Newsletter 2005 March – April

California Native Plant Society

Orange County Chapter

March/April 2005




On Saturday, April 9, 9 AM to 4 PM, we’ll all be down at Tree of Life Nursery for our annual Spring Plant Sale. The nursery very generously shares their proceeds with us on that day. Tree of Life Nursery is a lovely outing. Beautifully situated alongside Ortega Highway in a park-like setting, it is a destination in and of itself. In addition to the Round House where plants are purchased, another charming hay-bale construction cottage houses a gift and bookshop. CNPS members (volunteers needed!) will be on hand to answer questions and help with appropriate selections. Nursery workers keep a steady flow of fresh plants to restock supplies so there’s a good chance of finding something irresistible.

To Tree of Life Nursery: From I-5, take Ortega Hwy (Hwy 74) east 7 miles. The nursery entrance is on the left, shortly before Caspers Park.

Conservation Report
Field Trips
UCI Arboretum
Other Opportunities
Sierra Club Natural Science Section
Local Walks (including Crystal Cove)
Feature Article: Interview with the Tax Man–Robert Thorne


March 17 (Thursday)—The Right Native in the Right Place: California native plants for landscape situations

Speaker: Dan Songster

Many of our natives have wide landscape potential, others a more narrow application, and some can be used in unexpected ways! Some of the plants discussed will fit into one of the situations you have in your home garden, or you may see ways to use natives you had not considered before.

For instance, do you have a slope that you wish covered in durable, drought tolerant plants? Is there a section of your yard that is always dry and you really need a plant that can live with rainwater alone and still be gorgeous? Are you contemplating using a native tree and wonder if you have the room or the right situation? Need a hedge or screen plant between you and your neighbor? Wish to know what natives will invite birds and butterflies into your landscape? Simply looking for fragrance and color for use in a Mediterranean style perennial bed? Have heavy clay soils and still want natives? No problem! Many examples of our versatile natives will be touched upon during Dan’s presentation. Bring your questions and a pencil for notes! And make a list for our April 9 Plant Sale!

Dan is the co-director of the ever-evolving Golden West College Native Garden, which he tucks into his rare spare time as Head Groundsman there. He is on the state CNPS Horticulture Committee and former president of the Orange County Chapter.

April 21 (Thursday)—Rare Plants of Southern Coastal California

Speaker: Mark Elvin

Mark was scheduled to speak in February as a preparation for our field trip. He had to cancel at the last moment due to illness. For those who are able to attend the field trip on April 2, this will be a special treat—a chance to review what was seen or see plants that were missed. Among them will be bulbs and succulents, mints and roses, tiny flowers and large—a remarkable display of the variety and diversity of Southern California native plant life. Mark will also show some pictures of the 2003 burn in the San Ysidro/Otay Mountain area and comment on recovery since that time. Our field trip will take in some of those areas.

As a Senior Botanist at Dudek & Associates, Mark Elvin spends a great deal of time in the field looking for plant species In addition to his work at Dudek, Mark is a Museum Scientist at UCI and is manager of the living plant and herbarium collections there. Under his guidance the native plant gardens at the Arboretum are gradually taking shape. The Otay Mountain section, now in its third year, is the most mature of these plantings, but other sections are coming along. (Help is always needed there—see the UCI Arboretum article).

Calendar of Events

Mar 17…………………….. Chapter Meeting

Mar 19…………………. Crystal Cove Walk

Mar 19…………………….. Hart Park Event

Mar 26…………… Trabuco Creek Cleanup

Apr 2………………… San Diego County FT

Apr 7…………………………. Board Meeting

Apr 9………………………. Spring Plant Sale

Apr 16………………….. Crystal Cove Walk

Apr 16……………………… Indian Wells FT

Apr 21…………………….. Chapter Meeting

Apr 23………………………… Tehachapi FT

Apr 22-24………………….. Joshua Tree FT

April 30………………… Morrell Canyon FT

Thursdays, 10-1………….. UCI Arboretum

Any day, 8:30-noon…………. Fullerton Arb

Coming in May

May 7……………………………… Lichen FT

May 13-15…………………… Sierra Sojourn

May 14-15….. Vegetation Survey Training

May 21………………… Santa Ana Mtns FT


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.




Conservation Chairs and other interested CNPS members met January 29, 2005 at Eaton Canyon Nature Center in Pasadena in the first of four statewide visioning meetings with the goals of:

  1. Evaluating how CNPS’ Conservation Program meets current needs.
  2. Evaluating what the program needs to do to meet future (next 3-5 years) needs.
  3. Identify program structures to meet the needs.

