SOD Blitz 2014

Sudden Oak Death (SOD) Blitz


Sudden Oak Death (SOD) Blitz – May 16, 17, and 18, 2014

What is Sudden Oak Death (SOD)

Sudden Oak Death (SOD), a serious exotic disease, is threatening the survival of tanoak and several oak species in California. As of 2013, SOD is found in 14 coastal California counties, from Monterey to Humboldt.

Researchers have discovered that Phytophthora ramorum, the pathogen that causes SOD, spreads most often on infected California bay laurel leaves. Some management options are available, but they are effective only if implemented before oaks and tanoaks are infected; hence, timely detection of the disease on bay laurel leaves is essential for a successful proactive attempt to slow down the SOD epidemic.

Purpose of SOD Blitz

The SOD Blitz informs and educates the community about the disease and its effects, gets locals involved in detecting the disease, and produces detailed local maps of disease distribution. The map can then be used to identify those areas where the infestation may be mild enough to justify proactive management.

San Luis Obispo SOD Blitz, 2013

In May 2013, 14 people (mostly SLO CNPS Chapter members) conducted a SOD Blitz sampling event. A total of 872 trees were surveyed and samples were collected from 89 trees. There were no SOD positive trees found during this survey.

  • A community meeting/training session held on a Friday evening; followed by collection of leaf samples by volunteers on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Samples and accompanying forms are then turned in at a central location Saturday and Sunday afternoon/evenings.
  • We will provide a list of recommended areas for sampling at the meeting.
  • We will divide into groups for collecting. Ideally, one person in a group will have a GPS device or tablet or phone with GPS capability.

San Luis Obispo SOD Blitz 2014

We need to continue the sampling in 2014 and need volunteers to attend the training and collect samples in May 2014.


Friday, May 16, 7pm to 8:30pm, SLO County Department of Agriculture, 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo, CA

View Larger Map


Saturday and Sunday, May 17 and 18 (Locations TBD). All of the materials necessary for training and collecting will be provided.

The training is free although space is limited – If you are interested, please submit your name and contact info to:

Lauren Brown , (805)460-6329, or

Kim Corella (fmr. Camilli), (805) 550-8583

For additional information on SOD and the SOD Blitz project, please visit

Special thanks to all of you who contributed and participated in 2013 and I look forward to having the same level of participation in 2014.

– Lauren Brown, SLO Chapter Invasive Plants Committee



Sudden Oak Death Blitz 2013

May 3, 4 and 5, 2013

San Luis Obispo

Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Sudden Oak Death (SOD), a serious exotic disease, is threatening the survival of tanoak and several oak species in California. Currently SOD is found in 14 coastal California counties, from Monterey to Humboldt.

Researchers have discovered that Phytophthora ramorum, the pathogen that causes SOD, spreads most often on infected California bay laurel leaves. Some management options are available, but they are effective only if implemented before oaks and tanoaks are infected; hence, timely detection of the disease on bay laurel leaves is key for a successful proactive attempt to slow down the SOD epidemic.

The purpose of the SOD-blitz is to inform and educate the community about the disease and its effects, get locals involved in detecting the disease, and produce detailed local maps of disease distribution. The map can then be used to identify those areas where the infestation may be mild enough to justify proactive management. A community meeting/training session will be help on a Friday evening; followed by collection of leaf samples by volunteers on Saturday and Sunday. Samples and accompanying forms are then turned in at a central location Saturday and Sunday evenings. Additional information will be included in the next newsletter, or you can visit the website:

Training – Friday, May 3, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at SLO County Department of Agriculture (2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo)

Collecting – Saturday and Sunday, May 4 and 5 (Locations TBD).

All of the materials necessary for the training and the collecting over weekend will be provided.

If interested, please contact: Lauren Brown – or (805)460-6329

Thank you.

– Lauren, Chair Invasive Species Committee

Amanita phalloides

Amanita phalloides

Why is the Death Cap mushroom so deadly?

On New Year’s Day I visited a favorite, and normally productive, chanterelle patch outside San Luis Obispo to discover an enormous fruiting of the dangerously toxic death cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides).

My culinary disappointment was tempered by my growing fascination with the question, “Why are mushrooms deadly poisonous?” Proximally, the answer is direct: because they contain a peptide, alpha-amanitin, which halts RNA transcription in the cell nucleus. In broader context, the question should be rephrased, “What ecological advantage and evolutionary fitness does the presence of this toxin contribute?”

Amanita phalloides is a newcomer to California. It is known to be a native of Europe, and its first verified collection in California dates to 1938. Anecdotally, its introduction is ascribed to an accidental arrival on the roots of cork oak trees. It is now known from Southern California to British Columbia. A similar introduction (on the roots of Italian chestnuts?) affects the East Coast.

Death cap is an ectomycorrhizal symbiont. This means it forms connections on the root-tips of forest trees; in California, its typical (but not exclusive) partner is coast live oak. Unlike many symbionts which are highly host specific, death cap is promiscuous in its associations as it spreads worldwide. It is now present in South Africa, Australia and most other similar climes.

