Newsletter 2006 September – October

California Native Plant Society

Orange County Chapter

September/October 2006



Sep 8 – 10.. Chapter Council Mtng

Sep 14……………………. Board Mtng

Sep 21…………….. Chapter Meeting

Sep 30……………………… Plant Sale

Oct 5………………………. Board Mtng

Oct 19…………….. Chapter Meeting

Weed and Seed:

Thurs 10-1……………… UCI Arboretum

Any day, 8:30-noon……… Fullerton Arb

2nd Sat……………….. Irvine Open Space

3rd Sat………………………… Bolsa Chica

4th Sat……….. Upper Newport Backbay

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, left into the parking lot.



Chapter Meetings

9 Plants Your Neighbor can Safely Grow

Coast Live Oak

Bus Botany and Photography–Greece

Gardening with Natives Workshop

Beginners’ Corner–Cultivars


Field Trips

Annual Fall Plant Sale September 30

Discover the possibilities! Plants will be gathered from near and far to offer as broad a selection as possible. Choose from scores of hard-to-find species, from deergrass and monkey flower to redbud and blue-eyed grass, from ferns and lilies to live-forevers and buckwheats. Consult with seasoned gardeners about unthirsty alternatives to a lawn, including native perennials, shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses. Browse a selection of books featuring native plants, including several that are only recently on the market.

The date to remember is Saturday, September 30, 2006. The gates open at 10 AM with a special members-only pre-sale from 9 to 10 (memberships can be obtained at the gate.) Location: UC Irvine Arboretum, near the corner of Campus Drive and Jamboree Road in Irvine. Parking is free. Come early for the best selection; bring boxes in which to carry purchases home. Visit, email, or call 949/768-0431 for more information

Proceeds of the plant sale fund chapter activities such as scholarships, conservation efforts, and education.

Chapter Meetings

Thursday, September 21

Ceanothus and friends—California Lilacs and other Colorful Natives for your Garden!

Speaker: David Fross

Join us as a long time native plant devotee regales us with tales of possibly his favorite genus—the Ceanothus! David Fross will take us from California to Europe and back again, viewing gardens displaying the many ways our California Lilacs can add to our own native landscapes. Drawing on his decades in native horticulture, Dave will show us his favorite varieties and cultivars ranging from mat-like groundcovers, gorgeous shrubs, to lovely small trees, all with a broad garden and landscape potential that will make you appreciate these beauties to an even great degree. He will also show how many of our natives work well in combination with the Ceanothus.

If you have ever had a question about Ceanothus, wonder how to better use these strikingly lovely plants in your landscape design, or just plain love the color blue in your garden, then DON’T MISS THIS TALK! You will certainly gain a better understanding about creative uses for them in your garden as well as maintenance and cultural practices that will help your Ceanothuses perform like champions!

David Fross is the founder and president of Native Sons Wholesale Nursery in Arroyo Grande, California. He is coauthor of two recently released books: California Native Plants for the Garden (with Carol Bornstein and Bart O’Brien) and Ceanothus (with Dieter Wilken). His articles have appeared in numerous respected publications, including Fremontia. He is a much sought after speaker who possesses a wealth of both practical and academic knowledge, and whose comfortable talks are always ripe with plenty of take home information. David also teaches horticulture at Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo and is responsible for much of the design and creative use of native plants found in the California Garden of the Leaning Pine Arboretum on the Cal Poly SLO Campus.

Extra, Extra!!! Book Signing by Author of “Ceanothus”!

Prior to and after his presentation David will be on hand to sign his new book, “Ceanothus”, a complete horticultural and botanical treatment of the genus aimed at both gardeners and botanists. With so many plants that tolerate sun and shade, thrive in arid conditions, and bear a profusion of beautiful, fragrant flowers, this book finally gives Ceanothus the recognition it deserves.

We will be selling Dave’s book at the meeting and the author will be graciously signing them. Don’t miss this opportunity!


Thursday, October 19

The Wacky World of Pollination: Native Plants & the Critters that Love them

Speaker: Bob Allen

“Pollination” is the name given to the transfer of pollen to a plant’s female parts in order to fertilize its ovules and develop seed.

But just how do our native plants get pollen from one place to another? Is it as simple as shedding pollen and expecting any old insect to carry it to the right place? What are our major pollinators? Can a flower’s structure provide clues to the identity of its pollinators?

Many of us have some understanding of plants and their pollinators, but the fascinating details just might surprise and delight you. About 75% percent of California’s flowering plants rely on animals for pollination. We have all been taught about the important pollinating done by the old world honey bee (Apis mellifera). But did you know that it is a non-native bee, introduced here by the earliest colonists, in order to provide honey and wax and to pollinate the old world crop plants brought with them? It is, in fact, not able to pollinate many of our native plants since it did not evolve with them and thus lacks necessary structures and behaviors needed to pollinate.

