CNPS San Diego Chapter - California Native Plant Society
Chapter Meetings

Chapter meetings are open to the public; there is no charge. Come early and browse our books. Stay after the program for conversation and refreshments. We meet in the heart of San Diego, in Balboa Park, in Casa del Prado, room 101. Casa del Prado can be reached by car from Village Place off of Park Boulevard (served by the #7 bus), and is across from the west entrance of the San Diego Natural History Museum. The meeting room is handicapped accessible. (Balboa Park map and driving directions)

We usually carry a small selection of native plants at our monthly meetings. New members who sign up at the meeting will receive a free plant (if available)

3rd Tuesday of the month.
7:00 pm -7:30 pm is a time for discussion, camaraderie, visiting, and enjoying the sales table.
The meeting starts at 7:30pm
Room 101 Casa del Prado, Balboa Park


New Feature at Chapter Meetings: 

7 - 7:30 pm



January 17, 2017

Bryophytes for Beginners!


Speaker - Paul Wilson

CNPS has a new chapter: The Bryophyte Chapter! As founding president of this new CNPS chapter, Paul Wilson will reveal what is a 'bryophyte'? He will offer us a fun-filled introduction to their lives. Paul will also integrate attractive photos of local species. Learning a few of these will promise to greatly increase the naturalist mojo of all attendees. Expect to be regaled thusly!

Bryophytes are the three lineages of 'Land Plants' that are not 'Vascular Plants': Liverworts, Mosses, and Hornworts. They are dainty yet have a complex organization. Their forms and structures vary greatly as befits their ancient divergence from one another. Since they lack vascular tissue, everything they need comes more or less from one spot, not from deep in the ground or high in the air. Instead of vascular adaptations to life on land (e.g., roots, wood, skin), they have physiological adaptations to tolerating desiccation.

Vascular plants have a life cycle dominated by the phase that makes spores: the 'sporophyte.' Spores disperse and grow into a distinct phase called the 'gametophyte' which produces gametes, eggs and/or sperm. After a sperm fuses with an egg, the resulting cell grows into a new sporophyte, which in ferns (for example) grows off of the gametophyte and might live for years independently.

In contrast to vascular plants, the dominant life cycle for bryophytes is the gametophyte. Sporophytes live out their entire lives attached to and sucking nutrition from the 'mother' gametophyte. 

Paul Wilson is Professor of Ecology and Evolution at Cal State University Northridge where he teaches such courses as Plants & Animals of Southern California, Nonflowering Plants, and Field Ecology. 


December 20, 2016

Botanical Origins of the Anza-Borrego Desert

Speaker - Tom Oberbauer

Tom Oberbauer will discuss the Botanical Origins of the Anza Borrego Desert. It is a known fact that the deserts that we see today have not been in place for a very long time. The vegetation that exists in San Diego County deserts, as well as in the coastal and mountainous areas, is a product of a long period of climatic and vegetation change. There are pieces of evidence from fossils and disjunct distributions of existing populations of plants that also provide hints about prehistoric vegetation and what it was like in San Diego County at various times in the past. Mr. Oberbauer will discuss these changes and provide a theoretical idea of how the vegetation has arrived in its current configuration.

Also, for those of you interested in Baja California Islands, Please go to PLNaturalresources in Youtube and you will be able to see ten videos on the Islands of the Pacific Coast of Baja California. A side note is that the Youtube site wants to go to PAnaturalresources, but don't follow that route. The islands discussed in the videos include Cedros, Guadalupe, Los Coronados, San Martin, San Jeronimo, San Benito Oeste, San Benito Centro, San Benito Este, Todos Santos, and Natividad.

Tom Oberbauer has been involved with the San Diego Chapter of CNPS since 1975. He has served as President, Director at Large and currently as Vice-President. 


November 15, 2016

Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors is More Than a Hiking Guide; Its a Field Guide Too!

Diana Lindsay
Speaker - Diana Lindsay

When on a free guided-nature-hike with a San Diego Natural History Museum (SDNHM) Canyoneer, one can expect to learn why a particular trail is special. All participants are encouraged to stop, look, listen, touch, smell, and examine – to understand the interactions of nature as well as the cultural features related to a particular trail. However, when an individual’s schedule doesn’t allow joining in on weekly Canyoneer-led hikes, this book becomes a “Virtual Canyoneer” guide – a pocket naturalist that explains sights along the trail and what to look for in every habitat. It is a tool to learn about San Diego County, one of 35 “Biodiversity Hotspots” in the world. The book teaches a greater appreciation and understanding of San Diego outdoors, including full hike descriptions, maps, and habitat and species information.