Ectomycorrhizal (EC) fungi collect major nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorous, and exchange these with the host tree for sugars. Delicate hyphal strands extend outward from the root tip mass into the surrounding soil and mulch. EC also allows efficient active transfer of macronutrients, micronutrients, and soil water to the tree. The chronic phosphorous limitation in serpentine soils makes the EC symbiosis especially important for local forest types on this soil. Studies in Norway discovered up to 50% of a birch tree’s sugar is exchanged at the root tips with EC symbionts.

Death Cap - Amanita phalloides

Death Cap – Amanita phalloides

Other studies describe how a mushroom, Laccaria bicolor, lures springtail insects (Folsoma candida) into traps, consumes them, and transfers the nitrogen obtained to its host tree.

Trees form non-exclusive associations with many fungi. Studies at Pt. Reyes show more than 15 taxa of EC fungi present at the root tips of coast live oak from a single grove. Most of the live oak symbionts are not deadly or even dangerous, and include the sought after chanterelles.

It is an entirely open research question as to whether the recent invasion of Amanita phalloides into the California oak forest is supplanting native fungi. Studies (in Bishop pine) have shown that EC fungi partition their habitat niches very precisely, allowing multiple fungi to coexist in close proximity. I have visited the particular chanterelle patch since the 1970’s without noticing the Aman5.0ita, so the 2012 fruiting might possibly represent a replacement of one symbiont for another, or just be a fortuitous fruiting of an established co-dominant.

The “competitive exclusion principle” argues that if these organisms are competing within the same precise niche, the most successful will replace all others. The deadly toxin of Amanita’s is alpha-amanitin. This is a heat-stable cyclic peptide that interferes with the transcription function of RNA in the nucleus of cells of virtually all organisms.

Humans, dogs, rabbits, and guinea pigs are equally poisoned. The toxic crisis is caused by irreversible liver or kidney damage, as the molecule concentrates in those organs. More expansively: organisms other than bacteria are affected by alpha-amanitin. Insects, worms, flowering plants, and even viroids (infectious single strands of RNA) that cause “mad cow” and disease in plants cannot replicate when treated with amanitin.

Amanitin is a large, very stable molecule (C39H54N10O14S) so it represents a significant metabolic cost to the fungus to create. Several, widely unrelated, taxa of gilled mushrooms possess amanitin toxin, so its synthesis has been separately evolved several times in fungi –supporting the assumption this represents an important competitive innovation for the species. Fortunately, amanitin is too large to cross the blood/brain barrier, so even victims with irreversible liver and kidney damage due to mushroom poisoning are not affected mentally.

An evolutionary entomologist working in New York State, John Jaenike, has discovered four species of mushroom flies in the genus Drosophila that lay eggs in the gills of fruiting Amanita phalloides. The fruit fly taxa are related to ones that inhabit rotting skunk cabbage, but in New England have recently transferred to the recently introduced Amanita fruitings.

Jaenike discovered that Amanita phalloides is toxic to the damaging parasitic nematodes Howardula that reproduce in the stomach of fruit flies. The toxicity of the death cap to the parasitic nematodes results in much greater egglaying (fecundity) by the fruit flies. The fruit flies are affected by the toxic amanitin, especially the males, but the poison is more than offset by the increase in reproduction.

Janike also discovered that most other insects using mushrooms as egg laying sites (craneflies and forest gnats) shun use of the Amanita (due to its toxicity).

Fruiting mushrooms are a scarce and erratically scattered resource for reproduction and larval feeding. Fruiting mushrooms are fully and completely consumed by mushroom gnat larvae, and Jaenike postulates fierce competition for insect breeding sites. Jaenike has published several papers describing the Amanita-Drosophila-Howardula food web. Mushroom flies secured a niche free of competition by exchanging an evolved tolerance to sub-lethal poisoning for escape from nematode parasitism. The increased fitness leads to greater egg-laying ability, and has provided the evolutionary inertia for this recent adaptation.

Nematodes are significant pests of commercial mushroom production, epidemic infestation can result in the loss of the growing beds. The oyster mushroom, Pleurotus osteraceus, traps and consumes nematodes in noose-like knots of hyphal tissue.

So why are Amanita so poisonous? It is an unlikely deterrence to vertebrate predation of the fruiting caps, as the effect is slow-acting (36-72 hours before the toxic crisis in humans) and the toxin is not concentrated in the cap. Evidence supports the hypothesis that the fitness obtained from synthesizing the toxin is secured within the hyphal network. Perhaps toxic Amanita obtain nitrogen from poisoned nematodes, or protect themselves (and their symbiont hosts) from plant parasitic nematode predation.

Perhaps the toxin suppresses the growth of competing fungal webs. It seems clear the toxic effect of death cap is intrinsic to its invasive success worldwide.

John Chesnut | Rare Plant Coordinator and Education Committee at CNPS-SLO, John teaches horticulture at Cal Poly


Jaenike, J., “Parasite Pressure and the Evolution of Amanitin Tolerance in Drosophila,” Evolution,Vol. 39, No. 6 (Nov., 1985), pp. 1295-1301. Jaenike, J. and T J. C. Anderson, “Dynamics of Host-Parasite Interactions: The Drosophila-Howardula System,” Oikos Vol. 64, No. 3 (Sep., 1992), pp. 533-540.

