medicinal records. Sanicle species are common in chaparral and woodlands in California. A less common, and very special species occupies moist, deep clay in coastal grasslands in California. Kyle Nessen and LynneDee Althouse will describe ongoing research funded by a San Luis Obispo project with fascinating results regarding propagation and protection of the rare adobe sanicle (Sanicula maritima). They partner with the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in this research effort. Adobe sanicle is a state-listed rare plant, and easy to find at Laguna Lake Natural Reserve in the spring. Kyle and LynneDee will describe the sanicle’s biogeography, natural history of our local rare species, and findings from some of their
early research efforts, as well as plans for using technology to better understand its distribution and habitat requirements. Kyle is Botanist and LynneDee is a Principal Scientist at Althouse and Meade, Inc. a local biological consulting group.

Kyle Nessen

Kyle Nessen

Driving Instructions:

From US 101 Take Hwy 41 west from Freeway. Continue past Portola Avenue stoplight, war memorial, park and zoo on the left, turn left on narrow Pismo Avenue immediately west of the zoo, continue to intersection with Avenal Avenue. Kiwanis Building is single story building on your left, with parking for Hall and Atascadero Lake Pavilion to the left.

From Morro Bay drive to the first stoplight (San Gabriel Rd.). Pismo Avenue is the second road to the right. continue to intersection with Avenal Avenue. Kiwanis Building is single story building on your left, with parking for Hall and Atascadero Lake Pavilion to the left.

What Does Low Rainfall mean for Your Garden?

Well, with our rainy season half ways over, the outlook is dire. Looking at the “up-to-date” records, we have received about half of normal rainfall, season to date. So what does this mean for those of you who have just put in those natives after the plant sale?

The bottom line is you will need to water your new plantings every other week deeply until the rains hopefully return. What does water ‘deeply’ mean? Depending on your soil type, deeply for sandy coastal soil means: fill the basin around your plant three times. If you live in Los Osos that means it could take up to 10 minutes for the soil to accept the first basin full of water. With clay soil, like in San Luis Obispo or Atascadero, one basin filling should be enough. Remember it’s always best to water early in the day.

Now we need to discuss your more matures trees and shrubs? Many of us already have old oaks, manzanitas, ceanothus and many other natives. Should I water them? If we don’t receive at least 2 inches of rain by the end of February, the answer is “yes”. I know you have always heard, “don’t water your oaks or natives.” This is somewhat true, but to clarify: Don’t water during the summer months of June, July, August and September. Watering mature oaks during these months can cause ‘root rot’ aka oak root fungus. However, during the winter months of December, January, February and March, our native plants, especially oaks, need rainfall to sustain themselves through the long summer months.

So in conclusion, due to the unusual deficit in rainfall that we are now experiencing, you may need to apply supplemental water to your garden. Keep an eye to the sky and if the rain doesn’t return (and you can afford it), you will need to help your garden out. Set out irrigation for established shrubs and trees as well as hand water your new plantings, every two weeks until the rains, hopefully return. Until next time, collect rain water and happy gardening. John Nowak

Protecting the Dunes

President’s Notes

As we focus this month on the Oceano Dunes and its rare plants, habitats, and proposals that could change this area forever, it is worthwhile to look at the area in the larger context. Recall that the Oceano dunes are part of what we call the Guadalupe Nipomo Dunes Complex, a 10-mile stretch of coastline running from Pismo Beach to Point Sal, consisting of multiple areas of differing land ownerships and management strategies. (See “Project A” of the Oceano Dunes State Vehicle Recreational Area for a figure from the Guadalupe Dunes National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Management Plan.) Within this complex, there are County parks, State Beaches, a national Wildlife Refuge (Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes), and two preserves. We are lucky to have these areas. But it has taken years to gain this, and we need to be ever diligent in monitoring and protecting what we have. The Oso Flaco Lake Natural Area can be argued to be the “heart” of the area, including its valuable wetlands, numerous bird species, surrounding dunes, sensitive plant species, and rare natural communities. Let’s keep it that way.

-Melissa Mooney

“Project A” of the Oceano Dunes State Vehicle Recreational Area


History has record of the strong local effort to protect the wetlands and lakes of the Oso Flaco area, including the work done by the ‘Dune Mother’. Kathleen Goddard Jones. Our comments are hereby confined to issues surrounding the Oso Flaco Campground and Public Access Project, also termed Project A in SVRA Public Exhibits.