The remaining meetings will be held at other locations throughout the state, all are welcome; contact Ileene Anderson,, for venue and other information. Visioning results will be presented at the Conservation Summit on Sept. 9-10, which will be hosted by OCCNPS and San Diego Chapter.

There was much thoughtful discussion and many good and creative ideas. A few highlights:

  • A universal need seems to be for more paid conservation staff, both at State level and on-site for chapter-level issues. (OCCNPS shares that need, and also needs handy hints about what to watch for and how to respond in the litigation that we seem to be into.) One solution is to seek grants to fund on-site staff (actually to reimburse State for staff time; such staff would be State employees). East Bay Chapter has done this. (OCCNPS and San Diego Chapter could go together to seek such a grant.)
  • There is a potential for local bonds to be passed for public landscaping with natives. CNPS should be very active and visible in promoting such bonds.
  • Ileene needs “our stories” on how the Endangered Species Act has provided protection to rare plants in our area. This is part of the ongoing and growing battle to keep the ESA from being gutted by the current administration.



A new website,, has a map of the golf course proposed by the adjacent large private landowner. The proposed course would extend almost 3 miles up Aliso Canyon; most of it would be within the boundaries of Aliso-Woods Canyons Wilderness Park. The course would essentially wipe out the natural riparian habitat in the canyon bottom. The land for the course would be leased from the county. As has been reported in the media, Supervisor Tom Wilson (5th District) has formally rejected this plan after a thorough review. He added, “As they reassess their options, they do have the procedural discretion to continue presenting concepts to the County staff, the City of Laguna Beach, and the community to explore alternatives.” So the Wilderness Park still faces threats of future golf course and other proposals.

The San Onofre Breccia forming the ridges on either side of lower Aliso Creek is home to a unique assemblage of rare plants. The southerly ridge has been mostly developed, and whatever rare plants were there have been lost. The northerly ridge, between Aliso and Hobo Canyons, still undeveloped, has recently been purchased by the large landowner who proposed the now-rejected golf course. Most of Hobo-Aliso Ridge was set aside as mitigation for a proposed development in Hobo Canyon that has been withdrawn. It is not clear if the set-aside will remain in effect now that the new landowner is planning an entirely different development.

ACTION NOW: Thank Supervisor Wilson for his encouraging rejection of the golf course proposal, and tell him that the Wilderness Park should not be available for any type of non-wilderness use. Urge him to work with the VOW coalition in Laguna Beach to acquire the property on Hobo-Aliso Ridge as an addition to Aliso-Wood Canyon Wilderness Park. Supervisor Tom Wilson, Orange County LAFCO, 12 Civic Center Plaza, Room 235, Santa Ana 92701.


Assemblyman Chuck Devore, Irvine, has introduced two bills, AB 328 and 329, which would extend for thirty more years the private residential use of the El Morro portion of Crystal Cove State Park. Residents of the trailer park there have lived on State Park (i.e. public) land since 1979 and have effectively kept the public from enjoying El Morro Beach and lower Morro Canyon. Now that their leases have expired, the State Park is ready to implement a long-prepared plan to restore the beach and canyon and open them for all to enjoy. Devore’s bills would halt this restoration and would continue to give a privileged few exclusive use of the public’s land.

ACTION NOW: Before April 21, 2005, go to or to send a letter opposing these bills. See for background on Crystal Cove and El Morro.


The South Orange County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter have jointly filed a lawsuit challenging California Coastal Commission approval of the City of Dana Point’s Local Coastal Plan Amendment and the related Headlands Development and Conservation Plan. The basic issue is whether the Coastal Act, one of our state’s most important environmental laws, is to be adhered to or ignored.

Donations to support the appeal may be made to Surfrider Foundation South Orange County Chapter Save Strands Fund, PO Box 865, San Clemente, CA 92672, and will be much appreciated. The Dana Point Headlands Action Group coalition has devised an alternative plan, the “Dana Point Headlands Nature Park,” which keeps the site as all publicly accessible open space. Contact:


The Irvine Company plans a large development adjacent to Irvine Lake, in the midst of the large open space the company donated a few years ago. See for details and maps.


