Tips for Buying the Right Plant for Your Garden

After last week’s hot spell (last week of September) when Los Osos hit 98°F in the shade; a good feeling came over me. Back in the day when I was a kid I always remember a hot Indian summer before a normal rainy year. So keeping this in mind I’m hoping this fall will bring lots of the wet stuff and get all the plants you purchased at the sale off to a good start. So I’m going to go over some of the basics for buying the right plant for your garden.

First, it’s important to think of others that come to visit your garden. I’m not just talking about your friends but other critters, such as birds, squirrels, gophers, moles, deer, rabbits … you get the picture. If you have a deer problem, it will limit your selection. Likewise, if you want to bring bees, birds, and beneficial insects to your garden such as Monarch Butterflies you can do this by selecting your plants ahead of
the sale.

Second, most important, if the rains don’t come you will need to be Mother Nature and water until the plants become established. This would mean a good soaking over the Winter, twice a month until April. After that pay attention and water at least once a month over the first Summer depending on your soil type. Los Osos, Nipomo, etc. more water and clay soils less water every three weeks during the summer, just watch closely.

If you’re lucky and you already have established plants then the idea would be to select something that can co-exist with what you already have. Remember like playing music, less is best. Avoid the temptation to create a botanical garden and focus on simple design. Also, remember that bugs always want to destroy our best intentions. I like to use water spray on leaves to control aphids, spider mites, thrips, and to knock down oak moth caterpillars. If needed, consult your local nursery for other options.

Lastly, picking the right plant for the right spot. Sounds simple, but this is the most difficult task. Like a small boat on a large sea, the wrong plant in the wrong spot will die for sure and you won’t be happy. Going back to my first topic, look at the big picture, sun, shade are very important. Soil, drainage, are number two on the list. Think about when you go out on a hike, what’s growing on the trail. Well-drained, sunny slopes have manzanita, ceanothus, buckwheat, and lupine but shady areas have more organics, oaks, ribes, ferns, coffeberry, and hummingbird sage, love it there.

So in conclusion, I’m expecting a good chance of rain, if my gut feeling and childhood memories come through. Of course, we will have lots of good people working the sale this year so if you have special plant request, email me at and I will see what I can do. For now, happy gardening; Suzette and I will see you at the plant sale.


Ceanothus hearstiorum

Ceanothus hearstiorum


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 in the Historians files. The mechanical typewriter written and her hand drawn copies on are on 8½ x 14 paper. I don’t think they were published in our chapter newsletter as I don’t remember us ever using that format. I think Alice may have produced them back in the 1970s or 1980s for the Morro Coast Audubon Society. If so, I hope they will forgive us for reprinting them. They’re too good to lie forgotten in a file somewhere.

Alice, along with her husband, Henry (Bud), were our Chapters first members to be elected Fellows of the State CNPS. Alice was extremely interested in native plant gardening and had a fantastic native plant garden in her Los Osos back yard.


Alice and Bud Meyer: Fellows of CNPS

It was Alice who suggested in the Early 1970’s that our Chapter have a Native Plant Sale! She then went ahead and planned it. The first one was small and contained only plants grown by Chapter members as well as a few plants propagated by Cal Poly Students in a Native Plants Class several years before and that were scheduled to be thrown out. It was quite successful! The Chapter has had a plant sale the first Saturday in November ever since.

Alice ran the sale until 1990 when the current plant Sale Chair, John Nowak, took over. Note, we have had ONLY two plant sale chairs since the early 1970s. This points out one of the strengths in our Chapter. Our member often have a long term commitment to the tasks required for running a CNPS Chapter.

Enough history, let’s let Alice tell us about a fantastic native garden plant in her own words.

Dr. Dirk Walters


Ceonothus hearstiorum

by Alice G. Meyer

The Hearst mountain lilac grows on low hills near the coast, just north and south of Arroyo de la Cruz on the Hearst Ranch. It is not known to grow anywhere else, and, is a rare and endangered plant. It is a spreading prostrate shrub, known botanically as Ceanothus hearstiorum (See-an-OH-thus hearst-ee-OH rum). Horticulturally, it is an ideal ground cover, 4 to 8 inches tall, handsome all year , but especially when it flowers in March and April. The shrub is not widely available, but some growers do propagate it.

Hearst mountain lilac grows best on the coast, in full sun. Inland, it prefers filtered sunlight, and should have some supplemental water during the hot months. Once established, it will survive on the coast with normal rainfall, but will tolerate some summer water. In dry years it needs extra moisture to maintain it best appearance. An observant gardener will note stress and take necessary action. Inland supplemental water during the hot months is a must.

Wherever it is grown, good drainage is important, and there should be no basin around the shrub as water standing around the trunk will cause bacterial problems. When planting, it is better to plant it on a slight mound, so that water runs outward towards the drip line, but the soil should not be piled up around it higher than it was in the container.

ceonothus hearstiorum
Photo by Stan Shebs
  • The edges of the dark green leaves are curled downward between the veins, making them seem notched and giving the leaves a crinkled appearance.
  • The deep wedge-wood blue flowers are in tight, upward facing racemes ½ to 1½ inches long.
  • Each flower is no more than 1/8 inch across.
  • If you remove one flower and inspect it with a magnifying glass you will find that it has a stem (pedicel) of the same color as the flower, and the five pointed sepals fold inward to the center around the three-parted stigma.
  • The spaces between the petals are like five rays extending from the center to the edge of the flower.
  • Near the outer edge of each ‘ray’ a yellow stamen rises, and at the very edge another petal extends outward. This petal is thread-like at the base, and at its outer edge it widens out to a spoon-like shape with a bowl about 1/16 inch long.

Because the flowers are so small, a great many are crowded into each raceme. The groups are beautiful, but close inspection of an individual blossom reveals its complex structure.

Should you grow this shrub, it is advisable not to let too many layers of branches build up on top of the shrub, as it will tend to die out underneath. Keep the shrub very prostrate. Where the plant is native, it is browsed by deer and cattle, and this tendency is thus resolved.

