California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

August 2015

Inner Central Coast Ranges - Drought Effects on Native Plants

As this long dry summer comes to an end, we're all reeling from four years of drought, but how are our Californian native plants affected by this extended dry cycle? Like most things in our state, the effects are variable with some species stressed and damaged while others are holding strong and even thriving.

This year, the CNPS Vegetation Program re-visited permanent plots in the Carrizo Plain to study the stability of vegetation in the area. This National Monument protects a variety of shrubland and grassland ecosystems that harbor several endangered plant and animal species. Our initial surveys occurred during the gorgeously showy (and wet) year of 2010 and now, five years later, we have recorded a distinct die-off of some shrubs within surveys of allscale (Atriplex polycarpa), spinescale saltbush (Atriplex spinifera), narrowleaf goldenbush (Ericameria linearifolia) and purple sage (Salvia leucophylla) shrublands. However, other vegetation types showed stability over this time period, such as California juniper (Juniperus californicus).

Though 2015 was quite dry, the timing of key rains in the inner Coast Ranges and southern San Joaquin Valley enabled showy displays of wildflowers. Some species, such as Eremalche parryi, bloomed in profusion and the Kettleman Hills supported more cover of native annuals than has been seen in years. Long-term monitoring at regular intervals can provide a rigorous scientific assessment of which habitats are vulnerable to shifts in climate. Additional study of the stability of vegetation types in California is sorely needed, in addition to the conservation of corridors to allow the movement of plants and animals within our ever-changing state.

Patchy, showy displays of wildflowers in the inner Central Coast included this annual mallow, Eremalche parryi, in 2010 and 2015. photo by Jennifer Buck Diaz

Photo by Julie Evens

Comparison of a site sampled in 2010 and then again in 2015 of purple sage (Salvia leucophylla) in the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Betsy Harbert

Carrizo Sage in 2015. Melinda Elster


In Pursuit of Defining and Protecting the Mendocino Pygmy Forest

Teresa Sholars, Professor Emeritus of Biology & Sustainable Agriculture, College of the Redwoods

Members of the Dorothy King Young (DKY) chapter have a 40-year history of investigating the ecology of the Mendocino pygmy forest (Hesperocyparis pygmaea) and promoting its conservation. This year's efforts have been increased in cooperation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Vegetation Classification and Mapping Program (VegCAMP), the Eureka CDFW office, and our state CNPS vegetation program.

We began meetings in the fall of 2014 to plan a large volunteer mapping effort to collect data to help define the associations of the Mendocino Cypress Woodland alliance. In February 2015, more than 25 people joined together to be trained on the CNPS/CDFW vegetation rapid assessment protocol. We then spent the week collecting data using this protocol that will help clarify all the diversity of vegetation associations within the pygmy forest.

This effort has been continued with local DKY chapter members, including a diverse group of botanists and ecologists from timber companies, botanical consulting firms, local land trusts, and local CDFW. Once the more than 100 field data samples are compiled and analyzed, a regionally specific classification and map will result and help in our conservation efforts of this incredibly rare plant community.

Members of the Dorothy King Young Chapter of CNPS, local and state CDFW, and other partners sampling stands with Mendocino pygmy cypress. Todd Keeler-Wolf

Clare Golec

Above Schooner Gulch, walking to the first sampling site for 2015. Haley Ross


Northern Channel Islands Vegetation Inventory

The CNPS Vegetation Program has been collaborating with the National Park Service (NPS) since 2012 to categorize and describe the vegetation of the northern Channel Islands. The Channel Islands, consisting of eight islands off the southern California coast, are known for their uncommon plants endemic to one or more of the islands. While some of the native vegetation has been adversely affected by decades of grazing by animals introduced after settlement, it is now recovering after removal of these animals.