The petition filed by Endangered Habitats League, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sea and Sage Audubon Society, Laguna Greenbelt, and Sierra Club, challenging the decision of the County of Orange and the County Board of Supervisors to approve the “Ranch Plan” continues to wend its way through the courts. The proposed development of 14,000 dwelling units plus commercial space would be located on about 23,000 acres in one of the most environmentally sensitive areas in California. CNPS’ part in this litigation is currently under discussion. Donations toward appeal expenses are needed; make out to Sierra Club Foundation, with “Friends of the Foothills” on the memo line, and send to FOF/Sierra Club, att: B. McKee, PO Box 3942, San Clemente 92674.


A resolution is still not known to the settlement offer and counter-offer. OCCNPS is part of the environmental coalition working to appeal the Saddle Creek and Saddle Crest developments.


The San Diego Creek watershed collects all the runoff from south-central Orange Co. and delivers it to Newport Back Bay. See maps at Back Bay’s health, including that of its native plants and animals, is directly dependent on the health (and native vegetation) of San Diego Creek and its many tributaries. See for a progress report from Army Corps of Engineers on their San Diego Creek (Orange County) SAMP/MSAA. A draft EIR/EIS will be issued soon, but the report’s information will be used by the Corps in the interim. The report includes a number of maps, and tables ranking the watershed’s 24 sub-basins as to resource quality. Expedited permitting would be set up for the lower value resources. Higher value resources–which appear to be mostly in already conserved/NCCP lands–would be protected, presumably through avoidance or as mitigation, although this is vague.

Endangered Habitats League would like to see a more detailed biological/hydrological review and DEIR/DEIS comments, and would appreciate contributions toward doing them:

Sierra Club has set up a Task Force for San Diego Creek and Back Bay, contact

This issue really needs active an OCCNPS representative to ensure that appropriate native plants are considered in the planning and included in restoration/mitigation.


Our backyard mountains are under more threat than ever! OCCNPS really needs someone to monitor the situation, and speak up for the plants.

The Forest Service is still analyzing and responding to comments made last summer on the Forest Plan Revision for the Cleveland and the other three southern California forests. See and click on “Feb. 2005 Update”. The Update notes that, since this plan revision process is so near completion, the Forest Service has given permission for it to continue under the 1982 planning rules (in effect when the process was begun). However, the southern California national forests will transition to the new planning rule, adopted in Dec. 2004, after the Forest Plans are adopted in late summer.

The new rule, pushed through by the current administration against strong environmentalist opposition, is likely to:

  • Eliminate analysis of forest plans under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to assess the potential environmental impacts of their actions and to examine alternatives. (There’s still time for public comment on the proposal to create a new NEPA categorical exclusion for Forest Planning. Send comments to Forest Service Content Analysis Team, PO Box 22777, Salt Lake City UT 84122, or, or fax 801-517-1015.
  • Scrap long-established federal wildlife protections.
  • Severely limit opportunities for public input into forest management decisions.
  • Scale back the role of independent scientists in forest management, in favor of the administration’s scientists.

The net result of the new rule is that 20+ years of forest protection will be steamrollered.

After a year of correcting and supplementing the very deficient original application, the Federal Energy Commission (FERC) has finally accepted the Hydro Project Application from Elsinore Valley MWD. This to build a hydro plant complex, including a dam that will flood upper Morrell Canyon, one of the headwaters of San Juan Creek. The scheme is to pump water up from Lake Elsinore at night (when electric rates and usage are low), then run it back down to the lake in the daytime to generate electricity during high-usage time in Elsinore Valley. The project includes a high-Kv line along the easterly rim of the mountains.

ACTION! BY MARCH 25, 2005: Object to this plan, and the environmental destruction it will bring, to Magalie R. Salas, Secretary, FERC, 888 First Street NE, Washington DC 20426, Reference Project # 11858-002: Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage Project. Or go to and click on “e-Filing”.

A number of plans are still in motion for roads across and tunnels under the Santa Ana Mts. More next time on these.

Contributions to help preserve our backyard mountains are very much needed. Make your check out to Sierra Sage, with “SAMTF” on the memo line, and mail to Santa Ana Mountains Task Force, PO Box 5079, Irvine, 92616.

—Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair

[Contact Celia at if you can take on responsibility for monitoring an area near you]



Saturday, April 2—San Ysidro/Otay Mountain

Revisit areas that that were burned in 2003. What sorts of fire-followers will be found? What might we see that we’ve not seen ever before? Mark Elvin will lead this trip to areas where we collected in May of 2003. Details are not set in concrete, but we will likely go from the west side of the mountain (that did not burn) up to the top through the burn areas to see what is happening there (as compared to the unburned areas), then we can drive down to the gate, which has a flowing waterfall and explore that area. We will exit through Dulzura, Jamul, and Hwy 94. We will not be going back to the morning meeting site, so carpool from home if possible. The truck trail is passable to a street car, but higher clearance vehicles are recommended.