Management of Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge

An update from our Conservation Committee on the management of Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has been developing a management plan for the wildlife refuge, and CNPS conservation committee gave input. To put it very simply, they presented three alternatives (A) keep on doing what they have been doing (B) Do more (C) Do less. They opted for (A), while CNPS wanted (B).

USFWS tacked on a few items from the (B) list, including wild pig control and predator management to aid snowy plover and least tern, but seem to be cutting back on some critical things. They “would reduce …. invasive vegetation control to when staffing resources or partnerships allow. We would annually monitor for the listed La Graciosa thistle and marsh sandwort” As invasive veldt grass is the greatest threat to the entire dune system, any reduction of control will, in the end, result in loss of the dune ecosystem. All this is, alas, budget driven..

–David Chipping

Justin Winery and the Draft Native Tree Interim Zoning/Urgency Ordinance

An update from the Conservation committee about Justin Winery and the Draft Native Tree Interim Zoning/Urgency Ordinance

As most of you know, Justin Winery, part of Estate Vineyards LLC (a division of the Resnik family’s Wonderful Corporation agricultural conglomerate), destroyed 100 acres of dense oak woodland. Neighbors in the Adelaida were enraged, and the County halted further work. Sadly, the removal of a couple of thousand oaks was NOT against county rules, but the illegal grading was, as was the construction of a large agricultural pond that was to be filled from local groundwater supplies.

CNPS went to the initial hearing at the Board of Supervisors calling for adoption of an Urgency Oak Protection Ordinance that had been quickly written by county staff. The Board approved it on a 4 to 1 vote. The ordinance was just for 45 days, and CNPS conservation committee members worked very hard to make sure it would be renewed in August. We needed 4 of the 5 supervisors for an urgency ordinance and made personal contact with supervisors and rallied speakers to come to the second hearing. The Urgency Ordinance has been extended a further 9 months, with county staff tasked with crafting a permanent ordinance.

CNPS is currently making a list of things we need to see in a permanent ordinance. In doing this we must address the concern of landowners that a poorly written ordinance could interfere with ranch operations requiring minor oak removals, as we would prefer the ‘carrot’ over the ‘stick’. I think most county
residents think Justin should get the ‘log ‘rather than the ‘stick’, but until this moment there is little to protect trees on private lands.

CNPS tried hard for an ordinance in the 1990s, but were stymied by opposition. At this time the Board of Supervisors is balanced between environmental
sensitivity and property rights concerns, but this election might bring a change in balance that could put a permanent ordinance in jeopardy.

–David Chipping

Invasive Species of the Month – Erigeron bonariensis

Invasive Species of the Month – Erigeron bonariensis

Erigeron bonariensis

Hairy Fleabane or Flax Leaved Horseweed
Family: Asteraceae, Place of Origin: South America
Hairy fleabane is aptly named: it is strigose (set with stiff bristles or hairs) throughout the plant – stems, leaves, flowers.

Hairy fleabane is an low annual, (about 8″ to 3′) and thrives in disturbed areas. I’ve seen it emerge in cracks in pavement and in areas formerly occupied by European beachgrass in the Dunes. Often, it is present with Erigeron canadensis (Horseweed), which is native to North America. Horseweed, along with another native composite, Heterotheca grandiflora (Telegraph weed) are the most unattractive weedy natives in California.

Hairy fleabane produces many urn or barrel shaped flowers, the fluffy seeds are sandy colored and distributed by the breeze. In the Dunes it is competing with other composites such as Dunedelions and Cudweeds and should be removed.

Mark Skinner

Morro Dunes Ecological Reserve on the Rocks (or sand)

Morro Dunes Ecological Reserve on the Rocks (or sand)

When CNPS Conservation team members John Chesnut and David Chipping joined with Marla Morrissey to form the Morro Estuary Greenbelt Alliance, the non-profit brought government agencies together to secure funds to protect rare dune habitat surrounding Los Osos. As a result of that effort, the Powell Properties north and east of the Los Osos Middle School, and the Butte property at the end of Butte Drive near Shark Inlet were brought into the State Parks system, as well as the ‘Bayview Property’ which is now called the Morro Dunes Ecological Reserve and under the management of California Dept. Fish and Wildlife. Unfortunately the funding to manage these parcels has either been sparse or non existent.

A CNPS conservation team has been cleaning out abandoned homeless camps within a literal stones throw of one of the two stands of Indian Knob mountain balm, and directly within a stand of Morro manzanita. There was evidence of fires and other scary things. The photos below show cleanout of one of the several piles of crud ata one site. A greater threat comes from thoughtless actions by the equestrian community that is cutting new trails in the fragile sand, cutting manzanita to allow horse access, and not yet responding to CNPS requests for dialog. CDFW attempts to manage trails consisted of a sheet of paper stapled to a pole ‘closing’ a trail and which vanished in days, and lately a bit of paper not much larger than a fortune cookie that was pinned to the post with partly penetrating thumb tacks.

There have been no efforts to control veldt grass, which is taking over habitat of the rare lichen Cladonia firma. In North America Cladonia firma is known from only four populations in California on the southeast side of Morro Bay, in Los Osos and at Montana d’Oro State Park in San Luis Obispo County. Interestingly, the species responds to fog. The picture below show Cladonia firma green after a foggy night in early September.

October Seed Exchange

October Seed Exchange

A seed exchange is planned for the time slot from 6:00 to 7:15 before the October meeting. If you have been hard at work collecting this spring and summer, the time is almost here to part with those seeds. If you are interested in growing from seed, here is your chance to obtain free seed to try your hand at propagation.

Just a cautionary note: Plants grown from seed may not come true. Many of our natives hybridize so that the seed of the Mimulus aurantiacus growing near the Mimulus puniceus may produce some interesting flower colors. The result may not be what you expect. It might be delightful or it might not. These garden produced seeds will generally not be appropriate for use in restoration projects. If you are willing to devote your time and effort and take a chance on
garden grown seed then this is the before-the-meeting event you want to attend.