Besides the obvious disruption to the natural environment of Oso Flaco Lake through vastly increased vehicle traffic which will disrupt an extremely important birding area, CNPS plant specific concerns are hereby listed and should receive thorough analysis of projected loss and mitigation in the environmental review process.

These plans for the southern entrance represent an existential threat to the rare plant species in the Oso Flaco region.

  1. Federal and State Endangered Arenaria paludicola have extant populations (verified 9/2018) on the west and east shores of Oso Flaco Lake (northern half).  Improvements in the causeway, and the riding area extension trail will destabilize the hydrology of the northern half which supports this population.
  2. Federal Endangered and state endangered Nasturtium gambelii (California Rare Plant Rank: 1B.1) seriously threatened and eligible for listing) had populations immediately north and south of the causeway, and any “traffic capacity” improvement in the causeway would directly impact those locations.
  3. Federal Endangered and state endangered Lupinus nipomensis (California Rare Plant Rank: 1B.1) is found growing within the refinery waste pipe right-of-way, and using that ROW, as envisioned in the Concept 1 plan threatens this core population.
  4. Cirsium scariosum var. loncholepis California Rare Plant Rank: 1B.1, State of California as Threatened and by the Federal Government as ‘Endangered) was recorded growing in damp swales south of the Refinery ROW in the OHV trail drawn in the Concept 1 plan.
  5. The locally significant stand of Leptosyne gigantea (aka Coreopsis) is found on the west side of Osos Flaco lake, and within the redline OHV route shown in the Concept 2 plan.

In view of the long history of labor and resources that has taken place in the protection of these species, and of the integrity of the dune scrub ecosystems, we believe that a southern entrance to the SVRA should be removed from future development plans.

Screen shot from the SVRA’s planning documents. Note the two entry points that would carve roads across vegetated dunes on the eastern edge, and the proposed 40 acres of new OHV roads just north of the Oso Flaco Lake area. You can find project documents at

CNPS-SLO Fights for a Better Froom Ranch Specific Plan

CNPS-SLO Fights for a Better Froom Ranch Specific Plan

Beginning in 2015, an LA-based investment group, in partnership with a prominent local landowner and local planning firm, began the process of seeking to develop a large residential project in the City of San Luis Obispo at the corner of Los Osos Valley Road and Calle Joaquin. The project, known as the Froom Ranch Specific Plan (FRSP), proposes to develop some 404 units of senior housing, including so-called “memory care”, plus a more standard development of 130 apartments and associated commercial development as a separate but related project on the 110 acre Froom Ranch property. CNPS-SLO has not opposed the FRSP per se, but we have strong reservations about the severe environmental impacts the project would impose on the community in general and the Irish Hills in particular.

An Environmental Impact Report on the project was undertaken beginning in mid-2017. That report was finally released in November 2019, and described many impacts from the project. It recommended numerous changes to the project to reduce or eliminate those impacts, and recommended many more “mitigations” to offset those that could not be eliminated. CNPS-SLO has followed this process closely, as we have long been advocates of the City’s environmental policies, and we have been quite vocal about them. Among the most important impacts we have objected to are:

  1. Allowing development above the 150 foot elevation along the base of the Irish Hills, including a sensitive and natural serpentine bunchgrass community;
  2. Placing an isolated part of the development in a site surrounded by sensitive woodland;
  3. Placing two Chorro Creek bog thistle populations at risk; 4. Rerouting Froom Creek around the project site;
  4. Exposing downstream areas to increased flood potential; 6. Potentially damaging the Calle Joaquin wetland and other sensitive wetland habitats;
  5. Eliminating part of an existing conservation easement to accommodate the development.

With release of the EIR, the project sponsors themselves saw the severity of one of the most significant impacts and publicly announced that they would drop most of the project above the 150 foot elevation in order to avoid those impacts. They also approached CNPS-SLO to discuss other issues of the project in an attempt to blunt our opposition to other aspects of the project or to modify them if possible. That is where we are today. We are calling for changes to those parts of the project which compromise the integrity of Irish Hills Natural Reserve, or which degrade the environment of Froom Creek or the Calle Joaquin wetland.

