Newsletter 2004 July – August

California Native Plant Society

Orange County Chapter

July/August 2004




The lead article in Toyon, the Los Angles/Santa Monica Mountains chapter newsletter, is Dan Songster’s excellent article on Summer Watering of Natives, which appeared in our July/August newsletter last year. This article contains valuable recommendations and suggestions for the native plant gardener. It’s available on our website,, under Newsletters> Indexed articles> Summer Watering.

Recipes have been used as analogies for all aspects of life: human, nature, and human nature. But how about a real recipe that actually makes a delicious cake? Well, that would hardly befit the front page of a CNPS newsletter. This cake was a tasty accompaniment to our pleasant evening tour around the Goldenwest College Native Plant Garden in May. You’ll find it somewhere in the back of this issue.

We are more or less hibernating this summer. Chapter meetings are on hold until September. Except for a monthly walk at Crystal Cove State Park, we have no field trips planned for those months (See Field Trips for other opportunities). At this time of year, we focus on the Fall Plant Sale, October 23 this year—a bit later than previous years, and generally review the year. This is not, however, a time to sit on our hands in respect to conservation issues as you will see below. And our “door” is always open should you have suggestions, comments, or thoughts to share on any of the activities of the California Native Plant Society.

Sarah Jayne, Chapter President

Calendar of Events

Jul 3…………………… Shipley NC workday

Jul 6………………………….. Board Meeting

Jul 17……………………. Crystal Cove Walk

Jul 29…………………………. Board Meeting

Aug 7…………………. Shipley NC workday

Sep 2…………………………. Board Meeting

Sep 16…………………….. Chapter Meeting

Thursdays, 10-1………….. UCI Arboretum

Thursdays, 8:30-noon………. Fullerton Arb

Chapter meetings are held at the Irvine Ranch Water District headquarters at 15600 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine. Doors open at 7 PM and the meeting begins at 7:30. Wildflower posters and a wide variety of books are available at the meetings.
Directions: From the Santa Ana Freeway (I 5) exit on Sand Canyon Road west. Pass Irvine Center Drive. Turn left at the next light onto Waterworks Road, then left into the IRWD parking lot. From the 405 exit east on Sand Canyon/Shady Canyon, turn right on Waterworks and left into the parking lot.

Notice: there are NO chapter meetings in July and August



In the last two years, Congress has approved Pentagon requests to ease requirements for designating critical habitat on military bases and a lower threshold for what can be considered “harassment” of a marine mammal by military operations.

Now, the Pentagon wants the Clean Air Act amended so any extra air pollution from training exercises won’t count for three years in states’ plans for meeting federal requirements. It also is seeking changes that would let the military avoid cleaning up munitions left after “normal” use of operational ranges.

The budget savings from these actions are ostensibly to be applied to military needs in the war on terrorism. However, the Pentagon was not specific about which programs the money should be diverted to.

An environmental group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, says these Pentagon actions are irresponsible. PEER says that protecting America’s land, air and water is not a secondary mission that should be shirked when budgets get tight.

See: Defense Department,, and PEER,


For what may be the first time, federal agencies have publicly opposed the release of a genetically engineered organism, a grass used in golf courses. The agencies are concerned that if the grass, which is engineered to be herbicide resistant, escapes into wildlands, its herbicide tolerance will render it uncontrollable. Scientists and environmentalists have long cautioned that genetically engineered herbicide resistant plants and other organisms may become uncontrollably invasive if released into the wild, and cause severe damage to wildland ecosystems. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have asked for more study of the grass to determine the consequences and potential responses to a possible escape.

