Newsletter 2007 July – August

California Native Plant Society

Orange County Chapter

July/August 2007



A Grand Celebration…

…was our June meeting, with a walk in the wildlife sanctuary, superb food, tempting raffle prizes, a suspenseful silent auction, and lght-hearted presentation. The whole thing was the brainchild of Dan Songster. Laura Camp put together the auction and raffle items. Elizabeth Songster masterminded and rustled the food. Many pitched in to help set up tables and chairs, bring platters of food to the tables, and put everything away afterwards. I, who did little to help with the planning and preparations, participated eagerly (and successfully) in the silent auction. I was also touched and honored by the presentation to me of the first Native Perennial Award. Many thanks to you all.

Another high point of the spring was our garden tour on May 12. Through our collaboration with Sea and Sage Audubon, we reached a wide audience for our varied and beautiful gardens. Susan Sheakley was my invaluable partner and we look forward to working together on the 2008 garden tour, set for May 3. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Visit our booth at the Orange County Fair. We will be in the Flower Pavilion from Tuesday, July 17 through Sunday, July 22. Native Plants in Containers will be our theme this year. If you would like to staff our booth for a couple of hours, you will get a free ticket to the fair and free (off-site) parking. The hours are 12 – 8, Tuesday through Friday and 10 – 8 Saturday and Sunday. (Note: the fair doesn’t close until midnight.) Let me know—

Out there where the rain didn’t fall and nobody comes along with a watering can, it’s looking like late summer already. Nevertheless, nature is taking its course. There’s monkeyflower blooming, laurel sumac about to flower, lemonadeberry fruits ripening, and bladderpod always showing off. Dry, yes, but the sycamores didn’t get the fungus disease this year. We’re missing a few flowers; the sage brush and black sage are in full dormancy, but there’s always the hope that next year will be better.

—Sarah Jayne, President




July 12………………………………………………… Board Meeting July 17 – 22………………………………….. Orange County Fair September 6………………………………………… Board Meeting September 8……….. Chapter Council meeting, Santa Cruz September 20……………………………………. Chapter Meeting October 6…………………………………………….. Fall Plant Sale

Weed and Seed:

Thursdays 10-1…………………………………………. UCI Arboretum

Any day, 8:30-noon……………………………………….. Fullerton Arb

2nd Saturday…………………………………………. Irvine Open Space

3rd Saturday………………………………………………….. Bolsa Chica

4th Saturday……………………………….. Upper Newport Back Bay

There are no chapter meetings in July and August.


Project BudBurst

Well, it’s too late to participate this year, but this is an interesting project. Essentially, people across the nation looked at certain flowers, trees, or shrubs and recorded the time of the first leafing out or flowering. The purpose is to compile current data and compare it to historical records to look for trends in climate change.

Project BudBurst would be great for a classroom activity, scout groups gardening clubs, botanical gardens—in short, any group “with an interest in contributing to a socially and scientifically relevant research study.” The website, ( has lots of with interesting information and helpful guides, all of which can be downloaded. Take a look.


Field Trips

Our trip down the San Juan Trail on May 19 was highly successful in that the Pickeringia was right where it was supposed to be: halfway down. The lower part of the trail though, which on previous trips has been a chorus of flowers, was quiet. In addition, several of us discovered that the eleven-mile trek was a bit much on a warm day.

But field trips are the fun part of CNPS, when we actually go out to look at the native plants that we are dedicated to preserving, and here’s a fine opportunity for this summer—the Kern County chapter’s Sherman Pass wildflower triathlon. Their goal is to visit the same location once a month to catch the succession of flowering plants there. The June trip has already taken place, but it’s not too late to sign on for July 20/21 or August 17/18, with overnight camping at Horse Meadow. To see more about it, go to, click on Local Chapters, view the list of chapters. Choose Kern County then click on This Site, and Field Trips. Scroll to the end (of their amazing list of field trips) and there you have it. Better yet, contact Steve Hampson at or Lucy Clark at

Would you like to help plan our field trips for 2008? We like to sit down together in early January to decide where we’d like to go and when. Your input at any time would be most welcome. Contact any of us to express your interest.



