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Registration open until April 30

Education Program - Workshops and Professional Training

San Luis Obispo County Flora

Photos by David Keil

May 1-4, 2017 (Monday - Thursday)
Various locations in San Luis Obispo County, CA

Instructor: Dr. David Keil, Professor Emeritus of Biology, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Download the print-friendly flyer for this workshop (pdf)

Target Audience:This workshop is geared toward agency planners, professional and amateur botanists, local land use advocates, enthusiasts, and others seeking to gain or improve knowledge and experience identifying the beautifully diverse common and rare plants and habitats of SLO county.

Description: This workshop will begin with an introductory afternoon lecture, followed by 3 full days of excursions to diverse field sites in San Luis Obispo county. The first day in the field will be a survey of varied habitats along the coast from Morro Bay northward. The second will be a transect from San Luis Obispo eastward to the Carrizo Plain. The final day will focus on varied habitats around San Luis Obispo, with a focus on plant communities on varied substrates, including serpentine.

Participants will learn about:

  • The vegetation and flora of the northern San Luis Obispo county coast
  • The vegetation and flora of inland and eastern San Luis Obispo county
  • The vegetation and flora of the San Luis Obispo area


Registration is now open! Last day to register is April 30, 2017.

Registration fees are discounted for CNPS members. If you are not a CNPS member, visit to join now and save!

Please note: class size is limited to 25 participants.

  Date CNPS Members Non-members
San Luis Obispo County Flora (4-day course) May 1-4, 2017 $375 $395

Cancellation Policy: The last day to cancel your registration and receive any refund is Monday, April 17, 2017. Refunds may be subject to processing fees. Please send cancellation requests by e-mail to Becky Reilly, . Click here for more details on the cancellation policy for CNPS workshops.

Schedule (subject to change):

Monday, May 1: Afternoon classroom intros & orientation, 2:00 pm - 4:30 pm
We will meet in the Oak Glen Pavilion at the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden for introductions to each other and to the SLO county flora, and review the plan for the next 3 days.

Tuesday, May 2: Flora of the SLO county coast, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
We will meet at Montaña de Oro State Park at 9:00 am and carpool north up the coast, stopping at several field sites between Los Osos and San Simeon, to explore the local coastal flora. Lunch will take place in the field, please bring your own lunch and water. Our stops will include:

  1. Coastal dunes at Montaña de Oro State Park. Meet at parking area at end of Sand Spit Road off Pecho Valley Road. Coastal dune scrub, foredunes, beach.
  2. Salt Marsh at Morro Coast Audubon Society Sweet Springs Nature Preserve, Los Osos. Coastal salt marsh.
  3. Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, Cambria. Monterey pine forest.
  4. Hearst San Simeon State Park, just south of Arroyo de la Cruz. Coastal sea bluff scrub.
  5. Hearst San Simeon State Park, 1.8 miles north of Arroyo de la Cruz. Coastal prairie.
  6. Optional stop on return trip, Hearst San Simeon State Park at Elephant seal rookery south of Piedras Blancas Point.

Wednesday, May 3: Floristic and vegetational transect of inland/eastern SLO County, 8:00 am - around 5:00 pm
We will meet in San Luis Obispo at 8:00 am and carpool east to the Carrizo Plain along highway 58, stopping at several field sites along the way. From San Luis Obispo, we will travel north on US 101 over Cuesta Summit, take the Santa Margarita exit onto Highway 58, and drive through Santa Margarita and eastward on Highway 58. Lunch will take place in the field, please bring your own lunch and water. Our stops will include:

  1. Highway 58 bridge over Salinas River. Riparian woodland.
  2. Highway 58 in Calf Canyon. Chaparral.
  3. Sinton Ranch on Shell Creek Road north of Highway 58. Foothill woodland, grassland, wildflowers.
  4. Red Hill Mesa off Highway 58 on Red Hill Road. Foothill woodland, chaparral, rare plants on red clay soil.
  5. Syncline Hill on Highway 58 east of San Juan Creek. Juniper woodland, semi-desert scrub.
  6. Carrizo Plain National Monument on Soda Lake Road south of California Valley, observation point and boardwalk. Alkali desert scrub.

