California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

December 2010

Oh Dear! Deer Resistant Native Plants

Melanie Hopper, Sustaining Landscapes
What kind of emotions do you feel when sighting a deer? If you have ever had your garden ravaged and chewed to a stub, you may know what true frustration is, and you will also understand where our much used phrase “oh dear” comes from! Why are deer more of a threat to our gardens today? Silicon Valley used to be an orchard, but now if you want to grow a single plum tree, you will need to put a cage around it if it is growing in deer territory.
Deer and man have coexisted for a very long time. The native Californians actually used to help the deer by burning the land to create fresh new growth, high in protein, which the deer love. Deer were plentiful until the gold rush of 1849 which caused a massive deer depopulation. The miners not only cleared a large part of the deer habitat, but they also over hunted them for food and hides. This led to the first law made to protect deer, created in 1907, which required you to have a license to hunt. Meanwhile their predators continued to be hunted: grizzly and black bears, wolves, mountain lions. Deer proliferated with protection and even survived more loss of their habitat due to the postwar construction boom. They have adapted by moving into domestic gardens and now it is we who must adapt.
Article continued here.

Pruning Native Plants

Allison Levin
California native plants can be used in every garden style: formal, Japanese, architectural, you name it.  But even when the garden is "wild and natural," gardeners usually want to know about pruning their trees, shrubs, vines, perennials and grasses. Over the year, I'll be writing about when, why, and how to prune various California plants in the garden. In particular, I'll be writing about trees and woody shrubs.

Ask Yourself Why

When you think about pruning any plant, ask yourself what do you want to change, and what do you want to achieve? Are there branches that are dead or rubbing against each other? Do you want the plant to stand out as a focal point in the garden? Has it become too leggy? Do you want to control its size?

As you think about why you want to prune, don't expect to achieve everything at once. Plants are the controlling partners when it comes to their form, size, and growth. If you take your time, you'll learn how each species responds to pruning. Make pruning plans that are two, three, and five years in the making.
Article continued here


Vivian Mazur, Inverness Garden Club

If you are looking for a colorful evergreen shrub, this is it. Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) is thought to be the only California native known by its Indian (Ohlone) name. Also known as Christmas berry, its holly-like appearance and its abundance on Southern California hillsides gave rise to the name “Hollywood”. Its genus name ‘Heteromeles’ translates to different (hetero) apple (malus), referring to its small crab apple-like fruits. Its species name, ‘arbutifolia’, means madrone-like foliage. (Both apple and toyon are members of the rose family.)

Toyon is widespread in California in woodland and chaparral habitats. It is a large evergreen shrub or small tree, ranging in size from 8 to 15 feet or taller with serrated, leathery leaves and a large crop of winter berries, usually bright red in color. The berries are preceded by large clusters of small, white, summer-blooming flowers. Toyon is variable in the wild as to its growth habit, leaf size and shape, and berry color, which, though usually red can also be found in shades of orange and occasionally, yellow. The ripe fruit is a prime winter food source for birds, squirrels and other wildlife.

With its bright color, toyon enlivens the winter garden in a season when brightness is much appreciated. It is adaptable in cultivation—sun or part shade, drought tolerant or summer water. It is a good hedge plant but it does equally well in a mixed woodland or chaparral setting, growing with its natural companions:  currents, ceanothus, huckleberries, live oaks and madrones. Though I’ve found toyon on lists of deer-resistant plants, my experience is that it needs protection until it’s large enough to be out of reach.

Are you thinking SPRING yet?

Pete Veilleux, East Bay Wilds
You probably should be. I’ve been thinking about spring, or more accurately called: next year’s flower season.

I use photos a lot to help me think about how plants look throughout the seasons and it helps me to sort and re-sort them by season, or ecosystem, colors, sun/shade requirements, etc., which is why I really like using flickr. It helps me think about the possibilities for combinations that I might not have seen yet. I just put this set together of spring blooms which might be of interest to some of you, here.
I wish that we had a louder bullhorn to tell folks that NOW is the time to plant natives of all kinds.  It’s so much more practical to plant now, than to wait until March when you have to jump through hoops (and spend more money) to get things to survive. Some plants which are really important to plant now are: wooly blue curls, flannelbush, most manzanitas, some ceanothus, goldenbushes, most sages, and almost any large specimen plants.

I’m really looking forward to experimenting with quite a few new plants for next year – perennials, flowering shrubs as well as some really cool annuals. Some of the new ones I’m working with are:
Happy planting season!

Cooking with Native Plants

Chris Lewis, Elderberry Farms Native Plant Nursery

What’s growing in your garden? It’s December and the miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) has sprung back to life all over my yard! I pulled some out where it was unwanted and thought ‘if only there was a soup I could put this in’. I went online and found a Lettuce Soup by Epicurious. Now I’ve tried the recipe using Miner’s Lettuce and it tastes great! Here you go:

Miner’s Lettuce Gourmet Soup 
This soup is a great way to use lettuce in the winter! Any kind of potato and any salad greens, but I’d recommend Miner’s Lettuce!  
Yield: Makes 4 servings / Active Time: 25 min / Total Time: 35 min
1 cup chopped onions, scallions, and/or shallots
1 garlic clove, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup diced (1/3 inch) peeled potato
8 cups coarsely chopped miner’s lettuce (3/4 lb)
3 cups water

1.  Cook onion mixture and garlic in 2 tablespoons butter in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add coriander, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, 1 minute.  Stir in potato, lettuce, and water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until potato is very tender, about 10 minutes.  
2.  Purée soup in batches in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids) and transfer to a 2- to 3-quart saucepan. Bring soup to a simmer, then whisk in remaining tablespoon butter and salt and pepper to taste.
Editor’s Note:
Chris’s cooking adventure inspired us to search for more recipe ideas and edible natives references. Here are additional recipe links for you. Remember that collection of plant materials on public lands is often completely prohibited by law and discouraged by CNPS! Collection on private property should be done only with the permission of the owner, and keeping responsible collection practices in mind. Extra points to you if you can collect from your own garden!
Currant Tarts from Las Pilitas Nursery
A collection of recipes from the California Native Garden Foundation
Acorns & Eat’em by Suellen Ocean