Coreopsis gigantea on San Miguel Island in 2015. Julie Evens

The unique southern California and island flora makes for some interesting vegetation patterns. One alliance, which is known from limited occurrence on the mainland in the Nipomo Dunes and Santa Monica Mountains within 2 km of the ocean, is the Coreopsis gigantea alliance. Giant coreopsis (called Leptosyne gigantea in the Jepson Manual) is a drought-deciduous shrub that sprouts yearly from thick branched stalks. We're describing two new associations for this alliance. Photos from visits to San Miguel Island in early spring 2014 and 2015 show variation in rainfall between the two years.

Coreopsis gigantea on San Miguel Island in 2014. Kendra Sikes

Another unusual vegetation type is dominated by prostrate chamise, which is considered a variety of the common chaparral plant Adenostoma fasciculatum and is therefore placed within the same alliance. As the photo from Santa Rosa Island shows, it often grows below knee height. The most common associate of prostrate chamise on the northern Channel Islands is the endemic Quercus pacifica, or island scrub oak.

Adenostoma fasciculatum var. prostratum on Santa Rosa Island. Kendra Sikes


Southern Sierra Nevada Foothills - Vegetation Sampling Redux

The CNPS Vegetation Program was back in the southern Sierra Nevada Foothills (SSNF) this past spring for three months of vegetation sampling. This project, a continuation of an effort which we originally began in 2008 to sample, classify, and map SSNF vegetation at a fine scale, is another piece of the Vegetation Program's long-term goal in collaboration with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) for a detailed vegetation map for all natural lands of California. The SSNF, as a region, covers more than 1.7 million acres east and south of the San Joaquin Valley floor up to about 2,500 ft. elevation and higher in the San Emigdio Mountains. The SSNF is of high priority for mapping because along with adjacent areas in the northern foothills and valley, this region has greatest potential for increasing urban, suburban, and rural development in the state.

A shrubland stand with bush anemone (Carpenteria californica), naturally occurring only in the foothills of Fresno County.
Jaime Ratchford

This year CNPS and partners conducted over 550 surveys using the CNPS/CDFW combined vegetation rapid assessment and relevé protocol. Along with the common oak woodlands, we captured some interesting and unique vegetation types including stands with bush anemone (Carpenteria californica), Piute cypress (Hesperocyparis nevadensis), and desert needle grass (Stipa speciosa).

A patchwork of semi-desert vegetation edges into the southern foothills including desert needle grass (Stipa speciosa) grassland.
Melinda Elster, Sara Taylor

We'll return to the SSNF region again for another month during this spring of 2016, to sample more herbaceous vegetation types and to reach areas that we've missed. Data and maps resulting from this project are critical to the success of local and regional land conservation and management efforts. Land managers can use vegetation maps to inform decision making, whether to identify what types of vegetation face encroaching development, are at risk of severe fires, require mitigation, provide habitats and corridors for key animal species, or are in need of restoration. Compiled vegetation data will also provide us with new information on vegetation assemblages (alliances or associations), so that we can have a more complete representation of the vegetation found in the region.

A dense, uncommon woodland stand of Puite cypress (Hesperocyparis nevadensis) on BLM land in the southern foothills near Isabella Lake.
Rosie Murphy-Deak

If you are a landowner in the southern Sierra Nevada Foothills and interested in having us visit your property or have contacts that we can follow-up on for next spring of 2016, please contact Jaime Ratchford at .

Old-growth shrubs of California ash (Fraxinus dipetala) occur along with California buckeye (Aesculus californica), oaks (Quercus spp.), and other common trees and shrubs in the region. Aaron Wentzel.


Volunteers Sought for Blue Oak and Foothill Pine Woodlands Sampling

Blair McLaughlin, Assistant Professor, University of Idaho, and David Ackerly, Professor, UC Berkeley

Blue oak (Quercus douglasii) with very low leaf out in Santa Margarita, CA. Many blue oak and foothill pine (Pinus sabiniana) woodlands are showing effects of California's recent extraordinary drought.

Researchers and native plant enthusiasts throughout California are participating in a cooperative flash sampling protocol of trees in their regions, and we need your help!