For more information on genetically engineered organisms, see the Union of Concerned Scientists’ biotechnology website:


BOLSA CHICA: The Coastal Commission hearing on the Brightwater project, proposed for Bolsa Chica’s upper mesa, may be held in August. This is yet another hurdle in this 3-decade preservation battle. Meanwhile, good news in the battle for Bolsa Chica! The State of California has entered into an agreement to purchase the lower bench of the Bolsa Chica Mesa, 102 acres, from the developer, Hearthside Homes, for $65 million dollars. See and

COYOTE HILLS: Work continues towards saving the last parcel of natural open space in Fullerton. Funding sources to purchase the land as a park and nature preserve are being sought. See

DANA POINT HEADLANDS: The Coastal Commission firmly directed its staff to rewrite the Headlands findings to match the applicant’s specifications. The Commission expects to make its final certification in August, and is expecting a lawsuit to follow. Surfrider and Sierra Club are working out details of that lawsuit. Contact ACTION NOW: Write a letter by August 6. Address and sample comment letter are on our website,

RANCHO MISSION VIEJO: Two massive official documents have been issued that, between them, spell out extensive threats to South OC’s last large natural open space, an area that is the center of a global biodiversity “hotspot.” See:

The Foothill South Toll Road Extension Draft EIS/SEIR analyses nine alternatives: eight possible routes plus the “no action” alternative. The easternmost three alternative routes would all run through Cristianitos Canyon. Any of the three would severely impact The Donna O’Neill Land Conservancy, the rest of the Cristianitos watershed, and the lower reaches of the San Mateo watershed—which includes a popular State Park campground and the beach and world-class surf break at Trestles. The Draft EIS/SEIR is available at many county libraries, at the Transportation Corridor Agencies’ office in Irvine, at the Toll Roads Information Center in San Clemente, and at ACTION NOW: Write your comments by August 6. Address and sample comment letter are on our website,

The Rancho Mission Viejo Development Plan’s Environmental Impact Report was presented to the Orange County Planning Commission on June 23. The proposed development plan calls for 14,000 new houses and over 5 million square feet of commercial development on the Ranch’s 22,815 acres, east and north of San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente. The County of Orange has decided to allow this EIR to move forward. It was supposed to proceed as one of three synchronous processes: land use (EIR), habitat (NCCP), and wetlands (SAMP). However the NCCP analysis process has fallen behind. Wildlife agency staff shortages have been cited as the primary cause of the delays. By moving forward now with their plan, the Ranch has abandoned this coordinated planning process. If the Ranch gets its development entitlements from the County before the agencies have finished their review of habitats and watersheds, some valid NCCP options will inevitably be precluded. The EIR is available at the public libraries in Ladera Ranch, Laguna Niguel, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano, and at the UCI Langson Library. The Executive Summary and supporting documents are available as large pdf files at ACTION NOW: Write your comments by August 9. Address and sample comment letter are on our website,

SADDLEBACK CANYONS: Despite a strong legal case that the County violated the California Environmental Quality Act, the Foothill Trabuco Specific Plan, and its own General Plan, in approving the proposed 162-unit housing tracts, the judge merely stated his overall belief that the approval was within the discretion of the Board of Supervisors. The Rural Canyons Conservation Fund, Endangered Habitats League, and co-plaintiffs (including OC CNPS) will appeal this ruling. See

SANTA ANA RIVER: The Banning Ranch Task Force is working to identify, among the multiple-member partnership owning Banning Ranch, partners who are interested in facilitating public acquisition. See

TRABUCO DISTRICT, CLEVELAND NATIONAL FOREST: The Forest Service continues its development of the plans that will govern the District (and all the four Southern California Forests) for the next decade and more. The plans are available at Alternative 6 is the most environment-friendly. See ACTION NOW: Write your comments by August 11. Address and sample comment letter are on our website,

—Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair



UCI Arboretum’s California Native Collection still has some late blooms, and the birds and insects are taking full advantage of them! Our Chapter’s diligent weeding for the past three years has really paid off—weeds now are sparse and small. But we still need to keep ferreting them out, or they’ll be back in full force in no time! And while hunting weeds, we can take time to enjoy the flowers, birds, bugs, sun and breeze. Join us on Thursday mornings, 9:30-1:30; feel free to come earlier to beat the heat. Hat, gloves, water, sturdy work shoes, sunscreen are advised; bring your favorite weeding implement if possible.

Directions: From 405, go south on Jamboree to Campus Dr. Turn left on Campus, then immediately right on an unnamed campus service road. Turn left into the Arboretum gate, park on the gravel behind the greenhouse.


The first Saturdays of July and August will be regular Restoration Days. Arrive with gloves, hat, sunscreen, etc. to help from 9 AM to Noon. Tools provided. Tours at 11.

