Native Garden Tours

Our second annual native garden tour will take place April 15 through 21, 2012, as a part of California Native Plant Week, which overlaps
with Earth Week.

Last year we had city gardens, country gardens, large and small gardens, but all were interesting and educational.

If you would be interested in having your garden on this year’s tour, please call Heather Johnson at 528-­‐0446.

Gardens should be open at least one day during Earth Week, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (your choice of day(s) of the week).

Please let us know as soon as possible so we can get accurate publicity started.

Thank you,

Heather Johnson

Community Recognition Award

Community Recognition Award

The Community Recognition Award was presented to Susan Grimaud at the Annual Banquet for her work at Pismo State Beach, Oceano Campground Native Plant Garden, and North Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove.

The inscription reads, “With great appreciation of your  dedication, knowledge and service in creating a California Native Plant Garden in the San Luis Obispo south county dunes area. Your extensive knowledge of, and gardening with, California native plants has enriched our community and visitors. Your contribution as Co-Chair, gardener, plant propagator, and garden tour leader has significantly enhanced the educational component of the California Native Plant Society.”

Pismo Clarkia – Clarkia speciosa ssp. immaculata
by Mardi Niles, which graces Susan’s plaque


To the CNPS Awards Committee and CNPS members: When Mardi Niles convinced me that I should attend the CNPS banquet because Bill Shearer was to be given the Hoover Award, little did I expect that there was a hidden plot! I was rushing down the last crumbs of some baker’s luscious lemon torte, when I heard Mardi announce my name and couldn’t believe my ears. What bafflement! What surprise! You did fool me…

The plaque of recognition that I was so graciously handed for my work at the Oceano Native Plant Gardens will be a treasured memento. It is adorned with Mardi’s lovely Pismo Clarkia artwork. And the evening will certainly be one to remember. I do appreciate this kindness on your part.

In 1993, when Grace and Jack Beigle asked me to join them working on the Oceano Native Plant Gardens at Pismo State Beach, it not only became just a new activity, it enriched my life immensely. They became my mentors and I enjoyed working with them for many years until they moved away. Now Bill Shearer and I continue with the help of a group of extremely dedicated volunteers, many of whom have been with us for a very long time. So, in honoring us, you honor them, too. We have a good time when we meet every Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., sometimes at the Nature Center on Pier Ave.. and more recently, on the first and third Tuesdays when we meet at the Monarch Butterfly Grove. There, for the last few years we have had a good deal of success in removing African veldt grass and replacing it with native dune vegetation. This has been a source of much satisfaction for us all. We hope that you will come and see some of our progress and if you’d like join us in our efforts.

Well, now you have inspired me to keep doing better, to become ever more committed to those native plants that we love. Thank you, CNPS, for all the work that you do and for the generous recognition that you bestowed on me.

Sincerely, Susan Grimaud

Native Plant Week 2012 and Earth Day Weekend Figueroa Mountain

Saturday, 21 April 2012 9:00 a.m.

Title: Native Plant Week and Earth Day Weekend Figueroa Mountain

LPNF and CNPS Wildflower, Native Plant Week, and Earth Day Weekend Figueroa Mountain, at the Figueroa Fire Station.

The Santa Lucia District, Los Padres National Forest (LPNF) will hold one of its eleventh annual Wildflower Weekends on Figueroa Mountain in conjunction with the California Native Plant Society. This tour will feature a local celebration of the second California Native Plant Week (3rd week in April, the14th-22nd this year).

Meet: at 9 a.m. at the Fire Station on Figueroa Mountain Road. Turn left at the SR 154- Figueroa Mountain Road intersection near Los Olivos, and proceed to the Fire Station parking lot. This will be a “drive and stroll” tour of this year’s spectacular display.

Bring: sturdy shoes, lunch and liquids, and camera and binoculars recommended.

Call Helen Tarbet at 925-9538 ext. 246 or Charles Blair, 733-3189, for details.

President’s Message January 2012

Another year! How they fly.

I am hoping that the current rainfall deficit remedies itself and we will have a great year of wildflowers.