ORANGE COUNTY PARKS: At their May 1 meeting, OC’s Board of Supervisors again addressed the Harbors, Beaches and Parks Department’s (HBP) draft Strategic Plan. The draft contained recommendations that were the compilation of an extensive consultant-run program to get public and stakeholder-group input on how to improve HBP’s functioning. The supervisors again disregarded many of these recommendations, and instead set up an ad-hoc committee of Supervisors Campbell and Norby to work with staff for final recommendations on HBP Strategic Plan issues. In addition, new Supervisor Moorlach presented his ideas about divesting the county’s parks and turning them over to the adjacent cities or to nonprofit conservancies to be funded and managed. The supervisors did discuss ways in which such divestiture could be done to ensure that the land stays preserved in perpetuity. They all seemed to agree that OC natural open spaces are a great and unique asset.

OCCNPS’ position, stated at the meeting, is that OC’s natural open space would be best preserved by a countywide parks department that is well staffed, well funded, and independent within county government. We wonder why the supervisors spent taxpayers’ money to do the Strategic Plan if they weren’t going to be open to following the plan’s recommendations.

CHINO-PUENTE HILLS: The battle continues for the 8,700-acre “Missing Middle,” which would link 4,000 acres of preserved open space in Whittier with the 13,000 acres of Chino Hills State Park. This linkage would complete a corridor of trails and pathways extending from the San Gabriel River in Los Angeles County to Temecula in Riverside County. What a gift to the future such a linkage of natural lands would be! Hills for Everyone, which successfully spearheaded the preservation of what is now Chino Hills State Park, is leading the effort to preserve the “Missing Middle” linkage. See for background and maps. At stake now:

  • The most important wildlife crossing remaining to be protected at Tonner Canyon.
  • The $45 million investment in land acquisition for habitat that Whittier has assembled over 25 years, that still needs a functional wildlife corridor to fulfill its purpose.

Action Now: Join the next Rally for the Ridgelines; contact for date and location, and for their latest e-Newsletter.

SAN MATEO CREEK/MARSH: Good news recently in the long battle to keep the proposed 241 toll road from being built through the San Mateo portion of San Onofre State Beach!

In May, two great victories:

  • The House Armed Services Committee passed legislation that assures that the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) will be held accountable to California’s environmental laws.
  • The State Appellate Court ruled that the three lawsuits against the toll road will be heard in Superior Court in San Diego County, since San Onofre State Beach is located in San Diego County. TCA had tried to have the lawsuits heard in Orange County, expecting a more favorable hearing.

American Rivers’ River Alert has named San Mateo Creek as one of their 10 most endangered rivers for 2007. See

The South OC Chapter of Surfrider Foundation recently published a Save Trestles Campaign Update, * SPECIAL FOOT IN MOUTH EDITION *. Ask to send it to you, it’s a great chortle!

Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair


Pitcher Plants of the Americas: A Couch Potato Book Review

—Joan R. Hampton

What’s not to love about pitcher plants? Their structure and function is so exotic that they must have originated as spores dropped to earth by an invading, extraterrestrial civilization. Furthermore, they have the disgusting and utterly fascinating habit of trapping, drowning and digesting insects, mice and small, furry rodents. Cool!

When OC CNPS Newsletter Editor Sarah Jayne asked me to review this book, I raised an eyebrow and asked whether it had any pictures. As it happens, the book has 245 of ‘em, half- or full page, all with crisp detail in full color.

While written for lay readers, the text covers everything that a botanist, ecologist, taxonomist or gardener would want to know about these fascinating plants.

Opening the book, several questions immediately came to mind: whether any carnivorous plants are native to our area, whether they are related to familiar plants of Orange County, and whether the well-known Venus Fly Trap is one of the pitcher plants.

These questions are all dealt with in the opening chapter, which presents an overview of carnivorous plants of the world. (All pitcher plants are carnivorous, but not all carnivorous plants are pitchers.) It describes the five groups of carnivorous plants, each representing a different order.

The Venus Fly Trap is not considered a pitcher plant because its trapping method is different; it uses the so-called “bear trap” method, smashing its hapless prey between its dainty little “hands,” i.e. leaves forming a small pair of hinged lobes.

There are two main genera of pitcher plants native to the United States, but none to Southern California. The species closest to our area is Darlingtonia californica, known as Cobra Lily because of its snake-like appearance. It occurs along the Pacific coast in Oregon and Northern California, favoring cool, humid, boggy environments. It belongs to the same order (Ericales) as manzanita, making it a very distant cousin.

