California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

March 2015

California Native Plant Week Is April 11-19!

sea of lupineThe fifth annual California Native Plant Week (CNPW) is quickly approaching April 11-19. Check out the CNPS Events Calendar for CNPW events occuring in your area - native plant sales, wildflower shows, gardening workshops, lectures, hikes, garden tours, and other activities are taking place throughout the state. Need help with your CNPW event? This year, the CNPW committee has compiled a toolkit for CNPS chapter and partner use including a CNPW Project Guide, press release template, instructions on how to list an event on the CNPS Events Calendar, and more! Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email CNPS Horticultural Program Director Susan Krzywicki. Enjoy a festive California Native Plant Week!


Why I Hate "Drought Tolerant"

Bush Monkeyflower Bush Monkeyflower, photo by Stacey Flowerdew

This article was originally published November 22, 2014, in The Porterville Recorder.

Peyton Ellas

For all that humans can do, we can't predict the weather. We don't know if our historic drought will end this year. Probably not, scientists are telling us. And we don't know how much water is still stored underground.

What we can do is study the past. We know we've been pumping water out of aquifers it took thousands of years to fill at an unsustainable rate. We know historically, since before we've been recording weather, that California has had a Mediterranean climate, with wet winters and dry summers. Whether drought or not. Scientists have evidence that past dry periods have lasted about 200 years, and that there have been many 10-20-year droughts in our State's history. Compare that to our three-year-old drought this time, and imagine what a decade or more of lower precipitation might mean.

We all know these things, although we have been gardening and growing as if we live somewhere else. Somewhere wetter. That's because we have been in an extended wet period. Really, we have. Consequently, we all have plants that don't really "belong" here. These are the plants that suffer most in a drought, of course. When wells go dry and communities have to reduce landscape watering to ensure a supply for basic human needs, these plants don't stand a chance.

And so the "drought tolerant" label was born. Because we love and need our gardens. It is a human need to have plants around us, and the creatures that share the planet need our gardens too. But what does the label mean?

When a plant is in some level of drought stress, it looks like it is stressed. Leaves are smaller, shriveled, brown. Leaves fall off. Branch tips die back. The plant may look half-dead to the untrained eye. But it will be alive. It will be tolerating the drought. I can show you pictures from this summer of plants from my garden "tolerating" this drought well, but not all of you will want them in your garden. Tolerating drought does not mean thriving, blooming, looking green and lush. Tolerating means some level of stress, but the plant will live. Those same plants look great now, as they do every fall, once a tiny bit of precipitation and cooler weather returns. They are easy to grow, easy to maintain plants. I love them.

All plants have a drought stress line. Cross that line and the plant dies. Every plant , even within the same species, has a different tolerance to drought stress. Factors that influence this include the water-holding capacity of the soil, the age of the plant, specific genetics, the amount of sun or shade the plant receives, wind and the other plants around it. Even when a species is labeled "drought tolerant," any particular plant of that species may tolerate drought better or worse than average for that species. Everyone wants black-and-white answers and certainty, but since we are working with other living organisms, we have to accept some uncertainty, some variability. What is certain is that every plant is "drought tolerant" up to some point, beyond which it is not.

Sometimes the label is used as a marketing tool, without much meaning, as if there are plants that you can water when there is abundant supply, but that will look and act the same through a drought when they receive little or no added water. If that were so, why over-water in the wet years?
Which is why I prefer the term "low-water-use plants." Because if we are to accept the reality of our climate, continue to have beautiful gardens and grow abundant food in the Central Valley, we want to use different types of plants. The kind that are in tune with our climate. The kind that don't need as much added irrigation in the summer. The kind that say "low water" on the plant tag. There are lots of these species. We've really only begun to start planting them. It's an exciting time to be a gardener.

For some of us that is using a lot of California native plants and accepting a drier look in the summer. It gets easier over time, like most new, healthier habits. For others, it will mean mixing native species with plants from other parts of the world that do their best growing and blooming in high heat with only a little added water. Much of my company's design work is based around this style. We can still have a few plants, especially food-producing ones, that require a lot of summer water. Just as the first pioneers in our valley did. Before we got so good at pumping and storing water. Sometimes just because we can, doesn't mean we should. I am not opposed to wells and water storage reservoirs. I am opposed to using the label "drought tolerant," when what we should be planting are species that don't require as much added water, whether we are in a wet or dry year. Those are the plants that are lower maintenance, too.