As I write this I am preparing, along with several other chapter members, to attend the CNPS Conservation Conference in San Diego. When you look at the program and talk abstracts, it is clear that everything from art to anthropology, plant taxonomy to computer science, can play a role somewhere within the CNPS mission to protect our flora. The new school curriculum developed with John Muir Laws also shows what fun it can be.

For most of our chapter members the accent is on pleasant recreation and meeting great people, and we aim to mix up the science and the fun as much as possible during the year. We are loading the chapter web sites with area-specific plant lists and identification guides (to which you can contribute!), will be running lots of field trips and otherwise trying to make knowledge about the SLO flora more accessible to more people.

We welcome members who will open up their gardens and private lands to field trips, and we are interested in starting forums on such things as native plant gardening.

We will have our March meeting in the North County again and have an excellent speaker who will talk about plants across the county line in southern Monterey County.

I hope to meet all of you during one of our many activities.

–David Chipping


and here are some pictures from the Conservation Conference, courtesy of Kristie Haydu. Thank you for the pictures, Kristie, and keep ’em coming!


Conservation January 2012

On January 7 the SLO Tribune ran a story “Shrimp Hunt Threatens Housing” in which stated that a search for a protected fairy shrimp, a denizen of vernal pools, would have to be completed before a “massive housing development” could be started. Of course, the headline should have read “Housing Threatens Shrimp”, but our concept of protecting vernal pools and ephemeral wetlands on their own merit, along with their Downingia and other wetland flowers, has vanished with Supreme Court rulings. The only protection lies in the presence of certain animals protected under the Endangered Species Act, the pools and the plants having little leverage in land use decisions. I urge Paso Roblans who know of vernal pools on private land that might be protected in some way to contact me.

The Carrizo Plains plant photo collections continue to grow, and the team is close to getting most of the species recorded. Recent vegetation mapping by the Dept. of Fish & Game and CNPS have defined new plant alliances (defined by a key dominant species) and plant associations (co-associations of plants that are repeated through the landscape) in the Carrizo Plain and southern Central Valley. Thirtyeight new associations were found; the Carrizo Plain keeps surprising us.

Several people have remarked to me that the plague of Pine Pitch Canker seems to have abated, although scattered mortality is still seen. Similarly, there is still no evidence that Sudden Oak Death disease has crossed the county line from Monterey County. However if this drought persists, trees will weaken and may become more susceptible to infection, so I want everybody to be on the lookout for trouble.

–David Chipping

2012 Banquet

2012 Banquet

San Luis Obispo Chapter of the California Native Plant Society

Morro Bay Community Center

1001 Kennedy Way, Morro Bay

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Social Hour 6:00

Pot Luck Dinner 7:00

Chapter Business 8:00

Program begins 8:30


The Life of an Oak

Click to view in bookstore

Native plants shine as the perfect answer to recreating local habitats in home gardens. By selecting the right plants for the right place, according to guidelines from local ecosystems, gardens become oases of beauty with a minimum of care and maintenance. Our featured guest, Glenn Keator, will highlight this concept.

Designing California Native Gardens, Keator and Middlebrook

click to view in bookstore

Dr. Glenn Keator is a freelance botanist, writer, and teacher specializing in native plants and related floras. He received his doctorate in botany at UC Berkeley and currently teaches at San Francisco Botanical Gardens, Regional Parks (Tilden) Botanic Garden, and Merritt College in the Landscape Horticulture department. Glenn has had a life-long interest in growing plants and has many trips to various parts of Mexico over the last 35 years.

He has written several books on California natives as well as others including The Life of an Oak: an intimate portrait, Introduction to Trees of the San Francisco Bay Region, Complete Garden Guide to Native Perennials of California, and Complete Garden Guide to Native Shrubs of California. His most recent book, co-authored with Alrie Middlebrook, is Designing California Native Gardens: The Plant Community Approach to Artful, Ecological Gardens.

Here are some pictures of our 2012 Annual Banquet

Thank you

to Nancy Shearer and Marti Rutherford

and Mardi Niles and Kristie Haydu

for submitting these photos

Book Talk, February 2012

Nevin Smith has spent his life growing native plants and exploring the wilderness areas of California. During the 1980s, his articles on natives appeared in Fremontia and, finally, he was prevailed upon to put the articles into book format. That book is Native Treasures. We have been without copies to sell for two years, but now have books available.

