COVID-19 Announcement

A Message from the President

Out of concern for the health and safety of our members and dedicated volunteers, the Board of the San Luis Obispo Chapter of CNPS has had to make some heart-wrenching decisions. As you know, in response to the Covid-19 virus pandemic, state and local agencies have ordered all individuals to stay home except as needed to maintain essential needs. We do not know exactly how long this will last. Of course, this makes it difficult for us to count stamens and pistils together and share in person the “epic” flower displays we’ve come to know and love. We will, however, come through this. We encourage you to visit native habitats within walking distance of your home (while maintaining physical distancing, of course.)

In the meantime, though, we have decided the following:

  • All field trips, including the Santa Rita Road bike ride scheduled for April 19, are cancelled;
  • May 7 General Membership meeting is cancelled;
  • May 16 Plant Identification Workshop has been cancelled; we hope to reschedule it in spring, 2021; and
  • June 4 General Membership meeting is cancelled; we hope to bring you an alternative format with possible virtual reports from our McLeod scholars.

We are still working out the details of our coordination with UC Berkeley on the 2020 Sudden Oak Death Blitz scheduled for May 15-18 to ensure it can be conducted consistent with social distancing guidelines. We will keep you informed as details emerge.

As we move into the summer months, we will revisit our meeting schedule; perhaps we will be able to hold an August general membership meeting as we did last year, but at this time we just don’t know. This will be a “wait and see” event.

To those who worked so hard on setting up these activities: especially Mindy Trask, Kristen Nelson, Melinda Elster, Gage Willey, Judi Young, Cindy Roessler, our speakers who had to change their plans, Bill Waycott, and so many others – I can’t name them all -we thank you for all your time and effort.

We are learning new things! The Board met last week via Zoom videoconference, and we have plans to use this venue again in three weeks or so to see how things have progressed. We also plan to use this tool for the Board meeting currently scheduled for May 12. Who knows, perhaps this can become a tool for our general meetings also.

We want to stay in touch with you, and we want to hear from you. Our newsletter will continue to be produced electronically, and we hope to reformat it and produce it more frequently, with exciting tidbits for the stay-at-home nature of our lives these days. There will no longer be a mailed hard copy. Our newsletter editor, David Chipping,, is open to receiving contributed content from members, as well as ideas about desired content. If you have a special story, article, or photo, or just want to say hello, please drop us a line or check in on our Facebook page. Stay safe, and I hope we all stay healthy.

Melissa Mooney

President, SLO Chapter CNPS

Landscaping with California Native Plants Workshop in October

Landscaping with California Native Plants Workshop

Landscaping with California Native Plants Workshop

CNPS-SLO hosted an information-packed, fun-filled workshop on October 12, 2019. This was the first of a series of “Botanist-Development” workshops to be provided by your local CNPS chapter. The goals for these workshops is to offer low cost training for local botanists to improve your knowledge and spread the love of native plants! The Landscaping with California Native Plants workshop was expertly facilitated by local landscape contractor and CNPS member, John Doyle.

After a brief lecture on the foundations of landscaping with natives, the group hit the dirt, observing and learning about native plant

CNPS Certified Wildlife Habitat sign

CNPS Certified Wildlife Habitat

gardening from local landscapers. John’s lecture provided context on why using native plants in your landscaping is so important for local critters, basic tenants of a good landscape design (match to your climate, substrate and topography), and examples of local native plants that tend to do well in our gardens. Native plants were raffled off to eager participants and everyone walked home with a wealth of information on where to learn more and find native plants. The first tour stop was the Garden of the Seven Sisters where SLO Master Gardeners have a healthy California Native Plant garden. After an informative presentation by Gary Lawson, the class moved on to the Monday Club where they have recently installed a native plant garden. Landscape Architect Jeffrey Gordon Smith shared some of his wisdom on landscaping with natives. The last stop was at the home of Bill and Diana Waycott to learn about what some dedicated homeowners can do to create a little utopia for native pollinators. Workshop participants learned how they can earn a CNPS Certified Wildlife Habitat sign.

Mindy Trask

Using the Consortium of California Herbaria website

Using the Consortium of California Herbaria website

How many of you have photographed a manzanita in the field, or brought back a leaf, and then had trouble identifying it using a key? There are many manzanitas in the County, and a lot share common features. You ask yourself if what you have matches what is described in the key. One helpful tool is to use something like the CalFlora web site to see what other people thought as a match to the species name, but those photos may not flag key diagnostic features from the key. Don’t you wish you had a bunch of correctly identified specimens lying in front of you for comparison? Well… you can…. At the CCH2 web site you can enter and examine specimens from dozens of herbaria.

On the opening page, select ‘image search’ and then type in the latin binomial into the search page. You can also search by common name, family, or taxonomic group. Click Load Images to see thumbnails of all herbaria sheets matching your search criteria. Select a thumbnail, and another page will open with data on the sample. Open Large Image will open a high resolution picture of the specimen. Once loaded, your cursor will turn into the ‘+’ which allows extreme close up.

This is sufficiently detailed to enable you to see glands on stem hairs, and details of leaf surfaces, and you will have a lot of samples for most species. Those of you who attended the workshop before the last meeting were learning how to enter data from herbarium sheets, and this site is where a lot of the data will reside.

David Chipping

Spread the Joy of Native Plants

Introduce your friends and family members to native plants this holiday season with a gift from our chapter sales table at the December 5 meeting. When you buy items from the sales table at our meetings and events, you are supporting our chapter and getting a good deal because the chapter pays the sales tax. Plus you can walk out with your purchase in hand. We have a wide variety of books including field guides, how-to books, and books specific to San Luis Obispo County. Friends who do not know they are native plant enthusiasts yet may enjoy the gift of a well-made attractive t-shirt.

