Newsletter 2001 May – June
California Native Plant Society
Orange County Chapter Newsletter
May, June 2001
May 17 (Thursday)—Plant Identification Workshop, 7:00 P.M.
As you know, this has been a fabulous year for our native flora. The late, abundant rains have generated lush growth and beautiful bloom. To assist you in naming the plants that you see in nature, we will bring in a sampling of many of the plant families and provide clues to their identification. And in case you don’t have an ID guide, we’ll have an assortment available for purchase among our books.
The plants will be grouped by habitat and family and labeled. If you have a mystery plant you have been unable to identify, bring it along. There will be a corner set up with a slide projector in case you have a few slides you would like to share. Fred Roberts will offer a mini lesson in identifying grasses. Liz Cooper will be on hand to present the case for butterflies.
Relaxed and informal, this is nevertheless a very informative evening. We’ll be ready to go as soon as the doors open at 7:00 P.M. This event will be held at our regular meeting place.
Chapter meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month at the Irvine Ranch Water District headquarters [except as noted below] at 15600 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine. Doors open at 7 P.M. and the meeting begins at 7:30. Wildflower posters and a wide variety of books are available at the meeting.
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, turn right on Waterworks and left into the parking lot. Enter the building from the rear.
June 21 (Thursday)—An evening at Golden West College Native Garden, 7:00 P.M.
“Wildflowers may be scattered across a natural landscape, but in gardens like these, it is more likely to find a concentration of them to defy probability, but not belief. The garden is a tribute to the wilderness …, and the sequence of surprises is such as nature itself might offer.” —Nigel Nicolson
This quote describes in large part the way my fellow Garden-creator, Rod Wallbank, and I view “our” garden at Golden West College. Although part of the original design, grading, and even some planting, was accomplished in 1975, we have been most actively engaged in redesigning, building, growing, and maintaining the Garden since 1986. The type of landscape we envisioned is one that borrows some design details and layout features from the landscape/ornamental horticulture world, but is a garden that mainly relies on a somewhat natural arrangement of the plants. It is ultimately saved from our blunders by the astounding interest and outright beauty inherent in California’s native plants themselves.
The general layout of the Garden is quite simple with several plant communities represented. Within each community we have attempted to create a garden that in some ways resembles a natural collection of these plants. We have not been overly strict about trying to copy nature’s intricate layout, and have left places for seasonal concentrations of color to thrive. These vibrant pools of color are especially lovely in the late afternoon, when the Orange County chapter of CNPS will take an intimate tour of the Garden. Certainly, many of the perennials will still be in bloom and it will be interesting to see how many annuals will somehow linger into June. Will our cool temperatures be over by then?
And so to the point: The Garden and OC-CNPS is hosting the June 21st general meeting of the Orange County Chapter of CNPS. (This is our fun way of wrapping up our general meetings until we return from summer dormancy in September). It will be a rather intimate tour since the Garden is a small one. Still, it is amazing how many plants can be slipped into an acre and a quarter, among such hardscape features as the glass house, amphitheater, pathways, and astronomy pad. It is also intriguing how much one can learn from a garden over a span of 15 years and how different both your successes and failures can be from other gardener’s experiences. We hope to share these experiences with our visitors, as well as outline future plans for the Garden.
The Garden is not finished yet, but the pathways are graded and we should have a lovely stroll. Come and sip some coffee or cocoa or nibble some cheese as we wind our way through this collection of textures, fragrances, and colors. We will be happy to welcome you to the Garden for an informative and hopefully inspiring visit. I hope you can all come!
Location: Golden West College, 15744 Golden West Street, Huntington Beach (92647)
Directions: 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 entrance as is possible. Evening classes will be in session but parking should not be a problem. In line with Golden West’s fabled hospitality, parking in the area described above will be “citation free” that night, allowing for free parking from 6:00pm on. Do not park in Staff slots, however.
After parking follow the small signs or a guide to the garden.
