CANCELED: Back Roads of the Carrizo Plain

CANCELED: Back Roads of the Carrizo Plain

THIS TRIP HAS BEEN CANCELED DUE TO FORECAST OF RAIN. Possible rescheduling of this Carrizo Plain trip in late April. Check back here for details. In the meantime, we recommend you check our calendar here for the many other hikes, wildflower show, native plant sale, workshops, and meetings CNPS-SLO and others are sponsoring in April and May. You can also plan your own trip to the Carrizo Plain and we encourage you to check the BLM Carrizo Plain National Monument website and social media for most up-to-date information on the status of the wildflower bloom, and travel and safety conditions at this beautiful remote area.

Remember, seasonal wildflower blooms can vary from year to year even week to week. They are not simply a theatrical production for human enjoyment. They are important ecological events when plants use flowers to create seeds for their future generations. The flowers deviously attract and feed butterflies, native bees, birds and other animals to increase their seed production. Recent weather events like rain, drought, wind and freezing temperatures along with longterm climatic change and human activities can affect the amount and types of wildflowers that bloom at any one point in time. We encourage you to enjoy the variety of a bloom when you are hiking, look for animals visiting flowers, and see if you can detect subtle changes and how environmental conditions are shaping that bloom. As the season progresses, you can also look for and learn about the interesting shapes and sizes of developing seeds. Protect the bloom by staying on trails.

—————————————————BELOW CANCELED——————————————————

This year, the chapter’s spring field trip to the Carrizo Plain will focus on the southwestern side of the valley, as well as a possible ascent up Caliente Mountain Road. This outing will last the entire day. Only vehicles with high clearance (HCV) can be used on this field trip. HCV ground clearance should be 9 inches or higher. Please make carpool arrangements on your own before the event if you do not have a HCV. Limited seating in an HCV may be available at meet-up location, but not guaranteed.  Otherwise, participants without space in an HCV may wish to tour on their own the main roads in Carrizo Plain that do not require an HCV. Many roads in the Carrizo Plain can be difficult to travel after recent rains. Make sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas as this is a remote area without nearby services.

Meet at the Santa Margarita Park and Ride Lot on the Santa Margarita/CA-58 East exit off Highway 101, Lat/Long 35.383290, -120.628037.

Please sign the liability waiver HERE to register for this event.

A plant list for the Caliente Range of the Carrizo Plain can be found on our website here. You can also go to our website here to purchase wildflower books for Shell Creek, Highway 58 and the Carrizo Plain; some items are ebooks which need to be downloaded before you hit the trail. Some of the ebooks are free!

Bring water, lunch, snacks, hat, sturdy shoes, and dress in layers for changing weather.  Come prepared because this is a long and fun day. There are limited bathroom facilities along the hike route. Rain or threat of rain cancels or postpones this trip.

Photo: Caliente Range on East side of Carrizo Plain, 2023, Bill Waycott

The Diverse and Underexplored Lichens of the California Central Coast

The Diverse and Underexplored Lichens of the California Central Coast

The speaker at our February 1 general membership meeting will be Michael Mulroy who will give a brief overview of common lichen species of San Luis Obispo County. Additionally, he will feature some area lichens that are locally and globally rare and worthy of conservation attention. He is most interested in rock-dwelling (saxicolous) lichens, but he will also feature some epiphytic and soil-dwelling (terricolous) lichens.

There will be an optional and free macro-lichen identification workshop from 6 to 7 pm before this membership meeting. We recommend you bring a 10X hand lens or magnifying glass, narrow-pointed dissection tool, notebook, writing implement, and a headlamp to help illuminate the specimens. We will provide microscopes to share, local lichen samples, and tips and illustrations on lichen identification. There will be a few extra supplies to borrow if you do not have them. Please arrive a few minutes early to facilitate quick seating and dispersal of materials in this mini-workshop.

From 7 to 7:30 pm the chapter will have a social gathering (and workshop cleanup time). The formal business meeting and speaker program will start at 7:30 pm. General membership meetings and this workshop are open to everyone.

Michael moved to San Luis Obispo County in 2019 to pursue a masters degree in Biological Sciences at Cal Poly, which he completed in February 2023 as a member of the Geolecology Lab headed by Professor Nishi Rajakaruna. His M.S. research focused on lichen communities of serpentine rocks and soils. Prior to his SLO life, he spent six years working as a biologist in the San Francisco Bay Area, and more recently completed two years of service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in beautiful Panamá. Michael currently works locally as a Biologist for Althouse and Meade, Inc. and continues to plug away at lichen identification and community ecology research.

December General Membership Meeting – Pollinator Gardens

December General Membership Meeting – Pollinator Gardens

At our December membership meeting, Katharina Ullmann will talk about Encouraging Native Pollinators in Your Garden and Beyond. Also at this meeting, members are encouraged to bring their favorite dessert item to share, and chapter officers for 2024 will be elected.

Pollinators are essential to life as we know it – they bring beauty and wonder to the world, help sustain our natural areas and provide critical ecosystem services. In this talk we’ll explore pollinators with a focus on bees native to California. We’ll learn who they are, factors that threaten them, and how we can support them in our gardens. We’ll also think beyond our individual gardens and learn how different communities are coming together to encourage these important insects.