Blooming should be Helianthus gracilentus, Dendromecon rigida, Ceanothus spp., Mimulus clevelandii, Lepechinia ganderi, Pickeringia monatna var. tomentosa, Romneya trichocalyx, and a surprising array of annuals and fire followers.

Directions: Meet at the AM/PM at the intersection of Otay Mesa Road and Heritage Road at 9 AM, rain or shine. Allow about 2 1/2 hours from Orange County. Take I-5 south to the 805 south about 25 miles then go east on 905. This becomes Otay Mesa Road. About 2 miles later, turn right on Heritage Road. Meet in the parking lot at the SE corner of the intersection. Please RSVP to Sarah Jayne so we will expect you.

Saturday April 16, 2003Indian Wells Canyon

Leader: Naomi Fraga

Indian Wells Canyon is situated on the east side of the southern Sierra Nevada, and ranges in elevation from 3000-5500 ft. We will explore the full length of the canyon and explore three different habitats along the way. We will meet at the Indian Wells Steak House and Brewery at 9:00 AM. From there we will caravan up Indian Wells Canyon to view the creosote bush scrub, where a wide array of desert annuals will be present, including the desert dandelion (Malacothrix glabrata), desert pincushion (Chaenactis fremontii), and several Camissonia and Phacelia species. From there we will return to our vehicles and continue to drive along the canyon, until we reach the joshua tree woodland, where Salazaria mexicana and Tetradymia stenolepis are also abundant. Our final destination is the pinyon woodland, where Great Basin sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), foothills pines (Pinus sabiniana), and canyon live oak (Quercus chrysolepis) are abundant. This is a full-day outing with light to moderate hiking. Participants should wear layered clothing, bring plenty of water, and a lunch. From the Indian Wells Steak House and Brewery carpooling is recommended, so we may have as few cars possible. 4-wheel drive is advisable, high clearance required.

Directions: The Indian Wells Steak House and Brewery is on the west side of the 14 just south of the terminus of Hwy 14 at Hwy 395. Contact Naomi Fraga for details at or (909) 625-8767 x231.

This is a joint trip with the Southern California Botanists and the Bristlecone chapter of CNPS

Saturday, April 23—Spring Wildflowers in the Tehachapis

Robert Smaus, former columnist with the Los Angeles Times, has invited us to explore his 40 acre property in the Tehachapis. Several floras intersect in the Tehachapi’s, between Mojave and Bakersfield, and during a good year, there is an interesting mix of flowers at 5600’ that blends three kinds of oaks with pinyon and Jeffrey pine, fremontodendron, green leaf manzanita and silk tassel. There may be several kinds of penstemon, delphinium, a ground-hugging mimulus, wallflower, Mojave violets, and maybe even opuntias in bloom. You can see a sampling at This has been a wet year and snows have lingered so it’s anyone’s guess! Late April may turn out to be mite early.

There are no toilet faculties and you’ll want to bring your own water and snacks. Bug repellant, a hat and sunscreen are a good idea. There’s limited parking and it’s three miles up a dirt road which is badly rutted this year and may not have been graded by April so carpool with someone who has good ground clearance. Four-wheel drive is not necessary. Leave enough time to look at wildflowers along the way in the Antelope Valley, Mojave Desert and in the Tehachapi hills.

Directions: Take the 14, Antelope Valley Freeway, to Mojave and then look for signs to the Oak Creek Rd. overpass and take Oak Creek out of town to Tehachapi-Willow Springs Rd. Go right toward Tehachapi (watch for baby blue eyes which sometimes carpet these hills) and after all the wind generators look for Highline Rd. and turn left. Follow it to Dennison, turn right and go to the Travelodge to meet up with the property owner to caravan up the mountain. Cars can be left in the Travelodge lot. The slightly faster way to the Travelodge is to take the 58 from the 14 and get off at the first Tehachapi exit (Tehachapi Blvd., Steuber Rd.).Try to be at the meeting place by 10 AM. RSVP is a must. Reply to Sarah Jayne, or 949.552.0691.