For further information please call Dan Songster at( 949) 768-0431
Grants Awarded for 2001…
Our chapter has awarded seven grants to students and teachers whose projects reflect 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. Chris Fox of the Saddleback School District is inaugurating a native garden at Valencia Elementary School as a model for the district. She purchased her plants at our spring plant sale at Tree of Life Nursery. Pam Patten, a third grade teacher at Clegg Elementary School in Huntington Beach will be enhancing the school garden area with native plants as part her science program.
Amber Benjamin, a student at Saddleback Community College, has undertaken the large task of mapping and labeling all the native plants in the outdoor classroom butterfly garden. She received $500 from the Horticulture Grant.
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. 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, has received $500 in support of her investigation into the pollination and invasive capabilities of Artichoke Thistle. We wish all of our grantees success with their projects.
Our Traveler’s Grant sends a deserving individual to a native plant workshop, symposium, or other educational opportunity. This year’s grant has been awarded to Scott Harmon, manager of the Outdoor Classroom native plant garden at Saddleback Community College. He will attend the “Out of the Wild, Into the Garden” Symposium at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.
Chapter’s Spring Sale at Tree of Life—WHAT A SALE!
The weather was outstanding, plants were at their best, birds chirped, coffee perked, as an enthused and informed public poured into the nursery and met our cheerful chapter volunteers who helped with plant selection, maintenance tips, planting techniques, and, of course, writing up the purchases.
We tout fall or early winter as the ideal time to be planting natives, and rightly so. The cooling temperatures and greater likelihood of rain provide the best climate for starting most of our natives off on the right foot. That isn’t to say that spring planting is to be avoided. Plants that are from riparian situations and Oak understory do quite well planted in the spring as do many of the grasses, and a wide range of material from the coastal sage scrub and chaparral plant communities.
Knowing what is likely to excel when planted in spring, and in what situation, is obviously of key importance. Our chapter volunteers instilled confidence in folks, helping them understand what plants would succeed, and what particular “tricks” might help the plants establish themselves successfully in the home landscape.
Tree of Life Nursery kindly promotes the Orange County Chapter of the California Native Plant Society with this annual event. They were constantly bringing out fresh plants and even provided some unusual plants especially for our sale. While we were having fun talking natives to everyone, the sales mounted higher and higher. A percentage of the proceeds was donated to the chapter allowing us to continue our grants and scholarship programs. Therefore it was especially gratifying when at the end of the day the total figures showed that our sale set the record for gross sale for the retail side of the nursery. That means a lot more people got native plants to utilize in their landscapes, and that our Chapter got a larger than average check when all was said and done.
A BIG thanks to Tree of Life Nursery for its commitment to OC-CNPS, and another big thanks to our many volunteers who helped that day and of course, to the many folks who came to support our Chapter by purchasing those healthy native plants. Thanks! You all made it possible.
Express Your Support for the International Broom Initiative
The International Broom Initiative (IBI), of which CNPS is a founding member, is moving forward with plans for an international consortium to conduct a program for biological control of the group of woody leguminous plant pests that include the brooms (roughly six or seven species in several genera) and gorse. There is great advantage to tackling all of these closely related plants at once because there may be some overlap in natural predators. Pooling several nations’ funds for the overseas portion of the research will provide an additional efficiency.
Our national share of the multiyear program will be $265,000 annually. The IBI is asking Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Mike Thompson of the First District to introduce a bill to fund this research program. It is important that legislators know that there is broad support for the program. Please write to them, expressing your support for this program. Even if you don’t live in Mike Thomson’s district, please write to him anyway, sending a copy of the letter to your own representative in congress.
Further information about the International Broom Initiative can be found on the California Exotic Pest Plant Council web site at www.caleppc.org or contact Jake Sigg at 338 Ortega Street, San Francisco, CA 94122, (415) 731-3028, email@example.com.