The plan is that we will set up tables and anyone who brings seed can place it on those tables. The seed from one collector will all be kept in the same area so if you have a box or a tray to contain your seeds that might prove helpful. You may stay with your seed to educate those interested or you may go ‘shopping’ to see what is available. It would be best if seed was parceled out into quantities that a person could walk away with and the packets labeled with genus and species.

You should be able to supply the information of the date of collection and location of collection. But if you don’t want to go to that effort bulk seed will be
acceptable. Please have it cleaned to the best of your ability. Also please supply as many envelopes as possible. Those who are ‘shopping’ may need to bring their own envelopes. Most of us get plenty of envelopes in junk mailings. Let’s repurpose those into seed envelopes. You may also need a writing implement to label those envelopes.

Seeds will not be sold. This is a free exchange. Tables will need to be put away before the actual meeting begins so this will be a rather quick event. Hopefully we will all enjoy it and we will want to try it again next year.

Left over seed will be accepted for possible packaging for the plant sale in November. Seeds appropriate for the propagation group experiments might be sequestered for those members.

See you there.

Marti Rutherford

Solidago californica

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 Plants of San Luis Obispo County, California goldenrod is found primarily in sandy soils in the western portion of our county.. It prefers open grasslands or edges of wood and shrub lands. It never seems to me to be overly abundant. The currently recognized species (S. velutina) can be found throughout the Western North America from Mexico in to southern Canada. As might be expected of a species with this wide a range, it has been subdivided in a number of sub-specific units. And this is certainly the case. Only two of the subspecies are likely to be encountered in California (S. v. ssp. californica and S. v. ssp. sparsiflora). Subspecies sparsifolia need not concern us here as it is found primarily in Eastern California and
adjacent states. Subspecies californica is found throughout California (except the S.E. Deserts) but is especially common in the California Floristic Province
which includes essentially all of California west of the Cascade, Sierra Nevada, and Peninsular Range axis. In the Morro Bay area I’ve seen it in the grasslands around Shark Inlet.

In Dr. Hoover’s Flora this plant is recognized as S. californica. In the most recent Jepson Manual, S. californica has been reduced to a subspecies of S. velutina. How can this happen? Is it just the whim of the experts? According to the internet, relatively recent numerical taxonomic work on a number of similar, but separately described species of goldenrod indicated that they were more closely related than previously thought. That they were separately described as species should be expected. Until recent advances in communication, taxonomists tended to do plant identification studies primarily on the
plants of their immediate area. They would have had little opportunity to travel and visit reference collections far from home. They would encounter forms of plants that were readily distinguishable from other plants in their area. So why not describe them as a new species. Now, of course, taxonomists have many more tools to help them find characters unknowable to earlier workers. Mass transit and communication help modern taxonomists to know what others have done or are doing. Equally important they have computers to help analyze all this data. So why not expect lots of changes.

In my limited search of the literature and internet, I found three common names. These are velvety goldenrod in Jepson and California goldenrod or 3-nerve goldenrod everywhere else. The name goldenrod I think refers to my observation that most of them produce clusters on unbranched stems (= “rods”) topped with clusters of bright golden flowers (i.e. ‘gold bearing rods’). Most of the plants answering to the California goldenrod subspecies have densely fuzzy or velvet leaves. 3-nerved golden rod refers to the fact that a ‘few’ of the larger plants produce leaves with 3 major veins running from base to tip. I suggest this is not the best common name as it is misleading as only a few of the largest plants produce 3-veined leaves. California goldenrod is the best as this subspecies is essentially restricted to our state.

California goldenrod is highly recommended for the native plant garden. It prefers moist soils but is relatively tolerant of drier soils from sandy to light clay. It’s going to do best in sunny locations. It is attractive to a number of different classes of pollinators so it is great for those who would like to encourage beautiful, beneficial insects to visit their garden. Lastly, one internet site showed pictures of yarn dyed a beautiful yellow color using extracts from California goldenrod..
One last thing about goldenrods in general. Where I grew up, in the Midwest, there were a large number of species of goldenrods and they were exceptionally widespread and numerous. Many species could even be said to be ‘weedy’. Like a lot of members of the sunflower family, they tended to bloom in the late summer into fall. This is also when another member of the sunflower family bloomed-rag weed (Ambrosia trifida among others).

Rag weeds are unusual composites in that they produce tiny, wind pollinated flowers. Rag weeds were nearly as or more common than goldenrods but because of their tiny flowers many didn’t even recognize they were blooming. However they were blooming and they produced exceedingly huge amount of wind-borne pollen. This made rag weed pollen a major component in allergy forecasts. Unfortunately, announcers would say, “the rag weed and goldenrod pollen counts were high”. I had a botany professor who told the class that goldenrod were included in the forecasts only because it was common and
conspicuous. Goldenrods are insect pollinated and therefore would produce little pollen and that wouldn’t have been released into the air. In fact, it would be sticky so it could stick to the pollinator’s bodies.

Dr. Dirk Walters

August in the Sierra Nevadas

August in the Sierra Nevadas

Diana and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Sierra Nevada Mts. in mid-August this year. We chose to backpack to the lakes and peaks accessible from the Lake Sabrina trailhead, west of Bishop, CA. I thought it would be a good idea to present some photos of our trek, since many of our chapter members may not have been as fortunate as we in reaching the higher elevations of the Sierras.

During our six-days on the trial, we were treated to a visit to 12 lakes in the basin, many being snow fed and having that blue color one never cannot forget once seen. It was magical!

The photos presented here are of species that are found at timberline, roughly 11,500 ft. above sea level. These plants were all in full bloom at the time of our visit, meaning “spring” had finally reached these high elevations by mid-August.

Bill Waycott

President, CNPS SLO Chapter

CNPS Conservation Symposium and Field Trips

CNPS Conservation Symposium and Field Trips

It’s time to register for the CNPS Conservation Symposium and field trips to be held in Morro Bay from 8th to 11th September. The field trips are scheduled for Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, with the Conservation Symposium on Saturday at the Morro Bay Vet’s Hall, 209 Surf Street. These events are free and open to the public – Members are encouraged to attend so please register at the link below.