Pringle, Anne, and Else Vellinga, “Last chance to know? Using literature to explore the biogeography and invasion biology of the death cap mushroom Amanita phalloides.”

Pringle, Anne, Rachel I. Adams, Hugh B. Cross, and Thomas D. Bruns, “The ectomycorrhizal fungus Amanita phalloides was introduced and is expanding its range on the west coast of North America,” Molecular Ecology (2009).

Wolfe, Benjamin E., Franck Richard, Hugh B. Cross, and Anne Pringle, “Distribution and abundance of the introduced ectomycorrhizal fungus Amanita phalloides in North America,” New Phytologist (2009).

Wieland, Theodor and H. Faulstich. Amatoxins, Phallotoxins, Phallolysin, and Antamanide: The biologically Active Components of Poisonous Amanita Mushrooms.

Horton, Thomas R., and Thomas D. Bruns, “The molecular revolution in ectomycorrhizal ecology: peeking into the black-box,” Molecular Ecology (2001)10, 1855–1871.

Centennial Celebration

I am currently the Graduate Student Representative for the California Botanical Society, and we are celebrating 100 years of the Society with a weekend of events April 12-14, 2013. I invite you to join us for the entire Centennial to celebrate our shared history and look ahead to the future. I would like to particularly highlight the special Centennial new membership offer in the California Botanical Society for current CNPS members!

Part of this exciting centennial weekend will include the 24th Graduate Student Meeting of the California Botanical Society on April 14, 2013! The call for abstracts closed yesterday and I am especially proud of the diversity of research that will be presented at the Grad Student Meeting. The Graduate Student Meeting is part of a larger Centennial Celebration occurring on April 12-14, 2013 to mark the 100 years since the founding of the California Botanical Society.

Friday April 12 includes field trips to Mount Diablo and Mount Tamalpais, and the opening mixer in the historic Senior Hall at the University of California, Berkeley.

Saturday is the Centennial Symposium “Botanical Frontiers: Past and Future” with invited speakers in the Valley Life Sciences Building at the University of California, Berkeley, followed by the Annual Banquet at the Hotel Shattuck in Berkeley.

Sunday is the 24th Graduate Student Meeting in the Valley Life Sciences Building at the University of California, Berkeley.

I encourage you to join or renew your membership in the Society with your registration for the Centennial! There is a special Centennial offer for current CNPS members who are becoming new members of the California Botanical Society this year. All members receive the quarterly peer-reviewed journal Madroño and receive full publishing page rates (5 per year) in Madroño – which is an excellent place to consider publishing results of botanical research! Students and members of the California Botanical Society receive discounts on tickets and registration for all Centennial events. Invite your friends!

Sponsorship opportunities for the Centennial and gift memberships for students can also be donated with your membership renewal. Student membership is only  $27 for the calendar year. The student ticket prices particularly to all of the Centennial events have been subsidized by the California Botanical Society to encourage opportunities for training the next generation of botanists, and to participate in a thriving botanical community at this early stage in student academic growth.

Online registration will be available until March 31; late registration prices go into effect in April.

Genevieve K. Walden

Graduate Student Representative

California Botanical Society


Chimineas Ecological Reserve

In December, CNPS members planted native plants around the ranch house at Chimineas Ecological Reserve on two different days. All the plants are native to that area. Marti Rutherford, Doyle, Melinda Elster, Mardi Niles, Linda and Dave Chipping and I put in a total of fourteen shrubs and perennials. The grand total is now sixty-two. These replace plants that need too much water and care.

We also removed some non-native shrubs. Thanks everybody!

We transplanted a coyote brush from a too-shady place to a good sun place with more water and drainage. We made a little grouping of two California evening primrose, a Salinas milkvetch, and a scarlet bugler. Two saltbushes were planted on a dry, sunny bank (probably common saltbush; they came up from seed in a pot). A woolly morning glory got out of its pot into its new home in the ground, plus a black sage and Jones’ bush mallow; and a California matchweed and pale-leaf goldenbush, where a Jimson weed had come up on its own.

We put in two more scarlet buglers, and a yarrow. A quailbush replaced another that had died. A purple sage and California buckwheat will adorn a sunny bed together.

We moved some big rocks into a group and planted a dudleya there. It will be lovely, and we can add some other rock plants some day.

We made a little hill and put a big-berry manzanita on top, with rocks and a purple sage and a mountain mahogany. Another mountain mahogany went in at a front corner, and will be cut to be tall and narrow.

All of our plants have anti-gopher cages, and many have wire cages on top too. So far all but one are transplants. Nearly all are mounded, for better drainage.

On each day we made an excursion afterwards. The first was to a place called red tank, where we saw mistletoe berries and junipers and Tucker oaks overlooking canyons. The second was along Tule Road, with beautiful sky and rocks and blue oaks.

