California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

June 2015

New Disease in Native Plant Communities

Comparison of healthy and unhealthy sticky monkeyflower, courtesy of Suzanne Rooney-Latham, CDFA.

Contributors: Betty Young, Melanie Baer Keeley, and Steven Goetz

If you have ever had a house plant or tended a garden, you have heard of root rot. What we call root rot is actually many species of water mold pathogens. Now there is a new invasive species of root rot that has the potential to catastrophically affect our precious natural plant communities, Phytophthora tentaculata. First detected in the USA at three habitat restoration sites in Monterey and Alameda Counties, P. tentaculata was inadvertently spread from native plant nurseries by contaminated pots and soil media. Unfortunately, this new disease is easily spread from infected nursery crops to wild areas. It spreads from spores in the soil, and once it invades a natural area, some plant species are so susceptible that 100% are killed. Since its initial detection, five more native plant nurseries located in Butte, Monterey, Placer, Santa Cruz Counties have been found to have the fungus. In California, it has been identified on native woody plant species such as manzanita (Arctostaphylos glandulosa and A. virgata), toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), chinquapin (Chrysolepis chrysophylla), coffeeberry (Frangula aka Rhamnus californica), chaparral pea (Pickeringia montana), sticky bush monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus), assorted native sage species (Salvia spp.) and a number of other plant families in Europe and China.

"These are the first detections of the pathogen in the USA," according to pathologists Susan Frankel of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ted Swiecki and Elizabeth Bernhardt of Phytosphere Research, and Suzanne Rooney-Latham and Cheryl Blomquist of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. They further inform: "Phytophthoras, (pronounced Fie-tof-ther-uhs) which means 'plant destroyers,' are water molds, fungal-like organisms that are most closely related to diatoms and brown algae (Stramenopila). Phytophthora contains over 100 described species, including the Sudden Oak Death (P. ramorum) pathogen and other destructive pathogens of agricultural, ornamental, and forest plants."

According to the researchers, "P. tentaculata has likely been spread by the movement of infected plants into new locations or the planting of healthy plants in previously contaminated pots or potting mix." Their concern lies in that "Restoration nurseries provide planting stock for forest and other environmental settings, so any associated pathogens can be moved into new locations and cause lasting environmental damage. The inadvertent outplanting of infected rare plant species poses an especially serious risk to remaining wild populations with limited habitat areas, which may become permanently infested." For further information on the Phytophthoras life cycle, distribution, dispersal, and impact in California, you can view this presentation byTed Swiecki taken at a Santa Clara Valley Chapter program meeting.

What You Can Do to Help
This is where you come in: Be sure you are buying and planting clean plants. How can you tell when you are at the nursery? Wilted, stunted pale plants should be visually examined for lesions on the central stem and withered, blackened root tissues with severely reduced volume. This disease and its relatives grow from spores in the soil or potting media in a nursery pot. In wet conditions (commonly found in nurseries), the spores germinate and enter the root, then form threads that gradually clog the vessels in the root that carry water up to the leaves. The leaves can't pull up enough water and they wilt. Gradually whole stems die. The roots turn black. So when you are at the nursery, be sure the plants are not wilted. Tap plants you are interested in buying out of the pot. Healthy roots are white or tan. If they aren't, don't buy them and tell your supplier you're concerned about buying infested stock that can spread plant-killing diseases in our landscapes.

Good habits can prevent plant pathogenic infections from spreading. Keep in mind that the disease can be spread by soil or water. Anything that comes into contact with dirt can convey the spores: dirty pots, tools, shoes, gloves, hose ends, tires, trailers, wheel barrows, potting soil, as well as the ground itself. Disinfect anything that comes into contact with the soil for five minutes in a solution of one part bleach or Lysol to 10 parts water or spray with straight rubbing alcohol. Watch out for water splash too - during rain or irrigation, soil and spores can splash up to 20 inches! Potted plants should be kept off of the ground and at least 20" away from garden soil.

Phytophthora ImmunoStrip® ISK 92601/0005 by Agdia can be used to screen for Phytophtheras , including P. tentaculata aand P. ramorum. These simple test strips are available at Agdia. To report symptomatic plants, please contact your County Agricultural Department or UC Cooperative Extension to have P. tentaculata confirmed via laboratory diagnosis. Lastly, after reporting suspicious plants to these agencies, the remains should be disposed appropriately in the garbage and never composted.

CNPS is taking measures to ensure that the plants you will buy at our chapter fall plant sales are as clean as possible, as well as to stem the spread of this pernicious pest. CNPS Chapter Council took action at the recent chapter council meeting last month. As prevention and good cultural practices are central to stopping the spread of Phytophthoras, an ad hoc committee is being created to develop short term actions to minimize these pathogens in California native plant nursery stock and CNPS plant sale stock. The Willis Linn Jepson Chapter has agreed to facilitate this committee and volunteers from the Orange County, Alta Peak, San Luis Obispo, South Coast, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, North Coast, Tahoe and Milo Baker Chapters have signed on. If you are interested in participating in this committee, please provide your name and contact information to Steven Goetz at by June 30.