Native bees, on the other hand, are the most effective pollinators of most native plants. For example, a single female of a native solitary bee (Habropoda sp.) will over her lifespan visit perhaps 50,000 flowers, leading to the production of over 60,000 fruits used as food by other forms of wildlife. And the story of the interrelationship between the monarch butterfly and milkweed plants (Asclepias spp.) is well known, but few people are aware that the major pollinator of milkweeds are bumble bees (Bombus spp.)! Research suggests that native plants are up to four times more attractive to native bees than exotic (non-native) flowers.

Want to hear more of the story? Come join us on October 19 when Bob will discuss and demonstrate pollination mechanisms with magnificent photographs and your own take-home models.

Bob Allen is a nature photographer, author, instructor, and consulting biologist. Raised in San Juan Capistrano, he studied insects from a very early age. In high school, he was introduced to plants, became hooked, and bought his first copy of Philip Munz’s Flora of Southern California at age 15. He is currently preparing his second book, A Field Guide to Wildflowers of Orange County and the Santa Ana Mountains. The study of pollination is a blend of his two great interests.



9 Plants Your Neighbor Can Safely Grow

—by Brad Jenkins

Your neighbor leans over the hedge saying she is ready to try a couple native plants in a little section of the yard. (Yeah!) So you tell her about habitat grouping, watering guidelines, attracting wildlife, going to Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, and… hummm, why does her facial expression suggest she would be just as interested talking to a tax auditor?

What she really meant was name a couple plants right now that are lush green all year, save water but handle some excess, take full sun and part shade, survive in a variety of soils, stay a controllable size, will be fine next to the lawn, don’t look like cactus or tumbleweed, and are low maintenance. You may not have heard those exact words, but that is what she said. Oh, and there better be beautiful flower options!

While assessing the local environment, consider these safe plants for your adventuresome buddy. Unless otherwise stated, they tolerate full sun to part shade and occasional to moderate watering. With any luck, you will be providing her another list next year containing your riskier favorites.

  1. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): sun or shade; fern like leaves; bunches of small creamy white or pink flowers on upright stalk; try ‘Island Pink’; 1’ to 2’ high.
  2. Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana): long narrow leaves from central clump; spring flowers in white or lavender or purple with intricate petal markings in cream to dark brown and inner petal colors often of white or yellow; 1’ high x 2’ wide.
  3. Seaside Daisy (Erigeron glaucus): cheerful 1.5” daisy type flower with yellow green center disk and usually lavender petals although other colors are found; oval leaves; 1’ high x 2’ wide.
  4. Island Snapdragon (Galvezia speciosa): 1” long tubular scarlet flowers show most in spring but continue to appear throughout the year and attract hummingbirds; 3’ tall x 5’ wide with vine-like stems that go farther with support; can be lightly pruned during the year or heavily once during winter. The Firecracker version is more compact.
  5. Lilac Verbena (Verbena lilacina): fragrant lavender flowers from spring to fall above rich green, divided, lacy leaves attract butterflies; 3’ tall by 5’ wide.
  6. Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens): bunch grass with 2’x2’ base and stately spikes that extend plant to 5’ tall and wide; smart alternative to invasive fountain and pampas grasses.
  7. Coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica): beautiful shrub that can be pruned; eye catching berries start light green eventually turning red and often burgundy (berries can stain concrete patios); cultivars range in size from 3’ to 15’ tall and wide.
  8. Oregon Grape ‘Golden Abundance’ (Mahonia ‘Golden Abundance’): shiny green leaves on red midribs; clusters of yellow flowers in spring; purple-blue berries in fall; 6’x6’ or greater; dense foliage and spiky leaves excellent for hedge or screen.
  9. California Wild Grape (Vitis californica): This breaks the rules by being deciduous, but most people understand this one—any sun; moderate water preferred but variety tolerated; fast growing vine with green then bluish edible fruit; good for areas that take advantage of deciduous and climbing nature. To the variety ‘Roger’s Red’ fall brings flaming red leaf color.


Coast Live Oak—Quercus agrofolia

by David C. Fross

Coast live oaks can evoke a curious range of responses in people. One of my neighbors considers coast live oak a weed and spends each spring carefully removing all the young seedlings that have volunteered on his property. Another neighbor with a dense oak forest on his ranch said he loved oaks and then pruned each one into a high thin sculpture, anorexic shadows of their natural form. Still another neighbor guards his oaks with a passion while watering the lawn he has planted under their canopy. Each landowner is managing remaining pieces of an oak woodland that once covered huge tracts of coastal California.

Endemic to the California floristic province, Quercus agrifolia can be found as far north as Mendocino and Sonoma counties. It is difficult to determine where the distribution ends in northern California due to hybridization with Quercus wislizenii, interior live oak. Coast live oak is most abundant in the Transverse, Peninsular and South Coast ranges as a member of foothill woodland and mixed evergreen forest communities. In the north Quercus agrifolia usually occurs below 3000 feet but can reach 5000 feet in southern mountains. The southern extent of its range occurs on the western flanks of the Sierra Juarez in Baja California. It is common in an amazing range of habitats from windswept coastal dunes to rocky serpentine ridges. Associate species, such as coast redwoods in the north, Shaw’s agave in the south, and poison oak throughout the entire range, reflect this diversity.

