Featured Plants

An in-depth look at a plant – what makes it special, it’s characteristics, where to find it in the natural landscape, and other notables. Common non-native and invasive plants are occasionally reported about.

Tetragonia tetragonoides (New Zealand Spinach)

Tetragonia tetragonoides (New Zealand Spinach)

Bonnie’s drawing for this issue of OBISPOENSIS has never been used in any local newsletter. Bonnie drew it for Dr. David Keil and my plant taxonomy text back in the early 1970’s. Why has it not been used? Well, first a look at Bonnie’s drawing will indicate that the species produces inconspicuous flowers. It lacks petals, and the flowers are semi-hidden in the axils of its somewhat succulent leaves, and the species is not native to California. Its common names include New Zealand, or dune, spinach, Tetragonia tetragonoides. For you old timers like me, back in the 1970’s its most common published scientific name was Tetragonia expansa.

New Zealand spinach is considered by many to be an invasive weed. I assume we must go along with that, but my experience with it around here is that it’s not particularly good at it. It prefers slightly salty (halophilic) soils. It also seems to require a bit of disturbance. So, look for it at the upper, less salty edge of salt marsh and/or on coastal benches, especially in disturbed sites where few other species can grow. A few individual plants have been found along the edge of Los Osos Creek, west of Bay View bridge. It is especially common along the trails south of Spooner’s Cove in Montaña de Oro State Park, where it became sufficiently dense to warrant a targeted removal project. It can also be encountered as a weed all along the coast.

New Zealand spinach belongs to a family of flowering plants, Aizoaceae, that is primarily native to the Southern Hemisphere. New Zealand spinach is, in fact native to Southern Africa but has spread to New Zealand and is apparently a serious weed throughout southern Australia. Obviously, it has also been introduced into North America and Eurasia. The genus, Tetragonia, has around a dozen species and its generic name is derived from the four (tetra-) wings that are produced on the green fruit. These wings dry up and essentially disappear in the mature fruit. The inconspicuous flower displays a pale yellow color, but the flowers have no petals, only sepals as it only produces a single whorl of perianth (collective term for sepals and petals). If a perianth has only one whorl, botanists tend to regard them as sepals. These sepals, as well as the stamens are attached to the top of the ovary which makes the ovary inferior. The more famous and probably even more weedy members of the Aizoaceae are the ice plants
(Carpobrotus and Mesembryanthemum).

Wherever New Zealand spinach is found growing, its leaves have been used as a green vegetable. One web source indicated that the Magellan expedition around the world was especially happy to find a patch of it. They would pick the leaves, boil them and then dry (preserve) them for eating. It was particularly good in preventing scurvy! However, note that they boiled the leaves before eating them. The leaves contain enough oxalate chemicals to cause oxalate poisoning. Oxalate chemicals are usually destroyed by boiling.

Dirk Walters

Tetragonia in flower: close-up photo by David Chipping

Tetragonia in flower: close-up photo by David
Chipping

Bluff Trail, Montaña de Oro

Bluff Trail, Montaña de Oro S.P., site of a New
Zealand spinach removal project to encourage the return of native plants. Photo by David Chipping


 

Claytonia perfoliata (Miner’s Lettuce)

Heather Johnson has a new watercolor for us to use on the cover of this issue of Obispoensis. It’s most commonly identified around the central coast as miner’s lettuce (Claytonia (Montia) perfoliata). The situation where a leaf blade base appears to be passed through (perforated) by its stem is said to be perfoliate.

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Matilija poppy

The cover of the May-June Obispoensis features a watercolor of Matilija poppy, Romneya coulteri, by Heather Johnson. Dirk Walters provides an introduction and notes to the description written by Alice Meyer back in the 1970’s or early 80’s for the local Audubon Chapter Newsletter.