Thursday, May 4: Serpentine and non-serpentine areas around San Luis Obispo, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
We will meet in San Luis Obispo at 9:00 am and carpool to nearby field sites. Lunch will take place in the field, please bring your own lunch and water. We will save some time for course evaluations before the conclusion of the workshop. Our stops will include:

  1. Laguna Lake Natural Reserve. Marshlands, serpentine outcrops, grasslands (including a short hike over moderate terrain)
  2. East Cuesta Grade, Monterey shale substrate. Coast live oak woodland, knobcone and Coulter pine forests, chaparral, some areas second-year post-fire.
  3. West Cuesta Ridge along TV Tower Road to Cuesta Ridge Botanical Special Interest Area, serpentine substrate. Coast live oak woodland, serpentine chaparral, Sargent cypress woodland/forest.

For those who would like to stick around a little longer, on Thursday evening the local CNPS San Luis Obispo Chapter will be holding their monthly chapter meeting. The featured guest speaker for May 4, Stuart Wilson, will give an overview of the diversity of Lupinus (illustrated with great photos) and tips on identification. There will also be a pre-meeting workshop on Lupinus identification. This will be held at the Veterans Memorial Building, 801 Grand Ave., San Luis Obispo. The pre-meeting workshop is from 6-7 pm, and the meeting begins at 7 pm. See for details.

Venue: The Monday afternoon classroom session will take place in the Oak Glen Pavilion at the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden, located at 3450 Dairy Creek Road, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405. Field study portions of this workshop will take place at various sites in San Luis Obispo county. Maps and directions will be provided to registered participants about a week before the workshop. We have opted to use carpools to access field sites instead of renting busses or vans in the interest of keeping registration costs low. Wednesday, the floristic transect day, will be the longest distance travelled, up to 70 miles one-way (140 miles/ round trip) with stops, to access some of the most spectacular natural areas in the county. Coastal and serpentine exploration days will cover shorter distances.

Materials Required: Please bring...

  • Hand lens
  • Clipboard, field notebook, pencils, and scotch tape
  • Bags for collecting plant material
  • Metric ruler
  • Sturdy shoes/boots, hat, clothing appropriate for the weather & conditions (e.g. protection from poison oak, rain, sun, heat/cold, insects, etc.)
  • Packable lunches for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and plenty of water and snacks for all 3 days

Optional additional items include:

  • Binoculars
  • Digital camera
  • The Jepson Manual, 2nd Edition

Materials Provided: CNPS will provide handouts and technical references, including a flora checklist that we will use in the field.

Physical Requirements: Participants should be physically able to hike over uneven moderate terrain and remain in the field for up to 9 hours at a time. This workshop will be held rain or shine.

About the Instructor

Dr. David Keil is Professor Emeritus of Biology at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Dave has had a lifelong interest and enthusiasm for botany. He received his B.S. and M.S. in botany from Arizona State University and his Ph.D. from Ohio State University. He has taught courses in general botany, plant taxonomy, field botany, evolution, and biogeography. For many years Dave served as Curator of the Robert F. Hoover Herbarium at Cal Poly. He has authored scientific papers, textbooks, and study guides, and has been a major contributor to The Jepson Manual and the Flora of North America. His research interests include Asteraceae systematics and floristics of Western North America. He edited the Wildflowers of San Luis Obispo and is preparing the second edition of the Vascular Plants of San Luis Obispo County.


If you have questions about this or any other CNPS workshops, please contact Becky Reilly, CNPS Events Coordinator, at 916-447-2677 x207 or .

View the complete schedule of CNPS Plant Science Workshops


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