There is one other genus of pitcher plants that is primarily found on the North American continent, mostly in southern Canada and the eastern United States: the Sarracenia, comprised of eight species (in contrast to the single Darlingtonia species). Both of these genera belong to the Sarraceniaceae (pitcher plant) family.

Trapping methods vary among pitcher plants, but the following is typical. Imagine a patio umbrella positioned over a very deep pit in the ground. In genera such as Sarracenia, a leaf forms a canopy over the opening of a hollow tube (the pitcher). Insects must crawl underneath the canopy (on the underside of the leaf) to reach the top of the tube. The attractants are nectar, an enticing odor (narcotic in some cases), and the colorful leaves. The footing is very waxy and slippery.

Some pitchers contain visual miscues to confuse the insect that is at the mouth of the trap. Looking upwards towards the back of the canopy (as seen from the inside) apparent daylight is an indication of a safe exit. But that “daylight” is actually (depending on the species) a translucent areola (pigment-free patch in Sarracenias) or a transparent fenestration (in Darlingtonia) admitting the light. Once inside the hollow tube, a waxy surface (or downward-pointing hairs in some species) prevents the victim from climbing out. It falls to the bottom where it drowns and is digested. Urrp!

In contrast to the Sarracenias, the mountainous terrain and rugged coastlines favored by the Darlingtonia have largely preserved it from the kinds of “urban, agricultural, and transportation development pressures” to which the former have been subjected. In the southeastern states, on the other hand, the Sarracenias have suffered severe habitat loss and in some cases are threatened with extinction. The biggest threat is loss of wetlands.

McPherson details the causes of habitat destruction and degradation. Some are obvious, such as artificial drainage of wetlands and commercial tree farming. But he also emphasizes the role of artificial fire suppression: “For the most part, wetland habitats naturally depend upon wildfires to periodically reduce undergrowth and forest cover and maintain an equilibrium between herbaceous, low growing plant species and dominant forest cover. Long-term wild-fire suppression has…enabled longer-lived, closed-canopy vegetation to become dominant which has directly caused the displacement of many wetland species.”

Along with poaching, another threat is the commercial collecting of the beautiful leaves of mature Sarracenias for the floral industry. McPherson elaborates: harvesting of leaves reduces the productivity of individual plants, removes organic matter and its nutrients from the ecosystem, and causes erosion as a consequence of human intrusion.

In areas where Sarracenias are growing beneath high-voltage power lines, utility companies used to mow the ground as a means of fire suppression. This was actually beneficial since woody shrubs were eliminated, benefiting smaller, herbaceous species. Unfortunately, mowing has been replaced with herbicide use, which kills pitcher plants, orchids and other native species. These are replaced by weeds and shrubs that thrive until the next chemical application.

What lessons can we draw from the pitcher plant? First, if you believe in reincarnation, do whatever it takes to avoid rebirth as an insect. Second, cultivation of pitcher plants might be an excellent educational tool for the classroom, appealing especially to the bloodthirsty instincts of many young children.

For readers who might want to try growing pitchers, the book lists a number of responsible nurseries. Most are in the United Kingdom, but there are two here on the west coast, one in the northern California city of Sebastopol, and the other in Eugene, Oregon.

In addition to the beautiful photographs, the book contains a glossary, bibliography and index.

Book details:

Author: Stewart McPherson

Title: Pitcher Plants of the Americas

Publisher: The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company

ISBN: 0-939923-74-2. Published in 2007. $34.95



UCI Arboretum

The sparse rains this year have had one good effect—there are many fewer weeds. That means that our Thursday Crew has time to do other, more fun, tasks as part of our support of the Arboretum. Upcoming: potting-up plants and light-duty clearing, all in preparation for new phases of Arboretum development that will be done this year. Come any time after 8 AM to work in the cool of the morning.

Job Opportunity

Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary is looking for a high-energy person to work part-time. Naturalist/biology background a plus. Duties include leading nature tours, gardening, feeding and cleaning animals/reptiles, cleaning and facility maintenance. Must be available weekends and some weekdays. Average 20 hrs/week. Team player required. $10/hr. Contact Karon Cornell at kcornell@Exchange.FULLERTON.EDU.