I’m expecting flowers this year, 2013, from some of the plants that were planted early last year. We already had a few in 2012.

– George Butterworth


Nipomo Native Garden

A Brief History of the Nipomo Native Garden

Nipomo Native Garden was formed in 1993 as a non-profit organization by a group of Nipomo residents and the County Board of Supervisors. The garden encompasses 12 acres and is disconnected by a road from the main Nipomo Community Park.

With several small grants from the County, initial plantings and irrigation installation were accomplished. The plantings consisted of coast live oak, toyon, manzanitas, coffeeberry and other plants endemic to the Nipomo-Guadalupe Dunes Complex. To feature the various habitats of the Nipomo-Guadalupe Dune Complex using endemic plant species became one of the goals of the garden.

In early 2003, the garden received a grant from the California Department of Fish & Game utilizing funds from the Unocal Oil Spill Settlement. This allowed expansion of the plantings, infrastructure and irrigation to rapidly expand. The garden, over a period of years, added paths and a road, fencing, wetlands, riparian area, coastal sage scrub, coastal dune scrub, manzanita/ceanothus, central maritime chaparral and other habitats. Also added were information kiosks and a desperately needed parking lot.

Improvement and expansion of infrastructure and plantings will continue as the garden matures. It has become a very important destination for residents of Nipomo and surrounding areas as a place for walking, horseriding and just sitting and observing nature.

– Larry Vierheilig

2013 Annual Community Award

The Nipomo Native Garden was honored with the CNPS annual Community Award at the CNPS-SLO January 2013 annual banquet.

Formed in 1993, their Volunteers have enriched our community through the restoration and development of a beautiful 12 acre Nipomo Mesa native plant garden. This award honors their commitment and stewardship to the preservation and enjoyment of California’s native flora. Larry Vierhelig presented the award to Cindy Jelinek and Charlie Gulyash.

For more on Nipomo Native Garden, please visit their website.

Nipomo Native Garden

Nipomo Native Garden

Chapter Meeting March 7, 2013

Chapter Meeting March 7, 2013

Thursday, March 7, 7:00 p.m. Atascadero Library, 6850 Morro Road (Hwy. 41 West), Atascadero

Flora and Fauna of Fort Ord National Monument

Speaker: Bruce Delgado

Bruce will speack about the Flora and Fauna of Fort Ord National Monument, with special attention to management and restoration issues.

Bruce is a California native, born in 1961 and raised near Los Angeles. He graduated in 1990 from northern California’s Humboldt State University and received the Senior Man of the Year Award for his volunteer campus and community recycling leadership while a student.

Bruce has worked on Fort Ord as a botanist for the Bureau of Land Management since 1993. In 2007 Bruce was awarded California’s Land Manager of the Year Award by the California Invasive Plant Council. He is currently in his 15th year as chair of the Invasive Plants Committee for the Monterey Bay Chapter of CNPS. Bruce’s experience has given him an insider’s look at Fort Ord’s botany, ecology, and reuse issues and brings a deep understanding of Fort Ord’s issues.

Bruce is also serving his third term as Mayor of the City of Marina, where he promotes a conservation-friendly agenda for the city and he is currently serving on the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Bruce’s presentation will include slides and discussion of the rare and diverse flora and fauna of Fort Ord, habitat restoration, sheep grazing for biological benefit, wild pig removal, maritime chaparral fire ecology, and recreation opportunities and public access issues.


Conservation March 2013

Central Valley Oil Fields

CNPS will be keeping a careful eye on westward expansion of oil fields in the central valley onto the eastern slopes of the Temblor Range, and possibly into Carrizo Plains National Monument. We are working to find out where oil leases remain active in the monument, as leases valid when the monument was created are still able to be worked. No new leases can be created, and we have not heard of any incursion at this time.

Camp Roberts

We are reviewing expansion of security fences at Camp Roberts SATCOM site, which will require 40 foot clear zones with roads, fences and lights, just like the border. One concern will be populations of Chloragalum reductum (amole) that exist on the base.

Los Padres NP

Two of our chapter members met with Los Padres National Forest and we are advancing cooperation plans on rare plant management issues at Red Hill Road (Chlorogalum again) and the serpentine flora of West Cuesta Ridge.


As you may read elsewhere in the newsletter, the plant pathogen Phytophthora ramorum has shown up in the waters of San Carpoforo Creek, and thus is possibly active in nearby vegetation. As the active infection agent in Sudden Oak Death, this is of great concern to us, as hitherto the disease been absent in SLO County. As it is in the Big Sur area, I guess it was only a matter of time.

-David Chipping

Conservation February 2013

Coon Creek

I toured the burned area around Coon Creek, a result of a escaped control burn that ran through the riparian area and the southern slopes of Coon Creek, reaching close to the summit of Valencia Peak in one location. The trail was opened at the beginning of January, and revealed a hitherto concealed structure of the creek-side willows, which have large trunks running horizontally for long distances.