2011 Workshops

Contact Josie Crawford for more information. Further details will be available at

Jan 31-Feb 2
Vegetation Mapping
University of Redlands and surrounding field sites
Instructors: Todd Keeler Wolf, Julie Evens, and John Menke
Three day combination of lecture, computer lab exercises, and field exercises. Fees: CNPS members $665; Non-members $690
Feb 15
Rare Plants of the Central Valley
UC Davis
Instructor: Carol Witham
Fees: CNPS members $150; Non-members $175

March 22-23
California Rangeland Monitoring
Lower San Joaquin Valley
Instructor: Jennifer Buck-Diaz
Options for single day or 2-day.
1st day - Maintaining grassland biodiversity and basic plant ID. 2nd day - Grassland vegetation sampling using Relevé method. Prices to be announced shortly.

April Pending
Vernal Pool Plant Classification
San Diego area
Instructors: Michael Barbour and Ayzik Solomeshch

April 26-28
Measuring and Monitoring Plant Populations
Grass Valley
Instructor: John Willoughby
Three day combination of lecture and field exercises.
Fees: CNPS members $395; Non-members $420

May 3-4
Wetland/Riparian Plant Identification
Instructor: David Magney
Fees: CNPS members $295; Non-members $320 
May 5-7
Riparian Ecology and Restoration
Instructors: Bruce Orr and Amy Merrill
Three day combination of lecture and field trips.
Fees: CNPS members $395; Non-members $420

June 7-9
Vegetation Rapid Assessment/Relevé
Sonoma County 
Instructors: Julie Evens, Deborah Stout
One evening lecture and two field days
Fees: CNPS members $310; Non-members $335

Sept 22-24
Legends of the Fall: Exploring the Clandestine Flora of Early Fall in the Eastern Mojave Desert
UC Granite Mountains Desert Research Station
Instructors: Jim Andre and Tasha La Doux
One evening lecture and two field days.
Fees: CNPS members $435; Non-members $460
Price includes lodging and all meals at the research station.

Note that some details, including price and exact locations, are subject to change. 

Chapter Events

A Sampling from Around the State 

Marin Chapter
Tomales Bay Mushrooming
Sunday, December 26, 10 am- 2 pm

Walk off some of that holiday stuffing with us at one of the best trails around. A little rain in the fall will turn this into a great mushroom hike with a fine lunch spot where we can eat our carrot and celery sticks on a pebbly beach.

Meet at the Jepson Trailhead parking lot about one quarter mile on Pierce Point road before the main entrance to Tomales Bay State Park. Leader: Brad Kelley.

Upper Bidwell Park Banana Belt Hike
Sunday, January 1, 10 am

Upper Bidwell Park in Chico makes for fantastic hiking year-round. Bring lunch and drink to Horsehoe Lake parking area (Lot E) at 10 am and wear hiking gear. Start the new year right with a brisk scramble up the north ridge above Horsehoe Lake. On windless/cloudless nights in the winter, it can be 10 degrees warmer up there hence we can often see the first of the new year's blooms. Lunch at an Indian rock shelter complete with bedrock morars and running water. About 3 miles walk, back by 2:30 pm. Leaders Gerry Ingco 530-893-5123 and Wes Dempsey 530-342-2293.

San Gabriel Mountains Chapter

California Garden at Descanso Gardens
Saturday, January 8, 2011, 9 am

Rachel Young, horticulturalist for the California Garden, joins us for this wakl. She will talk about Descanso's native Oak collection and other California natives, together with what she is doing to imporve water conservation. Meet in the coutyard inside the entrance at 9:00 am. There is an entrance fee. Descanso Gardens is located at 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge.

El Dorado Chapter
Mushrooms 101
Tuesday, January 18, 7 pm

Mushrooms 101 is an hour long introduction to the fungi you are most likely to encounter in California. Topics to be covered include the "lifestyles" and reproduction of fungi; the diverse forms of mushrooms; mushroom poisoning; and edibility. You will have ample opportunity to ask questions about mushrooms. Bring in specimens for a "show and tell" ID sesson. 

Rober Mackler is a past president of the Mycological Society of San Francisco, consultant to the Poison Control Center of Contra Costa County, docent at the East Bay Regional Parks Botanic Garden, natural sciences docent at the Oakland Museum and volunteer naturlaist for the American River Conservancy. He has taught beginning mushroom classes and conducted forays for the past forty years. 

Chapter meetings are free and the public is always invited to attend. Placerville Library, 345 Fair Lane, Placerville


For Chapter Events in your area, please visit the CNPS Website at

Photo Credits

  • Melanie Hopper, Deer eating Quercus agrifolia (Coast Live Oak)
  • Doreen L. Smith, Arbutus menziesii (Pacific Madrone)
  • Arvind Kumar, Heteromeles arbutifolia (Toyon)
  • Pete Veilleux, Clematis lasiantha (Chaparral Clematis)
  • Chris Lewis, Claytonia perfoliata (Miner's Lettuce)
  • Stacey Flowerdew, Fritillaria pluriflora (Adobe Lily)
  • Jim Andre, Mountain Scene

  • Melanie Hopper, Alison Levin, Vivian Mazur, Pete Veilleux, Chris Lewis, Laura Camp, Josie Crawford, Arvind Kumar, Doreen L. Smith, Tara Hansen, and Mark Naftzger.
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