Friday – Sunday, April 22 – 24—Joshua Tree National Park

CNPS members are invited to attend a special field trip on April 22-24 at Joshua Tree National Park. We will be camping at the Lost Horse Campground, reserved especially for our group. The Friday morning agenda is optional, so it is OK to arrive late Friday afternoon or evening or to arrive Saturday morning by 9 AM. The campground has a new pit toilet, but no water and limited parking, so RSVP soon to get a spot. Some dirt road driving—4-wd not required.
Friday, April 22, (Optional) 9:00 AM meet at Lost Horse Campground. We will fit into as few cars as possible and drive to a location selected by JTNP ecologist Tasha LeDeaux for a moderate to strenuous hike to a not yet determined location to survey for populations of rare plants. Tasha will lead the hike. Bring lunch, plenty of water, etc. Later that day we will return to Lost Horse Campground to set up camp. Friday night will include a night hike.
Saturday, April 23. At 9:00 AM sharp, we will caravan to the best wildflower viewing locations in the north part of the park for easy hikes. Meeting around the campfire in the evening. Bring your guitars etc if you’ve got them.
Sunday, April 24. Drive south to Cottonwood Springs with stops on the way at various places and visit “Native Canyon”.

Space is limited so please RSVP to or call 818-881-3706. Detailed instructions will be sent via email to all respondents prior to trip.

Saturday, April 30—Search for Rare Plants in Morrell Canyon

See the story on this threatened canyon in the Conservation Report. It is located off the South Main Divide Truck Trail at the top of Ortega Highway. We’ll meet at 9 AM at the Ortega Park & Ride to carpool. Bring water and snacks, sunscreen and hat, etc. Expect to be out most of the day.

Directions: from I-5, exit on Ortega Hwy/Hwy 73, turn east (inland), then right at Rancho Viejo Rd, then left into Ortega Plaza, park in SE corner.

Saturday, May 7—Lichen Hunting in the Santa Ana Mountains
Lichenologist Kerry Knudson will lead us on a search for lichen in the area around Blue Jay Campground. If you went on our last lichen trip, you’ll know that while not strenuous, this activity requires a lot of down on the knees work. Kerry is impressively knowledgeable and very interesting on the subject of lichens. We’ll meet at 9 AM in the dirt lot at the entrance to Blue Jay Campground. Adventure Pass is required unless paying to park inside the campground.

Friday – Sunday, May 13-15—Sierra Spring

The Bristlecone Chapter will hold its 8th Biennial Sierra Spring Sojourn on May 13-15, 2005, at the Bernasconi Center in Big Pine. The Sojourn is a weekend of field trips and evening programs focusing on the flora of the White Mountains, Owens Valley and east side of the Sierra Nevada. Please save the date! If you would like to receive a registration pack by email when they are available in March, contact Sherryl Taylor at To receive the registration pack by mail, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Sherryl Taylor at P.O. Box 1638, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546. For more information, call 760-924-8742.

Saturday, May 21—Santa Ana Mountains

Sponsored by the Natural History Association of Orange County, this all-day car/truck tour of the northern Santa Ana Mountains in the Cleveland National Forest explores geology, plants and wildflowers, birds, insects, and other wildlife along the route. High clearance vehicles are required to traverse the rough dirt roads. Some carpools are available. Bring lunch, water, hat, binoculars, etc. There are no bathrooms along the route. Hiking will be minimal.

Meet at the Albertson’s shopping center at the corner of Jamboree/Chapman and Santiago Canyon Roads at 8 AM. Departure time is 8:30 AM sharp. Extra vehicles will remain in the parking lot. Space is limited to 10-12 vehicles so register early.

Fee: donation of $10 without guidebook, $30 with guide

Contact Lee Shoemaker at or phone him at 562-420-8174



Saturday, March 19–Santiago Creek Week Finale
Santiago Creek Week is several days of activities. The grand finale on Saturday, March 19, 10 AM to 4 PM will be a huge celebration and environmental fair featuring informative booths, music, entertainment, nature and history walks, and food a Hart Park, located at 701 South Glassell in the city of Orange. Drop by and say hello at the CNPS booth! Visit for more information,

Upper Newport Backbay

Matt Yurko is the new Restoration Education Coordinator Community-Based Restoration and Education Program California Coastal Commission. This program offers volunteer opportunities. Please feel free to contact Matt at 600 Shellmaker Drive Newport Beach, CA 92660 949-640-0286 (voice) 949-640-1742 (fax)

When not at the restoration sites around the Bay, Matt will be at his office on Shellmaker Island and would be happy to have visitors any time. Please stop by and say hello!