There are chapters on manzanitas, ceanothus, ribes, lupines, sages, buckwheats, oaks, penstemons, and many more. Native Treasures is, indeed, a treasure and a joy to read. Easy to dip into when have a question about a specific plant; delightful to curl up with on a cold foggy day to read about all the glories you might try to grow in your own garden.

Chapter  Meeting,  February 2, 2012

Chapter Meeting, February 2, 2012

Thursday, February 2, 2012–Groundhog Day

Program: Dirk and David’s Best Spring Plant Walks Illustrated

Veterans Hall, 801 Grand Avenue, San Luis Obispo

7:00 pm: Social time, refreshments and browse our book table

The meeting begins at 7:30 with a little time for chapter business and announcements, followed by the presentation.

Camissonia cheiranthifolia

Camissonia cheiranthifolia

Beach sun cup

Camissonia cheiranthifolia is one of the few plants that bloom year around along our coast. It is found most commonly on the unstable, sandy hillocks immediately in-shore from the beach. It can also occasionally found on disturbed sandy soils away from the immediate coast, but this is very rare. Its range is from southern Oregon to just into Baja. In the northern part of it range it is basically a perennial herb. It becomes somewhat woody in the southern portion of its range. Being somewhat in the middle, it can be either in our chapter area (San Luis Obispo county). It is quite variable here. Behind the windy beaches it’s a flat ground cover, while in sheltered areas it is taller and less spreading.

I’ve seen a few green plants with no surface hairs, but most of our plants are more or less hairy. Some petals have red spots at their base while others lack these spots. What looks like a very large bud arising from the angle between the leaf below the flower and the stem in Bonnie’s drawing is actually the elongate fruit, which becomes twisted as it matures. Flower size is also quite variable.

Before 1969 beach sun cups were in the genus Oenothera. At that time the common name applied to this entire genus was “evening primrose.” So, Camissonia cheiranthifolia would have been called “beach evening primrose” or simply and misleadingly, beach primrose. However that common name is quite misleading; primrose is a name better applied to a totally different and unrelated group of plants in the true primrose family (Primulaceae) which include the shooting star and the pimpernel.

The only trait that sun cups and true primroses share is their general tubular shaped flowers. Sun cups (with other members of its family, Onagraceae) have four separate petals instead of the five fused petals found in the primroses. In fact, the flowers of Onagraceae, including the sun cups, have a distinctive set of characteristics. They produce flowers that possess four sepals, four petals, eight stamens, attached to the top of a generally thin, elongated ovary which displays a four-parted structure.

The distinctive characteristics of the Onagraceae family can be summarized as CA4 CO4 A8/G 4 . CA is short for calyx which is the collective term for the sepals. CO stands for the corolla, the collective term for the petals. A is the abbreviation for andrecium, which translates as all the “male things,” the stamens. G stands for gynoecium (female thing), which represents the four-parted ovary, style, and stigma. The circled 4 indicates that the four subunits (carpels) that make up the gynoecium are fused into a single pistil.

Why did Dr. Peter Raven separate the sun cups from the evening primroses when they share so many family characters? First and most easily observed is the stigma. A look at Bonnie’s drawing will show it to resemble a single, wide, hemispherical cap as opposed to the four hair-like stigma branches found in the true evening primroses. A second trait is harder to determine. True evening primroses produce their flowers at dusk and bloom through the night and fade in the morning. Sun cup flowers open at dawn and bloom during the day. This means the two genera have different pollinators since their flowers are open at different times of the day.

Evening primroses would be expected to be visited by night-flying animals such as moths whereas sun cups would be visited by day-flying ones. While researching tidbits to include about beach sun cups, I came across the discussion of the species in the book by Mary Coffeen titled Central Coast Wild Flowers. In it she reprints part of an article about the Morro Bay Sand Spit by my friend and former Cal Poly professor, Wayne Williams. In it he describes the pollination of beach sun cup and as follows:

“The plant’s bright yellow flowers cover new sand deposits everywhere along the sand spit, enhancing dune stability. Its blossoms face down wind. The pollinator is an exceptionally large bumblebee (Bombus sp.). We have all heard how bumblebees manage to fly despite the aerodynamic engineering theory that would render them landbound because of their weight and size. These bees deftly approach the beach primrose flowers by flying upwind for greatest flight stability. Their powerful thorax muscles and large size allow them to survive within this niche, gathering food and pollinating, because of the downwind direction of the primrose corollas. Since the primrose is decumbent where wind speed is slowest, the bees can also work over large territories. I have watched these bees and have never seen any other species pollinating beach primroses at the sand dunes. This symbiosis between plant and insect allows both the plant and the bumblebee to thrive and reproduce.”