The third Sunday of each month is Nature Center enjoyment day. Gates are open from 10 AM to 3 PM for strolling and talking with docents. For more information visit

Directions: The Shipley Nature Center is located in Huntington Central Park. From PCH, go north on Goldenwest, west on Garfield, and north on Edwards. From the 405, take Beach Boulevard or Brookhurst south to Garfield. Head west on Garfield, north on Edwards. From Edwards, turn right on Central Park Drive. Park in the lot at the end of the street. Follow the painted line to Shipley Nature Center.


Work with Chris Barnhill on Chaparral Hill, the native plant section of the Arboretum, Thursdays 8:30 AM to Noon.


Support the organization that is working to protect California’s wildlands from invasive plants—the California Invasive Pest Council. Individual memberships start at $35. Email for more information or send a check to Cal-IPC, 1442-A Walnut Street #462. Berkeley CA 94709



While the Orange County chapter has no field trips scheduled for July and August, there are trips throughout the state with other chapters. Here are some, with numbers to call for more information should your travels take you to any of these areas. You may also contact Sarah Jayne, or 949.552.0691. You will meet a group of compatible people wherever you go, guaranteed.


Cold Creek Canyon/Valley Preserve
Several dates
Cold Creek Docents, 818.591.1701×202

Upper Las Virgenes Open Space Preserve (formerly Ahmanson Ranch)
July 17 (Saturday)—7:30 – 9 AM—Early Bird Hike

Malibu Bluffs Park
July 25 and August 29 (Sundays)—10 AM
CNPS, 818.782.9346


Slate Mountain Botanical Area, Sequoia National Forest
July 18 (Sunday)—Noon to 5:00 PM
Fletcher Linton, Forest Botanist, 559.784.1500×1185

Annual Meadow Walk—Onion Meadow
July 31 (Saturday)—10 AM
Old Sequoia Grove, on private property
August 7 (Saturday)—10 AM
for details on both.


Bean Hollow State Beach
July 11 (Sunday)—10 AM
Carolyn Dorsch, or 650.804.6162

San Bruno Mountain
July 18 (Sunday)—10 AM
Ken Himes, 650.591.8560

Henry Cowell Redwoods
August 8 (Sunday)—10:30 am
Kevin Bryant, 408.353.8824 or

Stile Ranch
August 15 (Sunday)—9:30 AM
Contact Kevin Bryant

YERBA BUENA CHAPTER (San Francisco and northern San Mateo County)

Tomales Bay Dunes (Marin County)
July 31 (Saturday)—11 AM
Dr. Peter Baye, 415.310.5109 or


Deadfall Lakes and Mt. Eddy
July 18 (Sunday)—10:30 am
Leaders: Tim and Jack Devine, 530.345.8444

Forest Lake & Brokeoff Mountain (Lassen Park)
August 1 (Sunday)—10:30 AM
Marge McNairn 530.343.2397

Bumpass Hell to Cold Boiling/Crumbaugh Lakes (Lassen Park)
August 15 (Sunday)—10:30 AM
Jim Dempsey, 530.894.1062, Wes Dempsey, 530.343.2293


Yankee Jim Ranch and Meadow (Alturas)
July 17 (Saturday)—10 AM
Mike Dolan, 530.233.7903

Willow Lake (near Lassen National Park)
August 14 (Saturday)—10 AM
Allison Sanger, 530.252.6662


Buckwheats in the White Mountains
July 17 (Saturday)—9 AM
Scott Hetzler, 760.873.3892

Solitude Canyon
July 24 (Saturday)—9 AM
Sheryl Taylor, 760.924.8742 or

Horseshoe Meadows, Cottonwood Creek, Little Cottonwood Creek
July 31 (Saturday)—9 AM
Sue Weis, 760.387.2349

Glass Mountain
August 28-29 (Saturday-Sunday)—9 AM
Jerry Zatorski, 760.872.3818 or

Local Walks

Laguna Coast Wilderness: 949.494.9352. Now open on the weekends without reservations. $3 parking fee.

For walks in the Northern and Southern Reserves call The Nature Conservancy at 714.832.7478.

Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park:

Thomas Riley Regional Park: 949.728.3420

Donna O’Neill Land Conservancy: 949.489.9778,

Crystal Cove State Park: 949.497.7647
Docent-led hikes in the backcountry every Saturday and Sunday. Sarah Jayne leads July 17 and August 21. Meet at 8:30 AM at the Ranger Station inland of PCH at El Moro School, between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach. Parking is $5.

Caspers Wilderness Park: 949.923.2210


More Opportunities and Events…

Santiago Park Nature Reserve

Experience the Santiago Park Nature Reserve through the City of Santa Ana Park Naturalist docent and youth explorer programs. Through our programs volunteers of all ages will have the opportunity to:

  • Meet new friends with similar interests
  • Interact with local scientists
  • Learn natural & cultural history, interpretive techniques, and research methodology
  • Have first opportunities to see and work at OC’s newest nature museum
  • Participate in re-wilding the heart of Orange County with the Ecological Parks Initiative

Orientation July 10th @ 10:00 AM

Santiago Park is located in North Santa Ana at 510 Memory Lane & 900 East Memory Lane, across from the Discovery Science Center.

To request a docent or youth explorer application, please call the Santa Ana Park Naturalist Office at (714) 571-4244 or send an email to:

The Nature Conservancy

Are you curious about the natural history of Orange County? Do you seek refuge from the stresses of urban life? Take the opportunity to discover the local wilderness near your neighborhood! The Nature Conservancy offers a diversity of volunteer and recreational opportunities on the Irvine Ranch Land Reserve.

So many choices…

  • Docent Tour Guides conduct natural history interpretive tours on the Reserve for hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian enthusiasts.
  • Land Steward Volunteers participate in habitat restoration which includes native plantings, seed collecting, exotic species removal, trail restoration, and general habitat maintenance.
  • On limited occasions, Habitat Researchers require extra assistance in field studies and documentation for monitoring the changes in the Reserve habitat, including trails, plants, invertebrates, mammals, birds, and reptiles.
  • Administrative Volunteers assist with calling volunteers, scheduling, graphic design, data entry, filing, mailing, etc. Community Outreach Volunteers develop educational materials and displays, speak to the public, attend special events, etc.
  • If you just need to escape, simply make reservations for a Free, Docent-led Tour of the Reserve. Tours vary in difficulty, length, and theme. Popular tours include botanical explorations, summer bat walks, birding, geology, and cultural history.

For more information, please call 714. 832.7478 or email at —Joel Robinson

Fall Classes presented by Dave Bontrager

This is a series of three two-day workshops on the relationships between plants and animals. Although the workshops are offered as a package, with each meeting building and expanding on the previous, they may be taken separately. After investigating the general ecological relationships of plants and animals under natural conditions, we will focus more closely on bird/plant relationships and finally consider how this knowledge can be applied in creating a home landscape more attractive to native wildlife.

WORKSHOP 1: From Pollination to Dispersal: How Plants Depend on Animals and Animals Depend on Plants
Meeting 1: Through field observation, classroom presentations, and classroom inspection of collected specimens we will investigate the ways in which plants repel and exploit animals to assure survival and reproduction.
Meeting 2: At this meeting we will investigate the many ways in which animals exploit and benefit from plants. Some time at both meetings will be devoted to plant identification and how to look for and interpret signs of plant/animal interaction.

WORKSHOP 2: Plant Identification and Natural History for Birders—and everyone else.
Meeting 1: We will begin each session with a couple hours of bird watching. Then we will identify the major plant communities used by birds, discuss the distribution of birds by plant community, focus on identification of the predominate plants, and look for signs of bird/insect/plant relationships.
Meeting 2: In the classroom, we will discuss ways birds use plants for cover, nesting substrate, nesting material, and food. Using a large variety of nests, we will attempt to identify what plants were used. Back in the field, we will locate and examine bird nests “planted” by the instructor. We will examine potential bird insect foods and begin searching for plant seed and fruit used as food by birds (continued in Workshop 3).