New this year, Marti Rutherford will be bringing seed packets that we will be selling for $1.00/packet (the seeds inside are
priceless). Native plant seeds are a great gift for kids and gardening fans that might enjoy growing plants themselves. Marti’s wildflower mix includes tidy tips (Layia platyglossa), clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata and purpurea), lupine (Lupinus succulentus), and California poppy (Eschscholzia californica).

We accept cash, checks, and credit cards. Dave Krause has been teaching me how to process credit card payments via PayPal on my iPad so I thank you in advance for your patience as I learn.

Linda Poppenheimer

Successful Seed Exchange

I want to extend a thank you to all who participated in the seed exchange in October. We ended up with over eighty species of plants. It was fun to see the interest of those who enjoy the propagation experience. Extra seed was packaged to sell at the plant sale in November and we managed to raise over $250 for our chapter. Who knows, perhaps we will have more native plants in local gardens to support the critters that make our county the wonderful place that it is, grown from seed at our exchange. I encourage all of those who enjoy collecting seed to continue to do that when the time is right. If anyone has access to red maid seeds please plan to collect. We did have some but not enough to carry over into the plant sale and it is one that I would like to be able to offer. I also think it would be fun to have some miner’s lettuce, milk maids, owls clover, yerba buena and, well, the list could go on and on. Perhaps none of you have this on your property but if you do, please collect. Remember though that to collect on collect on property that is not your own you need permission.

Marti Rutherford

Notes from the plant sale

It was still dark and very cold when Suzette and I starting heading east from Los Osos to the plant sale site located in San Luis Obispo. It’s amazing at 6:30am, how few vehicles are on Los Osos Valley Road. This was a good thing, because the old Ford Explorer was not traveling very fast due to the heavy load of tables and other items. As we reached Madonna Road, I wondered what we would see as we arrived at the sale site.

These are the kind of things that a plant sale chairperson can lose sleep over. As we pulled into the parking lot, it was 38 degrees outside. I looked at Suzette and we both breathed a sigh of relief. As always and for the last 31 years, everybody was there, having a great time while setting things up for the sale.

Soon it was time for the starting bell to ring. As the day went on, people came and went, with numerous plants, books, t-shirts and seeds being sold, thanks to the hard work of our many volunteers. Suzette and I want to thank all who volunteered, who took the time to come out on a beautiful day and really make this sale happen. Looking forward already to next year’s sale and seeing you all working together again. Thanks for helping to spread the word … native plants rock! Have a great winter season and happy gardening.

John and Suzette

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

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


Wildland Fire Buffers

The impact on plant communities due to mandated vegetation clearance at the Wildland-Urban Interface appears to be extremely variable, even along individual sites such as the pine forest in Cambria. In some areas we have been told that all small trees and shrubs were removed, and in others they were selectively preserved. CNPS urges members to photograph treatment areas, so that we can better estimate the long term ecological effects.

David Krause took these photos of untreated (left) and treated (right) areas in Cambria. Clearly the ‘fire ladder’ has been reduced, lessening the chance of crown fires, but wildlife habitat has been eliminated.

New Operating Guidelines Approved by the Chapter Board


Oh boy! An article about the changes we made to the Bylaws! How exciting! (snore….) Below is a brief summary of the changes made to the Bylaws, and the main change is that the “Bylaws” are now called “Operating Guidelines.” The Board approved these on May 13, 2019, and we hope the membership will follow with approval in November.

Article I: We added reference to the Statewide CNPS organization being a 501 (c) 3 organization, with Bylaws; we added the Mission of the  Society; and added the geographical area of the SLO Chapter.

Article II: Made grammatical changes; Added a purpose, which is: to regulate Chapter affairs such that they are compatible with the Society’s articles of incorporation and bylaws; and added two objectives:

  • Increasing public awareness of the importance of California’s native flora through public education;
  • Contributing to the Society’s governance by selecting a delegate to the Chapter Council;

Article III: No changes

Article IV: Section 4 and 5 regarding Nomination and Elections moved to Article IX and revised.

Article V: Officers. Clarified the duties of the President, namely, that the President is the primary representative of the Chapter in negotiations with other organizations, unless this representation is expressly delegated to another Board member. Added duties to the Secretary’s position of ensuring the posting of minutes to the administrative file. Clarified and added to the duties of the Treasurer, including maintaining the financial accounts of the Chapter.

Article VI. Board. Changed “Executive Board” to “Chapter Board”; Added reference to “Individual Contributors”; Changed the notice for meetings of the Chapter Board from 5 days to 7 days.

Article VII. Standing and Ad Hoc Committees: This section was revised considerably, both in terms of format and content. We defined standing and ad hoc committees, named 7 standing committees (and at least 4 ad hoc), and clarified the responsibilities of each committee. There was extensive discussion about what our major emphasis was, and will be in the future, and we decided to split up the former committees into key standing committees and recognize the work of Individual Contributors, with the goal being to be as inclusive as possible in the makeup of the Board.

New Section: Article VIII. Individual Contributors. We clarified the responsibilities of these important roles that tend to be carried out by individuals as opposed to committees.

Article IX. Nomination. We attempted to clarify the steps in the Nomination and Election process.

Added Article X. Limitation of Authority. No member of the Board binds the Chapter without Board approval.

Lastly, text relating to Chapter Status and Commitments was removed as obsolete.

-Melissa Mooney