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Solanum xanti (Blue, Purple, Chaparral, or San Diego Nightshade)

Solanum xanti, Blue nightshade, article accompanied by original watercolor painting by Heather Johnson. Blue nightshade (the name most commonly used around here) is not pushy in its appearance unless it’s in bloom. It is up to a yard tall and the stem is half woody or suffrutescent. The ordinary looking, mostly un-lobed leaves are up to 3 inches long and lanceshaped to oval. Blue nightshade even prefers to grow near other plants and just blend in.

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Salvia spathacea (Hummingbird Sage)

The cover of this Obispoensis is another beautiful water color by Heather Johnson. In our area Hummingbird sage can grow in an extensive mat. Its leaves are large (10 in (20 cm) long and 3 in (8 cm) wide). The leaf surface appears quilted. Its family affiliation (Mint or Lamiaceae or Labitae) is shown clearly in Heather’s water color.

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Vitis californica (California grape)

As well as reddish fruits, this variety of wine grape produces bright red leaves in the fall. Enter DNA to the story. Several DNA studies proved that the cultivar ‘Roger’s Red’ is truly a hybrid between the native California grape and the European wine grape Vitis vinifera var. Alicante Bouschet.

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Clarkia speciosa subsp. immaculata (Pismo Clarkia)

I chose the Pismo clarkia because it grows in the area surrounding Mardi’s home and nowhere else. It grows naturally in about 20 occurrences from the southern Edna Valley, south through the foothills and valleys of the Southern San Luis Range, ending east of Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande (Huasna Valley).

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Viola pedunculata (Johnny-jump-up)

Wild (California, yellow, or grass) violet, pansy or Johnny –jump-up This botanical illustration was created by Mardi Niles using a Micron 005 #1 Archival Ink pen and Prismacolor Verithin colored pencils on Bristol Regular paper. It will be the first of several...

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Common Milkweed (kotolo) Asclepias eriocarpus

The cover drawing and article for this issue of the OBISPOENSIS was written and drawn by Alice Meyer. She was a very active member (and first Hoover Award Recipient in the 1970 and 80’s. She is the one who named our newsletter, OBISPOENSIS, and served as its editor...

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Coast Live Oak

Dirk Walters, illustration by Bonnie Walters Oaks have been in the news a lot recently. Essentially all of it has been bad from the Oak’s point of view. First, there was the clearing of valley (Quercus lobata) and blue (Q. douglasii) oaks in the Paso Robles area. and...

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Common (White) Yarrow (Achillea millefollium)

Common (White) Yarrow (Achillea millefollium) The plant discussed in this issue of the Obispoensis is one that I’ve wanted to take on for a long time, but could never bring myself to ask Bonnie to draw. Since we are using photos to illustrate it by, I think it’s time....

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Fall Color

O.K.... so we’re not Vermont. However we do have some pretty fall color displays. If you like the gold of aspen, you will see the same colors in our closely related cottonwood stands, both trees belonging to the genus Populus. Cottonwoods are riparian trees, and the...

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Ceanothus hearstiorum

Introduction 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...

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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...

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Oenothera deltoides

Desert Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides) Desert evening primrose (Oenothera deltoides) is in full bloom at Shell Creek as I write this. So it seemed appropriate to resurrect a drawing Bonnie drew back in 1981. It is one of her earlier drawings since it shows a...

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Cucurbita palmata

Coyote melon Bonnie’s drawing for this issue of Obispoensis is based on a picture sent to me by George Butterworth. The species, Cucurbita palmata, has many common names. The ones I found on the web include coyote melon, coyote gourd, desert gourd, palmate-leafed...

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Quercus Kelloggii

Kellogg Oak The following is an article from February 1993. It was chosen by the editor to spare me the choice since Bonnie and I were away in late October. We totally agree with his choice; we had totally forgotten about it. The repeat of this article reminds me that...

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Antirrhinum ovatum

Oval Leaved Snapdragon Drawing by Bonnie and article by Dr. Malcolm McLeod below appeared in the November, 1991 Obispoensis.   When you read it you will see lots of similarities with our current drought situation as well as the much hoped for possibilities of an...