WORKSHOP 3: Ecological Landscaping For The Home Landscape, Parks, and Community Open Spaces.
This is a very special workshop in conjunction with the Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano held in their beautiful western-style buildings and nursery grounds.
Meeting 1: Classroom: Welcome to the nursery by Mike Evans and Jeff Bohn. Slide presentation on plant habitats and related wildlife. Field: Examine the composition and structure of various native habitats with an explanation of how wildlife select and partition habitats under natural conditions. Review identification of many of the plants covered in Workshop 2. Nursery: Jeff Bohn will describe the process of plant propagation in the nursery’s wonderful straw bale barn and give a guided walk through the nursery looking at plant material.
Meeting 2: Classroom: Slide presentation by Mike Evans on xeriscape and the use of native plants in the landscape. Dave will discuss incorporating the principles of ecological landscaping into home landscapes, parks, and community open spaces. Examine specimens of recommended landscape and restoration plant species including a look at flowers, seeds, and fruit with a discussion of what birds, butterflies, etc. use them. Nursery: Demonstration of how to plant a native plant. A final walk through the nursery garden to enjoy the beautiful native landscape. Final activity—regretfully leave the nursery!

All meetings on Saturdays from 8 AM to 2 PM

Meeting 1 Meeting 2- Fee:
Workshop 1: Sept. 25 Oct 2 $30/both
Workshop 2: Oct 30 Nov 6 $30/both
Workshop 3: Dec 4 Dec 11 $35/both

Package—All 3 workshops $75

Reservations: Call Starr Ranch 949.858.0309 (ask for Bill) or e-mail reservation request to

Questions: Call Starr Ranch Office @ 949.858.0309 or e-mail Dave Bontrager at

Enrollment is limited—apply early!


Field Trip Report: Adventures of a Couch Potato —by Joan Hampton

Introducing the official Couch Potato Rating System

The rating applies only to the actual route taken during the hike; other trails in the same area may be easier or harder. It takes several factors into account, such as how long, how steep, and how difficult the route is. For example, a slippery trail, or one that requires rock- or root-scrambling would receive a lower rating.

I think that the interpretation of the symbols (couch, wheelchair, hospital bed and CPR) is self-evident.


Chiquito Basin, 1 May 2004

Chiquito Basin is located in Orange County near the Riverside County border, off the Ortega Highway, State Route 74, in Cleveland National Forest. The elevation is about 3,400 feet above sea level. Please don’t make any Chiquita Banana jokes, because this Chiquito was a horse belonging to Forest Ranger Kenneth Munhall. (I consider it fortunate that his steed wasn’t named “Twinkle Toes”)

Our leader was Naturalist Fred Roberts, author of the popular and beloved “A Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Orange County, California, Second Edition.” Also participating was Bob Allen, a popular CNPS tour leader. Along with Chris Barnhill, Bob and Fred are the co-authors of an eagerly-awaited book, Field Guide to the Wildflowers of Orange County and the Santa Ana Mountains.

Our trip started off with a friendly scuffle among the members of our carpool to see who would have to ride in the back seat while we drove the twisty, mountainous route. Naturally, I lost, but can proudly report that I retained my cookies.

On hikes with “normal” people (whatever that means), the trek starts out at the trailhead and progresses from that point. On CNPS hikes however, getting to the trailhead is a major and time-consuming event, because of the unfortunate tendency of members to bring—and use—cameras to photograph roadside plants. Sad to say, this photographic dilly-dallying persisted throughout the hike, slowing us to a crawl and limiting the distance covered. Even Fred and Bob were guilty of this regrettable practice. Because of such delays, estimations of the duration and strenuousness of CNPS treks are usually unreliable.

Preparation for a hike like this takes planning. Anticipating hot weather? You’re going to become hot and tired. Planning to carry a lot of stuff? Same problem. To survive, you will need a lot of water—itself heavy—which will make you even more hot and tired. You can’t win! I was well advised by fellow-hiker Lois Taylor to bring two bottles. Added to the weight of my photo equipment, I definitely felt burdened. (It was worth it however, since I wound up using six rolls of film to photograph the rich and varied flora.)

