Newsletter 2001 July – August

California Native Plant Society

Orange County Chapter Newsletter

July/August 2001


Sample Snippets from Casual Conversations—Santa Ana Mountain Field Trip, June 9, 2001

“Wait! Back up. What is that?” Just across from the middle of a normal hillside grouping of White Sage there is a plant that looks a lot like Salvia apiana but has whorls of pink/purple flowers, like a Purple Sage (Salvia leucophylla). Hmmm. Stop the caravan, sprint up the hill for a closer inspection. The foliage smells like white sage, but the flowers are definitely not. Grab a couple whorls for later inspection at lunch a bit down the road.

At lunch: “I really think it’s an inter-grade between apiana and leucophylla”
“Are you sure its not clevelandii?”
“No. Too pink, and the smell!”
“No, I mean you sure its not crossed with clevelandii…”
“Well, Yeah. It could be but…” A mystery begins.

It’s fun to go on a field trip with butterfly, bird, and rock folks. You learn a lot about things other than plants. You also learn how much you need to brush up on the local flora! Lee Shoemaker, Larry Shaw and the people associated with the Orange County Natural History Museum, invited us to join a caravan in the Santa Ana Mountains, through Oak Woodland, Riparian, Coastal Sage Scrub, and Chaparral plant communities. Of course we quickly became a resource and we were often questioned about the local plants, many of which were still in bloom.

That oft repeated phrase, (and a few responses)…

“What is that? Keckiella cordifolia‘s lipstick red tubular flowers hang from the lower branches of a small tree, the native Flowering Ash, Fraxinus dipetala.

What is that?!” Bush Poppy (Dendromecon rigida) still in bloom, a yellow avalanche sliding down a road cut.
“What is that??!!” The fire follower, Golden Ear-drops (Dicentra chrysantha) is over head-high and still has one fresh blossom left.

What is that?!??!!!!!” Such exuberance would have been saved for the Mariposa Lily (Calochortus weedii) with a lovely rose blush around the edge of the petals. Wow!

At each stop there was more to see and a chance to discuss what we had passed by.

“Did you see where I pointed?”
“Purple, low to the ground, in full bloom?”
“Yeah, what was it?”
“Foothill Penstemon.”

“I know this one….”
A pause, then “Fried Egg plant!”
Ouch! What a rude name for Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri), such a regal flower, in full bloom on many a hillside and canyon bottom.

Driving along, gazing at the thickly cloaked sides of the passing canyons. “You know, I don’t think I realized how much Romneya there was out here.” If not in bloom it is easy to miss, tucked in with all the other Chaparral plants, but when it is blooming that bright white flower the size of a small plate on a plant five or six feet tall, it’s hard to miss!

“What Manzanita was that?”
“Looked like glandulosa, I thought I saw a basal burl.”
“Wasn’t it glauca that had the burl?”
“No, named after Alice Eastwood. Common name is Eastwood Manzanita. It has a curvy burl, like a curvy girl—that’s how I remember.”

“Is this Ceanothus crassifolius or megacarpus?”
“The blooms were white three weeks ago….”
“They are both white. Are the leaves alternate or opposite? crassifolius if opposite, megacarpus if alternate”.
“OK, it’s crassifolius.”

“What grass do you think that is?” We could see them from a long distance away—panicles about three feet tall and the foliage taking on a golden cast.
“Stop at the next plant near the road and I’ll grab a bit.”
Jump back inside, slam the door and take off. I look down at the grass. “Hmmmm….” Stumped for the moment.
“Grasses! Where is Fred Roberts when you need him?”

“So we have all three of them!” Referring to the arrival of the Anise Swallowtail Butterfly above a broad Scrub Oak. It joins a Western and a Pale Swallowtail in a spiraling dance upward for a few precious minutes.

On the side of the road we are looking at the Clematis “puffs” that spill over the tops of various shrubs, also enjoying the Mountain Mahogany when we hear, “Hey, this isn’t a Manzanita is it?”
“Maybe a Jojoba.”
One of the Silk-tassel bushes, without any tassels, and really only the tiniest skeletal remains of its last blooms, proves a bit difficult at first. Was it Garrya fremontii or veatchii? Margin of leaf, slightly rolled under—veatchii(?).

“Look at those Dudleyas!” On the rocky canyon wall facing us, almost a quarter mile away, are Chalk Dudleyas (Dudleya pulverulenta) so big their coke bottle green leaves are recognized from quite a distance.

Seated under the shade of a Live Oak for lunch, a grassland stretches uphill behind us.
“This was full of wildflowers when we came through here a couple weeks ago.” So we prowl around and find much of what you might expect but never tire of, including the graceful Purple Needlegrass, cheerful Golden Stars, intense Purple Larkspur, soft and curiously fragrant Owl’s Clover, diminutive Wine Cup Clarkia, satiny Blue-eyed Grass, and the bright red of Indian Pink.

Entering on the northern side and exiting on the south at Black Star Canyon, we saw a lot of the Santa Ana Mountains. It was quite a day of exploration (and we are planning on repeating it next year about a month earlier). A great range of plants, insects and birds, good companions, an unhurried pace, covering miles of Orange County that few really get to see. What a day!