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Cornus sericea

Creek Dogwood For this issue of the Obispoensis, I’m going out on a limb so to speak. Since the plant is a very small tree or moderately sized shrub, that limb will prove to be slender. The plant is the red osier, creek, or as stated in the new Jepson California...

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Atriplex patula

Spear Orache, Spear Salt Bush As I write this article, it’s August in the year of California’s third most severe drought. There’s not much out there in bloom. So I’ve retreated to one of the few places where plants are doing anything. Yes, I’m returning to the coastal...

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Calandrinia ciliata

Red Maids Bonnie’s drawing for this issue of Obispoensis is of a plant that is found throughout the western United States as well as spreading north into British Columbia. It has also been recorded in a couple of South American countries. It is especially common in...

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Valley Oak Snag

We are going back into the archives for this cover of Obispoensis. The landscape is a drawing of the Shell Creek area that Bonnie drew for the December 1991 cover. The inset is an ID drawing of the leaves and acorn of the valley oak. Why would one want to combine...

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< 2019 >
November
  • 02

    9:00 am-2:00 pm
    11-02-2019
    Pacific Beach High School
    11950 Los Osos Valley Rd, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405, USA

    Saturday, November 2, 9am-2pm

    Pacific Beach High School, 11950 Los Osos Valley Rd, San Luis Obispo

    Shop early for a great selection of native plants for your coastal, inland, and SLO garden + seeds, books, posters, and tons of free advice from our resident experts

  • 07

    6:00 pm-9:00 pm
    11-07-2019

    NikkiPlease join us on Thursday November 7 for a talk titled “Can you be a Sprouting Pine Nut?” about a plant community with some notoriety in our neck of the woods: Monterey Pine Forest. The story isn’t about the trees, which seem to grow everywhere in the California landscape and are found around the world in vast plantations – the story is about the natural Monterey Pine Forests of the Central Coast and the biological, economic and inspirational values these plant communities sustain. Nikki is a Central Coast native who will share the ecological story about Monterey Pine Forests and how a small group of pine enthusiasts in Carmel came together nearly 30 years ago to advocate for the conservation of native forest habitat.

    Nikki Nedeff is a Monterey County native with an enduring love of wild places and open spaces. Her professional experience spans more than three decades with non-profit conservation organizations and public resource management agencies in land acquisition and stewardship positions. Nikki’s academic background includes degrees in Biogeography from UC Berkeley, where her graduate work focused on riparian plant ecology. She teaches plant community ecology each spring at California State University Monterey Bay and works with the Big Sur Land Trust as Associate Director of Conservation. Email: nikki@ventanaview.net

  • 23

    All day
    11-23-2019

    Saturday. Nov. 23rd, 10:00 am, Fall Bike Outing on Santa Rosa Creek Road, Cambria. Join us for a view of Fall colors along this beautiful coastal canyon. This will be an out and back ride of about 2 hours with a one-way distance of about 8-10 miles on a paved road. There are moderate hills along the way. Bring your bike, helmet, other appropriate gear, and water/snacks. Meet in the Coast Union High School parking lot, near the tennis courts, at 2950 Santa Rosa Creek Road, Cambria. Contact Bill Waycott, 805-459-2103.

    Rain or threat of rain cancels.

  • 24

    All day
    11-24-2019

    Sunday. Nov. 24th, 2:00 pm, Intertidal flora and fauna at Montaña de Oro St. Park. Join us for an afternoon, during a
    super low tide, with Faylla Chapman, Central Coast Natural History Museum docent and intertidal expert. Faylla will point out and discuss the great diversity of kelp species that inhabit that zone, and talk about the fauna that co-exist among them. Meet at the Hazard Canyon parking among the eucalyptus trees, at the big curve. Wear waterproof shoes, dress in layers for changing weather. Contact Bill Waycott, 805-459-2103.

    Rain or threat of rain cancels.