This presentation will outline the book’s information; explain its organization; give examples of included details; and feature some selected San Diego County hikes. In addition, Diana Lindsay will demonstrate how this book is the “Field Guide Experience Companion” to the exhibition “Coast to Cactus in Southern California” currently on display at SDNHM.

Diana Lindsay is Managing Editor of Coast to Cactus and has contributed to countless other books on the natural and cultural history of San Diego County. She is Founder and President of Sunbelt Publications; SDNHM Board Member; and Canyoneer for almost 30 years.




October 18, 2016

Monitoring, Mitigation, and Adaptive Management of Utility-scale Renewable Energy in the Desert: Observations of What Works and What Doesn't

Speaker - Laura Cunningham
Laura Cunningham

Laura Cunningham of Basin & Range Watch will describe impacts of solar and wind developments on desert ecosystems, matched with lessons learned about a wide variety of mitigation measures since 2008. This presentation is based on her book A State of Change: Forgotten Landscapes of California (Heyday 2010) about the ecological history of California and the deserts, which then examines the current status of desert conservation such as with the large-scale renewable energy situation.

Laura Cunningham earned a B.S. in Paleontology from the University of California, Berkeley, and performed graduate work in Science Communication at University of California, Santa Cruz. She has worked as a wildlife biologist for California Department of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Geological Service, and as a private consultant under contracts with Bureau of Land Management working on desert development projects and participating in environmental review processes. She co-founded and is currently Executive Director of Basin & Range Watch, a nonprofit organization engaged in conservation biology in the deserts of California and Nevada.



September 20, 2016

Why are there so many Manzanitas? An Ecological and Evolutionary Journey

Speaker - Tom Parker Ph.D.

Tom Parker next to a patch of uva-ursi manzanita

Speaker - Michael Vasey Ph.D


The California Floristic Province is the heart of manzanita biodiversity, where they are the "rock stars" of woody shrub diversity. Ranging from the Sierra Nevada mountains to coastal bluffs along the Pacific, from temperate rainforests along the North Coast to arid mountain slopes in Southern California, a wealth of manzanita species and subspecies can be found in an astonishing array of environments. The new Field Guide to Manzanitas: California, North America, and Mexico from Michael Kauffman, Tom Parker, and Michael Vasey, with photographs by Jeff Bisbee, includes color photographs, range maps, regional keys, descriptions, a brief history of each species, and selected locations where you can find manzanitas in the field. It is available at the CNPS Store.

Tom Parker, Ph.D. has been the Professor of Biology (Ecology) at San Francisco State University (SFSU) since 1980. His academic training was at the University of Texas (B.A.) and the University of California, Santa Barbara (M.A., Ph.D.). His research concerns community and evolutionary ecology focused on the dynamics of plant communities. He is the lead author for the treatment of Arctostaphylos in the Flora of North America (FNA) and in the 2nd edition of the Jepson Manual, and is co-author of the Manzanita Field Guide.

Michael Vasey, Ph.D. is a long-time lecturer of conservation biology at SFSU, and is the Director of the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. His research focuses on summer coastal fog influence on maritime chaparral eco-physiology and species diversity. He is co-author for the treatment of Arctostaphylos in the FNA and in the Jepson Manual (2nd edition), and is co-author of the Manzanita Field Guide.




June 21, 2016

How Argentine Ants Devastate Native Landscapes

Speaker - Greg Rubin

Greg Rubin

It appears that Argentine ants and their symbiotic sucking insect partners may have been a key factor in high native mortality nearly as long as natives have been a popular gardening subject in California. Ornamental horticultural methods may have inadvertently promoted their spread over the years. Localized moisture saturation, rich organic soils, poor quality mulches, and high levels of disturbance are all factors that promote their spread. The ability of ants to fan out for hundreds of feet from a main colony means that even non-irrigated landscapes risk attack from neighboring yards.  The ants create nests in the root balls of our natives, pulling away soil from the roots (often piled up around the base of the trunk). They then place scale and aphids all over the upper root system, which they tend like herds of cattle to harvest the honeydew waste product. Worse, they defend these flocks with their lives. Being underground adds an additional level of protection from detection, beneficial predators, and treatment.  As if this wasn't bad enough, ants also have an affinity for spreading weeds. This has long been recognized with spotted spurge, but there are a multitude of other weeds they are spreading as well. This talk will cover how to recognize the problem, the damage ants do, the weeds they plant, and strategies to deal with these insidious pests.



May 17, 2016

Hiding in Plain Sight: New Cactus Species in the California Desert

Speaker - Michelle Cloud-Hughes

Michelle next to “chucky cholla”

Cylindropuntia chuckwallensis is a newly-described cactus found in San Bernardino, Riverside, and northern Imperial counties. Michelle’s presentation will describe how this historically-misidentified cholla was determined to be a distinct new species based on the characteristics that distinguish it from similar cholla species. Detailed information will be provided on where to see “the chucky cholla” as well as many other intriguing succulents found in the same areas.