Quercus agrifolia is a low, evergreen tree with a dense, round crown. It can take many forms: trees with single erect trunks and broad crowns or multi-trunked with wide spreading limbs that trail and touch the ground. Leaves are dark green, oval and convex with spiny margins. Tough and leathery, they range in size from one to three inches. The new spring leaves of some trees open burgundy-rose turning green with age. The inconspicuous pale flowers hang in short chartreuse catkins each spring. A rich variety and abundance of wildlife is supported by the acorns that mature in October. A large tree produces as much as 500 pounds of nuts in a good year.

In the landscape coast live oak is a versatile tree, serving equally well as a street tree, specimen or dense thick screen. Many people choose other trees for their gardens because of the mistaken idea that oaks are slow growing. Oaks planted from containers usually take at least two years before adding significant new top growth. Trees spend these first few seasons in the ground developing a root system that will support new growth. Once established, a healthy young oak will grow at a surprisingly rapid rate, a healthy five gallon tree can reach 25 feet high with a 15 foot spread in ten years. Some nursery practices actually increase the time a container grown oak will take to establish. When selecting trees in nurseries avoid trees pruned into lollipop shapes. Look for trees with branching down to the base of the tree and vigorous white roots when removed from the container.

Quercus agrifolia provided native people with their most important source of food and were held sacred. Time itself was measured by the oaks with feasts, festivals and religious ceremonies tied to the seasonal rhythms of the oak tree. It is believed that Father Junipero Serra said the first mass in California under a massive live oak near Monterey. Robert Louis Stevenson described the dark muscled forests as, “woods for murderers to crawl among.” Hollywood later embraced the oaks with lights and cameras, sending Robin Hood and his merry men into a Sherwood forest of Quercus agrifolia, the directors asking us to believe the history of western civilization was settled under the dusty limbs of coast live oak.

Gardens provide habitat for oak regeneration especially if they are located in proximity to native trees. Scrub jays find seed beds for the acorns and the garden plants provide a nurse crop to protect the young shade tolerant seedlings. Coast live oaks are reproducing at a remarkable rate in our garden, slowly taking back the land they once held. Like my neighbor, but with a different motive, I have begun removing young trees. A friend and I sat in the garden last fall discussing the many young oak that have appeared just as a scrub jay landed nearby and rammed another acorn into the earth. My friend turned to me and said, “You see, the land remembers what it was.”

[Reprinted with permission. Copyright 1999 Native Sons Inc.]


Bus Botany and Photography…Greece from a moving perspective

—by Dan Songster

Our recent vacation in Greece was a whirlwind. Once there our “modus travelocity” included ferry, train, rental cars, and bus and we spent time in Athens, the Peloponnese (especially the Mani Peninsula), across to Olympia, out into the Ionian Sea to visit the Island of Zakynthos, across the top of the Peloponnese to a mountain village with family ties (Elizabeth’s), north across the gulf of Corinth, out to the lovely and restful island of Skopelos in the northern Aegean Sea and then back to Athens for more sightseeing before our eventual departure. Of course, I did have some time to botanize a little in each region but instead of boring you to death with details of conventional exploration, discovery, and eventual identification, let me stick to the experience that although least productive, was the most challenging—Bus Botany.

Some of you can I.D. many of our native plants while traveling up our local roads at rather high speeds. “Highway botany” it is sometimes called. Through the window you recognize the tiny emerging leaves of a plant just pushing up through the soil and recognize the Star-Lily, a particular color of red far up a canyon (that you pass in under a second) and you know which Paintbrush it is, a blur of green near a turnout shoots past and you shout “Cercocarpus betuloides!” It is true I am not as skilled as some in this regard but to those of you who like this sort of thing I recommend the buses that crisscross Greece as a test of your true abilities. Of course, increasing the challenge is the fact that although Greece has the Mediterranean equivalent of our Coastal Sage Scrub, Chaparral and various woodlands, (with their Garrique, Maquis, and Oak and other woodlands), the species are of course different and for the most part the genus too! So, armed with a digital camera to help record specifics it is onward with Greek Bus Botany 101.

Imagine you are with us on the bus (window seat of course) digital camera in hand. The camera is necessary. The idea is to take a reasonable picture, later on examine it and with the general location noted from the essential notebook entries, come close to an ID. Sounds simple, right?! Soon we are leaving a small town are rolling past the scattered homes with the many plants found there (not native to Greece). These are easy to name off: Eucalyptus rudis, Robinia..No… Gleditsia (Honey Locust), yeah! Crepe Myrtle, Bougainvillea, common Fig, Mulberry (with Fruit), another Eucalyptus species, oh a nice little Southern Magnolia. Hmmm…there is a native Chaste Tree (Vitus agnus-caste) in full bloom, but just as I take the picture an oncoming poultry truck passes us, blocking the shot. It is a common plant and I hope to see it later. The bus picks up speed, and people are reading the Greek equivalent of People magazine or talking on their cell phones or dozing. As we start to get out into the countryside it seems like southern California as we leave behind the invasive Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) and the masses of Giant Cane (Arundo donax) that are numerous along the irrigation canal.