UCI Arboretum: Weeding Season In Full Swing!
This year’s record rains have brought up a zillion weeds! Our doughty Thursday Weed Warriors have been strong and diligent in the attack on head-high mustard, dense nettle, massive sow thistle, lush carpets of spurge, and more. Every weed removed before it goes to seed means 10,000 fewer weeds next year! There’s plenty of weeds to go around—join us on Thursdays, 9:30-1:30!

Workdays may be cancelled if there’s 1/4 inch or more of rain within the previous 12 hours. If in doubt, contact Celia, 949-496-9689, by 8 AM that day. But feel free to just show up! Hat, gloves, water, sturdy work shoes, sunscreen are advised; bring your favorite weeding implements if possible.

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

Fullerton Arboretum

Chris Barnhill welcomes you to come anytime to work in the native plant section of the Fullerton Arboretum.

The Laguna Coast Wilderness Park Nursery

Next time you are at LCWP, come by the Nursery; otherwise see the 3 picture slideshows at We are still looking for one or two additional core volunteers.

Robert Lawson, Volunteer Nursery Manager

March/April nursery schedule:

Mar 5, Sat 8-12AM Apr 8, Fri 4-6PM
Mar 12, Sat 8-12AM Apr 16, Sat 8-12AM *
Mar 19, Sat 8-12AM * Apr 23, Sat 8-12AM
Mar 25, Fri 4-6PM Apr 30, Sat 12-4PM

*Restoration Day

Shipley Nature Center

For directions and information visit

Santa Ana Park Naturalist Programs Calendar

To volunteer or request information, please call 714.571.4288 or email

Saturday, March 26, 9 AM—Trabuco Creek Cleanup & Planting, San Juan Capistrano

Sierra Club and Trout Unlimited are organizing a stream cleanup along Trabuco Creek, in the vicinity of the bridge in northern San Juan Capistrano. OCCNPS folks are invited to help plant willows, find potential sources for natives cuttings downstream, and ID arundo and other invasives for removal. The work day is part of a long-term project to restore Trabuco Creek steelhead habitat from the mountains to the sea. Exit I-5 at Junipero Serra Rd. travel west on Junipero Serra to Camino Capistrano. Turn right (north) on Camino Capistrano about 1/4 mile to the concrete bridge; look for signs. Park along Camino Capistrano. Rain or high water levels cancel. Sign up with Gail Prothero,, 949-347-1255.

Vegetation Survey Training

A CNPS training session on how to do vegetation surveys is being set up for the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve on May 14-15. Conservation, Vegetation and related committee folks from Orange, San Diego and possibly adjacent counties are invited; space is limited but there may be room for anyone else who’s really interested. Contact Celia Kutcher, about signing up.

CNPS Legislative Committee Now Recruiting

Vern Goehring, CNPS Legislative Consultant (, 916-444-8194 voice, 916-444-8195 fax), is looking for a few good people. This is a great opportunity for OCCNPS to help oversee the California Legislature’s actions that affect OC’s native plants and habitats.

The Legislative Committee operates mostly via email. Vern emails lists of bills that may be of interest to CNPS, perhaps weekly during the busy seasons of February-March and August-September. Committee members choose the bills they wish to, or have time to, review and analyze, to:
1. Help identify and prioritize legislation of importance to CNPS (i.e. determine to which bills he should devote his efforts).
2. Help analyze bills re their impacts on native plant conservation or other aspects of CNPS’ mission and objectives.
3. Help develop CNPS’ positions on bills and amendments; this could include helping to draft CNPS-proposed amendments.

From April through July, committee activity largely depends on the need for grassroots lobbying that targets specific legislative districts.

From October through December, the committee focuses on identifying legislative issues that CNPS may want to pursue for the next legislative year.

Year-round, committee members:
1. Take the initiative to communicate CNPS’ legislative efforts and positions on bills to members (via newsletters, e.g.), and local elected officials.
2. Be the local eyes and ears for bits of information regarding what your local legislators are doing that may impact native plants, legislation of concern, and/or the environment in general.
3. Be the local eyes and ears re CNPS members who may have a special relationship to a legislator or hold a special position in the community, and who may be willing to occasionally contact a legislator on behalf of CNPS.

Vern strives to provide committee members with frequent, behind-the-scenes legislative information. To join the committee, contact him as above!

Sierra Club Natural Science Section

The Natural Science Section is a branch of the Sierra Club that promotes awareness of the environment by increasing knowledge of the ecology, natural history, flora, fauna and geology of Southern California. Trained naturalists lead all of our hikes, which are at all levels—from slow-paced plant walks, walking history tours and museum tours to hikes sponsored with other sections that focus mainly on hiking or mountain climbing with short stops for naturalizing.