As we head into the hottest part of summer 2015 and the fourth year of drought in California, there are widespread reports of drought stress, defoliation, and mortality of trees around the state. The Ackerly/Dawson labs at UC Berkeley and the McLaughlin lab at University of Idaho are monitoring the drought's effects on blue oak (Quercus douglasii) and foothill pine (Pinus sabiniana) woodlands. Blue oak and foothill pine are important native species found only in California, and we are surveying the status of these trees across the state during the critical peak of this summer's dry season (August to September). We are particularly interested in identifying areas where blue oaks and foothill pines are under high stress with brown canopies or low/no leaf out.

You can contribute to this study by taking photos of the leaves and canopies and recording locations of the blue oaks or foothill pines in your local area. And if you'd like to do a bit more, you can also collect leaves and small stem segments from the trees and send them to us for analysis.

Our goal is to have a sample of 10 trees of each species (blue oak and/or foothill pine) at each site. We are looking for trees that span the range of apparent drought stress, from drier (e.g. hilltops or south-facing slopes) to wetter (e.g. valley bottoms or north-facing slopes) locations.

The data you send us will help us understand how trees are responding to the drought in different parts of the state, and your samples will be used to test for spatial patterns in tree water status and drought stress as a function of regional climate and landscape position. It will also provide a baseline to quantify patterns of mortality and recovery over the next several years, and will help us better understand which populations may be most vulnerable to climate change. The final results of the study will be presented in a future CNPS newsletter.

For more information on how to join the study, and receive instructions and a sampling kit, please visit our webpage at, or contact us at . Thank you for helping to monitor California's oaks!


CNPS Educational Grants Due September 30

This fall, the CNPS Educational Grants Program is again offering seven research grants for students and researchers. All proposals must be submitted by September 30th, and awards are announced in late November/early December. Grant awards are decided by a review committee who determines which grant is appropriate for each proposal funded. See for more details about the various CNPS Education Program grant opportunities, application instructions, or to apply.


Upcoming "Ditch Your Lawn!" Workshops

Native Garden by Pete Vellieux

CNPS is partnering with organizations around California to deliver all-new statewide “Ditch your Lawn!” workshops program, which aims to teach homeowners how to replace their thirsty lawns with water-saving native plants. Classes are being held in Sacramento, Redding, Chico, Modesto, and Encino this September and October, and CNPS hopes to continue this program into the future and add more class locations as we continue working towards a healthier and happier California. Visit to register for a “Ditch Your Lawn!” workshop near you, or contact Becky Reilly at for more information.


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.

South Coast Chapter
Program Meeting: Native Plants that Work Well in Local Gardens
Monday, September 7, 7:30 PM

Presented by Tony Baker and Rick Dykzeul, learn what native plants thrive in local home gardens. South Coast Botanic Garden, 26300 Crenshaw Blvd, Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA 90274.

Monterey Bay Chapter
Program Meeting: Ferns of the Bay Area
Thursday, September 10, 7:00 PM

Deanna Giuliano will discuss the diverse array of ferns that inhabit the varied ecosystems in the Bay Area, from San Francisco to Monterey. Ferns are very attractive, and are adapted to many types of habitats including riparian, woodland, springs, dry forest and rocky outcrops. Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, 165 Forest Ave, Pacific Grove, CA. Program begins at 7:30.

Marin Chapter
Habitat Restoration: SP Taylor Park
Friday, September 11, and Sunday, September 13, 1:00 - 3:00 PM

Join the Zen of Weeding Volunteers just before 1 PM at the far end of the picnic area. This is easy companionable work, and spending time under the redwoods restores our spirits as well as the habitat. Our goal is an invasive-free park. We want all the campers and visitors to Samuel P. Taylor Park to discover a more pristine native habitat. Bring gloves and get a free parking pass when you volunteer. Contact Nancy if you want to attend, need park info, or to be notified of other work parties at the park. Camp Taylor, Samuel P. Taylor State Park, Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Lagunitas, CA 94938.