Some re-sprouting had already started, and I am not concerned about that area. However the old growth manzanita stands along the Rattlesnake trail, and the lichen oaks are severely damaged, and there has been considerable ground disturbance from fire line construction in these areas. I am concerned that there might be an opportunistic invasion of veldt grass into this area, as a shale-loving variant is already in fast-grow mode along the trail. In an ironic note, plant specimens I had selected as my watch plants for the Phenology Project (see last newsletter) are now toast.

Other Areas of Concern

I attended a meeting on the North County Habitat Conservation Plan, and gave input on CNPS concerns. I also attended a meeting by the Department of Fish and Wildlife on the management of the Chimineas Ranch area, and have pointed out some problems we have seen. I also attended a meeting on invasive species held by the Morro Bay National Estuary Program.

– David Chipping

President’s Message March 2013

Our Past Year in Review

Every year the Chapter President has to deliver a “Chapter Report” to the state Sacramento office, and in doing so I am amazed at what we have accomplished.

  • We brought you eight program speakers, half of which came from outside the county. New this year were the three very successful plant mini-workshops before the main program in May, June and December. Each meeting started with a social time and excellent refreshments.
  • Two scholarships of $500 each were awarded to Cal Poly students through the chapter’s Malcolm McLeod Scholarship program.
  • The Los Osos Middle School’s 7th grade science education native plant propagation and planting program is run and coordinated by our Board member.
  • Plants were provided for Audubon’s Sweet Springs Nature Preserve restoration.
  • We had an incredible twenty field trips during the year, which requires the planning, coordinating and publicizing efforts of a board member. These have given members and the public the enjoyment of beautiful floral discoveries in this county and neighboring ones.
  • CNPS volunteers had booths at Earth Day, the Cambria Wildflower Show, the Santa Margarita Wildflower Festival and Paso Robles Festival of the Arts.
  • A group has worked with the Chimineas Ranch Foundation in planting a native plant garden.
  • Add to that the time taken by volunteers at such events as the plant sale and banquet, the behind-the-scenes work that goes into newsletter production and distribution; the continual updating and information provided on our web site; the financial management by our treasurer, and works by committees such as Conservation and Horticulture.
  • Our  sales selection of nature books is one of the best in the county, if not the state.

In short, volunteers make the chapter. To help things along for 2013, we have received a generous gift from Mid American Solar and Topaz Solar Farms to help our operations.

CNPS is a wonderful organization. Thanks for being a part of it. Now let’s hope the Carrizo Plain gets some rain.

– David Chipping

President’s Message February 2013

I think the lilies are some of the most appreciated of flowers, and so Sean Ryan’s presentation at our February meeting should be very interesting. We are scheduled for the library in Atascadero for our March meeting, which will feature a presentation slanting toward the north end of the county and points north.

We are planning lots of great field trips for the late winter and early spring, and we will keep you posted.

– David Chipping

Quercus douglasii

Quercus douglasii

Blue Oak

Bonnie’s drawing on this cover of the Obispoensis includes an acorn, a couple of leaves and a two individual blue oak (Quercus douglasii) trees from Shell Creek.

This species of oak is extremely common in a vertical band through the center of our Chapter area. It is most common east of the Santa Lucia crest and west to the San Juan River drainage. It occurs only occasionally near the coast where it is replaced by the coast live oak (Q. agrifolia). In the Carrizo Plain area the Tucker oak (Q. john-tuckeri) replaces it.

Unique coloring

I suspect all of us who know the tree know it as blue oak. Its common name refers to its bluish green deciduous leaves and/or its pale gray bark. Other names I’ve found include iron oak, mountain white oak, or mountain oak. The light blue/gray color is particularly evident when compared to evergreen oaks such as liveoaks (Quercus agrifolia, interior live oak (Q. wislizeni) and gold cup oak (Q. chrysolepsis), all of which live within or near the blue oak range. But remember, both leaves and bark are quite variable in color based on where the tree grows.

Leaves and bark are lighter (i.e., more gray or blue when the tree grows in open groves on sunny south and west facing slopes and darker and greener where moisture is present such as north and east facing slopes).

Blue oaks prefer well drained soils so they tend to be found on foothill slopes surrounding California’s Central Valley. Yes, blue oak is endemic to California, which means that it is found naturally only within the political boundaries of California.

A great deal is known about the ecology of the blue oak. So much that it is difficult to chose what to emphasize in a general piece such as this. When I did a web search of Quercus douglasii a fantastic tell-all forest service website headed the list. The web address of this site is One thing I will mention about the web site is that the small amount of stuff I knew already I noted was correct. This leads me to conclude that the vast amount of detail I didn’t know is also true.

Ground cover

One item worth mentioning is the ground cover of herbs Bonnie has drawn around the base of the oak trees. The species found in this area within the drip line of the tree’s canopy are quite different in composition and abundance from the species outside the drip line. Several hypotheses have been proposed for this phenomenon. First, the deep roots of the oak bring up nutrients from deep in the soil where they are below the reach of the shallower-rooted herbs. Because the leaves are a “leaky” system, some of the water soluble nutrients get deposited on the surface of the leaves where they are washed off and drop to the soil under the tree. It has also been noted that during the hot parts of the day, cattle seek shade under the trees. While there, they deposit undigested or unabsorbed nutrients under the tree. Either way, it is hypothesized that there is higher nutrient availability under the tree’s canopy than outside it.