Soon we find ourselves driving through crops whose edges are dotted with the bright red of the Poppy, (Papaver rhoes), then slowly we begin to rise into the mountains. Yep, real mountains rising from the sea with a little coastline grudgingly provided for the beaches and coastal fishing villages. Greece is basically a bunch of mountain ranges glued together so you are almost always going up or down mountains. What valleys and mesas connect these ranges are full of crops or pastures. It is further up in the mountains that many of the native plants are! The grade is getting steeper and the bus driver downshifts and slows to about 20 kph. to set up a wide swinging turn. On the rocky hillside ahead is a rosy color and I get out my camera because this is a Euphorb that I have never seen, its pale yellow flowers fading but its mauve colored bracts backlit by the sun and just a stunning thing to look at. I find the cleanest spot on the unwashed window, hold my new fancy digital camera up to the window, and at just the moment we pass the Euphorbs I push the button. Nothing! What!? The Euphorb population slides past before I figure out that the camera was on the ‘review mode’. Next time when it comes I will be ready, my camera poised! But next time does not come for that Euphorb. (Although it most likely was Ephorbia matthiola or because of the bracts, E. biglandulosa).

Our elevation is still low enough to see good colonies of what should be the yellow flowered Jerusalem Sage (Phlomas fruiticosa) in bloom but trying for a shot I find the sun is at the worst angle, glaring against the glass. It is impossible. Then the bus slows for a turn and you see a Mallow (probably Malva sylastras) growing and flowering at the base of a shaded ancient stone wall, the flowers seem to glow! I stand to take the picture and just before pushing the shutter I am slammed into the seat in front of me as the bus makes an very abrupt stop to let an ancient man in a suit (with big green socks pulled way up over the cuffs of his pants) off the bus. He waves absently and with no home or road or trail visible starts walking off. A picture of the Mallow? I turn to see but the bus has caused quite a dust cloud, obscuring everything except the man who slips behind a large shrub, still waving to someone on the bus, and is gone. But I know there will be other chances for some neat stuff, it is after all a five-hour trip. Or it would be a five hour trip if this bus did not also serve as the school bus for kids we pick up and drop off in various spots along a side road, and providing taxi service for friends of the bus driver by driving down roads far too small for this behemoth of a vehicle, dropping them and their groceries at their small homes. But these excursions are a chance to see more of what people call the “real Greece” so I don’t mind. I get a shot of a man riding a donkey that is also carrying a huge metal jug strapped on (goat milk?) so I am happy. At least I got a photo!

Back on the main road we pass olive groves by the thousands. Of course the olive trees you could photograph forever (and I try dozens of shots trying to get a descent shot of a really old one, they can be over a thousand years old they say!) We pass bright Oleander, columns of Italian Cypress, flowering Pomegranates, and the widespread Aleppo Pine (P. halepensis) too. But I long for something a bit more unusual, less cultivated or common. Although fairly high, we do occasionally drop down into canyons to cross a creek or stream before heading back uphill. These lovely shaded areas contain a healthy forest passing by right outside our window—a type of Greek Foothill Woodland! There are Plane trees (Platanus orientalis), Sweet Chestnut, Grecian Laurel (Laurus nobilis), Carob (Ceratonia siliqua), Holly Oaks (Quercus ilex), Strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo), and the dark green exclamations of Italian Cypress further uphill. I have set the camera on “sports mode” so the speed of the bus is hopefully accounted for and I take over 30 shots. I later review them and it looks like “sports mode” only helped 3 or 4 to come out. (Later at our hotel only two really had any quality at all, delete, delete.)

Oftentimes because of the angle of the sun the other side of the bus is the place to be (the only place for pictures that have a chance of turning out) and that is when you must decide to stir your sweaty self (neither the seat belts or air conditioning ever seems to work) and leaving friends or family to fend for themselves, move off down the bus to sit at an available window. I do so on this trip and find the only open seat next to an old widow lady in black who speaks not a work of English. I get out my camera and start taking shots of Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum ) in its native habitat, and that is when the bus sweeps around a ridgeline running roughly opposite its old direction. In short I am back facing the sun. I tough it out for a while but the bus does not turn back on its original course until I return to my original seat. You have to smile or go mad.

Outright fright actually stopped my photo-botanizing only once or twice, I was mesmerized by the awe-inspiring scenery more than a few times. Coming around a sharp bend in the road I see a lovely mass of purple flowers (somewhat like our Brodiaea) spilling from the bare overhanging rock ahead. Just as I begin to ready the camera to at least try for a nice shot, an expanse opens on the otherside of the bus and standing up, I can see a valley floor over two thousand feet below—straight down. It’s like looking out of an airplane window! Now this is the type of road that makes our Sierra’s seem tame and compels one to look down with jaw hanging. Wow! The purple flowers fly past, momentarily forgotten.