Michelle Cloud-Hughes is a botanist and restoration ecologist specializing in desert flora and ecosystems. She has been involved in many rare plant surveys and other botanical and restoration projects throughout the southwestern U.S. in her 19-year career. Her main love and research interest is Cylindropuntia (chollas) of the southwest.




April 19, 2016

Native Gardening and Edible Landscaping

Speaker - Ari Tenenbaum

Ari Tenenbaum

Come get some tips for integrating CA native plants into edible landscapes. We will discuss specific plants that lend themselves toward being incorporated in or alongside edible garden areas.

Ari Tenenbaum is the co-founder and lead designer of Revolution Landscape. Ari holds a B.S. in Plant Science from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He applies his wealth of plant knowledge and environmental solutions to create innovative, vision-driven designs.





March 15, 2016

Without Insects, Plants Would be Boring

Speaker - Dr. Michael Wall

Michael Wall
Dr. Wall holding an insect

The diversity of flower shapes, colors, and sizes inspires gardeners, artists, and wedding planners around the world. Similarly, the diverse and variable chemistry of plants creates the flavors and aromas that inspire chefs and perfumers. The love-hate relationship that insects have with plants drive this diversity. Floral aroma and color attract pollinators to help plants reproduce, and the pungency of some of your favorite herbs evolved as feeding deterrents. Join our speaker, Dr. Michael Wall, to celebrate our six-legged friends and discover the ways they have shaped and have been shaped by plant diversity.

Dr. Michael Wall is the Curator of Entomology at the San Diego Natural History Museum. He got his undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Botany before turning to “the dark side” with a PhD in Entomology. He is a “stinkbug taxonomist” by training, but is currently studying patterns of endemism and local insect biodiversity.

February 16, 2016

The Environmental Benefits of Trees on an Urban University Campus

Speaker - Corey Bassett

Corey Bassett

Trees play an important ecological role within the urban environment, as well as supporting public health and providing aesthetic values to cities. However, even when the general benefits of urban trees are understood and desired, it is difficult to manage and maximize their use without quantitative information on the direct benefits of an urban forest. The University of Pennsylvania is situated on a rapidly growing and highly urbanized campus that, as of the summer of 2015, contained over 6,000 trees. For her master’s thesis, Corey Bassett, with the help of a team of interns, collected field data and used software designed by the USDA Forest Service (i-Tree Eco) to quantify the ecosystem benefits that the University’s urban forest conveys to its community. This presentation will explore the value of urban trees, the positive implications of Corey’s study to urban planners, and the relevance of this research to San Diego.

Corey Bassett is a recent East Coast transplant from Philadelphia, PA. She completed her Master of Environmental Studies at the University of Pennsylvania in December 2015. In Philly, she gained experience in urban forestry, arboriculture, and natural resource management though her jobs with the University’s Landscape Architect and at the Morris Arboretum. Corey is excited to be in San Diego and learn about the local landscapes and native plants while she seeks a professional position in the ecological restoration and environmental planning fields.



January 19, 2016

How Do We Use Native Plants In Our Gardens and Developed Spaces to Conserve Habitat, Water, Resources, and Money Sustainably?

Speaker - Wayne Tyson

Wayne Tyson

Are we operating by nature’s rules? What are those rules? Do we know? How do we keep from violating them? Wayne Tyson will rely on his relevant experiences over the last 60 years (including farming, ranching, hiking/hunting/fishing, gardening, landscaping, forestry, travel, park planning/design/management, and consulting in ecosystem restoration) in an attempt to merge these and other conceptual frameworks in a critical review of basic principles and elements of doing ecosystem restoration (including his own past practices and some mistakes!). This presentation will examine some ways to reconcile the needs and works of humankind with those of the earth and its life, and the role of native plants in that pursuit. Audience interaction is strongly encouraged!

Wayne Tyson worked for the City of San Diego for over 11 years and then operated a consulting business in ecosystem restoration for 21 years before "retiring." Previous jobs have included dry-farmer/ rancher, slaughterhouse worker, tree "surgeon," nursery worker, landscape architecture draftsman/designer, forester, and parks construction inspector/manager/planner. He now spends most of his time in the backcountry of the western U.S.