Even if your tolerance for plants from drier climates is low, see if you can replace a few plants this year with lower-water-use species. Use the old water-greedy plants as mulch, which further reduces water needs in the garden. Every little bit helps. And you may be surprised. Drought tolerance may start meaning, "Drought? No problem!" Imagine that.

Peyton Ellas lives in Springville and is the owner of Quercus Landscape Design, specializing in California native plant-based and eco-habitat gardens. Read her blog and contact her at: or at


From Parking Lot to Pollinator Garden - a Wild Garden in the Heart of the City

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Photo by Carol Bornstein

When the 100+ year old Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County took on the huge project to shore up their physical infrastructure, a side benefit was created for the museum, visitors, and for lovers of native plants. Carol Bornstein, Director of Nature Gardens, recently presented the fruits of their labors - a fresh and exciting take on how to integrate science, beauty, and social benefit.

The new garden and landscaping around the freshly renovated museum exhibits thoughtful leadership and Carol's deep understanding and expertise. The complex process that went into creating the gardens is extensive, challenging, and makes for a successful long-term use of assets.

The museum is really several properties tied together by mission and cultural history. The La Brea Tar Pits, the Page Museum (beloved by many for its collection of old bones) and the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park are the main venues. This three-and-a-half acre project surrounds the Exposition Park property. It took a combination of the Museum's exhibits staff, their excellent researchers, and outreach personnel to provide the input to the open-minded and supportive architectural firm, Mia Lehrer + Associates. Karen Wise, Vice President of Education and Exhibits, was quoted in a recent Pacific Horticulture article as saying, "Between our new Nature Gardens and the resources of the Nature Lab, Angelenos can connect the ongoing work of our scientists with the diverse urban wildlife of greater Los Angeles in ways that are directly relevant to all of our daily lives."

Now more than one million visitors can start to experience the natural history as they approach the buildings, seeing nature in action, and playing in the highly interactive space.

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Photo by Carol Bornstein

For example, this month in the Nature Gardens, visitors can see wildflowers and their flying friends in profusion as native species bloom and attract a complex variety of wildlife - in downtown Los Angeles. The birds, bees, butterflies, and other insects search for sustenance and, in doing so, transfer pollen from blossom to bloom. The museum encourages people of all ages to visit the all new Pollinator Garden, opening March 20, to see for themselves.

Carol told us that the questions they asked at the beginning of the process drove the creativity and the specialized aspects of the garden. They started with provocative questions rarely asked of a public space landscaping project: "What are pollinators? Why should we care? Why are they in peril? What can we do?"

Once these questions and others had been explored, the functionality was considered. The space must:

  1. Deliver educational content
  2. Showcase native plants that attract/support pollinators
  3. Create habitat for diverse array of pollinators
  4. Demonstrate physical links between plants and their pollinators
  5. Provide naturalistic contrast to formal pollinator garden

The museum was looking for a naturalistic composition to contrast with the more formal gardens that surround this large parcel in the midst of densely developed, rigidly gridded central Los Angeles. Curved edges with narrow paths give the space an openness and informality that. The space is meant to appeal to multiple senses, with a mix of life forms for habitat value and visual interest. The berms and secondary paths make the garden an adventure and allow close-up observation for wildlife.

Garden sign Photo by Carol Bornstein

The garden is a tapestry of colors and textures to delight the eye. Since Los Angeles is a year-round tourist destination, the project team planned for colorful year-round interest. Visitors from mid-winter Michigan or snow-bound New York will be delighted and learn to appreciate the natural beauty of California. Local residents will have a chance to see our native flora being appreciated and used to teach the next generation of environmental stewards.

The number of programs that use the garden as part of the curriculum is extensive and includes offerings such as the Christmas Bird Count, GeckoWatch, the Great Sunflower Project, Pleistocene Garden Survey, and ZomBee Watch. What fun!