Unless one wants to perform natural functions in a natural setting, it is a good idea to use the facilities before starting the hike. (By the way, this is the one type of situation when I really do have “plumbing envy”). Anyway, I did take advantage of the restrooms at Blue Jay Campground. After inspecting several of them, I sadly noted that vandals had stolen all the toilet tanks and flush mechanisms, and the sinks as well. On the other hand, the Park Service has thoughtfully provided robust scent markers so that visually impaired campers can locate the restrooms.

The wildlife was amazingly tame and friendly, particularly the clouds of insects that accompanied us throughout. We saw a great many California Sister butterflies (Adelpha bredowii), which frequently perched near us. Bob encountered a large, mellow gopher snake at the side of the trail and was able to photograph it.

The flora along the trail was lush and beautiful, even though the total rainfall was less than the previous year. Chinese Houses (Collinsia heterophylla), Lupines, and Checker Mallow (Sidalcea malvaeflora) bloomed abundantly throughout the route. The plant I found most interesting, having never seen it in my Orange County outings, was the odd-looking Parry’s frasera (Swertia parryi), a member of the Gentian family.

Previously, I had never attempted to identify members of the Pteridophytes, the ferns and their allies. Fred taught us to distinguish among the four species we saw during the hike: the Coastal Wood Fern (Dryopteris arguta), Bushy Spike Moss (Selaginella bigelovii), and three members of the Lip Fern family—Coffee Fern (Pellaea andromedifolia), Bird’s Foot Cliff-Brake (Pellaea mucronata) and Goldenback Fern (Pentagramma triangularis).

As you can tell, I have been making some attempt to learn the Latin names of plants. But reading Latin and hearing it are two different things. All the botany experts insisted that one pretty blue-flowered shrub was “tri-KAHSS-tem-ah” species. I was at a complete loss because I could have sworn that it was a “trick-o-STEHM-a.” It took a while for me to figure out that we were both talking about Trichostema. (Unfortunately, this happens to me all the time, but the botany people say very nice things in gentle soothing voices so that I don’t feel quite so bad).

It was an excellent outing. Couch potato rating: wheelchair

Holy Jim Trail, 22 May 2004

This hike was conducted by Bob Allen, who provided us with a checklist updated from an earlier one prepared for the area by Steve Hampson. In a masterstroke of irony he tells us that the area was named for the infamous, trash-mouthed “Cussin’ Jim Smith”, who raised European honeybees (Apis mellifera). Speaking of bees, as I write this article, I am watching a “Killer Bees” horror movie. “Sheriff, sheriff, there’s a swarm on the way. You’ve got to evacuate the town!” Bob told us that most wild hives in California have been Africanized, but fortunately, attacks are rare.

“Washboard” is too kind a description for the five-mile stretch of road we had to drive to reach the Holy Jim trailhead. Fellow hiker Christiane Shannon and I, sitting together in the back seat, amused ourselves by exchanging colorful and graphic anecdotes from our respective medical histories. That lasted until our long-suffering driver told us that we could either change the subject or get out and walk.

Once parked, the nine of us—our entire group—had a short walk to the trailhead, past old cabins and now-gigantic plantings brought in a century and a half ago by the early settlers. The many huge fig trees (Ficus carica) had leaves nearly a foot wide. We passed a number of Century Plants (Agave americana) larger than my condo—I do not exaggerate. Exotic plantings also included White Mulberry trees (Morus alba).

Bob had originally intended to take us all the way to Bear Springs, but the weather was drier and there were fewer plants to see. Because of this, he decided that it was not worthwhile to complete that steep ascent. We only went as far as the beautiful Holy Jim Falls where we ate lunch, then hiked a couple of switchbacks uphill from there.

The weather could not have been more perfect: sunny, but not too warm. Above the falls, the switchbacks took us through alternate areas of cool shade and sunny chaparral, with abrupt and startling changes in temperature within a few paces of one another.

Although the route was pleasant going, even for a couch potato, there were boulder-strewn rivulets to cross, roots to climb over and other areas with challenging footing. Everybody was very kind and solicitous to me, although at times I felt like a sack of (couch) potatoes; “Hey, you wanna hand Joannie over?” On the other hand, my companions themselves frequently experienced slips and trips over odd rocks and roots, so that the dialog sometimes sounded like this; “Hey Joannie, do you need some help? Oops! OUCH!”