Specifically we seek the following changes:

  1. Preservation of all lands above 150 foot elevation; dedication to the City of SLO, with conservation easement held by the Land Conservancy;
  2. Preservation of the wooded “cove” area, and its inclusion in the dedication described above;
  3. Establishment of a park at the former quarry area, with trailhead, historic buildings, and enhancement project on Froom Creek’s north bank and adjacent flood plain (see #7 below); (Note: All of the above items are recommended in the Froom Ranch EIR)
  4. Presentation of 1, 2, and 3 above, together with adjusted agricultural conservation easement, as a package to justify said adjustment of conservation easement;
  5. Reasonable proof that rerouting of Froom Creek will: result in establishment of healthy native riparian gallery forest plantings, include use of appropriate native upland species on any elevated surfaces, result in restoration of ecological functions lost due to destruction of existing detention basins in proposed new basin;
  6. Reasonable proof that rerouting of Froom Creek will not: interrupt groundwater flow, exacerbate flooding or drying of Calle Joaquin wetland, or damage the wetland;
  7. Mitigation for losses of native bunch grass habitat to include enhancement on the flood plain of Froom Creek at the mouth of Froom Creek Canyon where an excellent opportunity exists in an area now dominated by the non-native fountain grass (Pennisetum);
  8. Mutual agreement on boundaries of the development and the nature of the required buffer areas between the new development and lands that will remain in open space uses.

CNPS-SLO will continue to press for these changes right through the approval process, which is expected to take at least a year. As nearly all the listed plants (listed here on p.6) lie above the 150 ft. contour, this is most important issue facing CNPS.

Neil Havlik: CNPS _SLO Conservation Committee

Froom Ranch image

Wetlands and sensitive habitat area, southern end. Photo D. Chipping

This URL will give you access to the project description and EIR:

Listed Plants Observed on Froom Ranch above the 150 ft. elevation (from EIR)
Perideridia pringlei (adobe yampah); Chorizanthe ssp. breweri (Brewer’s spineflower); Dudleya blochmaniae (Blochman’s dudleya); Calystegia subacaulis ssp. episcopalis (Cambria morning glory); Senecio aphanactis (Chaparral (rayless) ragwort); Cirsium fontinale var. obispoense (Chorro Creek bog thistle); Calochortus clavatus ssp. clavatus (Club hair mariposa lily); Centromadia parryi ssp. congdonii (Congdon’s tarplant); Delphinium parryi ssp. eastwoodiae (Eastwood’s larkspur); Layia jonesii (Jones’ layia ); Streptanthus albidus ssp. peramoenus (Most Beautiful Jewel-flower); Chorizanthe palmeri (Palmer’s spineflower); Calochortus obispoensis (San Luis mariposa lily); Castilleja densiflora ssp. obispoensis (San Luis Obispo owl’sclover)


Welcome to the New Year from our New Chapter President

Welcome to the new year! As your new President, I look forward to an active and fun-filled year working towards our mission of increasing our understanding and appreciation of California’s native plants and to conserve them in their native habitats. As you know, we are part of a statewide effort to accomplish this, and we have a large and dedicated group. This time of year, it might be nice to revisit CNPS’s statewide strategic plan goals, which, in a nutshell, are: (1) Know; (2) Save; (3) Enhance and Restore; and (4) Engage and Energize.

We work to understand the flora, map and inventory the flora, and assess and prioritize. We act to conserve and share quality information. We build expertise and help restore native landscapes. We strengthen CNPS, appreciate what we have, champion and promote the good work of partners and professionals, and engage people of diverse backgrounds. All of our actions fall under these broad strategies and goals.

Here in SLO County in the coming year we are promoting workshops to understand the flora and our communities, and we will be actively involved in fighting the good fight for the Oceano Dunes and Osos Flaco Lake and other areas in the county that need conservation. We have an excellent team of experts that brings resources to every meeting we have. Perhaps we will even see that long-awaited Flora popping up this year (we hope; we hope!)

And lastly, this winter we have had a good set of storms, and hopefully this will promote extensive blooms and field trips galore now that our past president Bill Waycott has more time to give to setting up field trips!

Melissa Mooney

Thank You to All Banquet Volunteers

Thank You to All Banquet Volunteers

Once again Lauren Brown and Linda Chipping did preliminary organizing for the banquet, and Lauren was the master coordinator for the evening. This means  securing a location, getting insurance, making sure the kitchen equipment and supplies are in place and updates out to the volunteers . We thank the quick and efficient banquet table set up crew, Mardi Niles and the flower arrangers and Dirk Walters for the table programs. David Krause as usual handled registration and the bar. CalPoly students Molly Vanderlip, Kieran Althaus and Charlie Gibbons assisted with setup and cleanup. The food was delicious and abundant, so a big thanks to all of you who made this a successful evening.