You are also encouraged to attend the mixer and banquet after the Symposium Saturday night – with our own native plant superstar, Dave Keil, as the banquet speaker – there will be a $30 fee for the catered meal.

Conservation Symposium

Saturday, 10th September, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm

Morro Bay Vet’s Hall, 209 Surf Street, Morro Bay

This year’s Symposium will address the complex issues associated with climate change, as they relate to California native plant conservation.  The Symposium presentations will focus on three areas:

  1. Hands-on projects that incorporate climate change considerations during planning and implementation
  2. Modeling of future vegetation projects based on climate change projections
  3. How regional planning considers and incorporates climate change.

Area A – Hands-on projects:

Speaker Ellen Cypher: Creating new populations of an endangered species: recovery efforts for Bakersfield cactus

Speaker Jessica Wright: Identifying valley oaks that grow best under projected climate conditions

Speaker Todd Esque: The Race North: Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) and climate change

Area B – Modeling of vegetation dynamics:

Speaker Alexandra Syphard: Modeling vegetation dynamics under global change: Approaches, challenges, and examples

Area C – Regional conservation planning:

Proponents of the new Regional Conservation Framework (California Assembly Bill 2087 and pilot projects) will present the nuts and bolts of this approach to regional planning.  CNPS members from around the state will be asked to discuss how they have engaged in and commented to planning projects, while assessing how the degree climate change thinking has begun to influence planning decisions.

Roundtable discussion:

Speaker Jerre Stallcup, a longtime conservation planner, will share her perspectives on how “doing it the old-fashioned way” has evolved since the early 90’s in Southern California. Key points that help to support plants in any kind of regional planning process will also be presented.  She will help us understand the many facets of how and where climate change thinking is being translated into native plant research, restoration projects, and planning.

Symposium Lunch: ($10 per person, please register), Saturday, 10th September, 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm

Choice of sandwich on baguette, served banquet style with green salad, fresh fruit, chips, and cookies:

  • roast beef
  • turkey
  • veggie

Symposium Mixer and Banquet: ($30 per person, please register), Saturday, 10th September, Morro Bay Vet’s Hall, 209 Surf Street, Morro Bay 

Mixer/Social, 5:30 to 6:30 pm

Dinner, 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm

Buffet with:

  • Greek Caesar salad
  • Roasted garlic potatoes
  • Marinated roasted vegetables
  • Assorted rolls and butter

Entree choice:

  • Vegetarian sautéed portabella mushroom stuffed with cheese ravioli
  • Lemon garlic herb chicken with mango q
  • Roasted pork tenderloin with cherry sauce.


  • Linn’s fruit pies with ice cream.

Banquet speaker: Saturday, 10th September, Dave Keil – the Native Flora of San Luis Obispo County  

Dr. Dave Keil is Professor Emeritus of Biology at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.  Dave has had a lifelong interest and enthusiasm for botany.  He received his B.S. and M.S. in botany from Arizona State University and his Ph.D. from Ohio State University.  He has taught courses in general botany, plant taxonomy, field botany, evolution, and biogeography.  For many years Dave served as Curator of the Robert F. Hoover Herbarium at Cal Poly.  He has authored scientific papers, textbooks, and study guides, and has been a major contributor to the Jepson Manual and the Flora of North America. His research interests include Asteraceae systematics and floristics of Western North America.  He edited the Wildflowers of San Luis Obispo and is preparing the second edition of the Vascular Plants of San Luis Obispo County.

Field trip schedule

Thursday – 8th September Morning – 8:30 am to 12:00 noon

East Cuesta Ridge, Los Padres National Forest

Led by Dave Keil, Cal Poly; co-leader Bill Waycott, CNPS

Meet at entrance to East Cuesta Ridge (Mount Lowe Rd.), off Highway 101 at the top of the Cuesta Grade, 30 minutes from Morro Bay.

This is a driving tour along the ridge separating coastal and interior regions in the Los Padres National Forest.  See diverse plant communities and spectacular views of the coastal plain with its nine Morros, the city of San Luis Obispo, and the Pacific Ocean.

No more than 0.5 miles walking; elevation gain no more than 100 feet

Afternoon – 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm

Sand Spit at Montaña de Oro State Park

Led by Michael Walgren, CA State Parks; co-leader: Bill Waycott, CNPS

Meet at the Sand Spit Road parking lot, at the end of Sand Spit Rd., in Montaña de Oro State Park, 15 minutes from Morro Bay.

Start by walking to the beach through a rich stand of coastal dune scrub, then north along the beach to an access trail into the dunes.  Hike across the dunes, observing the fore-, mid-, and far-dune plant communities.  Return through maritime chaparral, via the Old Army Rd..

2.5 miles walking; elevation gain 300 feet

Friday – 9th September Morning – 8:30 am to 12:00 noon

Serpentine plants near San Luis Obispo

Led by Dave Keil, Cal Poly; co-leader: Bill Waycott, CNPS

Meet at the entrance to Bog Thistle Trail, in the Irish Hills Natural Reserve, on Perfumo Canyon Rd., roughly 1.0 miles from the intersection with Los Osos Valley Rd.  The trailhead is on the left. 20 minutes from Morro Bay.

Walk the Bog Thistle and Mariposa Trails.  See plants of the central coast chaparral scrub community adapted to serpentine derived soils, with a handful of rare endemic species native to San Luis Obispo County. 

2.0 miles walking; elevation gain 500 feet

Afternoon – 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm

Field Trip, Coon Creek at Montaña de Oro State Park

Led by Lisa Andreano, CA State Parks; co-leader: David Chipping, CNPS

Meet at the Coon Creek parking lot, at the end of Pecho Valley Rd. in Montaña de Oro State Park. 20 minutes from Morro Bay.

Walk going east along Coon Creek Trail and return going west via Rattlesnake Flats Trail.  The Coon Creek Trail follows a coastal canyon with a perennial creek and is filled with riparian species typically seen further north.  Rattlesnake Flats Trial returns by ascending the south-facing slope of the canyon with a healthy sampling of maritime chaparral species.