You have probably guessed that due to speed, terrain, crazy oncoming traffic, and a huge unwieldy vehicle, Bus Botany is not for the faint of heart or the easily distracted. The fact that you are on a bus going through fairly scary terrain at a brisk clip can slow your reaction time, distract you, and certainly fatigue you. Imagine yourself a passenger on a bus careening around mountain turns with cliffs on one side and a rocky road cut rising vertically (seemingly inches away from your window) on the other, trucks, taxis, and other deranged drivers trying to pass you even on blind curves. Head-on traffic decides to pass and pulls into your bus’s lane as if there were room, and just whips back to safety a split second before a collision. Perhaps you can get an idea of why it might be difficult to concentrate at times, and why the scribbles in the notebook often appear unrecognizable.

And the Bus driver? The Bus drivers are like the bullfighters of Spain. Almost without exception they are professionals who calmly look death in the eye everyday and who know that if they keep their composure, focus, and momentum, they will probably all live to see another day. Of course the bus drivers are very safety conscious. Elizabeth and I seldom felt in real danger. We are used to their behavior, feeling somewhat comfortable even when they curse other traffic with both voice and gesture, use their horns on blind hairpin turns to warn possible on-comers we were taking up all the lanes to make our turn, take phone calls from home while shifting and adjusting the outside mirror all at the same time, or crossing themselves repeatedly while building up the speed needed to take them up a particularly bad stretch of road. These guys know their job is a dangerous one and every talisman against bad-luck, misfortune or disaster is mounted, glued, hung, or placed around the driver. The usual worry beads, of course, and the various objects to ward off the evil eye join pictures of his favorite and not so favorite saints, a favorite coffee cup, a magic eight ball, a teddy bear from one of his kids (or grandkids) and of course pictures of the family and favorite football (soccer) team. These people are prepared. In fact any fear we may have felt, had to do not with the driver’s skills, but with the type of terrain he was moving this big bus through: roads just wide enough (maybe) for two vehicles to pass each other, and no room for error. The many micro-ecclesia or roadside shrines along the way stand in quiet testimony to those unfortunate folks who met their fate on that very stretch of road. So you can see how I might occasionally miss that Convolvulus, Salvia, Eryngium, Cistus, Verbascum, or Clematis.

As we near our destination of this particular trip, near the lovely wooded region of Olympia the bus slows to cross a one lane bridge and on the other side there are spikes of blooms and I ready my camera, but it turns out to be Acanthus mollis (what we call Bears-Breeches), a perfect chance with no window glare, a dark background, the bus hardly moving—but why bother? After all, I reason since it is the leaf that inspired the Corinthian columns used by the Romans during their time here, there must be hundreds in Olympia, birthplace of the Olympics. So I’ll wait to get the perfect shot there. Later, on site, I find Acanthus all right but a different species. A. balcanicus, is a smaller plant, more deeply cut with toothed leaves, but much less impressive with a few thin spikes of almost spent flowers. Oh, it is not uninteresting, and I do photograph it but my mind goes back to the lush, full blown, flowering specimen of history we passed an hour ago, Oh, well. I was on a bus then, no wonder I did not get the shot!

Note: I hope you liked the ride! Although bus rides in Greece can be especially frustrating for the amateur naturalist, the compensations once you arrive are immense. What a beautiful country! And having a chance to ride along with its people from all walks of life makes the long trips worth it. After getting to the various regions, I did actually have time to hike around (sometimes at a trot on short visits) checking out the local flora, and jamming unknown vegetation into my journal for later perusal. But we did so many other things that also really made it a vacation. Our adventure consisted of a paradise of history and archeology almost anywhere you looked; swimming in seas too blue to believe; eating food that was simple, flavorful, plentiful (oh, TOO plentiful), meeting old friends from previous travels (and making new ones), taking boat rides to nearly deserted beaches, laughing, drinking Retsina wine beneath the Acropolis, breathing, people watching, reading British mysteries, trying to read Greek bus schedules, and sharing the whole trip with our favorite traveling companions, Elizabeth’s sister Georgia and her husband, Floyd. We had a great beginning to our summer and hope all of you had a wonderful summer as well!

Gardening with Natives Workshop

How to Select, Plant and Care for California Natives in Your Garden

Each workshop will have three meetings from 9 AM to noon:

Workshop I: Sunday, October 1 & 8, and Saturday, October 21

Workshop II: Sunday, October 29 & November 5, and Saturday, November 11

The diversity, abundance and beauty of California’s flora provide an exciting opportunity for incorporating native plants into residential gardens. Because many California natives are adapted to our dry southern California climate and require less water than lawn and many nonnative plants, they can contribute substantial benefits to our environment. Natives planted in even small gardens can provide resting places and food sources for resident and migrating birds and butterflies.

This workshop will give you information on selecting appropriate native plants for the spaces in your garden. You will learn how and when to plant natives, as well as how to care for and prune them. Soil and watering requirements that enable these plants to thrive will also be discussed.

The workshop will take place at residential gardens, a nursery and other locations where you can see natives growing. Exact locations will be emailed to participants. Each workshop is limited to 15 persons. A donation of $30 or more per person is requested if you can afford it. Bring your money to the first meeting.