Styles of the New California Garden

Peyton Ellas, Quercus Landscape Design

Ca backyard garden in modification of French parterre style, Peyton EllasIt used to be that a California native garden meant only a wild-looking, informal garden, or that you could add some California native plants among your existing non-native (exotic) plants in standard planting beds. California landscaping has gone through a phase where a dry creek had to be part of a native-plant garden, and I still add dry-creeks and similar water-theme features in some of my landscape designs, but it's no longer mandatory. We've seen wildflower meadows and native-grass-as-turf-substitute styles come and go.

The new California garden seems to be developing along the following basic styles. See if any of these fit with your yard or goals.

Continue reading here.


Castles and Moats for Smart Drought Irrigation

Plant basin diagram by Jessica DowellJessica Dowell

Have you tried dumping dish water on your plants just to watch the water flow away from the plant?  If so, try using the castle and moat plant basin method. Whether watering your garden by capturing water from your kitchen sink or installing drip irrigation, good plant basins make a big difference. Basins capture water, rain or otherwise, and allow it to sink in around the plant’s roots. It is conceptually similar to mulch basins used for “Laundry-to-Landscape” grey-water systems or rain gardens. With the continuing drought it makes sense to give our plants all the tools we can to make the best of the little water available.

Continue reading here.



CNPS Calscape Helps Californians Save Water and Restore Nature - One Garden at a Time

CalscapeCalifornians are ripping out their thirsty lawns, CNPS is launching Calscape to offer a native plant solution that not only saves water, but also helps restore nature in California. Calscape is based on a mapping of the natural distribution ranges of over 3000 native California plants, developed in coordination with the Consortium of California Herbaria. With this mapping, Calscape site visitors can enter in the name of any California street address to easily see the plants that would naturally grow at that location. Plant profiles include detailed descriptions, hundreds of thousands of plant photographs, sun, water, soil and site requirements, gardening information and nursery availability. Experts from CNPS and Jepson Herbarium are continuing to improve the Calscape plant profiles over time.

If you would like to contribute, go to and click on the "edit" button on any plant profile.


Statewide "Ditch your Lawn!" Workshops

CA Azalea - S. FlowerdewSave water during the drought by replacing your lawn with beautiful native plants!

With sponsorship from the California Department of Water Resources, CNPS is partnering with organizations around the state to offer new "Ditch your Lawn!" workshops, which will teach homeowners how to kill their thirsty lawns and replace them with beautiful, water-saving native plant gardens. Well-chosen California natives can use up to 75% less water than traditional turf lawns, while creating welcome natural habitats for local birds and butterflies. Participants will learn step-by-step how to plan a new native plant garden, remove existing lawn, install new native plants, and maintain them for years to come. Workshops are coming to Sacramento, Redding, Chico, Modesto, and Encino this summer and fall.

Click here to learn more!


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.

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

Vegetation Mapping
UC Berkeley GIF Lab
Aug 3-5

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.

Yerba Buena Chapter
Program: Natural History as Rhetoric
Thursday, July 2, 7:30 PM

Speaker Ken-ichi Ueda, lead developer for iNaturalist. In the San Francisco Bay Area, where we congratulate ourselves for our progressive politics and our long history of environmental activism, we still fight heated battles over clearing stands of invasive trees and keeping dogs on leashes in sensitive bird habitat. It seems we have convinced people that biodiversity matters without building the relationships to other organisms that would make their worth self-evident. Ken will argue that the kinds of rhetoric we employ are partly to blame, and that the practice of natural history is itself a kind of rhetoric we can use to address this problem. He'll discuss his efforts to do so with, an online social network for people interested in biodiversity and natural history, and how technology can help us employ natural history as a rhetorical tool. Recreation Room, San Francisco County Fair Building, 9th Avenue and Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park.

South Coast Chapter
Twilight Walk and Pizza Potluck
Monday, July 6, 6:00 PM

Join us for a leisurely twilight walk through the Madrona Marsh Preserve and Nature Center. We will begin the night by partaking in casual potluck. Please bring your favorite dish, dessert, snack or drink to share. Then we will take an exclusive walk through Madrona Marsh as the sun sets. This is a rare opportunity to see some of the unique and seldom seen nightlife of the marsh. The Preserve is a mix of several micro-habitats including back dune, coastal prairie, alkali margin, vernal pool and vernal marsh area and is situated within the greater El Segundo Sand Dune System. Bring your favorite dish, dessert, or snack to share. Madrona Marsh Nature Center, 3201 Plaza Del Amo, Torrance, CA 90503.

North Coast Chapter
East Boulder Lake and Scott Mountain Summit
Friday, July 10 - Sunday, July 12

A two-mile hike, after an hour's drive from our camp will put us at 6,700 ft in the wide basin of East Boulder Lake in the Scott Mountains, south of Callahan. We will car-camp Friday and Saturday nights at Scott Mt. Summit Campground (5400 ft elevation) on Route 3 north of Weaverville, 3 hours from Arcata, in Shasta Trinity National Forest. Saturday we will maximize time at East Boulder Lake among the Western White Pine and alpine flowers. Sunday we will explore the camp area (one of our favorites) and Pacific Crest Trail before heading home. Important: tell Carol if you are thinking of coming, 822-2015!