4 miles walking; elevation gain 500 feet

Sunday – 11th September

Afternoon – 1:30 pm Field trip – Morro Bay State Park Estuary

John Sayers, California State Parks, co-leader: Bill Waycott, CNPS

Meet at the parking lot for Morro Bay State Park Marina off Main Street, across from the entrance to Morro Bay State Park Campground.

Visit several access points by car around the perimeter of Morro Bay Estuary.  See and discuss plants growing in brackish water within the tidal zone, beyond the high tide line, and further inland.  Discuss effects to this fragile habitat because of climate change.

0.5 miles walking; elevation gain 50 feet

If you have any questions or need for more information, please contact Bill Waycott, (805) 459-2103,

Also, if you can offer a bed to a member from out of town during the conference, please let Bill know as soon as possible.

CNPS Conservation Symposium and Field Trips Information, schedules, links, and the registration page

Image: By Leif Arne Storset – originally posted to Flickr as Bishop Peak, CC BY 2.5


Restoring Mission Creek

Restoring Mission Creek

The Mission Plaza riverwalk in downtown San Luis Obispo caters to thousands of central coast tourists and SLO community members every year. While SLO creek is widely admired, the riparian and creek bed vegetation leaves much to be desired. The City of San Luis Obispo Natural Resources Manager, Robert Hill, began to talk with the Executive Director of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) and Cal Poly Horticulture and Crop Science professor, Bill Waycott, about the possibility of restoration for the riverwalk. This initial talk led to the involvement of others on the project including: Freddy Otte, the City of SLO City Biologist, John Doyle, landscape architect for J. Doyle Landscape and Construction, and Cal Poly Emeritus professor and curator of vascular plants, Dr. David Keil. The group met once to begin making plans but, the project was slow-moving with each member having a tremendous workload to manage for their respective jobs. The passion for the restoration was present; the time for the project work was missing.

For the past two years, Freddy Otte has been a Mentor for the Watershed Stewards Program (WSP) at the San Luis Obispo Steelhead Initiative. At the mention of the need for help with the restoration project, Freddy mentioned the possibility of collaboration to one of the Region II Team Leaders for the WSP SLO Office, Allie Watts. The Watershed Stewards Program is an AmeriCorps program and a special program of the California Conservation Corps whose goal is salmonid habitat restoration throughout California. WSP aims to give young natural resource professionals the hands on experience with experts in fisheries, conservation, and environmental fields during their 10 ½ month service term. Each Team Leader and Member of WSP must complete a watershed restoration project to fulfill part of their program requirements. The SLO Creek Restoration project would be the perfect fulfillment for WSP and truly allow Allie to immerse herself in the SLO community.

After email introductions, Allie began setting up meetings with all the project leaders to put these plans into action. The SLO Creek Restoration project team met several times prior to the first volunteer day on April 27th, 2016. The team decided the first plan of action was to remove the many invasive species throughout the riparian area of SLO Creek from the footbridge near Chorro Street to Broad Street. In general, invasive plants have shallow root structures which cause erosion into the creek in rain events. They also outcompete native plant species which provide valuable habitat for native animals living there, have deep root systems that reduce erosion, and are drought tolerant plants. Common invasive species the team planned to remove included: Vinca (periwinkle), Agapanthus (), and Ailanthus altissima (Tree of Heaven).

Allie, Freddy, Bill, John, and Martha Rutherford, CNPS member, became the core leaders on the team and worked together to recruit volunteers, procure tools and safety gear, and spread the word about the event. On April 27th, 2016, the team’s hardwork was rewarded when over 140 volunteers showed up to remove invasive plants at SLO Creek. The volunteers ranged from Cal Poly students, CCC corpsmembers, community leaders from CNPS and the Downtown Association to local community members and families. While invasive removal is an ongoing process, this volunteer day was an excellent step in the right direction for the health of the SLO Creek riparian area. The shock of bare riparian areas kept the team’s momentum high moving forward.

The following meetings focused on native planting plans. Dr. David Keil provided great insight into the appropriate native plants that would thrive in the conditions at SLO Creek. Using his list, the team decided to reach out to the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) student chapter at Cal Poly to acquire a planting palette. Brandon Cornejo, ASLA member, took charge of the project and the team was supplied with a base conceptual planting map and palette to allow the native planting volunteer days at SLO Creek to begin. Using the ASLA map and recommendations from Dr. Keil, the native plants were purchased from local nurseries, Growing Grounds, Las Pilitas, and Clearwater Color, and donated by project leaders. On March 12th, 2016 the team hosted the first native planting volunteer day at SLO Creek. Around twenty volunteers consisting of community members, WSP members, and CCC corpsmembers came out to help plant eighty native species in the first round of planting restoration. All volunteers learned proper planting techniques and the importance of creating a bern around the plant’s base. The bern is essentially a channel around the plant that keeps water close, allowing it to sink in. The berns were especially important for the natives planted on a downhill slope to ensure runoff was not rolling into the creek.

Following the initial planting, Allie continued to hand water all the plants once a week for four months and monitoring their progress. About 70% of the native species planted on the first volunteer day survived. During these four months, the team continued to meet to discuss the plant’s progress, future planting volunteer days, and future signage for the creek. ASLA and Brandon were instrumental in delivering a large “Back to the Natives” planting sign for SLO Creek. This sign features educational information on native and invasive plants as well as photos of the plants. The final sign is set to be approved by the city in September or October of this year. Upon approval and after more restoration work is completed next year, two large signs will be printed and placed at either end of the project, near the footbridge by Broad Street and past the footbridge near Chorro Street. In addition to the large signs, small native plant signs will be placed near different plant species in the riparian area to help community members and tourists identify California riparian native plants. The goal for all of this signage is to help educate and enhance the visitors experience when walking near the creek.