It would also be helpful if CNPS members were to urge their county boards of supervisors to pass to pass resolutions of support for IBI, as that would give the issue a certain cachet and greater visibility and would likely help to motivate legislators. Contact Jake Sigg for sample wording of such a resolution. —Jake Sigg, CNPS Invasive Exotics Chair
[This information should have been in the March/April newsletter therefore, time is of the essence! The Editor]
There’s Still Time…
The Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants operates a Wildflower Hotline each year during the spring season. Updated every Thursday evening, the hotline describes the best places to see the wildflower show. Approximately 30 sites from the deserts to the mountains are covered. You may phone the hotline at (818) 768-3533, but for even more information and directions to the sites, consult the website: www.theodorepayne.org. The hotline opened March 1 and runs through May 31, 2001. Become a member of The Foundation and receive their quarterly bulletin with notices of their plant sales and many activities. The address is 10459 Tuxford Street, Sun Valley CA 91352-2126.
During 2001, the four national forests located in southern California (the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino National Forests) will be in the process of updating their respective forest plans. These plans are the foundation for the management of our national forests and by law, must be updated every 10-15 years.
Public workshops have already been held, but there are still opportunities to participate in the process. A meeting is scheduled on June 2 from 9-11 A.M. at the Tustin Salvation Army facility, 10200 Pioneer Road, Tustin. [From I-5, exit on Tustin Ranch Road; go east to Jamboree; at the 2nd light, turn left onto Pioneer then left into the parking lot.] You can get your name on their contact list by writing to Public Affairs, San Bernardino National Forest, 1824 S. Commercenter Circle, San Bernardino CA 92408. All this information is available on the Cleveland National Forest website: www.r5.fs.us/cleveland/
“I have one share in corporate Earth, and I am nervous about the management.”
—E. B. White
Calendar of Fieldtrips and Events
For more information on any of these events or to make reservations, call or e-mail Sarah Jayne at (949) 552-0691 or firstname.lastname@example.org Non-members are welcome to join any of these activities. Most activities are free of charge.
OUT OF THE WILD AND INTO THE GARDEN. The 5th Symposium on California’s Horticulturally Significant Plants
May 4 & 5, 2001
Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden
It’s too late to register for this outstanding semi-annual event, but we wanted you to understand why there was no field trip scheduled for this weekend! Consult the Theodore Payne hotline for a grand place to visit on your own. Check our website for a plant list.
FULLERTON ARBORETUM WORKSHOPS:
Saturday, May 5, 9 A.M. to 12:00 noon
Learn the basics of planting your garden to attract butterflies. With plants and butterfly specimens, you will learn to recognize our common local butterflies, their food plants, and nectar sources. Fee: $5 for Arboretum Members, $10 for non-members.
Nature Photography Up Close And Personal
Saturday, May 19, 2001, 8 A.M. to 12 noon
Bring your camera to this fun and informative introduction to nature photography. The first half (8-9:50 A.M.) will be a demonstration of basic operation of the single lens reflex (SLR) camera and its use in close-up and macro nature photography. The second half (10-11:50am) will consist of hands-on photography on the Arboretum grounds. Bring your cameras, lens (macro preferred), and film (Fuji Sensia II ISO 100 slide film recommended), and a tripod. Optionally, bring close-up lenses, extension tubes, extenders, and flash units. Fee: $8 for Arboretum Members, $15 for non-members.
Bob Allen and Chris Barnhill teach both workshops. Bob Allen is an entomologist, botanist, author, and educator. Chris Barnhill, Nursery Manager for the Fullerton Arboretum, is a botanist and horticulturalist. Both are avid nature photographers.
The Arboretum is on the northeast corner of the California State University, Fullerton, campus. From the 57 Freeway in Fullerton, exit at Yorba Linda Blvd, go west one block and turn south at the Associated Road traffic light, then take the second left into the Arboretum parking lot. Call (714) 278-3579 to register.
Saturday, May 12, 9 A.M. to 4 P.M.
The Coal Canyon Ecological Reserve has been purchased by the State, which assures preservation of the northernmost stand of Tecate cypress as well as a vital link in the wildlife corridor. Entrance to the Reserve is still restricted; however Connie Spenger, whose name is synonymous with Tecate cypress, will cut through the red tape for us.
The hike begins at 700 feet elevation and gains 1700 feet to reach Fremont Ridge, which provides beautiful views of Coal, Gypsum, Fremont, Weir, and Blind Canyons. That in addition to the Tecate cypress (Cupressus forbesii) and a grand variety of other possibilities makes this spectacularly worth the effort. The pace will be moderate with plenty of botany stops so plan on spending the best part of the day for the 8 mile round trip. Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes. Bring water, lunch, etc.
