California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

September 2012

My Custom Chaparral

Carolyn Longstreth

Foothill PenstemonLike many California homeowners, we have a steep slope on our property. When we bought the place in Northern California in 2006, I was baffled how to create a garden there. It’s an informal area but too steep for a cottage-style mix of roses and perennials. But the area turned out to be the sunniest part of our yard, despite its northwestern exposure and some large trees growing near the top. The gardener in me was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. We terraced the steepest spots and continued to ponder the challenge.

Eventually, I came up with the idea I now call my custom chaparral: We would plant the slope in a loose arrangement of low-growing, drought-tolerant woody shrubs-- nothing taller than 6 feet. Between the shrubs, would be bunchgrasses, perennials and annuals. Because I love to grow natives and we did not plan to provide summer water, I decided to limit myself to California natives-- not a major restriction, given the phenomenal diversity of our state’s indigenous flora. For me, using native species in the garden enhances the sense of place and, of course, makes the garden more attractive to birds, butterflies and other wildlife. 

Continue reading here.

Why the Fountain Grass Must Go

Roger Klemm

Invasive Fountain GrassFountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum) is a bunchgrass from Africa that is widely planted as an ornamental plant in portions of the United States with warm winters. It is a tough, vigorous plant that will tolerate adverse conditions of heat and drought. It does not appear to suffer from any pests or diseases, and many people appreciate its graceful seed heads produced in profusion over the spring and summer months.  

The downside is that in California, Fountain Grass has no natural enemies and readily out-competes other plants. It is invasive, and if you plant it in your yard, you will soon have seedlings of Fountain Grass popping up wherever there is bare soil. It will even grow vigorously in the gaps between sections of concrete and bedrock of natural slopes. Its seeds are carried long distances in the wind, so if your neighbor has it in their yard, it will eventually end up in yours, and the nearby natural areas. If you are in a fire hazard area, it is especially dangerous, as it dries out early in the summer and becomes extremely flammable.

Continue reading here.

Gardening for Butterflies

Lori Hubbart

Monarch - Laura CampButterflies are the colorful heralds of summer, as welcome in our gardens as flowers on the wing. Nectar-bearing plants will bring butterflies, but all-around butterfly gardening means living with caterpillars, chewed leaves and some untidiness.

A butterfly garden should be sheltered from strong wind and feature larval food plants, nectar flowers and other foods for adult butterflies. Most butterflies feed on flower nectar, though a few have some rather surprising eating habits – more about that later. Being cold-blooded creatures, butterflies depend on the sun’s warmth for mobility. Hence, their nectar flowers tend to grow in full sun.

Continue reading here.

Fall's Bounty of Seeds and Fruits

Meghan Walla-Murphy

Meghan Walla-MurphySupposedly, hitchhiking is illegal in California; yet, the fall season is filled with hitchhikers. You, your dog or your cat may each become unwitting accomplices in this illicit activity. A late summer or autumn hike through an open meadow, dense riparian growth or even thick chaparral will reveal these travelers looking for an easy ride. Fur filled with burrs, pant-legs covered in clinging seeds, socks painfully filled with foxtails. Fall is the time of harvest, but it is also the time for seeds-- often enclosed within fruits-- to search for a new destination to flourish and spread their genetic vigor.

The development of both seeds and fruits is triggered by flower fertilization. The nucleus of the fertilized egg or zygote divides and develops into the specialized components of a seed: nutrient tissue, a filament, an embryonic new plant, cotyledons and tiny roots and shoots. Fertilization also triggers hormones which cause the ovary wall to thicken and become fruit.

Continue reading here.

CNPS Horticulture Events Calendar

Flower LogoFall has arrived- is your local chapter hosting a plant sale, garden tour, presentation, or workshop this weekend? The new CNPS Horticulture Events calendar is searchable by CNPS chapter and type of event. The calendar is updated frequently, so be sure to check back for events in your area.

CNPS Nature Journaling Workshop

Nature Journaling with John Muir Laws
Nov. 8-9, Coyote Hills Regional Park, Fremont

John Muir Laws journaling workshopLearn to improve observation skills, ask relevant scientific questions, and explore the natural world through nature journaling. Two days of sketching, art instruction and nature study could jump start you into keeping your own nature/travel journal or re-inspire you to pick up your sketchbook again. We will examine different ways of keeping journals and develop habits to keep you actively sketching. Learn how to paint a five minute mini-landscape and an animal on the move using graphite, colored pencil, and watercolor, all of which are well suited for easy sketching outdoors. Bring your favorite sketching supplies. Coyote Hills is a wonderful place for observing birds and plants, even in November.

Cost: CNPS Members $295; Non-members $320. To register or to read the full workshop announcement, click here.

Chapter Events

Yerba Buena Chapter

Program: Planting Natives for Bees, Birds, and Butterflies
Thursday, October 4, 6:30 PM

Pollinators are very important components of native ecosystems, and are becoming less common due to urbanization. But you can help by planting the right native plants to attract bees, birds, and butterflies. Join expert Don Mahoney, Curator of Collections and Horticulture Manager at San Francisco Botanical Garden (SFBG), as he emphasizes the best native plants for our local pollinators. Recreation Room, Francisco County Fair Building, 9th Avenue & Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park. The building is served by the #71 and #44 lines, is one block from the N-Judah car, and is two blocks from the #6, #43, and #66 bus lines.