Blue Oak and California native ethno-botany

I will make just a quick note on native California peoples use of the blue oak acorns. All writers discussing California native ethno-botany acknowledge that acorns of this species and most other oak species were gathered and used. In a list of acorns used by the Native Californians that I found on the internet, blue oak tops the list. Essentially all references refer to it as producing the “sweetest” acorn. I assume that means it has the best flavor, which should mean it has the lowest tannin content. Tannins are complex chemicals that are not only bitter tasting, but also interfere with digestion by creating blockages in the digestive tract.

Since tannins are water soluble, they are removed by leaching. Native Californians usually leached acorn meal by placing it in a basket and then placing the basket in running water. I’ve heard people ask where they found the water for all the required leaching. Today, if one wants to eat acorns, one must use treated tap water. That would prove to be quite expensive. One must remember that pre-European Native California populations were relatively small and scattered. There was no Mexican- or European-style field agriculture (except within the Colorado River Valley) in California.

There was habitat manipulation as was discussed by our recent banquet speaker, Kat Anderson, but the smaller population and low impact vegetation manipulation would mean that most streams would flow longer into the dry season and be less polluted than we no find them today. They could simply have been able to put their acorn meal filled baskets into any nearby water course with no ill effect.

by Dirk Walters, illustrations by Bonnie Walters | Dirk and Bonnie Walters are long-time CNPS-SLO members, contributors, and board/committee participants. In addition to his work at Cal Poly, Dirk is the current CNPS-SLO Historian.
Polypodium californicum

Polypodium californicum

Common Polypody or California Polypody

Bonnie’s drawing this time represents a fern recently found in the Los Osos Elfin Forest. The fern is the common or California polypody (Polypodium californicum). It was found by Al Normadin while scouting for his recently led trip in the Elfin Forest. It is a quite common and widespread fern on the Central Coast, where it is commonly found growing along edges or out of cracks in rocks. It is especially common on north facing slopes.

However, I was surprised to find it reported from the Elfin Forest. This is because ferns generally require consistently available soil moisture. Since the Elfin Forest Reserve’s sandy soils tend to lose their moisture and it doesn’t rain for over six months, one would not expect to find many fern species here. I suspect these particular ferns are able to do so because they occur in shade near or under the pygmy oak over-story where the oaks provide shade and extra moisture. The extra moisture comes from the ability of the pygmy oaks to condense water on their leaves and twigs from the common coastal fogs. This fog drip can add over 20 inches of extra water to that which falls from the clouds.

Even the extra moisture from fog drip might not be enough to support California polypody were it not for this particular fern‘s ability to go into an extended period of dormancy. That is, the living green leaves simply die back to the under ground stem (rhizome) and decompose during the dry months. Therefore this fern actually totally disappears from view during the rainless months of the year.

This disappearance probably explains how it could be present, yet not recorded in a species list. Then when moisture returns to the soil, the buds on the rhizome produce one to several new leaves. A note about all of our native ferns, the only visible vegetative structures one can observe without digging are the leaves. Stems and roots are all below ground. California polypody appears quickly after the first rains of autumn.

Bonnie’s main drawing actually shows two non-seed producing plants. The larger one, as stated above, is the common or California polypody or Polypodium californicum. The smaller, but more numerous is some kind of moss. I have no idea what kind. Mosses and their closely related liverworts and hornworts are usually neglected in nature books.

Neither mosses nor ferns produce seeds. Seeds are complex multi-cellular reproductive structures that consist of at least three parts. These include the outer, protective seed coat whose cells contain DNA that is identical to the mother plant, a food supply (endosperm) often consisting of cells controlled by 2/3 mother and 1/3 father DNA, and an embryo whose DNA is one-half from each parent.

Seeds allow land plants to disperse over a land environment. Mosses and ferns do not produce seeds, yet they too are land plants. So by what devise do they disperse over land? They use spores.

Spores are simple, unicellular structures that are enclosed in a thick wall. Like seeds, spores usually are capable of a period of dormancy before they can germinate and grow. In the true plants (Kingdom Plantae, which includes mosses, ferns and seed plants) all spores contain a single set of chromosomes (haploid). In all true plants, spores are always produced in a capsule-like structure called a sporangium, each of whose cells contains two sets of chromosomes (diploid). Since the cells of the sporangium are diploid and the spores produced inside are haploid, something special must happen to at least some of the cells inside the sporangium. This special type of cell division occuring when a single diploid cell (spore mother cells) divides its chromosome number in half producing four haploid spores is meiosis. All sexual organisms do this process some time in their life cycle.

The stalked sporangia in common polypody are produced in clusters on the underside of leaves. These clusters are termed sori (plural) or sorus (singular). Bonnie has drawn a portion of the underside of a leaf lobe showing several sori. A typical, single, tiny, stalked fern open sporangium is also shown.