Meet at 9 A.M. at the gate at Coal Canyon (Coal Canyon exit from the 91 Riverside Freeway). There’s a limit to the number of vehicles that may be parked inside. If necessary, we can arrange to meet and carpool from the Santa Ana Canyon Park n’ Ride at Tustin and Lincoln Avenues off the 55 Freeway in Orange. Reservation required.
ALISO/WOOD CANYONS WILDERNESS PARK—Wood Canyon
Sunday, May 13, 2001, 10 A.M. to 1 P.M.
We’ll approach Wood Canyon from the back to descend pretty quickly into the lovely oak-sycamore woodland and coastal sage scrub that is found in that end of the park. The variety of habitats will provide equally varied plant life. This is a joint trip with the Orange County Natural History Museum, which is located at the main entrance to the park.
Meet at 10 A.M. at the entrance to Canyon View Park. This is a community park that leads into the wilderness park. Directions: Coming from north Orange County, take Laguna Canyon Road to El Toro Road, left. Turn right onto Aliso Creek Road, and then turn right again on Glenwood Drive, which becomes Pacific Park Drive after it crosses under the toll road. Turn right again on Canyon Vistas. Park near the entrance to Canyon View Park. If you’re coming from the south, turn left off Pacific Park Drive. The path descends gently down to Wood Canyon. We will probably walk 3 to 4 miles in total, nothing strenuous.
UCI SPRING FLOWER SHOW
Saturday, May 19, 10 A.M.—4 P.M.
Sunday, May 20, 10 A.M.—3 P.M.
The UCI Arboretum is presenting its new, expanded Spring Flower Show. This event is really three shows in one, including the annual Spring Perennial Sale featuring unusual perennials from the Arboretum’s collection. The Arboretum will also be offering butterfly-attracting plants for sale and information on butterfly gardening.
The Newport Harbor Orchid Society is joining hands this year and will present its Spring Orchid Show with outstanding orchid vendors, lectures on orchid care, and demonstrations.
In the Arboretum’s Athalie Clarke Wildflower Garden, our chapter and other local nature groups will present educational displays and information on California’s wild flora. OC-CNPS will offer tours of the native plant garden and will also be selling books and posters.
Admission is free for children, Friends of the UCI Arboretum, and members of sponsoring orchid societies. Otherwise, it is $2.00 per person. The UCI Arboretum is located just south of the corner of Campus Drive and Jamboree Road on the UCI North Campus. For more information please call (949)824-5833.
SIERRA SPRING SOJOURN
Friday through Sunday, June 1-3, 2001
Camp Inyo (west of Big Pine, California)
The Bristlecone chapter is once again offering this semiannual event, which features botanical trips throughout the eastern Sierra region. For more information and a registration packet, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Sherryl Taylor, P.O.Box 1638, Mammoth Lakes CA 93546. The deadline to register was May 1, but there may be spaces left.
THE SANTA ANA MOUNTAINS
Saturday, June 9, 2001
This all day, multi-disciplinary driving field trip is a joint venture with the Orange County Natural History Museum. Specialists from the museum and CNPS will illuminate the rocks, fossils, bugs, birds, and flowers that abound in our local mountains. The trip does require high clearance or 4-wheel drive vehicles and will be limited to the first fifteen that sign up (vehicles, that is, and as many passengers as they hold!) If you don’t have that sort of vehicle, find a friend who does! This is a very special opportunity to get all sides of the natural history picture in our own back yard.
The cost is $10 for Orange County Natural History Association members, $15 for everyone else, which includes the National Forest Adventure Day Pass. This is a fund-raiser for the museum, which is always struggling for support. A little gem of a collection of Orange County artifacts, it is located at the entrance to Aliso/Wood Canyons in Laguna Niguel.
Contact Lee Shoemaker, the trip coordinator, for reservation information at email@example.com or (949) 831-3287. Rain cancels.
