Newsletter 2007 November – December

California Native Plant Society

Orange County Chapter

November/December 2007



A leaf fell into my patio last week. It was from a Coast Live Oak and there are no Coast Live Oak trees near my house. This leaf was singed and blistered so it must have come from the Santiago Fire, sent high into the sky by the hot air, where it wafted about for days before slowly drifting back to earth amid the ashes of chamise and ceonothus, deerweed and sage brush, manzanita, purple sage and black sage and white sage, miles from its place of origin.

This leaf could be a symbol of regeneration and renewal for our wildlands—if long and gentle rains come to soothe and heal the hurt earth. We can only hope, and help where help is appropriate.

—Sarah Jayne, President



November 1………………………………………… Board Meeting November 3-4………………………………… RSABG Plant Sale November 10…………………….. Golden West Planting Day November 15……………………………………. Chapter Meeting December 6………………………………………… Board Meeting December 8………….. Chapter Council meeting, Berkeley December 20……………………………………. Chapter Meeting

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

Chapter meetings are held at The Duck Club, Riparian View, 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 to the Duck Club:

Driving south on the 405, exit on Jamboree and turn right. Turn left on Michelson, the first signal. Stay on Michelson. At the 3rd signal turn right onto Riparian View. Pass the IRWD water treatment plant. Follow signs to Audubon House and the Duck Club.

Driving north on the 405, exit on Culver and turn left. At the second signal, which is Michelson, turn right. Continue on Michelson to the third signal, Riparian View, turn left toward the IRWD treatment plant and follow signs to The Duck Club. [Thomas Guide to Orange County, page 859 J-7]



Thursday, November 15—Flowers and Fire Storms: A Look at Some of the Lands and Plants Burned in the October 2007 Fire Storm in San Diego County

Speaker: Fred Roberts

At 9:23 on Sunday morning, October 22, the Harris Fire started southeast of San Diego and burned 500 acres in its first three hours. So began the fire storm that burned 350,000 acres in San Diego County within a week, most in the first few days. The lands burned contribute to one of the highest plant species diversities in the U.S. Fire itself is an important factor in our wildlands and many species are well adapted to survive it. In 2000 and 2001, our speaker, Fred Roberts, had the opportunity to conduct rare plant surveys on thousands of acres of land conserved under the San Diego County Multiple Species Conservation Plan (MSCP). Many of these lands burned in the Witch and Harris Fires. Join our speaker tonight as he provides an overview of the 2007 fires, and takes you on a before- and after-the-fire tour of these reserve lands and the vegetation communities and interesting plants found there.

Fred Roberts is an undisputed expert in native plants in our region. He developed an interest in our Orange County native flora at an early age and by high school was out in our local wildlands collecting, pressing and cataloging the local native plants. A long time CNPS member, Fred Roberts was here when our chapter started in the early 1980s and has shared Rare Plant duties with Dave Bramlet for many years. Fred is currently a free-lance botanical consultant, speaker, artist, and author.

Thursday, December 20—It’s Your Turn!

Share some of your favorite photos of native plants—in the wild or in the garden, local or anywhere in the world. Bring ten to fifteen, or twenty if they’re spectacular. These could be a plant you’d like to have identified (no guarantees), one you’ve seen out of its known range, an interesting plant/bird/insect relationship, good field trip shots, just a lovely picture, or a slide that makes you laugh! We’ll have equipment for both the slide and digital formats. Digital photos can be brought on a zip drive.

If you don’t have pictures you’d like to share, come and enjoy the variety and surprises. We’ll have some plants for sale and some to trade. (I have surplus St. Catherine’s Lace in my garden, for example.) There will be new books and other items for last minute gifts.

Your board members will be providing an especially tasty and festive spread on the hospitality table. So give yourself a break from the busyness of the season and join us for a light-hearted and relaxing evening.



Golden West College Native Garden

Saturday, November 10, 9 AM to 1 PM

Join Garden Co-Directors Dan Songster and Rod Wallbank for an enjoyable day among the plants, soil, boulders, (and people), that make up this unique Garden. With last year’s record dry winter the Garden needs help! If you have never volunteered for such a project, you don’t know what you’re missing. As usual, we are expecting a mixed group: Faculty from the Science Department of Golden West, other interested College staff, CNPS people, students, and Friends of the Garden. So join the fun!