When in Los Angeles, please visit the garden and look for some of our favorite natives. Can you spot the tidy tips (Layia platyglossa), Palmer penstemon (Penstemon palmeri), tansy-leaf phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia), Lilac verbena, (Verbena lilacina), or even the elegant clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata)? Send us photos of your visit, and we will share them on our Gardening with Natives blog and our Facebook page.

Alicia Funk: Double Portion of Good News

We had an extra helping of edible native plant news from Alicia Funk recently, for which we are thrilled. First, earlier this month the Bear Yuba Land Trust (BYLT) recognized her with the William Nickerl Award for Conservation Leadership. Second, Alicia generously donated a gift of proceeds from the book she co-authored, Living Wild: Gardening, Cooking and Healing with Native Plants of California, to CNPS.

Spice Bush, courtesy Bear Yuba Land Trust Spice Bush, courtesy Bear Yuba Land Trust

The William Nickerl Award is given to individuals who have inspired others through their passion, to work toward land conservation.  "I've known Alicia for many years and have seen how her passion for our local natural environment has really captured her imagination," said BYLT Executive Director Marty Coleman-Hunt. "She has turned that passion into action by becoming our local expert on culinary and medicinal wild, native plants and traditional uses by indigenous peoples. She has advocated for our understanding and the use of them through tours and talks, lectures, writing, and now filmmaking. This award recognizes exactly these qualities among people like Alicia in our community." She is committed to showing the positive impact that conservation easements and land trusts have on native plant populations.

In addition, Alicia has a delightful and productive passion for edibles. She started as a nature enthusiast: "I first made a deep connection with nature as a young child, just spending hours playing in the woods, which I felt were my home. That initial love of the outdoors has guided me to protect and share the natural home I love," said Alicia Funk. Since then, her journey has focused her creative talents on the native plans that surround her and who they can be used for productive purposes: medicinal, edible and educational.

Alicia Funk

Alicia Funk first learned plant-based medicine in 1990 from an indigenous grandmother in Ecuador's rainforest. She received her MBA in entrepreneurship and has 20 years of expertise in the field of natural living and wellness. Funk introduced the "Wellness Spa" into Whole Foods Markets, served as the director of The Crossings Wellness Center and is the editor of six books, including The Botanical Safety Handbook, Herbal Medicine-The Expanded Commission E Monographs and The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. She lived in the Santa Cruz area for a number of years, and is now in the Nevada City area directing The Living Wild Project.

Her popular book, published by Flicker Press, is an exploration of our cultural heritage and a path to a more sustainable future. 100% of the proceeds go to support the mission of CNPS and it is available for purchase from the CNPS online store. The book is filled with plant selection, cultivation and usage information, attractively arranged and chock-full of recipes and ideas. It is as much a cookbook as a craft book, and is a botanical reference guide - a lot to accomplish in one graphically appealing volume! She has recipes for acorns, which Alicia likes to call oak nuts, manzanita granola, and grape leaves with wild berries. Alicia teaches workshops frequently, where you might learn a variety of skills, including how to make oak nut flour.

Congratulate Alicia when you see her and we all thank her for the gift to CNPS. Her generosity will help CNPS's mission: protecting California's native plant heritage and preserving it for future generations.


2015 BIG Day of Giving

BIG day of GivingThis year CNPS is excited to participate in the 2015 BIG Day of Giving on Tuesday, May, 5, 2015. For 24 hours, from midnight to midnight, online donations will be accepted through with a goal of $5 million for hundreds of nonprofits based in the Sacramento region.

Donations made to the California Native Plant Society through the BIG Day of Giving website on May 5 will be eligible for additional Incentive Pool funds and prizes. Imagine: a donation of only $25 could help CNPS win a $5000 prize! Watch for our campaign on the CNPS Facebook page as the date approaches.


Upcoming CNPS Plant Science Workshops

We are working on finalizing details for our 2015 Plant Science Workshops, and have an exciting schedule in the works! More details, pricing, and registration information will be posted very soon on the workshops webpage. Please contact Becky Reilly (), CNPS Events Coordinator, for more information.