Alta Peak Chapter
Field Trip: Cold Springs Nature Trail
Saturday, September 12, 12:30 PM

Join the Alta Peak Chapter for a leisurely hike along the Cold Springs Nature Trail in Mineral King, Sequoia National Park. The field trip leader will be Interpretive Park Ranger, Josh Schultz. Participants will explore this beautiful Alpine Valley and learn about the unique challenges it presents to the plants that call it home. The aspen trees will be changing color and the group will be able to enjoy a touch of autumn in the air. Cold Springs Nature Trail is two miles long with no significant elevation change at around 7,800 ft. It is a dirt surface with a few rocky areas. The walk will be about one and one half hours. Meet at the Cold Springs Bridge at 12:30 pm and the field trip will begin at 1 pm. Directions to Cold Springs Trail: Follow Highway 198 east towards the Sequoia Park entrance. About two miles before you enter the main park, you will see a sign on your right for Mineral King Road. It will indicate 26 miles to Mineral King. The road is very narrow, winding and poorly paved in places. A few sections are still dirt. It will take about an hour and one half to reach Cold Springs from the turn off at the junction of 198. For more information, contact Shelley Quaid, Alta Peak Field Trip Chair, at 559-623-4233.

North Coast Chapter
Fall Native Plant Sale
Saturday, September 12, 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM

Join us at our nursery at the Jacoby Creek Land Trust, 2182 Old Arcata Rd, Bayside. A pdf of our plant list can be found here. Experienced gardeners will be on hand to help you choose for your garden from our wide variety of plants. Local plant lists and a CNPS publication specific to native plant gardening will be for available at the sale. Reference resources will be on site to use as well. Cash, check or credit card will be accepted. Please bring your own box to carry your purchases! For more information, call 826-7247.

Sierra Foothills Chapter
Gardening with Natives Symposium
Saturday, September 12, 9:00 AM - 3:30 PM

With California in the fourth year of unprecedented drought, all Californians have been called upon to make sacrifices, reducing water use everywhere possible. The impacts of drought on our foothill landscapes have been substantial, and in some cases, devastating. We are challenged with keeping our trees healthy and our yards attractive while minimizing our water use. Many of California's native plants are drought tolerant and can be used to create beautiful and resilient landscapes. Creekside Building, Mother Lode Fairgrounds Mother Lode Fairgrounds, Sonora, CA 95370.

Kern Chapter
Program Meeting: Owens Peak Flora
Thursday, September 17, 6:00 - 9:00 PM

The first hour features two informal group discussions: plant identification and native plant gardening. Feature program begins at 7:00. Hall Ambulance Community Room, 1031 21st St, Bakersfield, CA 93301.

Orange County Chapter
Wild by Nature: Sowing Seeds for Spring Wildflowers
Thursday, September 17, 6:45 PM

Speaker: Genevieve Arnold. Fall is the prime time for sowing wildflower seed in the garden. Our State's famed spring-blooming annuals provide an array of colors and forms - and perform well in many garden spaces, from meadows to mixed beds and borders to containers. This presentation offers tips and tricks on soil preparation and sowing techniques; and an illustrated overview of the speaker's most-beloved species. Irvine Duck Club, 15 Riparian View, Irvine.

San Diego Chapter
Garden Native Symposium
Saturday, September 19, 7:00 AM - 3:00 PM

Learn from eight different native landscaping experts all in one place. Use California's original drought-tolerant plants to replace your lawn, use 40-100% less weter, get healthier soil, support beneficial pollinators, create happier edible gardens, get CLCA CEUs, and more! Seats are limited, so purchase your $35 ticket to guarantee your place. Please see this page for more information or to purchase your ticket. Sumner Auditorium, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 8625 Kennel Way, San Diego, CA 92037.

East Bay Chapter
Wonderful Delta and Marsh Plants in Martinez
Sunday, September 20, 10:00 AM

We will walk about one mile out to the water (Suisun Bay) and back to the parking area. Elevation gain is about three feet. We will see a good diversity of wetland plants, some in flower. We will meet at Waterbird Regional Preserve, and carpool to the trail across the road. Take Highway 24 east through the Caldecott Tunnel and drive to Walnut Creek. In Walnut Creek, drive north on I-680, past Concord and Highway 4. About two miles before the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, take the Marina Vista/Waterfront Road exit. At the end of the off-ramp turn right onto Waterfront Road, drive about 1/4 mile, turn right onto Waterbird Way, and watch for the right turn into the Preserve. See the event Meetup page for more details, to RSVP, or see a partial plant list.