Work will begin at 9:00 AM and will involve planting in several areas of the Garden including on some inclines. (If you haven’t planted on a slope before, come and learn how.) We may also be preparing some areas and sowing wildflower seeds.

Planting and watering will be finished around Noon at which time we will enjoy a lunch provided by the Garden.

Rain Notice: If it rains that day or a day or two earlier, causing muddy conditions, the planting day will be moved to the following Saturday, November 17.

Directions: (Or type the address into MapQuest) Take Beach Blvd. north off the 405 Freeway. Immediately running into McFadden; turn left. Follow McFadden to Golden West Street; turn left again. Take the first legal left-turn off Golden West Street into the parking lot and drive across the lot towards the Automotive Technology Building, parking as close to the campus as possible. For those familiar with the campus the Garden is on the West side of the Math Science Building. After parking follow the small signs & arrows to the Garden.

Important Notice: Golden West College has a Swap-Meet on weekends that does involve the Golden West Street Parking Lot, so it is important to know that parking is sometimes difficult and you may have to park toward the northern end of the Golden West Street Lot.

Address: Golden West College, 15744 Golden West Street, Huntington Beach (92647)

Bring your favorite shovel, pair of gloves, sun-block, comfortable work shoes, and smile.

Questions? More details? Call Dan at home (949)768.0431 or Email him at




OCCNPS is very glad that the Santiago Fire caused no fatalities and that so few houses were lost. The burn area encompasses all of Limestone/Whiting Wilderness Parks, the Loma Ridge portion of the Irvine Conservancy, the nature reserve portion of the Great Park, and the slopes and canyons (Modjeska, Harding, Williams, Santiago) in the Trabuco District (Cleveland National Forest) across Santiago Creek from Loma Ridge. Go to and for links to maps.

The two main post-fire issues: 1) how to recover from this fire, 2) how best to prepare for the next one and fires beyond that.

  1. Recovering from this fire:

The burn area’s native vegetation—mostly coastal sage-scrub and chaparral—is adapted to fire and will heal itself if left alone. Considerable research over the past decade or so has repeatedly shown that the best “restoration effort” is to DO NOTHING.

See for lots of excellent advice and illustrations on the best ways to slow post-fire erosion, preferably with some simple erosion-control measures using onsite vegetation remnants. Straw bales, etc, don’t work as well, and are likely to be contaminated with non-native weed seeds, which sprout rapidly with the first rain and crowd out the slower-sprouting native grasses, wildflowers and shrubs. And the trampling that accompanies installation of erosion-control measures breaks the post-burn soil crusts, leading to more extensive erosion. The site also has straight-on explanations of why not to do any “restoration”, and how doing anything only damages the land’s ability to heal itself.

See also for links to post-fire information for property owners.

  1. Preparing for the next one and beyond:

As Richard Halsey ( wrote in the San Diego Union Tribune (October 31, 2007) there is “…no one answer to reducing fire threat.” But it is clear from the references below that too much fire clearing leads to more-frequent fires, which lead to type conversion of chaparral and coastal sage-scrub to weedy grasses and other flashy fuels, which in turn leads to even more frequent fires. has an extensive list of references and web links on wildfires and their aftermath, assembled after the massive 2003 San Diego County fires, that is very pertinent to the aftermath of this year’s even more massive fires. Comments from the website, based on CNPS San Diego Chapter’s investigation of the issues:

  • Brush control zones are already as wide as they need to be, based on scientific research into how and why buildings burn. The research shows that radiant heat from burning material acts over a very short distance in terms of directly igniting a building.
  • The term “brush control zone” is deceptive, because it encourages homeowners to think that native plants are the only danger. They then tend to overlook combustible materials such as wood piles, awnings, wood fences, wooden decks and outbuildings, and ornamental plants–all of which can ignite a susceptible house.
  • Houses (which are dry) burn more easily than irrigated landscaping (which is wet).
  • Burning embers are a major cause of structure fires; embers can fly from hundreds of yards away, much farther than the brush control zone.
  • Vegetation management requires annual maintenance and expense, whereas fire-resistant building design lasts for many years.
  • Tile roofs alone are not sufficient for fire resistance. A house should also have fire-resistant siding, enclosed eaves, screened attic vents, properly designed windows, and nonflammable decks, fences and outbuildings.
  • After each major fire, task forces are organized and come up with recommendations to reduce the chances that lives and property will be lost to fire. While some recommendations are implemented, the important ones–the location, design and construction of homes–have been always been deferred.