Vegetation Rapid Assessment - J. CrawfordMeasuring & Monitoring Plant Populations
Sierra Foothills Research & Extension Center, Browns Valley
April 21-23

Introduction to Plant Family Identification
Center for Earth Concerns, Taft Gardens, Ojai
May 6-7

Vegetation Rapid Assessment/Relevé
El Portal Community Center, Yosemite National Park
June 3-5

Introduction to Plant Family Identification
Sagehen Field Station, Truckee
July 6-8

Vegetation Mapping
Sacramento Area

Vegetation Rapid Assessment/Relevé
Mid/Late Oct.

CEQA Impact Assessment
Ventura Area
Nov 4-5


Chapter Events - A Sampling from Around the State

To connect to your local chapter, or to find other events in your region, see this page for a list and map of CNPS chapters. Even more events from CNPS chapters and partners can be viewed on the Horticulture Events Calendar.

Napa Valley Chapter
Lunch and Learn: Growing and Caring for CA Native Plants
April 1, 11:45 AM - 1:00 PM

Congregation Beth Shalom sponsors “Lunch and Learn,” lunchtime educational talks on the first Wednesday of the month (bring your own lunch). Henni Cohen, President of the Napa Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, will share her experiences and knowledge about growing and caring for California Native Plants. She will discuss how to select the right California Native for your garden and techniques for helping your garden survive the drought. Representative plants will be on display. Congregation Beth Shalom, 1455 Elm St., Napa.

El Dorado Chapter
Spring Native Plant Sale
Saturday, April 4, 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Our next sale will be April 4, 2015 (9 am to 1 pm). It will take place in front of County Government Buildings A and B at 330-360 Fair Lane, Placerville. These buildings are directly across the street from the Main El Dorado County Library. The sale will feature California native grasses, flowering perennials, shrubs and trees. Some plants are deer-resistant, and many are drought-tolerant once established. Check out our Spring Plant Sale List. This list is a reasonably (not perfectly) accurate look at what plants we expect to be selling. It will give you time to study up and decide what meets your needs. Whether your soil is heavy clay or serpentine, whether you live in Folsom or Pollock Pines, we can help you choose native plants that will fit your landscaping needs.

San Gabriel Mountains Chapter
Field Trip: Santa Fe Dam County Regional Park
Saturday, April 4, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM

A joint field trip with Southern California Botanists, this trip will explore the last of the unique Riversidean alluvial scrub natural community in the San Gabriel Valley. The walk will wind through over 400 acres of terraces of the San Gabriel River flood plain, full of plants and animals that are declining elsewhere. The leader is Mickey Long. Mickey plans to discuss the ecosystem as a whole: plants, birds, reptiles and the interesting successional vegetation levels tied to river hydrology. California junipers, valley cholla, huge laurel sumacs, giant Whipple yuccas live here, along with Spring wildflower displays in open flats, and resident cactus wrens and migrant birds. We could walk to the site of Los Angeles County’s only Hesperevax acaulis. Directions: Take the 210 Fwy to the Irwindale Ave off-ramp. Travel south on Irwindale Ave to Arrow Hwy, then turn west to the Santa Fe Dam entrance drive on the right. After the stop at the entrance kiosk (fee approximately $6 per car) turn right (north) following signs to the Nature Center to meet at 9 AM in the Nature Center parking lot at the north end of the basin. Wear good sturdy shoes or boots, hat and bring water.

Sacramento Valley Chapter
Program Meeting: Diversification of Ceanothus in California
Wednesday, April 8, 7:00 PM

Ceanothus is one of the best known groups of shrubs in western North America, especially California. It is appreciated by naturalists for the color it lends to spring landscapes, by horticulturists and gardeners for the variety and beauty of its cultivars, and by botanists for its interesting diversity of form and ecology. There are about 53 species Ceanothus, all restricted to North America. Though the genus is widespread in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, the center of diversity is in our very own state of California. Dylan Burge grew up in rural northern California, where he developed a love for biodiversity very early on. He attended UC Davis and Duke University. He has conducted post-doctoral research in Australia and British Columbia, and done field work around the world. In addition to botanical research, he likes to spend time hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, and taking photographs of plants in the wild. He is also “totally obsessed with Ceanothus." Shepard Garden and Arts Center, McKinley Park, 3330 McKinley Blvd, Sacramento.