To reserve a place, contact Diane Bonanno, or 714-572-9911 and state which workshop you wish to attend.

Co-leaders: Diane Bonanno and Pat Overby, Landscape designers specializing in California natives.

Sponsored by Sea & Sage Audubon



Beginner’s Corner: Cultivars

—by Joan R. Hampton

What are cultivars and where do they come from? Why should you purchase a cultivar? What if a cultivar escapes into the wild? These are questions to be explored in this article. But first, let’s demystify the scientific names of plants.


Arcostaphylos edmundsii ssp.parvi folium Rhus ovata Sugar Bush
Arcostaphylos edmundsii ‘Carmel Sur’ Carmel Sur Manzanita Rhus integrifolia Lemonade Berry
Arcostaphylos ‘John Dourley’ John Dourley Manzanita Rhus integrifolia x R. ovata
Buckthorn Family: RHAMNACEAE Four-o’clock Family: NYCTAGINCEAE
Ceanothus maritimus Maritime Ceanothus Abronia umbellata ssp. umbellata Beach Sand-Verbena
Ceanothus maritimus ‘Popcorn’ Abronia villosa var. aurita Chaparral Sand-Verbena
[from Tree Of Life Nursery catalog] [from the “Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Orange, California, Second Edition” by Fred Roberts]

What a confusing system! Why is it that some plants have two-part botanical names, while others are three-parted? Why is it that some of the names are entirely in Latin, and others a mixture of Latin and English. Why, for the latter, are the English names enclosed in apostrophes? And what is the meaning of “var” or “ssp.”?

Scientists have assigned ranks to all living creatures—including the most primitive organisms—according to a tree-like hierarchy, starting from the most primitive and going to the most evolved. As an example, the complete family tree shown here for Abronia villosa var. aurita is listed on the ITIS website, (the Integrated Taxonomic Information System) at

Kingdom Plantae—plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta—vascular plants (internal transport system)

Division Magnoliophyta—angiosperms (flowering plants)

Class Magnoliopsida—dicotyledons

Subclass Caryophyllidae

Order Caryophyllales

Family Nyctaginaceae — four o’clocks

Genus Abronia — sand verbena

Epithet villosa

Species Abronia villosa — desert sand verbena

Variety Abronia villosa var. aurita — desert sand verbena

Each of these ranks—order, family, genus, etc.—is referred to as a taxon (plural taxa). In the above lists, Arcostaphylos, Ceanothus, Rhus and Abronia are examples of genera (the plural of “genus”), while maritimus, edmundsii and ovata are epithets. The combination of genus plus epithet constitutes the names of a species. (Incidentally, the word species is both singular and plural. The adjective for species is specific, as in “specific epithet.”) In general, the members of any species can breed with one another and produce fertile offspring, but are usually unable to cross with other species.

The basic rules for referring to plants were first introduced by the Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus in the 1700’s. The species is also referred to as the binomial name, e.g. Rhus integrifolia. By convention, the genus name is capitalized, the epithet usually not. Note that some of the plants listed above contain a third name, referred to as a subspecific rank, i.e. subspecies or variety. In those cases, the reference consists of the binomial, followed by ssp. or var. and then the subspecific name, e.g. Arcostaphylos edmundsii ssp.parvifolium.

The term subspecies is generally used when two separate populations of a species are capable of interbreeding but are generally unable to do so because of isolation. That isolation is most often—but not always—geographic. The subspecies might also occupy a different kind of habitat, or the isolation could result from different blooming times, such as May vs. August. A frequent result of such isolation is variation in the physical characteristics when members of each population are compared to one another. And seemingly minor differences in the physical structure may mean that they are visited by different pollinators, preventing cross-breeding.

Variety is a taxonomic rank below that of subspecies, and can represent something as simple as changed flower color. A given species may be divided into subspecies, or into varieties—but not both. A subspecies is never divided into varieties. Within the genus Abronia, a subspecies and a variety are listed for two separate species: compare Abronia umbellata ssp. umbellata and Abronia villosa var. aurita.

In some cases, experts may disagree on the treatment (variety vs. subspecies) for a given plant. For the elusive Phacelia suaveolens (Hydrophyllaceae; waterleaf family), the Checklist contains the following notation:

Phacelia suaveolens Greene ssp. keckii (Munz & Jtn.) Thorne

[Phacelia suaveolens var. keckii (Munz & Jtn.) J.T. Howell] SWEETSCENTED PHACELIA

A different notation, a lower case “x,” is used to represent the occasional, successful cross between two species; one example is Rhus integrifolia x R. ovata, a naturally occurring cross between Rhus integrifolia and Rhus ovata.

The term, cultivar, (cultivated variety) was invented by the American botanist and horticulturist Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858-1954). It is applied to agricultural, horticultural and forestry products, which are most often created in cultivation or through artificial propagation. Despite the name, cultivars are not interchangeable with the botanical rank of variety.