El Dorado Chapter
Program Meeting: Landscaping after the Lawn
Tuesday, September 22, 7:00 PM

Speaker: Karin Kaufman. As we dive deeper into the drought, replacing the thirsty lawns that surround us with water-wise alternatives is on more people's minds. At this presentation we will discuss some great options for replacing lawns including grasses that use less water than conventional turf grass, lawn substitutes, converting lawn areas to beds filled with un-thirsty, colorful plants, and outdoor living areas. We will also cover how to irrigate efficiently and methods to downsize or remove lawn. Planning Commission Room, Building C, 2850 Fairland Ct, Placerville.

San Gabriel Mountains Chapter
Potluck and Members' Slide Show
Thursday, September 24, 6:30 PM

Bring your favorite dish to share and your own utensils. The slide show is an opportunity to show your favorite native plant related photographs. For the slide show, select one to twelve photos you would like to share. Send the digital files to Rebecca Latta by Sunday, September 20, for incorporation into the slide show. Or, if you prefer, you can create your own PowerPoint or OpenOffice slides and send them. If you can, please identify the plants in each photograph with common names and/or botanical names, or the group can help identify them. Eaton Canyon Nature Center, 1750 N Altadena Dr, Pasadena, CA 91107.

Mount Lassen Chapter
Field Trip: Hat Creek to Paradise Meadow, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Saturday, September 26, 8:30 AM

Meet at Chico Park & Ride west lot (Hwys CA32/CA99) in time to leave by 8:30 AM. Wear sturdy shoes, bring a light jacket, lunch, water, insect/sun protection, park pass, if you have one, and money for ride sharing. Call a leader for an alternate meeting place. We will travel CA-32 & CA-89 a distance of 86 miles to the trailhead in Lassen Park. For wildflowers, Paradise Meadows is one of the best areas in the park. The meadow at 7,200' elevation has a glaciated head-wall for a scenic backdrop. From the Hat Lake trail head , the trail climbs 600 vertical feet over a distance of 1.4 miles to the meadow. Leaders: 530-893-5123 & 530-342-2293.

Bristlecone Chapter
Program Meeting: A Native Plant Garden in Big Pine
Wednesday, September 30, 7:00 PM

Alan Bacock, from the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley (BPPT) will present a success story of planting a native garden in collaboration with the Big Pine Unified School District (BPUSD). The garden is installed surrounding a monument dedicated to Alice Piper, whose efforts led to her and her fellow Owens Valley Paiute classmates' entrance to the school in 1924. This project was funded in part with a Mary DeDecker botanical grant from the Bristlecone Chapter, and the Chapter is especially pleased to have been able to assist in a project that honors both Alice Piper and Mary DeDecker. In this presentation, we will learn about the native species used, the installation and watering design, the interpretive features, and the participation of students and community members. White Mountain Research Center, East Line Street, Bishop.


Contributors and Photo Credits

  • Jennifer Buck-Diaz
  • Teresa Sholars
  • Kendra Sikes
  • Julie Evens
  • Jaime Ratchford
  • Blair McLaughlin
  • David Ackerly
  • Becky Reilly
  • Stacey Flowerdew
  • Mark Naftzger
  • Comparison of sage (Salvia lencophylla) sampled in 2010 and 2015 - Betsy Harbert and Melinda Elster
  • Pygmy cypress sampling volunteers - Clare Golec
  • Coreopsis gigantea on San Miguel Island- Kendra Sikes
  • Old growth shrubs of California ash, buckeye, and oaks - Aaron Wentzel
  • Blue oak with very low leaf in Santa Margarita - Blair McLaughlin
  • CNPS Education Grant recipient Lee Ripma in Sierras - photo courtesy Lee Ripma
  • A colorful example of native plant landscaping by Pete Veilleux - photo courtesy Pete Veilleux



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