The Natural Science Section sponsors two main events during the year. The Winter Ecology Workshop was a cross country skiing trip in the Mammoth-June Lake area. The Nature Knowledge Workshop, scheduled for June 10-12, is a weekend event at a resident camp in the San Bernardino Mountains. In addition to naturalist led hikes in the chaparral, forest and riparian habitats, afternoon and evening educational workshops are offered on a wide array of subjects. The cost is $128 for Sierra Club members and $135 for non-members. Lodging, workshops and six meals are included in the cost. To register, make check payable to “Sierra Club NSS” and send it to Ginny Heringer along with 2 large self-addressed stamped envelopes (or E-mail address) to 245 San Miguel Road, Pasadena, CA 91105. Reservation deadline is May 22, 2005. If you would like more information you can contact Liana Argento at or 310-370-2950. You can also access the Sierra Club NSS website for a registration form at

Liana Argento/Sierra Club, Natural Science Section/Membership Chair



Regular Backcountry Plant Walks at Crystal Cove State Park will take place on Saturday, March 19 and Saturday, April 16. Meet at 9 AM at the El Moro Visitor Center. The usual walk is about 5 mild miles. Docent-led walks are available every Saturday and Sunday as well. The current cost for parking is $8.

The Donna O’Neill Land Conservancy

Don’t miss blue-eyed grass, wild hycacinth, California buttercup, rancher’s fireweed, paintbrush, shooting stars, checkerbloom, sanicle, and more!

For information, reservations, and directions, contact Laura Cohen or Michelle Thames at 949-489-9778. Visit the website at

Laguna Coast Wilderness:

The park is now open on Saturday and Sunday from 7:30 AM to 4 PM. Maps are provided for self-guided tours. Special topic docent-led tours are offered periodically.

Call 949.494.9352, for more information. Website:

Irvine Company Open Space Reserve
For walks in the Northern and Southern Reserves call The Nature Conservancy at (949) 832-7478.

Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park:

The Orange County Natural History Museum is located at the entrance to the park. Call (949) 831-2790 for more information.

Thomas Riley Regional Park:

For more information call (949) 728-3420.


Interview with the Tax Man

By Joan Hampton

The “Tax Man” is Professor Emeritus Robert Folger Thorne, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing during the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden plant sale on November 6. Among his many other accomplishments, he is retired from his position as curator and taxonomist at the Garden, although he continues to conduct research. He is a member of the San Diego chapter of CNPS. He continues also as an active member of Southern California Botanists, where he served previously as president, vice-president, and member of the board.

The April 2002 issue of Fremontia contained several articles devoted to reclassification, particularly “Upcoming Changes in Flowering Plant Family Names: Those Pesky Taxonomists Are at It Again!” by Ellen Dean. (The entire issue is available in PDF format from the CNPS state website at Dr. Thorne is among that distinguished (if not universally beloved) group. His life history is as colorful as his accomplishments as a botanist and taxonomist.

As a young man—he is now 84—he served as a B-24 bomber navigator in World War II. During a mission over Austria, his plane was badly shot up. Despite the fact that the plane was riddled with flak, causing a fire in one engine, the crew managed to parachute over the only partisan-held island (Vis) in the Dalmatian chain, now part of Croatia. (Had he landed on any other island, he and his crewmates would have been prisoners of war). But Dr. Thorne’s military career did not end at that point—after the crew was returned to Italy he flew 29 more missions.

Dr. Thorne became hooked on botany when he took required science courses at Dartmouth College. Abandoning plans to become a linguist, he went on to earn an MS in 1942 and a PhD in 1949 from Cornell University. After graduation, he spent thirteen years at the University of Iowa, as an assistant, associate, then full professor. He became friends with Peter Raven (another giant in the field) during a five-month stint as a researcher at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew* and the British Museum of Natural History in London. Dr. Raven was then the curator at Rancho Santa Ana, and the Garden accepted his recommendation to appoint Dr. Thorne as his successor when the former moved on to Stanford.

During his tenure there (from 1962 to 1987), Dr. Thorne was also Professor of Botany at Claremont Graduate School, now Claremont Graduate University. At that time, famed cactologist Lyman Benson was curator of the herbarium at Pomona College. When Dr. Benson retired, the Pomona College collection was donated to Rancho Santa Ana, and Dr. Thorne became curator of the combined collection.