Katharina Ullmann experiences are rooted in pollinator conservation, agriculture, and experiential learning. She has developed citizen training guides for native bees, and tested farm management practices that support pollinators such as hedgerows, wildflower strips, crop rotation practices, and tillage practices. She received her PhD in Entomology from UC Davis in 2015. Most recently she directed the 23-acre student farm at UC Davis.

 

November General Membership Meeting

November General Membership Meeting

CNPS Vegetation Program: Documenting and Describing Sensitive Natural Communities in San Luis Obispo County and Beyond 

At our November membership meeting, CNPS Vegetation Ecologist and Program Manager Mark Bibbo will discuss recent statewide activities of the CNPS Vegetation Program, including vegetation classification and mapping projects in the San Francisco Bay Area and Central Coastal California. Mark will introduce an exciting project kicked off earlier this year in collaboration with Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) in SLO and Monterey counties and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife including collaboration with SLO CNPS Chapter members and Cal Poly SLO professors, students and recent graduates. The project, the San Luis Obispo, Monterey, and San Benito Counties – Vegetation Inventory, Mapping and Wildfire Risk Assessment Project, will result in up-to-date fine-scale vegetation maps for the Central California Coast Range Ecoregion. Mark hopes to excite and inspire SLO Chapter members to learn more and potentially contribute.

Bio: After studying plant ecology and receiving a master’s degree from U.C. Davis, Mark began his botany career in earnest conducting vegetation surveys in the Sierra Nevada foothill and montane zones from Lassen to Sequoia on projects for the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife and CNPS Vegetation Program. After many years working as a restoration ecologist and botanist for various environmental consulting firms, he was thrilled to return to the CNPS Vegetation Program in early 2022. In his current role, Mark oversees and coordinates field-based vegetation sampling projects primarily in Central California. Mark is a proud SLUG and calls Santa Cruz home.

Social gathering starts at 7pm, chapter business and speaker starts at 730 pm. The Nomination Committee will be seeking nominations for chapter officers for 2024.

Carrizo Plain Tour #2

Carrizo Plain Tour #2

UPDATE: The April 22nd field trip will focus on Caliente Ridge Road and may include other roads on the west side of the valley. VEHICLES WITH HIGH CLEARANCE (>9″) AND CARPOOLING ARE REQUIRED. Questions to Bill Waycott at contact info below.

Two separate Saturdays (April 15 and April 22) to tour the spring wildflowers of Carrizo Plain National Monument and the backroads of eastern San Luis Obispo County. Destinations will be determined based on weather and road conditions. Trip updates will be posted one week prior to the event on this webpage and circulated via social media and the chapter’s email list. As necessary, additional updates may be posted closer to the Saturday trip especially regarding weather. Please note that ample rain this year makes some roads very muddy and may be closed so it will be important to follow driving instructions per the updated trip details.

Meet at the Santa Margarita Park & Ride Lot just off the Highway 58 exit of Highway 101 (35.383284 -120.628717) at 8:30 am for optional carpool organization. Some stops have limited pullouts for cars so carpooling will be helpful. Remember that this is a day-long event when arranging carpools.

Bring water, snacks/lunch, sun protection, sturdy shoes, and dress in layers for the weather. Walking conditions may be muddy. A plant list for this area can be found on our website here under “Caliente Range”. More information about the area can be found at the Friends of the Carrizo Plain website. Make sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas, and note that we’ll be traveling in a remote area without nearby services.

Bring adequate water, snacks and lunch.

Rain or threat of rain cancels.

Carrizo Plain and Backroads of Eastern SLO County

Carrizo Plain and Backroads of Eastern SLO County

UPDATE: The April 15th field trip will focus on Elkhorn Road, as well as a side trip up Hurricane Road to the top of the ridge. VEHICLES WITH HIGH CLEARANCE AND CARPOOLING ARE REQUIRED. Questions to Bill Waycott at contact info below.

Two separate Saturdays (April 15 and April 22) to tour the spring wildflowers of Carrizo Plain National Monument and the backroads of eastern San Luis Obispo County. Destinations will be determined based on weather and road conditions. Trip updates will be posted one week prior to the event on this webpage and circulated via social media and the chapter’s email list. As necessary, additional updates may be posted closer to the Saturday trip especially regarding weather. Please note that ample rain this year makes some roads very muddy and some roads may be closed. This is a remote area with limited towing services and no fuel, food or water nearby. It will be important to carefully follow instructions per the updated trip details.

Meet at the Santa Margarita Park & Ride Lot just off the Highway 58 exit of Highway 101 (35.383284 -120.628717) at 8:30 am for optional carpool organization. Some stops have limited pullouts so carpooling will be helpful. Remember that this is a day-long event when arranging carpools.

Bring water, snacks/lunch, sun protection, sturdy shoes, and dress in layers for the weather. Walking conditions may be muddy. A plant list for this area can be found on our website here under “Caliente Range”. More information about the area can be found at the Friends of the Carrizo Plain website.

Rain or threat of rain cancels.

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The Morro Manzanita Chaparral Natural Community

The Morro Manzanita Chaparral Natural Community

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

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

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

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

Pixie cup image

Pixie cup

Coral fungus

Coral fungus

Manzanita flowers

Manzanita flowers

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

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

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

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

 

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