Urban-Wildland Interface Fire Safety (May 2005) from the Orange Co. Fire Authority (OCFA) advises that “…residents … in the Urban-Wildland Interface area can … protect themselves from … devastating wildland fire. … [by reducing] the amount of dead or dying fuels (vegetation) from around their homes. This does not necessarily mean all vegetation should be removed. In fact, having fire-resistant plants and trees around your home, that are properly trimmed and well-watered, can serve as a fire break.” Among OCFA’s tips:

  • Clear all dead or flammable vegetation at least 30 feet from structures.
  • Thin vegetation within the next 70 feet and replace with fire-resistant plants; see for a list of natives that are on OCFA’s fire-resistant list.
  • Space trees and shrubs at least 10 feet apart.
  • For trees taller than 18 feet, remove branches within 6 feet of the ground.
  • On slopes or near thick, tall vegetation, clear a space at least 100 feet from all structures.

Lessons From the October 2003 Wildfires in Southern California, Jon E. Keeley et al, 2004,, finds that periodic massive wildland fires have always been and always will be a part of life in southern California. The best way to live with them is to plan and engineer for them in the same way as for earthquakes. One example of such planning is to avoid interfingering development and wildlands.

Dan Silver of the Endangered Habitats League (Endangered Habitats News,, Oct. 27, 2007) points out that firefighting expense is borne by the state, not the local governments that permit building ever farther into wildlands. One wonders if local governments would be as willing to thus extend the Urban-Wildland Interface if they bore the full cost of defending it from fire.

[For a list of native plants for fuel modification, visit the Tree of Life website, INVOLVEMENT, Firestorm 2007 – Resources, Fuel Modification OC.pdf or from the home page, click on News.]


The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is the best tool we have to prevent plant and animal species from going extinct. And the protection it gives to specific species also protects the species’ habitats–and all the other plants and animals in those habitats.

The current administration is continuing its ongoing efforts to gut ESA, so that more mining, drilling and other development can be allowed in habitats crucial for endangered species’ survival. The current push is to make it more difficult to protect critical habitat needed for species’ recovery. This is a very serious threat to all that enviros work for.

The Center for Biological Diversity has made “Take Back the Act” a major priority. It has received a $250,000 matching challenge grant for this urgent campaign, and is seeking donations to match the grant by Dec. 31. ACTION NOW: contact to make a donation toward the matching grant.

SANTIAGO CREEK: A series of community workshops was recently held to help decide the future of 68 ACRES of open space along Santiago Creek in East Orange. Known as the Sully-Miller property, it is a major wildlife corridor and has the potential to become an incredible neighborhood nature park, with a creek full of frogs, trail opportunities, world-class birding, lots of tranquil space, and an undeveloped floodplain. ACTION NOW: contact to be part of the next steps in, and to add a voice for native plants and habitat to, the planning process.

—Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair



Plant Science Training Program, 2008

Mar 4-5, Rare Plant Surveys, San Diego County: Fred Roberts, Michele Balk

Mar 25-27, Vegetation Rapid Assessment, Jasper Ridge:
Todd Keeler-Wolf, Julie Evens, Nick Jensen

April 14-16, Vernal Pool Plant Taxonomy, UC Davis and Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley vernal pools: Carol Witham, Ellen Dean, Jennifer Buck.

May 4-5, Weed Identification, Ecology, and Invasions: Joe Di Tomaso, et al, location tba

May 20-22, Wetland Plants of the Lower Sacramento Valley: Virginia Dains, Bob Holland, and Captain Tule

For more information visit CNPS state website at or call or email Josie Crawford at 916 -447-2677 or Discounts for members.


Thanks to Richard Schilk and Joan Hampton, our Field Trip Committee has been revitalized. If you’d like to propose a field trip, lead a field trip, or offer input, please contact either of these two enthusiastic people. Contact information is on the back of the newsletter.

Please visit our website for a listing of scheduled walks in our local parks.