Just imagine how much observation time required to allow one to come up with this kind of natural history fact. There are lots more yet to be discovered. That’s why natural areas like the Elfin Forest are so important.

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.

Book Talk, December 2011

Glenn Keator has agreed to be our guest speaker at the upcoming January SLO-CNPS banquet in Morro Bay. Our December meeting at the SLO Vets hall will be your only chance to pick up his books if you don’t already have them on your bookshelves.

The Life of an Oak, an Intimate Portrait*, by Glenn Keator, author, and Susan Bazell, illustrator, California Plant Families by Glenn Keator and Designing California Native Gardens* by Glenn Keator and Alrie Middlebrook are available on our December book tables (*and website).

If you ever run across Complete Garden Guide To The Native Shrubs of California and Complete Garden Guide to the Native Perennials of California, both by Glenn Keator, grab them and run. These are books to treasure. In Full View is another of his books that has gone out of print and is hard to find. Great read.

The new Jepson Manual will arrive about mid December. Unfortunately they won’t give us a price break and this tome is a big one. I’ve ordered 5 copies, price is $125 each. Ouch!

See you at the book table. -Heather Johnson

The Life of an Oak

Click image to view in bookstore

Designing California Native Gardens

Click image to view in bookstore

Chapter Meeting, December 7, 2011

Chapter Meeting, December 7, 2011

Thursday, 7 p.m., December 1, 2011. Veterans Building, 801 Grand Avenue, San Luis Obispo

Program – Calflora’s Integrated Mapping Platform

Using Calflora’s integrated mapping platform to understand and conserve California flora: recent results and prospects for further future improvement.

Daniel Gluesenkamp is Executive Director of the Calflora Database, where he helps the leading source of California wild plant information to develop innovative new mapping, data analysis, and management planning tools. Prior to joining Calflora Dan worked for Audubon Canyon Ranch, habitat protection and restoration work across 30 properties and conducting research on invasive turkey impacts and nitrogen deposition impacts on vernal pools. He earned his Ph.D. in 2001 with “The ecology of native and introduced thistles,” and in 2009 discovered a Franciscan manzanita plant growing on a traffic island at the Golden Gate Bridge.

Daniel Gluesenkamp is a founder and past president of the California Invasive Plant Council and co-founder of the Bay Area Early Detection Network (BAEDN).

Calflora started as an 8-character dos code for a database available only floppy disk. The emergence and expansion of the World Wide Web has made Calflora’s services widely available to nearly 19,000 registered users. The nonprofit is now an important source of wild plant information for thousands of citizens, educators, researchers, and conservation professionals, who use depend on Calflora for location information, species information, photos, and other resources.

In 2006 Calflora began working with the Bay Area Early Detection Network (BAEDN) to build neoGIS tools for use by conservation professionals reporting and managing harmful invasive plants. This collaboration has grown into an integrated mapping platform that brings together a great diversity of field data collection methods to move plant occurrence information into the shared cloud database, and then provide users with a growing set of powerful visualization and resource management tools. Recently, supporting partners (including BAEDN, Cal-IPC, CNPS, and NRCS) have invested in data compilation efforts, as well as exciting new tools that give land managers and scientists improved ability to map, manage, and understand our changing flora.

This talk will provide an overview of Calflora’s suite of tools, including Android and iPhone mapping apps, geotagged photo submission tools, GIS upload and display tools, and even tools for planning and tracking conservation action. Finally, we will discuss upcoming projects, how these tools and information can be applied to solving growing conservation challenges, and talk about what it will mean when we know where all California’s plants can be found.