CANOE THE BACK BAY
Saturday, June 30, 2001, 9 A.M.
Chapter member Todd Heinsma has arranged a special treat for us: a tour of the Upper Newport Back Bay by canoe. An Upper Newport Bay naturalist has been invited along, but there is no featured lead as yet. Todd will be the ‘lead Naturalist’ for the trip as a canoe outing, but the botanical content of the tour will be exploratory and informal, a ‘shout it if you know it’ type of thing. We can expect to see plenty of garden escapes and invaders. We will also see pure stands of salt marsh, upper salt marsh flora up close, and a ‘deeep inside’ view of the Back Bay as a vital botanical sanctuary amidst suburbia, and resident waterfowl and ones in various phases of northward migration. Fun, fun, fun!
We will meet at 9:00 A.M. at Shellmaker Island, 600 Shellmaker, down the little dirt road that veers left from Backbay Drive as soon as the marsh begins. Todd will place himself conspicuously in the parking lot 30 minutes before the meet time. There are 9 canoes available at 2 people to a canoe, so the trip is limited to 18 persons. Boats, vests, and paddles are provided gratis. We will all need to sign a waiver at the start. Make your reservation with Sarah Jayne (number above). If you would like more information, you may contact Todd at (714) 891-7654 or at RVLTN@hotmail.com
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. We scheduled this trip last year and made arrangements to meet some knowledgeable people from the area. Our directions led us to the wrong end of the trail so the twain never me. It’s a lovely area and well worth a second try!
Directions: Take Riverside Freeway (91) to Interstate 10 at Colton. Go east for about 6 miles and look for the exit to Hwy 30 or 38 at Redlands. You want Hwy 38. From Mentone go up Hwy 38, pass Heart Bar, and pass 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. Driving time from Orange County is about 2 ½ hours. Try to arrive no later than 10:30 A.M.
There is a possibility for an overnight at Bluff Lake the night before our trip. The contact for that is Tim Krantz, a botany/biology professor at the University of Redlands. If there is an interest, we will get in touch with him.
HIKES WITH THE SIERRA CLUB AND FRIENDS OF THE FOOTHILLS
Visit the great open spaces and wonderful vistas of south Orange County. These easy walks are fun and informational. Always bring water, sturdy comfortable shoes, a hat and sunscreen.
Saturday, May 12—Caspers Wilderness Park, East Ridge
This moderately paced 7-mile hike provides views of wildlands threatened by development and inspiring vistas of the Santa Ana Mountains. There will be good opportunities to see hawks, kites, and vultures. Featured naturalist Kristeen Penrod of the South Coast Wildlands Project will talk about efforts to protect our last wild places in Orange County.
Meet at 8:30 A.M. at the South Orange County rideshare point. Bring 2 quarts of water. There is a $2 fee at the park entrance.
Sunday, May 13—Mothers’ Day Walk at Rancho Mission Viejo Land Conservancy
Take your mom on a 3-mile hike to view the wildflowers and rolling hills of South Orange County’s backcountry. Learn about the Native Americans who lived off this land and whose ancestors still live in South County. Plants and herbs that were used by the Native Americans will be identified.
Meet at the South Orange County rideshare point. A $3 donation supports the work of the Conservancy.
Saturday, June 23—Caspers Wilderness Park, West Ridge Loop
Enjoy a four-mile hike with views of Saddleback and Coto de Caza from the West Ridge and return through a cathedral of trees. Watch for deer! View Starr Ranch Audubon Sanctuary and learn about the wilderness and wildlife it protects.
Meet at 7:30 A.M. at Caspers Bell Canyon parking lot. There is a $2 fee at the park entrance.
The South Orange County Rideshare is located in the southeast corner of the Ortega Business Center parking lot, at the intersection of Ortega Highway and Rancho Viejo Road in San Juan Capistrano.