North Coast Chapter
Program Meeting: Northern California Botanical Rarities
Wednesday, April 8, 7:30 PM

The North Coast Chapter's territory includes home to many rare plants. CNPS Rare Plant Botanist and veteran botanical explorer Aaron Sims will impress you with how many, provide some current knowledge about them, and point out what we need to learn. He will introduce a few recently described rare species from northern California, as well as review some rare plants that have gone entirely unnoticed in recent decades. At the Six Rivers Masonic Lodge, 251 Bayside Rd., Arcata. Refreshments at 7:00 p.m.; program at 7:30 p.m.

Marin Chapter
Spring Native Plant Sale
Saturday, April 11, 9:30 AM - 3:00 PM

This year's sale is being held during California Native Plant Week. Volunteers are busy propagating a variety of native perennials, shrubs and bunchgrasses - all drought tolerant plants, all great for a home garden. We’ll also have a selection of annual wildflowers in 4” pots, as well as a selection of larval host plants for the habitat gardener. Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary, 376 Greenwood Beach Road, Tiburon, CA. Contact: Kristin Jakob.

Los Angeles/Santa Monica Mountains Chapter
Program Meeting: Life Springing Back After Spring Wildfire
Tuesday, April 14, 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM

The May 2013 Spring Wildfire burned about 24,000 acres at the west end of the Santa Monica Mountains and north in Ventura County. Big Sycamore Canyon was severely burned as were many wildland areas. Unfortunately for the surviving wild fauna, flora and resident seedbanks, 2013 was the worst drought year on record. The drought continued into the first half of 2014. Finally rainstorms returned in the second half of 2014, delivering more rain in six months than had fallen the previous twelve months. What happened in the wild areas in Santa Monica Mountains - besides shutting down Pacific Coast Highway under tons of mud and boulders? The National Park staff is monitoring the resilience of flora and fauna in enduring and recovering from these disastrous events. This program will show us the latest and best of wildlife recovery. What has changed? What is the same? Come and see! First United Methodist Church, 1008 11th Street, Santa Monica.

Orange County Chapter
Program Meeting: Fun with Mushrooms!
Thursday, April 16, 7:30 PM

Explore the fascinating world of wild mushrooms and other fungi with amateur mycologist Joanne Schwartz. We will learn about finding and identifying fungi in Southern California, as well as their place in nature. We will also consider growing and eating them and hear some fun tales of Fungal Folklore. Joanne will bring her collection of mushroom hunting gear, ID resources, and mushrooms too...if they are fruiting locally. Joanne Schwartz is an avid amateur mycologist, having studied fungi since the 1960s. She has collected and photographed fungi throughout the world and has participated in field studies recently in Peru and Bolivia as well as the Redwoods of coastal California. Doors open at 6:45, program at 7:30. Duck Club, 15 Riparian View, Irvine.

Sanhedrin Chapter
Program Meeting: Care of Native Trees in the Urban Environment
Thursday, April 16, 7:00 - 9:00 PM

John Phillips is working into his 5th decade as an arborist. He continues to believe that good tree care comes from a foundation of science and the understanding of modern tree biology. John has a BS in Plant Science from UC Davis, is a certified arborist and has contributed to many books and papers of the subject of tree care. Ukiah Garden Club, 1203 W. Clay Street, Ukiah.

Monterey Bay Chapter
Wildflower Show
Friday, April 17 - Sunday, April 19, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM

The Monterey Bay chapter of the California Native Plant Society invites you to our annual Wildflower Show at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, Friday - Sunday, April 17 - 19, from 10:00am to 5:00pm each day. Considering the recent rains we’ve seen on the central coast, we expect to have a nice diversity of flowers on display, and we expect to have at least 600 different types of wildflowers on display at the show. Throughout the three-day show, members of the CNPS will answer questions about the plants on display, hold special talks, and will identify plants or photos of plants for people with questions. A well stocked book table will be available throughout the show, offering a plethora of books on California native plants. Finally, long-time garden volunteer Bruce Cowan will be leading regular tours of the Museum’s native plant garden, discussing the different types of native plants growing in the garden, and the different types of plant habitats on display. For a list of daily talks and opportunities, see this page.