When these haploid spores germinate, they do not produce the fern plant one sees growing in nature. They produce a tiny, barely visible to the naked eye, haploid plant known as a gametophyte. This little plant, (not shown) produces the sex organs that produce either the sperm or the eggs. These gametophytes live on the soil surface where periodically there is moisture enough to create a film of water over soil and plants. The sperm then swims through this film of water to the egg. The fertilized egg grows into the typical visible fern plant that Bonnie has drawn.

Each cluster (sorus) contains a few score of sporangia. Let’s say 60 sporangia. Each sporangium produces approximately 60 spores so a single sorus would be expected to produce 60 x 60 = 3,600 spores. Each leave produces about 20 sori, so the number of spores produced per leaf would be 72,000. Each individual fern plant produces at least 10 leaves so the number of spores per plant is now 720,000. But the California polypody is a perennial and it produces spores almost every wet year of its life. If we are conservative and say a given fern individual encounters only five wet years during it life, then during that individual’s five-year life, it will produce 3,600,000 spores.

How many of these spores must be successful in order to produce a stable population of fern plants? The answer is only two! What happens to the individuals that could have been produced from the other 3,599,998 spores? They die. If 3 or more are successful, the ferns population increases, if only one or none then the fern population decreases.

by Dirk Walters, illustrations by Bonnie Walters | Dirk and Bonnie Walters are long-time CNPS-SLO members, contributors, and board/committee participants. In addition to his work at Cal Poly, Dirk is the current CNPS-SLO Historian.

Chapter Meeting February 7, 2013

Title: February Chapter meeting
Start Time: 19:00
Date: 2013-02-07

Meet at the Veterans Hall, San Luis Obispo, 801 Grand Avenue.

7 p.m. social halfhour, 7:30 business meeting and program.

Local naturalist and CNPS member Al Normandin will host an identification workshop on Lichens before the monthly meeting on February 7 from 6:15 to 7 p.m. After a brief general introduction to lichens, we will be examining and identifying at least a dozen or so lichen samples commonly seen in the SLO area. If possible, bring a hand lens or magnifying glass for closer viewing of the samples.

Program: Adventures with Fritillaria, Sean Ryan

Sean is a Master’s student at San Diego State University studying the systematics Fritillaria (Liliaceae). His work seeks to clarify the species relationship within this charismatic group of lilies using DNA sequencing and morphological studies of current and past researchers. Sean has traveled throughout California collecting different Fritillaria. He will share trip photos and photos and stories from his research with Fritillaria.

Sean grew up in Arroyo Grande and initially studied architecture at Cal Poly, SLO before eventually receiving his undergraduate degree in biology after he was bitten by the botany bug. He taught environmental education for two years at Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School for Kids before beginning the Master’s program in Evolutionary Biology at San Diego State with Mike Simpson. He is currently working to finish his Master’s thesis and is also teaching botany labs at Cal Poly, SLO with Matt Ritter.

The March meeting will be at the Atascadero Library Community Room on Thursday, March 7, 6 to 10 p.m.

Annual Banquet 2013

San Luis Obispo Chapter of the California Native Plant Society Potluck Banquet

Saturday, January 26, 2013, 6-10 p.m.

Morro Bay Community Center, 1001 Kennedy Way, Morro Bay

6 p.m. – Social Hour 7 p.m. – Buffet Style Potluck Dinner 8 p.m. – Chapter business
Program 8:30 p.m.

Kat Anderson will speak on “Salinan Ethnobotany and Associated Land Stewardship.” Ms.
Anderson is author of Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of
California’s Natural Resources. This publication will be available for purchase and signing
during the social hour.

Potluck suggestions: CNPS will be providing the beer, wine, coffee, tea, and assorted
beverages included with the cost of the banquet. Plates, glasses, cups, and napkins will be
available; we ask that you bring your own eating utensils, although plastic utensils will be

For the dinner potluck, we are asking those with last names beginning with the following letters to bring the suggested item (and serving utensils). However, if you have a dish you especially want to share with the group, please feel free to bring it or contact Lauren (805-460-6329) or to get alternative suggestions.

A to H: dessert

I to Q: main meat or veggie

R to Z: salad (with dressing) or side dish.

Please put your name on a label or piece of tape on your serving items so they can be returned to you.

Directions: Exit Hwy 1 at Morro Bay Boulevard. At the “roundabout” turn right onto Quintana Road, and left onto Kennedy Way (after Albertson’s). Go ½ block. Community Center is on the right.

Thank you, the Banquet Committee

– – – – – – – – – –

Dr. Anderson’s talk, “Salinan Ethnobotany and Associated Land Stewardship,” will highlight some of the rich Salinan uses of our native plants for basketry, cordage, foods and other purposes, gathered from John P. Harrington’s field notes and her own ethnobotanical research conducted among the Salinan in the oak savannahs, chaparral, marshes and other vegetation types of west-central California in what is now Los Padre National Forest, Salinas Valley, and Fort Hunter- Liggett.