I would like to thank all of you who turned up to the South Bay Advisory Council to support Audubon’s proposed removal of eucalyptus from the eastern end of the tidal marsh. Unfortunately our ecological arguments did not win the day, which fell to poems, odes to the joy of seeing the trees, false claims of their biological value, and accusations of racial profiling of Australian natives, etc. This was only the first round, and the issue will move to regulatory commissions, where we have another chance.

On a good note, NRCS has some funds to treat Cape ivy infestations of the Chorro Creek Wetlands Restoration area, and Linda Chipping and I went with them to GPS infestation locations. We also have some interest from State Parks in treating fast-worsening pampas grass infestations on the Coastal Terrace north of Arroyo de la Cruz. Our involvement with the County Weed Management Area committee is so useful in regard to notification of agencies and getting action.

We might have seemed to have lost when the Local Agency Formation Commission approved bringing large hunks of Price Canyon into Pismo Beach’s sphere of influence, which we opposed, but than LAFCO placed so many stringent restrictions that any development will be much much smaller than envisioned by the developer-land owners.

–David Chipping

President’s Message

I think our November meeting was the highest attendance we have ever had at a regular meeting, thanks mostly to the host of Cal Poly students. Randy Baldwin’s fine presentation of plants that are “in the trade” and the human interest of their history of introduction might reinforce the notion that study of native plants is not just about learning latin binomials. The key now is to find activities that will hold the interests of these students. Ideas?

As I noted earlier, we are starting to mount plant lists on the web site on the Growing Natives page. I have added a scan of historical plant lists produced in the 1970s by Bud Meyer. Dr. Keil has contributed a Checklist of the Plants of Shell Creek with Jepson-2 nomenclature, and I have found checklists of plants in vicinity of the Dairy Creek Golf Course taken from environmental reports. I have started working on a Coon Creek trail guide. If you have anything that might remotely be of interest and worth posting on our site, please send it to me.

-David Chipping

Atriplex watsonii

Atriplex watsonii

Watson’s Salt Bush

The plant featured on this cover of the Obispoensis would not generally be considered worthy of presentation to a general audience. Its flowers are tiny; its appearance mundane. It belongs to a plant family past students in Cal Poly’s Field Botany class nick named the “Uglyaceae.” It grows along the uppermost edge of coastal salt marshes and edges of coastal sand dunes. However, even though it is a salt marsh plant you probably won’t have to worry about getting your feet wet. This is because it grows where it gets inundated only by the highest of tides. It is Atriplex watsonii, or the Watson’s salt bush or Watson’s orach. The model for this plant was growing in the in the uppermost reaches of Morro Bay salt marsh.

The recognized common names are just translations of the scientific name which often happens to nondescript looking species. Watsonii is named in honor of Sereno Watson (1826-1892) who worked as a curator in the Gray Herbarium and was a student of plants of the Western United States. He was a participant in the Clarence King expedition that studied the natural history, especially geology, of California in the middle of the 19th Century. He published the Botany of the King Expedition in 1871.

Orach is derived from the Middle English common name for the plants included in this genus. Salt bush is the more contemporary common name applied to all members of this genus. This is in spite of the fact that not all of them grow in salty soils or are bushes. It is true that most members of the genus do favor or require salty or alkaline soils. The habit of this salt bush is a prostrate to mounded perennial herb. It has very thin stems, that spread out latterly, becoming mounded only in the center. At its tallest it is less than 10 inches tall. However, individual plants can grow to several feet in width.

Watson’s Salt Bush (Atriplex watsonii)

Watson’s Salt Bush (Atriplex watsonii)

The drawn plant is in fruit. Why show it in fruit? Well, the most obvious reason is that as this is written it is fall/winter and this is when it is in fruit. But, more important, it would be even less exciting when it is in bloom as the flowers are very tiny. Male (staminate) flowers are borne on separate plants from the the female (pistilate) plants (dioecious). The male flower clusters are located in the axils of leaves and are in the form of short, dense spikes. The plant shown is pistillate. We know this because there are clusters of small, paired bracts in the angle between stem and leaf base (axils). Bonnie has drawn one of these “bract sandwiches.” One would expect to find a dry, single-seeded fruit between the two bracts, but most of the bract pairs are empty. Like many plants that occur in difficult environments, such as salt marshes, most of their resource budget is expended on just surviving rather than on sexual reproduction. A second evolutionary consideration is that the probability of a new individual plant’s establishment in difficult environments is itself extremely low. So, why waste energy producing seeds when they will have an extremely low probability of finding an available site in which to germinate and grow.