After a four-month hiatus, the team scheduled another large native species planting volunteer day at SLO Creek. On July 23rd, 2016, around twenty volunteers consisting of community members and families, WSP members, and CCC corpsmembers came out to SLO Creek to help plant 108 more native plants and place bark mulch throughout the planted area of the project to help soak up water and prevent weed and invasive species growth. With one area of the project beginning to adapt to the native plant growth, the project team feels good about the current condition of the river walk but knows there is still more work to do. When asked why this project was so vital for SLO Creek and the city, Bill Waycott explained in saying, “The pristine landscapes of Coastal California are slowly being colonized by invasive plants introduced from other parts of the world. The banks of the perennial creek that flows through downtown San Luis Obispo is no exception. Local residents can make a difference in stemming the tide of invasives by learning what California native plants look like and opting to use them when planting an area. Our mild climate and abundant sunshine provide the opportunity for non-native plants to thrive, having negative consequences. Restoration of SLO Creek at the Mission Plaza will serve as an excellent example of the use of native plants to all who visit our city.” This project will take years to reach its full potential but, this team is all committed to this county and continuing to be a part of the SLO Creek Restoration team. Next October or November the team will be hosting another volunteer event to plant native species, remove some limited invasive growth, and place bark mulch throughout the second area past the footbridge near Broad Street. Moving forward the project team envisions, the removal of the sprouts and large Tree of Heaven near the creek, more volunteer days for native planting in the first area and the second, creekbed invasive removal and native planting volunteer days, and inputting the large and individual educational signage.

CNPS Chapter Council Meeting to be held in Morro Bay!

CNPS Chapter Council Meeting to be held in Morro Bay!

The September meeting of the CNPS Chapter Council will be held in Morro Bay from Thursday to Sunday, September 8-11, 2016.

This meeting is held four times per year in different parts of the state (the last meeting was held near Lake Tahoe), and is attended by delegates and representatives from the majority of CNPS’s 35 chapters statewide, along many CNPS staff from the Sacramento office. The San Luis Obispo chapter is hosting this meeting and we hope our membership will participate in the events being offered. The Morro Bay Vet’s Hall (209 Surf Street) will serve as the location of meetings between Friday noon to Sunday noon.

Meeting Agenda

Thursday and Friday, we plan to offer field trips to choice botanical destinations on the Central Coast. Friday afternoon, the State Board of Directors will also meet between 2:00 and 6:00 pm at the Vet’s Hall, followed by a no-host dinner at a local restaurant. Local members are invited to participate in the field trips, board meeting, as well as “meet and eat” dinner, Friday night.

For Saturday, the session will focus on Statewide Conservation Projects, with a series of presentations devoted to all-things pertaining to California native flora conservation. The Sunday morning session will be devoted to Chapter Council business topics, with another field trip planned for Sunday afternoon. Local members are encouraged to participate in Saturday’s Conservation Symposium as well as Sunday afternoon’s field trip.

An official agenda of the meeting will be circulated by mid-August.


An important tradition of the Chapter Council meetings is the offer by local members of free accommodations to outside participants during the event. If you have the ability to accommodate one or more participants from outside the area in your home, please send an e-mail or call Bill Waycott,, (805) 459-2103, to discuss your offer. In your communication, please indicate the number of persons to be accommodated and whether there is a sexual preference or not.

Current motel prices for that weekend in the Morro Bay – San Luis Obispo area are easily above $150 per night. The offer of a bed with access to a bathroom will go a long way in making the meeting more affordable for those traveling to our area. One never knows – hosting one or more visitors may create a lasting friendship that can be reciprocated in the future. Plus, these folks know their native plants and will be happy to talk about the botany of their area.

Protecting Our Oaks II

Protecting Our Oaks II

SLO County Supervisors are meeting Tuesday August 16 and they need to hear from YOU!

Many voices REALLY DO make a difference!  Especially now that some of the uproar about the Justin clearcutting debacle has died down. (more…)

Protecting Our Oaks II

Urgency Tree ordinance

Next Tuesday, 8/16/16, the SLO County Board of Supervisors will consider the continuance of the Urgency Tree ordinance generated by the Justin oak cuttings. Property rights people will likely flood the meeting to halt any attempt at oak protection, and we need you there… the meeting starts at 9:00 am on the 16th. Just being there in favor of the ordinance or of the value of oaks will help, but going to the podium and saying a few words in favor would be extremely valuable. Speak as individuals, as CNPS board members will make presentations on behalf of the society. We are also concerned that if the required 4:5 vote to continue does not go through, the BOS will then vote to work on a permanent ordinance. This should NOT happen, as it might generate a vast amount of cutting by land speculators in anticipation of a future ordinance. This sort of thing happened with well drilling in the face of promised restrictions in the Paso Robles Basin.

– David Chipping, Conservation Chair

San Luis Obispo Creek July 23rd 2016 Volunteer Event

San Luis Obispo Creek July 23rd 2016 Volunteer Event

Running through the heart of downtown near Mission Plaza,  San Luis Obispo Creek is a vital part of our watershed that is in need of restoration. The Watershed Stewards Program (WSP) in partnership with the City of San Luis Obispo, the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Student Chapter at Cal Poly, and Growing Grounds will be hosting a volunteer event Saturday July 23rd from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm to remove invasive plants, plant native species, cover the area with tree bark and in the future, post educational signage along the creek between Broad and Chorro streets.

Read the full Press Release

Protecting Our Oaks II

Protecting Our Oaks

Justin Vineyards just cut down hundreds of Oaks

Justin Vineyards is coming under fire for clear-cutting oaks from their property outside Paso Robles. Justin is owned by The Wonderful Company, who also owns Teleflora, Halo’s, Pom Wonderful, Fiji water and other brands. (more…)

October Seed Exchange

What I’ve Learned: I need patience and I don’t have the right shoes

Image: By Gmihail at Serbian Wikipedia (Own work) 
[CC BY-SA 3.0 rs ( 
or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

I volunteer at the botanic garden Tuesday mornings. The display of yellow Viola on the undeveloped portion of the hills was wonderful this year and it occurred to me that there would be lots of seeds. I would really like to have the propagation crew at the garden try to grow some of these as I think they would make a nice addition to our gardens. Granted they disappear in the heat of the summer but they could make a nice groundcover under some of our shrubs and need no water in the dry time. So I approached Eve. Eve is the person who started the garden as an extension of her senior project at Cal Poly. She was receptive to the idea. I asked if I could take a bit more for other uses. Again the answer was yes and extended to some of the other plants on the hills. So when I thought the seeds might be ready I ventured out.