The rules for notation of cultivar names are different from those that evolved naturally. Cultivar names consist of a binomial followed by a cultivar epithet. The latter is enclosed in single quote marks and generally is not italicized. Compare the notation for Ceanothus maritimus (a natural plant) with Ceanothus maritimus ‘Popcorn’ (a cultivar). A cultivar may have been derived from a given species, as in Arcostaphylos ‘Carmel Sur’, or the derivation may be unknown, as in Arcostaphylos ‘John Dourley’ (John Dourley Manzanita). The Tree of Life catalog describes the origin of every cultivar it sells. The description for John Dourley Manzanita reads: “hybrid, random; origin = volunteer seedling…near manzanita area, RSBGA, selected by John Dourley (1978); intro Tree of Life Nursery 1990.”

The governing body for natural plant names is the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, while for cultivars it is the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants, also known as the Cultivated Plant Code or ICNCP.

Dan Songster savors the history and imagery embodied in cultivar names:

“It could be a plant named after someone’s mother like Heuchera micrantha ‘Martha Roderick,’ named for the mother of that legendary native plantsman, Wayne Roderick. Or the name might refer to an area of the state where that particular cultivar was discovered, like Ceanothus ‘Wheeler Canyon’ for the gorge in Ventura County. Or it could be descriptive like Ribes ‘Dancing Tassels.’ The image that comes to mind is the lovely, light pink-flowered tassels swaying and dancing in the lightest of spring breezes. So the name of a cultivar almost always tells a story, links us to an interesting person for whom it was named, or inspires an exciting little research adventure!”


Where and how do cultivars originate? The sources are varied. Some are simply natural plants that were collected in the wild and given a new cultivar name. Others may have arisen as mutations. Still others are hybrids between natives, between natives and cultivars, or between existing cultivars.

Because many are hybrids, propagation is a problem for growers of cultivars. Sexual reproduction (from fertile seed) represents a toss of the genetic dice, mixing characteristics from the two parents. For those cultivars that are hybrids, bred to emphasize certain features, the sexually-produced offspring are often inferior to their parents. As a consequence, the preferred method of propagation for all cultivars is asexual reproduction, using cuttings to create identical clones of the parent material. While more costly and time-consuming than raising seedlings, it is the method used exclusively by reputable breeders such as TOL.

TOL’s Jeff Bohn talks about specimens obtained from Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens, a frequent contributor, despite the fact that SBBG has no formal breeding program (so far as he knows):

“Most of the plants coming out of SBBG are plants that have caught the eye of a collector. They have in place a plant introduction program where a grower is given a new plant to evaluate. The evaluation period extends over several years. SBBG sends out forms periodically so evaluations can be accurate and objective. Once a plant has successfully passed the evaluation period, SBBG then decides if it will introduce it.”

“Traditionally” he adds, “botanic gardens, nurserymen and botanists have made contributions of cultivars to the native plant world, but with a few exceptions, there have been few to zero native plant breeders.” Along with SBBG, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden also continues “to make introductions when they feel they have something significant.”

Before TOL introduces a new cultivar originating in a different geographic area, it is usually subjected to a five-year period of observation, to determine its suitability for our area. If the plant passes muster, it is then propagated from cuttings, “… taken when I feel the cutting wood is at the right stage, usually fall or spring. Rooting hormone is applied, and the cuttings are placed in the greenhouse under mist until rooting is complete.” Bonn adds: “The time it takes to produce a plant from a cutting to one-gallon container size is about a year. I can usually only take about two or three cuttings from the young cultivar because the plants are small when I receive them. Once I put the new cultivar in the ground or shift it to a larger container, I will have larger plants to use as source material, and more plants to sell as the result.”

Some of TOL’s cultivars originated locally. “Cultivars we have introduced have either been a selection from the wild or a chance seedling grown here in the nursery.” Bonn cited Galvesia speciosa ‘Firecracker’ as an example of the latter. It stood out because it was “so different from all the others in the block of plants. I grabbed it and stuck it in the ground. The form remained more compact. The leaf was fuzzy as opposed to glossy. I watched it for five years to make sure there were no problems with disease and insects, and so I could better determine how the more mature plant would appear. Propagation was easy; I just developed this plant. I was not its creator.”


What happens if cultivars escape into the wild? Do they present the same risks as their non-native brethren?

Cal-IPC (the California Invasive Plant Council, publishes a brochure, “Don’t plant a pest! Give them an inch and they’ll take an acre…” The noxious invaders it describes displace native vegetation, reduce wildlife habitat and, in some cases, create a serious fire hazard. Should we be equally concerned when native-derived cultivars “jump the fence”? Bohn mentions Ceanothus and Salvia as two genera with a strong potential to become escape artists, since each hybridizes so readily.