Have a great summer and we hope to see you at next year’s field trips!

Dan Songster


Seven grants were awarded to students and teachers whose projects reflected an interest in fostering California native flora.

Three elementary school teachers in the county were awarded ACORN GRANTS of $150 each. Sandy Gravely of Top of the World School in Laguna Beach used the funds for purchasing native plants for the school’s natural habitat garden, to help defray expenses for a field trip to the Living Desert Museum in Palm Desert, and for an Earth Day seed packet project. From Sandy:

“Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the Acorn Grant and to be awarded $150 to continue our environmental and native plant work.
“Courtney’s E.A.R.T.H. Group placed in the top 15% of the nation in the Sea World/Busch Gardens Environmental Excellence Award and their project made it to Washington, D.C. Our native garden is flourishing and being enjoyed by all who visit the area. The students had a wonderful field trip to the Living Desert and were surprised to recognize several coastal natives along with those native to desert conditions. They learned how important native plants were to the American Indians and how insects and animals continue to depend on them.
“Due to Earth Day falling on a Sunday during our Spring break, we celebrated Top of the World Earth Day on June 14. The seeds the group gathered and prepared into packets were distributed to each class along with a native oak tree seed which they planted in small pots. They also performed an environment play called, “Be Kind to Your Mother Earth.” Next year the students are planning on gathering only native seeds to distribute on Earth Day.”

John Wes Robinson, 5th grade student at Top of the World wrote about their field trip to Tree of Life Nursery:
“It was on a sunny afternoon last November that Courtney’s E.A.R.T.H. Group took a field trip to Tree of Life Nursery. It is a nursery devoted solely to plants that are native to California. It’s always a fun trip because it is not like any other plant store. The buildings are made of straw bales, there are dogs running free and it really seems more like a farm.
”Our group of thirteen gathered around a large flat trailer on which there were about 50 small potted plants. Our host, Abbey, told us about the nine different varieties of native plants she had picked out for us and what was special about each one. Six of the plants will become small shrubs to attract butterflies: bladderpod, mugwort, black sage, chemise, goldenbush, and wild buckwheat. We are especially excited to transplant the wild buckwheat in our garden at school because it attracts skipper butterflies which are endangered. Another shrub called coyote bush will grow large and provide shelter for birds, bees, reptiles, and small mammals. We got tiny transplants of a tree called toyon which can grow up to fifteen feet tall; it will provide shade and berries. A lot of us chose the wild rose because it is a plant we all recognize. Abbey gave all of us one gallon pots and we were allowed to choose three plants to transplant into a special soil mix and take with us. One of the adults asked how many field trips Tree of Life has each year and Abbey said we were the only ones! We could hardly believe it because it is so much fun to go there!”

Valencia Elementary Science Specialist Chris Fox wrote: “Some elementary schools have gardens for the students to observe vegetables grow from seed to fruit. But with the southern Californian climate on the dry side, keeping the gardens watered requires a consistent and adequate supply. Valencia Elementary [in the Saddleback District] transformed a plot of soil next to a portable classroom to show how California native plants survive and thrive on natural watering. With help from the Acorn Grant, the friendly people at Tree of Life Nursery, and the knowledgeable Dan Songster, I gathered a collection of natives that the students would find interesting and beautiful. The next challenge was preparing the site. A volunteer master gardener, Judy Volpi, hauled several loads of decomposed granite to the school to create a gently sloping area adjacent to the portable. The curious looking plants were placed on the mounds with informational cards nearby. This project will be not only be helpful in educating young children and their parents about California Native Plants, but also other science specialists in the district.”

Pam Patten, a third grade teacher at Clegg Elementary School in Huntington Beach enhanced the school garden area with native plants as part her science program. She reports that the Acorn Grant gave her students the opportunity to become actively involved in planting a garden at the school. “…Since we have been studying California, your gift helped us purchase some California native plants and become more involved in understanding how precious their protection is in this rapidly growing state….”

Amber Benjamin, a student at Saddleback Community College, undertook the large task of mapping and labeling all the native plants in the outdoor classroom butterfly garden. She received a $500 HORTICULTURE GRANT. From Amber:
“In mid April I submitted a grant proposal to the California Native Plant Society for help with completion of our butterfly garden at Saddleback College. Fortunately I was able to receive the aid, which has allowed me to diligently start my way to building a bigger and better understanding of what our outdoor classroom is. Scott Harmon, the project supervisor, along with Dr. Lee Waian and I, have taken on the extensive task of completing a plant species key and map of the entire garden. To keep everyone up to date we have recently labeled all the species with numbers and are working with some computer graphic designers for the permanent sign labels. Due to the fact that we are introducing so many new species of plants to the garden every week the map hasn’t been completed. We have been saving a lot of money by rooting the growth of new plants in the greenhouse instead of purchasing potted plants. With the help of the CNPS and all the environmental studies students at Saddleback College we have turned this unused land into preserved ecosystems which exhibit not only a place for studies, but infinite possibilities for growth. I encourage everyone to stop by the out door classroom at Saddleback College [28000 Marguerite Parkway, Mission Viejo] and witness not only the commitment from the environmental students/staff but the beautiful blooming native landscape and dancing butterflies.”