She will explore the rich stewardship practices that the Salinan applied to wilderness areas to influence plants and ecosystems for cultural purposes, and the potential associated ecological effects that might have resulted from these techniques. Kat Anderson is an ethnoecologist of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and a lecturer in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. She is also associate ecologist with the Agriculture Experiment Station.

She reconstructs the plant uses, harvesting strategies, and land management practices of indigenous peoples in the United States with an emphasis in California. This work involves the use of both qualitative and quantitative research methods.

A unique feature of her research is the use of the western scientific experimental approach to simulate indigenous horticultural practices and assess their potential ecological effects on the productivity and yield of wild plant populations. This information in turn can be used to assess the potential application of traditional ecological knowledge for restoring traditional gathering sites, and the biodiversity of degraded ecosystems.

Kat received a Masters and Doctorate in Wildland Resource Science from the University of California at Berkeley and Bachelors in Environmental Planning and Management from the University of California at Davis.

Sweet Springs Preserve Volunteer Opportunity

The holidays are about caring & sharing. Give something back to Nature this season by joining Morro Coast Audubon & friends on Saturday, December 8th from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. to help restore this beautiful coastal habitat on the shores of Morro Bay.

We’ll be planting lots of wildlife friendly shrubs like dune lupine, buckwheat, black sage, and lots more. We have about 3000 plants that need to go in the ground this winter, and it all has to be done by volunteers.

Bring a shovel with your name on it, if you have one. Otherwise, just bring yourself, your friends & family of all ages to the Sweet Springs Nature Preserve on the corner of 4th Street and Ramona Ave in Los Osos.

Our planting days are December 8th and January 12th. Tools, tips & holiday treats provided – even prizes for correct answers on our Nature quiz!

More info: 239- 3928;

Book Talk December 2012

Lost and Found

At the October CNPS meeting, someone left a black vest, Size L, women’s Columbia Sportswear Co., zip up side pockets. I tried to give it away at the November meeting and at the plant sale, but no one claimed it. If it is yours please pick it up at the book table at the December meeting, after that it goes to Goodwill.

Found: Did you buy a book at the book table, then put it down and forget to take it home? I have your book an receipt. Name the book and it is yours at the December meeting.

Book Table

We have new tees in EVERY size – Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, and Extra Extra Large. We have long sleeves and short sleeves in lots of pretty colors, so if you have been wishing for a new tee, now is the time with the best selection.

Thank You, Susan

A big thank you to Susan Grimaud for all the seeds she brought to the palnt sale. So many people got to pick up seeds which Susan brought. She grew the plants, collected the seeds, cleaned them, packaged them, labeled them and then brought them in for all of us to enjoy. Thank you Susan for a job well done!

-Heather Johnson

Plants for Sale

Take Advantage of This Limited Plant Offer A few plants remained from the Plant Sale, so if there’s a place in your garden that you are still looking to fill, consider some of these. Some of these are not often found in the retail trade. Google their names, and see if it’s right for your yard.

1 gallon:

3 Vitus californica ‘Rodger’s Red’ California grape, and 2 Iris douglasiana PCH hybrids.

4″ pots: Frangula californica, Coffeeberry; Heuchera pilosissima, Hairy Alum-Root; Grindelia arenicola, Coast Gum Plant; and, Potentilla Glandulosa ssp. glandulosa, Stick Cinquefoil.

1 gallons are $5, and 4″ pots are $2.

A native plant retailer in the Bay area says this about the Grindelia, “Soon to become a superstar among groundcovers, you can’t ask for much more than what this durable & stepable California native provides. Creating an almost flat, super-dense, evergreen, trailing carpet, it blooms from May all the way to October with 2.5” sunny yellow blooms. DROUGHT, CLAY, SAND & salt tolerant, it’s long lived and excellent for parking strips & hillsides. Great habitat plant & deer resistant!” The plants will be available at the December chapter meeting, or email for other information.

1 gallons are $5 each and the 4″ pots are $2.

2012 Most Valuable Volunteer

John and I felt this year it would be fun to begin acknowledging a Most Valuable Volunteer for our annual plant sale or our MVV! This decision was difficult because we have so many outstanding volunteers; however, one stood out amongst the group. And that person is Susan Grimaud!

Susan spent many hours collecting, cleaning, and preparing seed packets for the sale. This may not seem to be a large task; however, it truly is time consuming. She donated her time without being asked and spent most her the day selling and instructing customers on propagating her seeds.

Susan, thank you so much for volunteering your seeds and time. Congratulations you are this year’s MVV.

❀ John & Suzette

Plant Sale Thank You

Suzette and I want to say, “job well done” to all the volunteers who spent their Saturday helping at the plant sale. I am always amazed how you all turn out and really give it your all.

We sold lots of plants, books, seeds, and other stuff. With your help the chapter will be able to continue teaching the public about native plants and the importance of protecting them for future generations to enjoy.

I also want to thank you all for wishing me a happy birthday that really made my day.

As we look forward to next year’s sale, I hope you had fun and will be willing to sign up again to help. Once again thank you for making this year’s sale a success.

❀ Your plant sale chairpersons, John and Suzette