The drier weather was responsible for the smaller number of plant species compared to last year, but we still found plenty to see. These included Punchbowl Clarkia (Clarkia bottae), Poison Oak, Fleabane Daisy (Erigeron foliosus), Poison Oak, Southern Honeysuckle (Lonicera subspicata), Poison Oak, Flowering Ash (Fraxinus dipetala), and a great many other species, such as Poison Oak. In contrast to the lush stands of Chinese Houses we had seen at Chiquito Basin, all we saw here were a few scraggly, dilapidated specimens of Chinese Shacks.

Anatomically, the most peculiar plant we saw was the fig tree. If you have ever eaten figs and thought you were consuming the fruit, you were mistaken. This structure, technically referred to as a syconium, is actually an inside-out flower. Bob cut one open for us, and we did observe that the flower parts were inside. They are pollinated by wasps, which enjoy a symbiotic relationship with fig trees. These insects enter the syconium through an opening at one end, where they pollinate the flowers and lay their eggs. For a more detailed description of syconia, visit the following website:

As our kidneys were tenderized during the thumpy-bumpy return trip, we savored our good fortune: beautiful weather, lots of interesting plant and insect sightings and excellent photo opportunities.

Couch potato rating: couch

Mt. San Jacinto State Park Wilderness, 12 June 2004

This was quite different from a typical OC CNPS outing, where you normally…

…drive a short distance, then…

…hike until you die.

In contrast, this time we…

…drove 2 ½ hours to the site…

…climbed a lookout towe…r

…descended maybe 100 feet below the parking area…

…used hand lenses to peer at smudges on rocks and trees.

Our guide and smudge-master was Lichenologist Kerry Knudsen, whose passion for studying and lecturing on this little-known subject was readily apparent. He supplied the information for this report. We met him in Idyllwild, a charming mountain village well worth the visit for its world-famous tanning salon. From there, we drove eight miles up SR 243 and then six miles more along the Black Mountain Trail to reach the lookout. Kate Kramer of the Forest Service unlocked gates for us.

The Black Mountain Lookout, built for fire-watching, has spectacular views of Mt. San Gorgonio, Saddleback Mountain, the Hale telescope on Mt. Palomar, and even the outlet mall at Cabazon. The one-room residence, at an elevation of 7,772 feet, commands a spectacular 360? view of the surrounding grandeur. As I peered in through the windows at the teeny-weeny bed, teeny-weeny stove and teeny-weeny cupboards, I entertained visions of what life must be like for the brave and lonely fire-watching couple living here. What I did not see was a teeny-weeny sink, nor any other plumbing facilities for that matter. The bathroom is located on the ground, at the base of the tower. In my mind, I pictured the missus, making the long descent to wash her hair, brush her teeth, or make other use of the facilities.

But what of the mister? Would he make the same descent every single time to tend to his own special needs? If not, I hope he pays attention to the wind direction.

Lichens are found in four habitat types: soil, rock, bark and deadwood. Most of the species we observed occurred on the many massive boulders we saw in the area. We also looked at common species growing on deadwood. Ever heard of wolfbane? It is Letharia columbiana, a deadwood species, and it is, indeed, poisonous to wolves. This is only one of the various types we observed on this outing.

I had always had an idealized view of lichens, that symbol of brotherhood and cooperation, where algae and fungi work together, hand-in-hand (so to speak) for their common welfare. According to conventional wisdom, the fungal component allows lichens to grow in areas too hot or dry for algae or fungi alone. But Kerry disabused us of this romantic notion. A better model would be a sweatshop where garment workers or other slave laborers are imprisoned, forced to toil without pay.

Why this revisionist view? Because while the fungi are dependent on the algae, the latter are entirely capable of living independently without their fungal benefactors. Even where a location with full sunlight is inhospitable to algae, they can still thrive along waterways, in shaded crevices, on north-facing slopes, on the underside of rocks, bark, wood or soil, or in other comparatively-wet areas.