These are hills that are brown in the summer. They are covered with oats and ripgut and some other not so nice plants. But there are patches of Viola and Sidalcea and Sisyrhincium. So I had a goal of collecting all three. Finding those patches was not always easy. The plants disappear into the dried grasses. But I could find some. And in my wandering looking for patches I was excited to discover that not only are there the invasive sorts of grasses but there was lots of Stipa pulcra, some Melica californica, Melica imperfecta (or at least a different kind of Melica), Elymus triticoides (I think), Elymus condensatus, Hordeum bracyantherum and the most exciting find, for me, was some Danthonia californica. I am not collecting seeds of those grasses because they are not represented in great numbers and I want all the seed that’s there to possibly increase populations. But I am collecting the seeds of the Viola, Sidalcea, and hopefully the Sisyrhincum.

However,  patience is a requirement. Finding the patches of Viola was not nearly as challenging as finding the seeds ready to gather. I am honing my observational skills and getting up close and personal with the plants. I was looking for black, ripe seeds so black drew my attention.  Often the black was a little beetle that I saw only on violets.  Is this a good bug or a bad bug? I have no idea. But if it is providing food for the birds in my book it’s a good bug. Perhaps it’s one of those specialist bugs that only use one plant. Questions. Down on my knees I can see the developing seed capsules and I have observed that as they ripen they lift and point to the sky. Once ripe, the capsules pop open. Sometimes a few seeds remain in the opened capsule. Whether these are defective or not I don’t know but I have collected them. At least they are black. Picking a few capsules early results in green seeds. I have picked a few, unopened but upturned, which have resulted in the sound of popping seeds in the paper bags at home. I have gotten some black seeds out of these. My favorite find is to see the open capsule, still green, and filled with black seeds. Treasure!  But it has taken weeks of venturing up on the hill to get a few tablespoons of seeds. Some of these will find their way to the seed exchange.

The Sidalcea is another story. I found that many of the flowers did not develop into seeds, but in some areas there were more that developed than others. Does this reflect the presence of more pollinators in some areas than others? In some areas the stalks were half gone. Are they browse for deer?  More observations lead to more questions. But I did collect a few seeds that seemed to be ripe. The capsules on these plants seemed to dry with the seeds remaining in the capsule. But as they dried they would separate a bit and I found that if I just brushed my fingers across a capsule seeds would fall into my hand. I found capsules with just a few seeds remaining so assumed these were ripe. I don’t have many seeds of these but after sharing with the botanic garden a few will end up at the seed exchange. You should want these. I have a Sidalcea grown from seed that has been blooming for several months in my garden. I think it’s beautiful.

As for the Sisyrhincium, I don’t have seeds yet and am not sure that I will. Those patches, which were so obvious and seemed so huge when they were covered with their blue-purple blossoms, are very hard to find when there is no flower to beckon. Those that I have found are not yet ripe. The capsules are still green and I don’t know if I will have any luck finding ripe seeds. But I am going to try.

What about not having the right shoes? The shoes I wear at the botanic garden are really old worn out hiking shoes with that open mesh sort of fabric for breathability. They are really great grass seed collectors. Those seeds penetrate through the open mesh and through my smart wool socks and into my skin. Almost intolerable. Before I drive home I have to remove my shoes and get rid of those seeds. I am pleased to find that they collect Stipa seeds too which means that there are plenty of Stipa seeds to be had. But I am very conscious of the fact that I don’t want to be transferring these seeds to the trails so they are no longer used for hiking.

Reminder: Seed exchange before the October meeting.

-Marti Rutherford

On Veldt Grass

On Veldt Grass

Image courtesy of jkirkhart35 |

Some of the most notorious invasive plants such as Carpobrotus, slender leaved ice plant, and cape ivy come from South Africa. Another quite bad one is Veldt grass (Ehrharta calycina). This bunch grass has wide (1/4″) leaves, is glaucous (grey-green) until it matures and turns maroon. From the road it has red tops which turn blond. The seed stems can reach chest height. It is a perennial that produces an incredible amount of seeds and grows throughout the year near the coast, living off fog drip, but mainly follows the rainy winter. Veldt grass is awful because it crowds and overwhelms other plants.

To be rid of it, manually pulling mature plants, including the buried crown of the plant is necessary or resprouting will occur. But this also this often stimulates seed germination. Manual removal must be repeated as seedlings appear from the seedbank. Serious infestations can be sprayed with a grasss-specific herbicide such as Fusilade. Timing is critical, especially after the first several inches of rain. Some applicators report that postemergence treatment to plants over 4 inches tall is much more effective compared to treating smaller plants. If your locale has had Veldt for a long time keep at it until the seed bank is exhausted. The task is very difficult in drought and easy in wet years.

Best wishes weed warriors.

-Mark Skinner

Jack Ranch and Veldt Grass

Jack Ranch

We will be keeping an eye on a proposed agricultural cluster on the Jack Ranch, situated on the flanks of the hills behind Country Club Estates and Rolling Hills Estates in the Edna Valley. Clustering would seem at first glance a good idea, as it can minimized the total impact of structures on open space. However potential negatives arise from the extra house lots allowed as a clustering incentive, and the fate of the created contiguous open areas under potential conversion to row crop or grapes. It is likely water supply will be an issue, as the Edna Valley has serious water supply issues.