For more information or directions, call Brittany McKee at (949) 361-7534 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
“I don’t like a flower that stands at attention. Flowers should look as though they were on a marvelous outing.”-Robert L. Green
Local Plant Walks
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
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
The Santa Rosa Plateau—a Visit
About sixty plant enthusiasts turned up for the San Diego Chapter field trip to the Santa Rosa Plateau. Two Orange Countians made role call. A master docent who has been offering nature tours since 1948 led us on our way down the Granite Loop Trail. There were so many people that we could not see the beginning or the end of the group, so folks just showed each other things. There were huge outcrops of granite and stands of Adenostoma fasciculatum (Chamise) with an understory of Nassella pulchra (Purple Needle Grass) right up to the trunks! Someone was kind enough to stand next to an outcropping of shoulder-high Ribes indecorum (White Flowered Currant) to point it out to all.
Within fifteen minutes about two-thirds of the people went off to do their own thing and only the dedicated ‘groupies’ remained. At a mighty stand of Quercus, engelmanii and agrifolia, we learned that restoration of the rare population of Englemann’s Oak requires simply the burial of acorns. Our docent then spoke of the fields of grass that were opening up to us. Ninety percent of the meadow was exotic species (Red Stem Filaree, Wild Oats, etc.), but the sun-yellow bloom of the indigenous Viola penduculata (Johnny Jump-up) and deep green round leafiness of Sidalcea malvaefora (Checker Bloom) were still obvious. Down about two feet in elevation was a little creek with both banks dominated by Muhlenbergia rigens (Deer Grass), which only grows by seasonal water. This water way could be traced through the meadow by following the trail of thick Deer Grass. Our docent enlightened us as to why it is called Deer Grass: fawns, which are odorless, hide in its thick cover because they cannot outrun their predators!
As we continued along the trail we saw more of the wee Linanthus dianthiflorus (Ground Pink) and noticed it only along the trail edge, a disturbed area. Under the cool shade of the Oaks was a diverse and dense palette of herbs: Claytonia perfoliate (Miner’s Lettuce), Marah macrocarpus (Wild Cucumber), Stellaria media (Chickweed), Galium aparine (Bedstraw), and some Toxicodendron diversilobum (Poison Oak). Walking out of the shade of the mighty Oaks we saw the first peek at just how much grassland is preserved here and of what quality! A grand expanse stretched to the far horizon. Bunch grasses were everywhere! Checker Mallows were dotted all between them, yet to bloom. Much of the treeless space appeared weed free as if the natives here were winning back their home turf. Some other areas were still plagued by exotic Bromus and Avena grasses, but they would get theirs during the next prescribed burn.
Over a hill and further from the trees, the grasses continued to reign and now framed hues of pink, blue, orange and even deep burgundy-black. The grasses were spread out over the entire expanse, but the wildflowers were living in colonies, patches. We wondered why they live together in dense groups and not evenly spread out. An entire northerly slope blushed with the pink of Dodocatheon clevelandii (Shooting Star). Another broad northerly slope was divided by a band of exposed rock painted by the orange day-glow of Eschscholzia californica (California Poppy). Then came the big event; the Fritilaria biflora (Chocolate Lily) were discovered and had a series of mug shots taken by a dozen camera botanists who eagerly dropped to their bellies on all sides of the plant. It should be called ‘blood lily’ for that is what the color and odor suggest. Flower cups are tipped down, why? Further down the path more Chocolate Lilies joined loose colonies of Dichelostema pulchellum (Blue Dicks, Wild Hyacinth) in full sky-blue bloom.
After the excellent tour we were free to go on to the Vernal Pools. The path to the Vernal Pools led us through a shaded hideaway of multi-storied riparian woodland. Oaks and Platinus racemosa (Sycamore) graced the canopy, blocking out all light to the ground; poison oak grew as a beautiful bramble along the path and underneath the trees. Downed trees had been left in the stream to return their nutrients to the soil, creating a jungle gym of habitats for critters, and a hundred hiding places for those with mischievous minds.
The canopy opened as we continued down the trail along the stream. Hanging on a Sycamore we spied old rusted horseshoes, a reminder of the past lives that haunt the area. The pleasant walk to the Vernal Pools was complete with expansive views of the Santa Rosa Plateau, fields of bunchgrasses, and patches of vibrant color delighting to the eye. Chocolate Lilies became relatively common. When we crested the hill and caught sight of the Vernal Pools, we were met with a change in soil and vegetation. The earth suddenly changed from a light brown to a strong rust-red, the fine soil of black basalt. Small boulders and vegetation were scattered as carefully as if they had been pieces on a chessboard. We saw our first lupines of the day, shyly tucked away within piles of basalt rocks, along with patches of poppies, cactus, and other outcroppers.