Before and during those years, Dr. Thorne traveled extensively while collecting specimens for herbaria. He spent 1½ years in Australia as a Fulbright researcher studying primitive angiosperms in the rain forests of the region, including New Caledonia, New Guinea, and Tasmania. Based on his travels in Mexico, he has prepared a flora of the high country of the Sierra San Pedro Martir and is working on a flora of the California floristic region of northwestern Baja California. His California publications include the Flora of the Santa Ana Mountains and the Flora of the Santa Rosa Plateau (both with Earl Lathrop), the Flora of the Higher Ranges of the Eastern Mojave (with Jim Henrickson and Barry Prigge) and the Flora of Santa Catalina Island. His numerous other works include two chapters written for the voluminous Terrestrial Vegetation of California, treatments of aquatic monocots in the Jepson Manual and many papers on biogeography, vernal pools, other plant communities of California as well as floras of areas in New York, Iowa, Virginia, Georgia, and Florida.

Among other awards and honors and memberships Dr. Thorne has received is the Asa Gray Award from the American Society of Plant Taxonomists. He received two Fulbright scholarships and a National Science Foundation Senior Postdoctoral Fellowship while at the University of Iowa. He has been a Fellow of the Linnaean Society of London and was honored with foreign membership in the Royal Society of Denmark.

I asked Dr. Thorne to compare his classification system with those of fellow taxonomists Arthur Cronquist (1919-1992), Armen Takhtajan, and Rolf Dahlgren, and to that developed by the APG (Angiosperm Phylogeny Group).

Given below are his comments—but first, a quick review of some taxonomic principles.

Prior to recent discoveries in paleontology and the invention of modern equipment such as electron microscopes, the most satisfactory method of plant classification was based on morphology, the physical structure of plants. But now, a great deal of additional information—while not always complete—has become available. Examples include geographic distribution, chemical structure and fossil records.

Molecular structure is a focus on plant genetics, i.e. the structure of DNA and RNA. Aside from misidentifications of the material examined, one weakness of this approach is that examination of a single gene can lead to errors where unrelated plants—such as tulips and roses—appear to share a common structure. These weaknesses can be overcome by careful determinations and by basing results on a comparison of multiple genes instead of a single gene.

Embryology, the structure of embryos instead of adult plants, is another avenue for plant classification, since, to an extent, embryo development recapitulates evolution.

Other approaches include study of the structure of pollen and seeds. The goal in every case is to identify plants that are most closely related, in an attempt to determine how each line evolved, and thus how they should be classified.

Returning to the question of which system of classification (and its author) is the most accurate, Dr. Thorne made the comment that the best taxonomist is the one who is still alive. I chuckled when he said that, but on further thought realized that he was at least partly serious. A dead taxonomist cannot revise his system to take ongoing discoveries into account.

Armen Takhtajan, now in his nineties, is the grand old man of Russian botany; the most important taxonomist in the old Soviet Union. He had reservations about molecular research however, and his system does not reflect most discoveries in that field.

The current version of the The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California is based on the system developed by Arthur Cronquist (1919-1992), whom Dr. Thorne describes as a lumper”. Thorne’s primary criticism is the inclusion of what should be 20 separate families (such as the Agavaceae and the Alliaceae and many others) in the Liliaceae. Furthermore, Cronquist had numerous reservations about the validity of the newer approaches, which his system failed to take into account.

Dr. Thorne was also a close friend to Rolf Dahlgren (1932-1986), whom he regards as the most progressive among this group; the most elastic, and the most willing to accept the evidence of recent discoveries. The scope of the system each developed was worldwide, and the two men continued to influence one another, up to the time of Dahlgren’s death in 1986 in an auto accident in Sweden.

The other major player in angiosperm taxonomy is the system developed in 1998 by the APG, the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group, whose focus is primarily on molecular taxonomy. The system is conservative; scrolling through the various families, one frequently encounters the frustrating notation “Not Assigned to Order.”

In comparing his own system to the APG, Dr. Thorne says that he is “more willing to stick his neck out.” He also incorporates a wider range of disciplines in his system.

To learn more about these various systems, here are some websites to explore:

Dr. Thorne: Classification of Angiosperms:

The Flowering Plant Gateway (Texas A & M University)

The APG Website (Missouri Botanical Garden)

Anthophyta: Systematics (U.C. Berkeley)

The J.L. Reveal Univ. of Maryland website thorneangiosp99.html

*I am His Majesty’s dog at Kew.

Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?

Engraved on the Collar of a Dog, Which I Gave to His Royal Highness—Alexander Pope