Spring Grasses

Due to the ability of germinated grasses to ‘ride out’ the February drought that decimated our wildflowers, this is a spring of very tall grasses and thick stands of noxious pests such as veldt grass. As the drying grasses are tall enough to stand above the shrubs, the intensity of the infection to the dune ecosystem can readily be seen to those entering Montana de Oro Park. A group of interested parties, including CNPS, discussed with John Sayers (California State Parks) about getting some independent funding brought in for grass control, overcoming institutional barriers to use particular removal methods, and prioritizing areas for experimental treatment. It was pointed out that much of the greenbelt around Los Osos was acquired with outside money from agencies on the basis of the exceptional quality of the habitat and the high content of rare species. We will propose that investing in veldt removal with be protecting past investment, rather than declaring in a decade that the money was wasted.

Join the Conservation Committee

As we conclude the 2015-2016 active season, I encourage chapter members to consider joining the conservation committee with the specific job of keeping a close eye on the cities where they dwell. If you follow local city politics and building plans, your knowledge would be a welcome addition that you might consider for the 2016-2017 season. The more eyes we have, the better the flora might be protected.

-David Chipping

The Invasion of Veldt Grass

The Invasion of Veldt Grass

This image shows the demarcation between SLO Co. Land Conservancy (left) and CA State-owned properties (right)

During the second week in May I accompanied Lindsey Whitaker, Cal Poly graduate student and recipient of a Malcolm McLeod scholarship, to her research plots in the Guadalupe Nipomo Dunes.  In her study, she is looking at the rate of invasion of Ehrharta claycina, also known as Veldt grass, into the dune ecological zone.  Lindsey’s plots are located in the area of the dunes south of Black Lake, where California State and San Luis Obispo County Land Conservancy properties meet.

As we walked through the Conservancy property towards the State owned land, we saw a thriving native dune habitat with many of the species in bloom.  There were popcorn flowers, fiddle necks, an assortment of suncups and primroses, robust California thistle, Cirsium occidentale var. californicum, deer weed, common sand aster, Corethrogyne filaginifolia, the giant dune bush lupine, Lupinus chamissonis, and lots of mock heather, Ericameria ericoides. There were some juvenile Veldt grass and narrow-leaved ice plant (both introduced from South Africa) scattered here and there, but insignificant compared to the hearty showing of native dune species.

As we walked over to the State property, I stopped dead in my tracks.  Incredible, I thought to myself!  The Veldt grass was so thick, it had pushed out everything else.  The clumps of bunch grass were evenly spaced over the entire dune surface, as if they had been planted into a pre-measured grid.  A complete carpet of Veldt grass had ravaged the landscape, with virtually nothing else left in its wake.  Gone were the annuals, and the hearty perennials; only a few of the larger mock heathers had survived, though not for much longer.

At this point, Lindsey explained to me the glaring disparity between the two properties.  Simply put, the Conservancy land had been treated annually with a grass-specific herbicide, laboriously applied by hand, while the State land had been left alone.

Invasive weeds in Central Coast wildlands is obviously a huge problem.  Personally, it is hard for me to stomach the destructive power such plants as Veldt grass unleash on some of our more delicate and unsuspecting habitats.  What a mess has been created with no easy solution!

San Luis Obispo County has a weed management program.  Although not exhaustive, the plan lists roughly 30 species that are considered highly invasive.  One can view this list and the plan’s recommendations for what to do if one of these weeds in found on a property in the county.

Let’s educate ourselves about invasive plants by using the internet to reveal just how threatened the California landscapes have become through the introduction of non-native species to this environment, and through land development and disturbance with no realistic plan for restoration.  After years and years of revegetation of our native plant communities by introduced species from other parts of the world, we now have the collective awareness and necessary tools to avoid the mistakes of the past and work together at bringing the pervasive invaders such as Veldt grass into a more controlled and directed management system.

Two weeks later –

Population where Pismo clarkia is known to grow along Ormonde Rd. near Arroyo Grande, CA. Note the dominant Veldt grass and a few Pampas grass.

Population where Pismo clarkia is known to grow along Ormonde Rd. near Arroyo Grande, CA. Note the dominant Veldt grass and a few Pampas grass.

During the late spring, I am in the habit of driving Ormonde Road, north of Arroyo Grande, to inspect a small patch of Pismo clarkia, Clarkia speciosa, ssp. immaculata, which Mardi Niles told me about several years ago.  This species is ranked as a 1B.1 endemic and as far as we know, only occurs within a roughly ten mile radius of Arroyo Grande.

I frequent this spot to ascertain the health of the overall polulatio of this species, knowing that the Ormonde Road site has been strong, perhaps as high as 500 individuals in a good year and less than 20 individuals in a bad year.  Thus, watching the ability of this species to regenerate itself from year to year teaches us a lot about its future fecundity.

Being small, inconspicuous plants, except when in bloom, it is very easy to alter the existing Pismo clarkia landscape during the many months of the year when our long, dry summers hide the small annuals from view.  One can imagine what foot, horse, bike, and/or car traffic can do to disturb these fragile habitats.  This particular population has been severally disrupted by property owners who don’t know they have a very rare plant on site, and by off-road vehicles that have made a mess of the area.

Close up of Pismo clarkia peeking through Veldt grass and other annual grasses at the Ormonde Rd. site.

Close up of Pismo clarkia peeking through Veldt grass and other annual grasses at the Ormonde Rd. site.

Well, this year’s crop has yet another villain!  As I reported earlier, the 2015-2016 rainy season has made for a bumper crop of Veldt grass.  Due to the disruption of these sandy soil environment, Veldt grass has quickly become the dominant species here, significantly choking out the native vegetation.  As we saw at the Guadalupe – Nipomo Dunes, the grass has not only taken over, but has eliminated virtually everything else, creating a monoculture of dire proportions.

How many individual Pismo clarkia exist today; perhaps 20,000 plants?  Knowing the environmental requirements for these two species, i.e., sandy soils located within ten miles of the coast, Pismo clarkia becomes a lot rarer.  Not only is it a 1B,1 ranked rare plant, endemic to a few square miles in San Luis Obispo County, but now it is under attack by an unrelenting “assassin” that takes no prisoners!

Next time you see a Veldt grass plant, please pull it out!

-Bill Waycott