The building blocks for algae are photosynthesis, water and carbon dioxide. When lichenized, they become trapped inside a surrounding layer of fungi. The lichen colony absorbs nutrients from its algal component, but can also feed on other species of lichens. Functionally, the fungi act as a sort of computer-controlled awning. Lichens thrive in a wet climate. When dampened by rain or dew, the fungi become translucent, allowing temperate sunlight to reach the algae. On the other hand, a mid-day drenching during full sunlight could burn the algae, killing the lichen. When dry, the fungi hold the imprisoned algae in a state of suspended animation. The ratio of active to down-time is approximately 1:25, which accounts for their slow growth rate, typically 1 mm/year.

Lichens evolve slowly. Species extant today may have existed over a million years ago. The original lichens grew on soil, but this type is now rare because of today’s drier climate. Nowadays, they travel slowly with plant migrations or by wind dispersal across large distances with the result that a given lichen species may be found in widely-separated areas. Kerry tells us that if our climate was as wet as that of New Zealand, they would be growing all around us—on houses, cars, asphalt and on nearly anything else you can think of.

In moving to a new area, the first step in lichen-formation is that the fungus must find a compatible species of algae. Once this is accomplished, the joined species must find a suitable habitat. From this point, the colony must grow for five years before it is large enough to be seen with the naked eye.

If you enjoy spending an afternoon peering nearsightedly at rocks through a hand lens, then this was a trip not to be missed.

Couch Potato difficulty rating: motorized La-Z-Boy ™.

Canoe Trip, Upper Newport Bay, 26 June 2004

I had planned to partner with OC CNPS Vice President Celia Kutcher, again, but we were given a strongly worded “suggestion” to find different partners. That may possibly relate to the way we disgraced ourselves a year ago, unable to paddle back to dock under our own power, when we had to be rescued by UNB Volunteer Naturalist Bob Smith.

Bob emphasized the importance of tightly buckling our (required) life vests. We appreciated the need for this protection while navigating waters that reached depths of nearly twelve inches. Why so shallow? CNPS Tour Guide Todd Heinsma narrated some geological history of Upper Newport Bay.

The region was originally subtropical lowland, covered by shallow seas. Later, uplift occurred, and the present valley was carved out by a river passing through it., The sea later rose, filling the river valley with silt. This created the present estuary (defined as a region where salt water and fresh come together). This pattern is not unusual; since typical succession is from river valley to estuary, to salt marsh, to alkali meadow, and finally to dry meadow.

In Upper Newport Bay however, the rate of silt build-up has been vastly accelerated by Man’s presence, since it serves as a drain for all of Orange County and beyond. To reverse the process, extensive dredging operations occur from time to time.


The trip had a flavor that was a little different from last year. The sun was shining for one thing, which may explain the disappointing scarcity of crabs, so abundant last time. We did not paddle as far upstream, to avoid an arduous return trip paddling against headwinds. Though not rich in botanical discoveries, it was nevertheless a pleasant excursion, as we savored the antics of the graceful and seemingly fearless shorebirds swooping around us, particulary the Black Skimmers skimming.

Couch potato rating: couch


Plant Identification Services Now Provided by Jepson Herbarium
Plant identifications will include determination of plant name, statement about toxicity and weediness, geographic distribution, and if needed, library research. The fee for this service is a 1-hour minimum of $75 plus $75 for each additional 20 minutes. For information on how to submit a specimen, contact Magriet Wetherwax at 510.643.7008 or


And here’s the cake…

1 c. margarine or butter

2 c. sugar

1 c. buttermilk

5 whole eggs

1½ c. flour

1 box raisins

8 oz. Coconut (Angel Flake® or whatever)

2 c. nuts (pecans or walnuts, roughly broken)

½ t. salt

1 t. baking soda

1 t. cinnamon

1 t. allspice

1 t. vanilla

Sift dry ingredients to mix—or not—the recipe doesn’t call for it. Mix margarine or butter (softened), sugar, buttermilk, and eggs and beat well. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix. Bake until done. Takes about 1½ hours in an angel food cake pan (buttered) at 350 degrees. [Caution: if the pan bottom is not tight fitting, the batter will leak through and make a terrible mess in the oven. A piece of foil under is a wise precaution—or use a bundt pan.]

This is reprinted, with permission, from The Boyd Family Cookbook. In the book, it is called “Japanese” Cake. No one in the family has a clue as to significance of the name.