One reason that non-native invaders are able to spread is the absence of predators from their place of origin that would normally keep them in check. This is not a factor with cultivars however, since they are derived from native species. Nevertheless, Songster and Bohn both stress the need for caution, even though neither is aware of any serious incursions. Songster describes the sequence of events that would need to occur for a successful escape of a cultivar from a landscape near wildlands:

“Escape of a cultivar is possible, but not very likely unless its seedlings were able to cross-pollinate with existing native plants. Suppose, for example, that a Ceanothus gloriosus ‘Point Reyes’ from the misty coast of Marin County escaped as a seed, germinated, grew, flowered and hybridized with our local Ceanothus tomentosus var. olivaceus. For this to happen, a series of conditions would have to be met. Let’s assume, first of all, that the ‘Point Reyes’ is even able to live in our dry, rocky chaparral and to grow large enough to produce blossoms. It would have to flower at the same time as our local variety, and the two varieties would have to be close enough to allow cross-pollination. Then, if such cross-pollination did occur, the seed was able to ripen and germinate, and the seedling was able to live and produce other plants, then yes, the possibility of genetic contamination of the native population would exist. If a garden is located near a wild area containing rare or endangered species, special care must be taken to avoid planting cultivars that could cross with their wild counterparts.”


Cultivars are often popular with gardeners because of a desirable or unusual appearance. Another draw might be a longer blooming period. But many cultivars have practical advantages when compared to their wild cousins. These may include enhanced robustness, or environmental tolerance to factors such as clayey soils. A cultivar may grow taller or may be more compact than its native counterpart. It may be easier to breed in the garden. Whatever your reason for choosing cultivars, enjoy these special treasures.°




The Natural Resource Projects Inventory (NRPI) is a collaborative effort between the California Biodiversity Council and the University of California at Davis Information Center for the Environment. The signatories of the California Biodiversity Council joined forces to gather information on thousands of conservation, mitigation and restoration projects being developed and implemented throughout California. The result is a comprehensive searchable internet database. NRPI is an expansion of previous inventories including the Watershed Projects Inventory (WPI), the California Ecological Restoration Projects Inventory (CERPI), and the California Noxious Weed Control Projects Inventory.

One hundred and seventeen (!) OC projects are listed on the site ( Projects range from region-wide (e.g. Santa Ana River watershed) to localized (e.g. lower Aliso Creek, upper Serrano Creek). The primary goal of most is to improve water quality: ground water, surface water, and/or ocean/bay discharge. Most include removal of non-natives and revegetation and restoration of native habitat as part of achieving that goal. ACTION NOW: If you live within project’s area, OCCNPS’ Conservation Dept. would be delighted if you’d be OCCNPS’ representative in the process and contact for the agencies involved. Each of these projects is an opportunity for OCCNPS to promote and encourage proper use of natives and restoration methods. And to make the agencies aware that we are here and we care about preserving and restoring native plants and habitat. Contact Celia to get started.

Update on Harbors Beaches & Parks Stakeholders Advisory Committee (HBP SAC):

  • Conservation Chair Celia Kutcher represents OCCNPS on HBP SAC’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) for Natural Resource Management/Environmental Stewardship (one of six TACs). The Natural Resource…Committee met on Aug. 29; the key question was: How can HBP more effectively manage its many acres of open space and habitat?
  • The next full meeting of HBP SAC is tentatively set for Sept. 21, at which the six TACs’ findings and recommendations will be used to develop strategies or strategic directions for HBP’s goals.

Kristi Lazar is the new CNPS Rare Plant Botanist. Kristi has an M.S. from UC Davis and a B.S. in Conservation Biology, summa cum laude and with honors, from Sacramento State University. She has a deep interest in rare plants, and has worked on rare plant species in vernal pools statewide and in other habitats mostly in Central California. Welcome, Kristi!

Trabuco District: The Cleveland National Forest is in the midst of a “Motorized Route Inventory” process. According to the District Ranger:

  • The existing Wildomar OHV (Off-Highway Vehicles) area will be the only Forest-Service-approved one in the District.
  • All “outlaw” OHV routes outside the Wildomar site will be closed and rehabilitated.
  • All Forest roads will continue to be open to street-legal vehicles.
  • District staff is well aware of the rare plant populations along North Main Divide Road and other roads, and uses road-maintenance procedures that avoid them.
  • The Inventory process will include mapping and an environmental analysis—and a public comment period—in 2007; rehabilitation work will begin in fall 2008, once mapping is complete.

Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair

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



Visit, Local Chapters, to find trips offered by other chapters throughout the state.

Check the SCB website:


Crystal Cove State Park

Guided Backcountry Walks most Saturdays and Sundays. Meet at 9 AM at the El Moro Visitor Center. Parking is $10. 949.494.3539

The Donna O’Neill Land Conservancy

For information about events, reservations, and directions, contact Laura Cohen or Michelle Thames at 949.489.9778 or visit

Laguna Coast Wilderness

Open to the public every day from 7:30 AM to 4 PM. Maps provided for self-guided tours. Docent-led tours Saturdays. Parking $3. Call 949.494.9352 or visit

Irvine Ranch Land Reserve

For walks in the Northern and Southern Reserves call The Nature Conservancy at 714.832.7478. Visit for a complete list.

Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park

The Orange County Natural History Museum is located at the entrance to the park, 949.831.2790.

Thomas Riley Regional Park

For more information call 949.728.3420