Santa Cruz Chapter

Field Trip: Neary Lagoon
Saturday, October 6, 10 AM - Noon

A remnant wetland, hidden away right in the middle of Santa Cruz. This was once a major hotspot for rarity-hunting local birders, and this is the best time of the year for so-called eastern "vagrants", so bring binoculars in case we get very lucky. A good place to get immersed in riparian and marsh habitats. We'll meet at the end of Chestnut Street. Limit 15 people. Please RSVP to Ken Moore. Be sure to put the date of the trip in the subject line and provide your name. The number of attendees is limited and spaces will be reserved in the order received.

Mount Lassen Chapter

Butte Creek House Rare Plant Treasure Hunt
Saturday, October 6, 9 AM - 4 PM

Butte Creek house is the last Rare Plant Treasure Hunt for this year for the Mt. Lassen Chapter. It is up out Jonesville on dirt roads. We will be looking for the Stellaria obtusa (Obtuse Starwort) in the meadow, and then another stop will be up at Willow Creek, in the same area. Meet at Chico Park & Ride west parking lot and be ready to leave by 9:00 am. Bring hiking shoes, (they might get wet), jacket, lunch, sun/insect protection, water, and money for ride sharing. It will be an easy hunt at around 5856 ft. elevation. Please contact Ron Coley or call 530-990-1533 to join in the fun.

Los Angeles/Santa Monica Mountains

Evening Program: Penstemon Floral Evolution
October 9, 7:30-9 PM

Penstemons are known for their ability to hybridize, especially two of our local species: Penstemon spectabilis and Penstemon centranthifolius. Their hybrid penstemon offspring have blossoms of different colors and shapes, often different shapes of leaves and stalks. In what other ways are they variable? Why do they hybridize so easily? What part do their different pollinators play in encouraging hybridization? Does this variability enhance the evolutionary success of both pollinators and penstemons? Presented by Dr. Paul S. Wilson, Professor of Biology at Cal State Northridge. First United Methodist Church, 1008 11th Street, Santa Monica.

Orange County Chapter

At Home with Natives 2012: Solutions for Nature-Friendly Landscaping
Saturday, October 13, 8 AM

Creating and growing beautiful water-wise gardens with California native plants has never made more sense. The theme of this symposium is making it easier to create and take care of these native landscapes. After all, there is a learning curve involved when using native plants in our landscapes and this symposium brings together some of our best local experts who will help you increase your knowledge about successfully using native plants, no matter your level of expertise. Registration is $55 per person, $65 after Sept. 30. To learn more, or to register, click here.

Milo Baker Chapter

Program: Beyond Foraging: Discovering the Real California Cuisine
Tuesday, October 16, 7:30 PM

Judith Lowry is thrilled to find that the one-acre Demonstration Garden of all California native plants that she has been working on for 30 years is abundantly full of food not just for the birds and butterflies but also for the people. Judith Larner Lowry has been the proprietor of Larner Seeds of Bolinas, specialists in California native plants, for the last 35 years. She has written many articles for journals and two books with UC Press, "The Landscaping Ideas of Jays," and "Gardening with a Wild Heart". She is currently working on a book for Timber Press on edible native plants. Luther Burbank Art and Garden Center, 2050 Yulupa Street in Santa Rosa.

Bristlecone Chapter

Highway Clean-up
Sunday, October 21, 9 AM

Leader: Scott Hetzler. Meet at the intersection of Highway 395 and Pine Creek Rd., west of 395, at 9.00 AM. We will try to be done by 1:00 PM. For more information contact Scott at 873-8392.

East Bay Chapter

Native Plant Fair
Saturday, October 27 10 AM - 3PM
Sunday, October 28, Noon - 3 PM

Join the East Bay Chapter at Native Here Nursery, 101 Golf Course Drive, in Tilden Park, Berkeley for a spectacular native plant fair. This year’s Plant Fair has a new feature: on Saturday, October 27, 1 pm until 3 pm, poetry will join art and flowers. Starting with an open reading for 30 minutes on native plant related themes (bring your poetry to read), followed by one hour and 30 minutes of readings by featured poets. On Sunday, October 28, 1 pm a program entitled "Native Plants for Butterflies in Your East Bay Garden" will be presented by Liam O’Brien, lepidopterist. Art will be on display and for sale in vendor’s booths all weekend. The list of plants on offer is in preparation and will also be posted in advance of the Fair. Bulb packets will be offered. Iris and ferns will be offered starting the weekend of the Fair. For more information click here.

Contributors and Photo Credits

  • Laura Camp
  • Carolyn Longstreth
  • Lori Hubbart
  • Roger Klemm
  • Meghan Walla-Murphy
  • Jane Strong
  • Stacey Flowerdew
  • Mark Naftzger
  • Laura Camp - Foothill Penstemon
  • Roger Klemm - Fountain Grass
  • Laura Camp - Monarch on Arctostaphylos refugioensis
  • Meghan Walla-Murphy -  Traveling seeds
  • Workshop photo courtesy John Muir Laws


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