Sierra Foothills Chapter
Field Trip: West Side Railroad Grade Trail
Sunday, April 19, 9:00 AM

Leader: Jennie Haas. Hiking level: easy (mostly flat, unpaved
surface). This will be an easy stroll along this historic railroad grade overlooking the North Fork Tuolumne River. This is a popular and reliable wildflower viewing area where we are sure to find nice things to look at. Meet at 9 AM at the trailhead at the Miramonte subdivision on Cottonwood Road, one mile east of downtown Tuolumne City.

Milo Baker Chapter
Field Trip: Santa Rosa Plain Vernal Pools
Wednesday, April 22, 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

We have all heard about the vernal pools of Sonoma County and their rare species, Sonoma sunshine, Sebastopol meadowfoam, and Burke’s goldfields. But have you actually seen this unique ecosystem up close? Here is your chance. Gene Cooley, renowned CA Fish and Wildlife botanist, will lead us to both natural and created pools. He’ll discuss the history of vernal pools and compare the natural ones and created ones. But mostly we will enjoy the many unique wildflowers and other rare plants around the vernal pools. According to his records, this is the time of year to see at least two of the rare plant species and many others. Others we may see are; Downingia, smooth goldfields, CA semaphore grass, coyote thistle, Burke’s navarretia, hair grass, meadow barley, popcorn flower, white brodiaea, rare long-rayed brodiaea, several clovers, and American badger burrows. Tiger salamanders and clam shrimp are there, but we will not see them. This trip is limited to 20 people, so contact Betty, 707-595-1463, to reserve your place and learn where we're meeting. Bring hat, sunscreen, water, lunch.

Redbud Chapter
Symphony of the Soil Film and Lecture
Wednesday, April 22, 7:00 PM

As part of the Redbud Chapter's "Passionate about (Native) Plants Lecture Series, join us for a viewing of "Symphony of the Soil", a film that explores the elaborate relationships and mutuality between soil, water, the atmosphere, plants and animals, as well as our human relationship with soil. Lecture to follow film. (CNPS w/ Master Gardeners and Special Guest). Auburn Placer County Library, 350 Nevada St, Auburn, CA.

Santa Clara Valley Chapter
Spring Native Plant Sale and Wildflower Show
Saturday, April 25, 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM

Scores of species of California native plants well-suited for our gardens and wildlife will be on sale at Hidden Villa Ranch on Saturday, April 25, 10AM - 3PM. Speak to experts about lawn alternatives such as native perennials, wildflowers, and grasses. Native plant books, posters, and note cards will also be on sale. This sale is organized by the Santa Clara Valley chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS). Hidden Villa Ranch is located at 26870 Moody Road, Los Altos Hills, 2 miles west of I-280. Come early for the best selection. Cash, check, or credit cards are accepted. Bring boxes to carry purchases home. Free parking. No pets.

Mount Lassen Chapter
Field Trip: Ten Mile House Trail, Upper Bidwell Park
Sunday, April 26, 10:00 AM

Meet at the "Green Gate" trailhead for 10 Mile House Road on Highway 32, between Santos Ranch Road and La Castana Drive, about nine miles east of the intersection of Hwys 32 & 99 in Chico at 10 AM. The road meanders downhill, then eastbound along Big Chico Creek. Leaders: Gerry Ingco 530-893-5123 and Wes Dempsey 530-342-2293.


Contributors and Photo Credits

  • Peyton Ellas
  • Susan Krzywicki
  • Becky Reilly
  • Deidre Kennelly
  • Stacey Flowerdew
  • Mark Naftzger
  • Lupine field - Stacey Flowerdew
  • Example of a "Low-water use" native, Bush monkeyflower - Stacey Flowerdew
  • Natural History Museum of L.A. County grounds - Carol Bornstein
  • Photo courtesy of Alicia Funk
  • "The Most Interesting Man in the World" wants you to give to CNPS May 5!
  • Workshop participants - Josie Crawford



Copyright © 1999-2019 California Native Plant Society. All rights reserved. Contact Us | Privacy