The largest Vernal Pool was outfitted with a visitor-friendly boardwalk. Several people walked along it, excitedly pointing at the myriad of life they saw. We watched a water snake slithering through the water while a docent pointed out mating water beetles to a woman lying on her stomach to get a closer look. The water was clear, warm, and full of oxygen and habitat-creating algae. Small polliwogs swam quickly through this maze, oblivious to the eyes staring at them from the surface. Our reverie was interrupted by someone pointing out three coyotes running in the distance, their camouflaged coats almost obscuring them in the dry grasses. Close by, a splinter group from the San Diego chapter examined small yellow flowers with the help of the docent, attempting to distinguish between two species, Goldfields and another smaller yellow flower (Blennosperma nanum?). On the shore at the far end of the boardwalk, the invasive Rumex crispus (Curly Dock) loomed.
When we finally returned to the visitor’s center, whence we had left several hours earlier, we took deep breaths and a last long look around, hoping to capture in our souls the experiences of the day.
A Day on Otay Mountain
Who would have expected April 21st to be wet and windy! We apparently left the sun behind in Orange County and followed the unusual storm to San Diego County where it stuck with us much of the day. Clambering down an uncharted canyon lost its appeal after most everyone in the group got a good soaking (who’s going to sit in a vehicle when there are new plants to be seen!) The day was far from lost, however. Instead of exploring the canyon, we followed the well-graded gravel road up into the Otay Mountain wilderness. What a treat! We were driving through vast thickets of Pickeringia and forests of Tecate Cypress. Each stop yielded a host of new surprises, most not found in Orange County.
In addition to the excitement of finding new-to-us plants, the scenery was exquisite! Vast vistas opened as we went higher and higher and between rainsqualls, brief sun sent shadows of clouds in patchwork patterns scudding by. Happy to say, most of the open spaces have been purchased by the BLM or are in the wilderness preserve. It is a memorable place.
Mark Elvin, who arranged the trip and who despite soggy clothing leapt gleefully from plant to plant, added at least 13 new plants to the Otay Mountain species list.
From Mark, here is the list of new additions:
Allium parryi (range extension west from Guatay) (observed, not collected, not in flower yet)
Eucrypta chrysanthemifolia var. chrysanthemifolia
Galium nuttallii ssp. nuttallii
Antirrhinum sp. #3
Everyone on the trip was instrumental in finding and making these collections! I think we had a very good group of botanists!
Both the BLM and the Border Patrol were impressed with the caliber of people that were on the trip.
Here is a quick list of some of the sensitive and
interesting plants that we saw:
Allium praecox……………………………………………………. CNPS
Helianthus gracilentus………………………………………… CNPS
Vigueria laciniata……………………………………………….. CNPS
Cupressus forbesii Tecate Cypress………………………. CNPS
Arctostaphylos otayensis…………………………………….. CNPS
Lathyrus spendens Pride of California…………………. CNPS
Lotus otayensis……. CNPS (virtually an Otay Mtn endemic
1 pop. in the US and 1 in Mexico)
Pickeringia montana ssp. tomentosa
Lepechinia ganderi……………………………………………… CNPS
Monardella hypoleuca ssp. lanata………………………. CNPS
Calochortus weedii var. weedii
Zigadenus fremontii var. fremontii Death Camas
Piperia unalascensis Rein Orchid
Dendromecon rigida ssp. rigida (in full glory)
Ceanothus otayensis….. CNPS (San Ysidro Mtn endemic)
Jepsonia parry, a not too common plant
Mimulus clevelandii …………………………………………… CNPS
Pedicularis densiflorus Indian Warrior
Note: A new plant list, revised 4/29/01, for Moulton Meadow Park is posted on our website. That’s Steve Hampson’s speedy work!