Some may have noticed that I have not identified the family to which salt bushes belong. This is because my old taxonomy texts and the upcoming Jepson Manual are going to place it in different families. Classically, before DNA sequence data, salt bushes were placed in the goosefoot family, Chenopodiaceae. When the DNA sequence data became available, it was noted that genera of the mostly temperate zone chenopods and the mostly tropical family, Amaranthaceae, came out together. This led to some taxonomists to combine the two families into one. Since Amaranthaceae is the older name, it had “priority” over the name Chenopodiaceae. Therefore, if the two families are combined, then the Rules of Botanical Nomenclature require that Amaranthaceae be used. The classical Amaranthaceae contains only three genera in California (only one of them the very common & weedy pigweeds, Amaranthus) In contrast, the classical Chenopodiaceae loom large. It consists of at least 17 genera and many species.

Although most common in deserts, the family is found in many other habitats as well. In other words, the classical Chenopodiaceae contains many species that dominate many habitats in California, whereas the classical Amaranthaceae are minor components which most of us see only in our weedy flora.

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.

Book Talk November, 2011

Books for All-Native Gardeners

If you like to putter in the garden with native plants these two books need to be on your bookshelf.

California Native Plants for the Garden, Bornstein, Fross and O'Brien

click the image to see this book in our bookstore

The first is California Native Plants For The Garden by Bornstein, Fross and O’Brien.

This book is an encyclopedia of the most available and garden friendly natives for home gardeners and gives fine descriptions of each plant with many photos.

Designing California Native Gardens, Keator and Middlebrook

click the image to see this book in our bookstore

The second book is Designing California Native Gardens by Alrie Middlebrook and Glenn Keator.

This wonderful book breaks down the various locales in California and describes plants found in each.

If you live in an oak woodland, redwood forest, grassland, desert, etc. you’ll be able to find the plants which will thrive in each area.

Books for Native + Non-Native Mix Gardeners

Plants and Landscapes for Summer Dry Climates, Nora Harlow, Jill M. Singleton, Barrie D. Coate, Kristine Sandoe

click the image to see this book in our bookstore

If you would rather mix your native garden plants with plants from the Mediterranean climate areas, then Plants and Landscapes of Summer Dry Climates is the book for you.

More Suggestions

Two other books specifically aimed at southern California gardens:

Southern California Native Flower Garden by Susan Van Atta. Susan gardens in Santa Barbara and has put together an excellent little book.

Landscaping With Native Plants Of Southern California by George Miller. This seems to me to be a book appropriate for people living in the drier parts of our county such as Paso Robles, Creston, and Shandon.

So drop by the book table at the next meeting and don’t forget our plant sale. See you soon.

-Heather Johnson

Chapter Meeting, November 3, 2011

Thursday, November 3. 7 pm at the Vets Hall, SLO, Grand Ave. & Monterey St.

Horticulture Program

Randy Baldwin and His Favorite California Native for the Garden

Randy Baldwin is a partner and General Manager of San Marcos Growers, a wholesale nursery in Santa Barbara, California known in the nursery industry for the diversity of plants that it grows and for the introduction of new plants suitable for cultivation in California.

Randy has worked for San Marcos Growers for over 30 years and prior to this worked for a Santa Barbara retail nursery while completing a BA in Environmental Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. In his spare time Randy speaks to groups about his love of plants and writes the web pages for the San Marcos Growers Horticultural web site.

Randy and his family live in a turn of the century farm house on the nursery property. The gardens surrounding the house are a demonstration garden of many of the grasses, flax and drought tolerant plants that San Marcos Growers is known for. These gardens have been photographed often and have graced the pages of several books, magazines and calendars.