The Passing of the Presidential Torch

The Passing of the Presidential Torch

Our chapter owes a great deal of gratitude to Bill Waycott for his excellent leadership, and to Diana, his wonderful wife, for her contributions as well. Bill will be staying on the Board as Field Trips Chair, and therefore we will not lose his wisdom. The torch now passes to Melissa Mooney, who, as Vice-President, has been responsible for our excellent speaker program during the last year. We also welcome our new Vice-President, Kristen Nelson, who will welcome any suggestions and contacts regarding our 2020 speaker program. Kristen is the discoverer and describer of Chorizanthe aphanantha, a new species of spineflower, at the head of Froom Creek canyon.

2019 Community Award Recipient: ALPS

2019 Community Award Recipient: ALPS

We are pleased to honor the Atascadero Land Preservation Society (ALPS) with our CNPSSLO Community Award. President Mike Orvis and Vice President John Goers accepted the award at our 2020 Banquet. This award highlights the significant contribution that has been made by an entity, outside of CNPS, to promote native plants or the natural environment in our local community. Since 1989, ALPS has had an outstanding record of protecting native plants and habitats in Atascadero, in addition to inspiring appreciation of native plants. As a land trust, ALPS has been successful in purchasing and preserving important parcels of land in the City, planting natives to enhance disturbed portions of the properties, and sharing the land with the public. In addition, ALPS makes a concerted effort to incorporate an educational component for the public on the properties they acquire. Their properties include the 103-acre Three Bridges Oak Preserve with trails that wind up to a summit with a terrific view of Atascadero. The sycamores, oaks, and madrones are welcoming all year round, but you should definitely walk the trail in Spring to see the diversity of blooms. The interpretive signs on this trail are excellent, as is the ALPS website.

Another property of ALPS is Stadium Lane which connects Atascadero Creek to the entrance of the historic Stadium Park. The Bill Shepard Native Garden located here is a great place to get a sense of which native plants appeal to you and which can handle Atascadero’s climate, and there’s even a sign with information about growing native plants. An annual interpretive program is conducted at the Adobe Springs Reserve, an ALPS property that supports a natural artesian spring. The field-day introduces local youngsters to the historical significance and natural resources associated with the spring. CNPS has participated in this program, teaching kids about the local plants, and the importance of having open space available for kids to learn about nature, in nature, is clear. To complement the Adobe Springs Interpretive Program, ALPS has led the development of a third-grade curriculum for the Atascadero Unified School District. In addition to the acquisitions and stewardship, ALPS conducts native planting projects on other properties, awards annual college scholarships to students interested in environmental science or conservation, and has a long history of providing outreach and education about Atascadero’s native trees through their Native Tree Committee. Thank you ALPS for all you’ve done to protect native plants and habitat in Atascadero.

Pictured: John Goers (L) & Mike Orvis

2019 Hoover Award Recipient John Doyle

2019 Hoover Award Recipient John Doyle

The Hoover Award is given to members who have made an exceptional contribution to the local chapter, and is selected by a committee of past awardees. Our 2019 recipient is John Doyle.

John has been spreading native plant enthusiasm and assisting CNPS since 2011, making significant contributions to the chapter’s horticultural program. He has chaired the chapter’s horticultural committee since 2016. John contributed to our chapter’s initial seed collection and packaging effort with Marti Rutherford in 2013, while also encouraging others in the chapter to collect and distribute seed for the subsequent seed exchange program. He participated in the short-lived CNPS propagation group, and then went on to be an important voice in our chapter for promoting the use of natives. John has made presentations to the UC Master Gardeners of SLO County. He also participated in public radio station KCBX “Issues and Ideas” program, entitled “Fall Landscaping and Gardening Tips from a Central Coast Panel of Experts” (link). He gave advice in the production of our “Landscaping with Natives” brochure, organized and facilitated the “CNPS-SLO Landscape with Natives” workshop in October 2019 with Mindy Trask, and is working on more of the same. For several years he presented an annual talk at SLO’s
Farm Supply Co. regarding planting natives, and has also sat behind the CNPS information table at several events. John has contributed to our annual plant sale by bringing Growing Grounds Farm offerings to improve our selection, in addition to his own stash of collected native seed and plants, and regularly assists customers with his practical knowledge of using natives in landscapes. When Chimineas Ecological Reserve requested that CNPS help install a native plant garden, John volunteered. He has worked with Bill Waycott on the restoration of native vegetation along the creek banks at the SLO Mission and at the Rodriguez Adobe. John has also co-led a couple of field trips and has been a participant in many chapter activities. We thank John for his great contributions.