Three CHARLIE O’NEILL GRANTS were awarded. Peter Scherr, student in environmental studies at California State University, Fullerton, was awarded $800 to support his comprehensive analysis of temporal loss in Orange County riparian areas. Peter reports:

“I am about 75% complete. All my research is done, and I am currently writing the analysis of the findings.… Basically what I have found backs up my thesis that temporal loss in Southern California riparian zones occurs naturally on a vast scale compared to loss incurred from development and agricultural activities. I used archival aerial photography to show riparian areas before and after the two chosen years of 1940 and 1977. These years were chosen because of extremely high precipitation totals (over 30 inches per year) compared to the norm (approximately 14 inches per year). The high rainfall totals caused abnormally high flow levels through the major riparian zones studied. The high flows subsequently caused the destruction of the associated riparian vegetation. I looked at aerial photography for the years directly preceding and following the study year, 1939 and 1941 for the 1940 focus year, for instance. I then measured the total acreage of riparian vegetation for the same area from the 1939 photograph compared to the 1941 photograph and subtracted the difference to determine the amount of temporal loss. The study areas are portions of the Arroyo Trabuco, the San Juan Creek, and the San Mateo Creek. The grant from CNPS was extremely helpful as the archival photography cost well in excess of $1000. I am currently gathering information on the amount of temporal loss incurred, in the same general area, from development activities. Hopefully, the results will be used to help make riparian area mitigation as effective and cost-efficient as possible.”

Keith Vogelsang, Ph.D candidate at UCI, was awarded $500 to support his research into the factors that allow for exotic invasion of Orange County’s coastal sage scrub and grasslands. Laurie Clarke, who is working toward her M.S. in Biology at California State University, Fullerton, received $500 in support of her investigation into the pollination and invasive capabilities of Artichoke Thistle. Both are still hard at work in the midst of their projects.

Our TRAVELERS GRANT sends a deserving individual or two to a native plant workshop, symposium, or other educational opportunity. This year’s grant was awarded to Scott Harmon and Todd Heinsma who attended the “Out of the Wild, Into the Garden” symposium in May at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.


For more information on any of these events or to make reservations, call or e-mail Sarah Jayne at (949) 552-0691 or Non-members are welcome to join any of these activities. Most activities are free of charge.

REMINDER—there are NO chapter meetings in July and August!


Our July fieldtrip:

SUGAR LOAF MOUNTAIN—Saturday, July 14, 10:30 A.M. to ??

Sugar Loaf Mountain lies at the eastern end of the San Bernardino Mountains, where Pinyon Pines meet Lodgepole and Jeffrey Pines. The trail winds up past wet meadows through Pine, Fir and Juniper forests, towards the ridgeline. There are close to 100 native plant species to be seen. Knowledgeable people familiar with the area will help us spot them. Bring along your copy of “Wildflowers of the San Bernandino Mountains” if you have one.

As a wonderful addition, we have been invited to stay overnight at a lovely, secluded mountain cabin in the Green Valley Lake area where there are meadows, canyons, waterfalls and old logging roads to be explored. We may either “camp out” on foam mattresses on a carpeted floor or sleep outside under the stars. All amenities are available. Those planning to stay overnight will need to bring water for both drinking and cooking and food for two lunches, supper and breakfast (perhaps we can get together on a pot-luck type supper). For the day excursion only, bring water and lunch. Please let us know as soon as possible if you are choosing the overnight option. Our kind and generous hosts need to know how many to expect.

Directions: Take the Riverside Freeway (91) to Interstate 10 at Colton. Go east for about 6 miles and look for the exit to Hwy 30 and 38 in Redlands. You want to get onto Hwy 38—a little tricky, but vigilance pays off. Go through Mentone, past Heart Bar, and past Forest Road 2N93.2. Continue on Hwy 38 over Onyx Summit. Turn left on Forest Road 2N93.1. On your right is Lakewood Dr. The intersection of Hwy 38 and Forest Road 2N93.1 (Green Canyon) is the meeting place. This is the Big Bear end of Forest Road 2N93. Last year, we went to the wrong end and never met up with our guides! Driving time from Orange County is about 2 ½ hours. Try to arrive no later than 10:30 A.M.


Crystal Cove State Park:

Docent-led walks are available every weekend. Call (949) 497-7647 for more information.

Laguna Coast Wilderness, Irvine Company Open Space Reserve:

The James Dilley Preserve: 8 A.M. and 2 P.M., every Saturday.
Docent-led walks every weekend in Laguna Coast Wilderness.
Wilderness Access Days on the first and third Sundays each month. Call (949) 494-9352, for information or reservations.

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.

Rancho Mission Viejo Land Conservancy:

Call Laura Cohen at (949) 489-9778 for information on scheduled activities.

“Bush tits remind me of a herd of teenagers: they burst into a house chatting together, eat everything in sight, then leave.”

—David Fross, Birds in the Garden