Sierra Foothills Chapter
Field Trip: Saddlebag Lake/Twenty Lakes Basin
Saturday, July 11

Leader: Tom Reyes. Hiking Level: arduous due to high elevation. View a huge diversity of wildflowers in a beautiful setting of alpine lakes and meadows. Located at the convergence of granite and metamorphic rock types and nestled between Mt Conness, Shepherds Crest and Tioga Crest, this basin is a gem of the High Sierra. We will take the water taxi across Saddlebag Lake to surpass a 1.5 mile hike along talus unless you're up for it. Meet at 10:00 a.m. at Saddlebag Lake Resort located up a well-marked dirt road 2 miles east of Tioga Pass. For more information, contact Tom at (818) 554-6616.

Milo Baker Chapter
Eastern Sierras Camping Trip
Wednesday, July 15 - Saturday, July 18

Beautiful wildflowers should be happening. Ann Howald will lead a hike in the Little Lakes Valley on Thursday July 16. There will be more details in the July chapter newsletter. Most campgrounds along Rock Creek Road leading to the Little Lakes Valley, in the Inyo National Forest are first come first served, but a couple take reservations. We have reserved a few campsites in the East Fork Campground. You may want to make your own reservations in that campground or a nearby one. There are also lodges in the area at Tom’s Place near Rock Creek Rd and 395 halfway between Mammoth lakes and Bishop. See for reservations.

Bristlecone Chapter
Field Trip: Upper Convict Creek and Mildred Lake Basin
Saturday, July 18, 7:00 AM

Mildred Lake basin is known as one of the few locations for two rare California native shrub species, Short-fruited willow, Salix brachycarpa, and Kinnikinnick, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. Aside from these rare shrubs there are also an additional handful of other rare species, hard to find elsewhere in the Eastern Sierra. The hike up to Mildred Lake is about 6 miles one way with a round trip of 12 miles, beginning at 7621’ going up to 9800’. This is a moderate to strenuous trek for most hikers, and participants should be in good hiking condition at high elevation. We should be back down by late afternoon. Participants should bring lunch, snacks and plenty of fluids, field guides, hand lens. Don’t forget binoculars! This is also an excellent place to see and hear many breeding bird species. Dress for the weather, hat, sunscreen, hiking shoes... We will meet at 7:00 AM at the Convict Lake trailhead (1.7 miles S of US 395 on Convict Lake Rd the parking lot is a right turn before Convict Lake Resort). For more information contact Jerry Zatorski at 760-387-2920.

Mount Lassen Chapter
Field Trip: Plaskett Meadows, Mendocino National Forest
Sunday, July 19, 8:30 AM

Meet at Chico Park & Ride west lot (Hwys 32/99) at 8:30. Wear sturdy shoes. Bring lunch, water, sun/insect protection, and money for ride sharing. We'll drive west and stop at the Willows Wal-mart parking lot. We'll follow Hwy 162 west through Elk Creek, north 5 miles, and turn west to the end of 162 which changes to Forest Road F-7, 31 miles from Chico. We'll follow F-7 up into Mendocino National Forest to 6,000 ft elevation. Plaskett Meadows Recreation Area is 28 miles from the start of Forest Road F-7. Consists of a small campground in mixed species of pine and fir. Two small four acre lakes for trout fishing; swimming is not recommended. The meadows and surrounding area has long been an attraction because of its broad array of plant life. Call for alternate meeting place. Leaders: Gerry Ingco, 530-893-5123, Wes Dempsey, 530-342-2293.

El Dorado Chapter
General Meeting: The Splendor of Our Foothill Wildflowers
Tuesday, July 28, 7:00 PM

Evan Jones will discuss the simple processes by which flowers use sunlight to produce a bewildering variety of colors and patterns. Evan taught physics at Sierra College in Rocklin. His Interests include applications of physics to bird flight and to the colors of flowers. He is co-author of the trail guide "Take a Hike" and has written for the California Explorer and the Physics Teacher Magazine. This program will be held on Tuesday, July 28, at 7 PM at the Planning Commission Room, Building C, 2850 Fairlane Court, Placerville. The program is free to both members and the public.


Contributors and Photo Credits

  • Betty Young
  • Melanie Baer Keeley
  • Steven Goetz
  • Peyton Ellas
  • Jessica Dowell
  • Caroline Garland
  • Becky Reilly
  • Stacey Flowerdew
  • Mark Naftzger
  • Healthy and infected sticky monkeyflower - Suzanne Rooney-Latham, CDFA
  • CA backyard garden modification of French parterre style - Peyton Ellas
  • "Castle and Moat" Diagram - Jessica Dowell
  • Calscape screenshot
  • Western Azalea, Rhododendron occidentale - Stacey Flowerdew
  • Workshop participants - Josie Crawford



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