Conservation November, 2011

CNPS is supporting Morro Bay Audubon Society’s plans to remove as many eucalyptus tree as possible over an extended period of time that are not contributing toward either bird or butterfly habitat in Los Osos’s Sweet Springs Nature Preserve. These trees are affecting the biological integrity of the native marshland habitat, including a restoration site for one of the rarest plants in North America, the marsh sandwort. Unfortunately some local residents are opposing any tree removal on the basis of some aesthetic arguments that in the past have prevented us from removing eucalyptus in extremely rare Morro manzanita habitat of Montana de Oro State Park. Audubon is hardly likely to destroy bird habitat… duh!.

Is “global warming denial” getting you annoyed? Would you like to partake in a long term experiment to verify climate change? At the state-wide meeting in San Diego last September, we were told of some vegetation monitoring programs to search for gradual shifts of plant species phenology, such as the times of first bud, first bloom, leaf out etc. We are looking for people who regularly pass a point where they can monitor species in the wild. There is more to this that I can disclose here, but contact me if you think this could be interesting. I expect that the program will have to run for many years before trends arise from the scatter of data, but we should start somewhere.

David Chipping

President’s Message

Thanks to all of you who made the “Great Photography and Dessert Bash” a great success. I saw many photographs that better those on the covers of national magazines, including some submitted by a seven year-old child.

As you read this we are gearing up for our biggest fundraiser of the year, the annual plant sale, and our next regular program reflects the importance of horticulture with a presentation by Randy Baldwin, the owner of San Marcos Growers. (more…)

Stachys bullata

Stachys bullata

Hedge Nettle

The plant for the cover of this OBISPOENSIS is found in many habitats from dry to moist and from wood edge to open fields. It is found primarily in the coastal area west of the Santa Lucia mountain divide.

It’s common or California hedge-nettle (Stachys bullata). This species is certainly not rare but it is not overly abundant either. It’s widespread but snooty where it grows. The flower books and floras state that it is found in our shrub lands (coastal scrub, dune scrub & chaparral) as well as oak forests. This is true, but if one wants to find it look in these communities where the soils tend to be moist.

I tend to think of it occupying the drier edge of the riparian habitat. As surface streams dry hedge nettles will move into the stream bed itself. The species can be found in relatively dry areas such as the Elfin Forest and Sargeant Cypress Forest found on West Cuesta Ridge. Both areas have lots of fog and contain plant species that are able to condense fog onto their leaves and stems. Leaves and stems, however are poor absorbers of liquid water, so the water drips off onto the soil surface where it sinks to where the plant’s roots absorb it. Fog drip is a significant source of water.

I remember reading a Cal Poly Biology Department senior project done for Dr. Robert Rodin many years ago. They found that rain gauges placed under the trees recorded over 20 inches more water than ones placed in the open.

The “hedge” part of the common name, I assume, comes from the habit of these plants to grow in fence rows and along roadsides, especially the old world species. The “nettle” part of the common name comes from its resemblance to the stinging nettle (Urtica). The surface of leaves and stems are coated by short stiff hairs. These hairs merely impart a sandpapery feel, but do not cause the rash and itching or pain of the true stinging nettle. I find it a rather pleasant feel and you have to touch them to get the pleasant citrusy odor that arises from the bruised leaves.

Stachys is fairly large (ca. 300 sp. worldwide, 8 CA & 5 SLO Co.) genus of mints (Lamiaceae or Labiatae). It contains a number of plants used as food or medicine, particularly in the Old World. The medicinal plants generally go by the common name of betony while the ones producing edible tubers go by the various names. These include chorogi, Chinese or Japanese artichoke, knotroot. I found no reference to any of our California Stachys species, including S. bullata, possessing either edible or medicinal properties. The closest I came was one suggestion that leaves might to be tried as a poultice. That is, bruise a few leaves in warm water and apply the mixture to minor wounds and rashes. This is how the various betony species are used around the world and is the explanation for another common name for the species in this genus, woundwort.

References to hedge nettles are noticeably absent from my California native gardening books. The current Jepson Manual recommends that they be planted in areas where they get occasional water (3-4 times during dry season). It indicates that native hedge nettles are very hardy and might work in an area that needs stabilization. However, they caution that being hardy, they can become invasive.

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.

Annual Native Plant Sale

Saturday, November 5th, 2011


Please join us at

Pacific Beach High School

11950 Los Osos Valley, Road San Luis Obispo

(At the Target intersection) (more…)