December 15, 2015
Holiday Potluck
Yes, Tom Oberbauer is again regaling us with stories and pictures of his adventures among the plants, but you still gotta bring food
…because that’s what a potluck is!  
Just bring something delicious--preferably finger food. 
Your Hospitality Committee will provide the usual coffee/tea, mulled cider, utensils, cups, napkins and plates, all against a background of twinkling, festive, evergreen, more or less native, decor. 
Come and make merry with us!
~Betsy Cory, Hospitality Chair


Oberbauer Offers Observations

San Diego County Mountains and Foothills and the Rare Plants on their Unusual Soil Types

During the spring and summer of 2015 Tom Oberbauer participated in surveys sponsored by SANDAG with AECOM to find a number of lesser understood rare plants.  A number of interesting mountains were visited ranging from Otay Mountain, San Miguel Mountain, and Lawson Peak to Potrero, Syquan, Guatay and Black Mountains and Cuyamaca Peak.  Most of these mountains have gabbro (black granitic rock) substrates that have high concentrations of magnesium and iron similar to serpentine, but others are composed of metavolcanic rock that remains from the Cretaceous period when parts of San Diego County existed as an island arc with volcanos 15,000 to 18,000 feet high.  Packera ganderi (Packer’s ragwort) is one of the most wide ranging species encountered; however, Nolina  interrata (Dehesa beargrass), Salvia clevelandii (Cleveland sage), Calochortus dunnii (Dunn’s mariposa lily) and Lepechinia ganderi (Gander’s pitcher sage) were just a few of the other sensitive species observed.  Tom also visited Miller Mountain and Brodiaea santarosae (Santa Rosa Basalt brodiaea) in a very obscure part of San Diego County.  Tom has written a couple of articles for the newsletter about the individual treks to these mountains and will provide more in the coming months.  In the December program, Tom will present a visual tour of these areas and their unique resources.


November 17, 2015

Fall- and Winter-blooming Plants and Plant Groups of
San Diego and Surrounding Counties

Speaker - Michelle Balk

Michelle Balk

Just because it is late fall doesn’t mean there are no exciting botanical discoveries to be made!  This presentation will highlight often overlooked fall- and winter-blooming plants and plant groups of San Diego and adjacent counties, and will hopefully inspire you to forget about your Thanksgiving meal planning and Christmas shopping lists for a while and get outside!  Time permitting, a game will be played at the end to test your knowledge of our fall- and winter-blooming plants.

Michelle Balk is a biological consultant with over 14 years of experience in Southern California.  She has co-instructed workshops on basic plant identification, asters, and rare plants of Southern California for CNPS and Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens.  Her favorite plant genera are Eriogonum and Chamaesyce.


October 20, 2015

San Diego Native Edibles: A Gustatory Exploration of the Chaparral
Speaker - Marya Nash

Marya Nash

San Diego’s native plants offer a diversity of flavors, even in the driest seasons. This presentation is an introduction to easily identifying and ethically foraging plants with edible qualities. Native Plant enthusiasts will gain insight and learn about tools for finding and preparing unique dishes from Nature’s Pantry.

Marya Nash studied botany at Western Washington University. It is her lifelong passion to learn about and to share wild resources and places with others.


September 15, 2015

Plant Community Garden Design
Speaker - Clayton Tschudy

Clayton Tschudy will discuss garden design by natural plant community focusing on plants available at this year’s native plant sale. Design, installation, and maintenance protocols will be presented, followed by a lively discussion focused on specific plants

September 15, 2015

Plant Community Garden Design
Speaker - Clayton Tschudy

Clayton Tschudy will discuss garden design by natural plant community focusing on plants available at this year’s native plant sale. Design, installation, and maintenance protocols will be presented, followed by a lively discussion focused on specific plants including species from the following genera: Manzanita, Ceanothus, Fremontodendron, Trichostema, Salvia, Eriogonum, Diplacus (Mimulus), Carex, Solidago, Epilobium (Zauschneria), Platanus, Quercus, and many more. Bring your questions with you! Now’s your chance to plan ahead and make the right choices for your native landscape.

Clayton Tschudy is a board member of CNPS San Diego and the Director of Horticulture and Exhibits at the Water Conservation Garden, a 6-acre demonstration xeriscape garden on the campus of Cuyamaca College. The Water Conservation Garden was created during the last drought in the late 90’s, and features a 15-year old Coast Live Oak woodland, and a new Native Habitat Exhibit featuring plant community-based design elements, and a wetland section fed entirely by rain water. Tschudy has been designing native landscapes throughout California for over 10 years and studied botany at Humboldt State University.


July 21, 2015

Habitat Restoration in San Diego County
Speakers - Lee Gordon & Arne Johanson

A number of foot-long springs share about a half-acre with artichoke thistle.
Can you guess what happened here?

Arne Johanson
Arne Johanson

Lee Gordon
Lee Gordon

San Diego County is blessed with enormous areas of open space lands set aside for our county’s amazing biodiversity. This blessing comes with the responsibility that we take care of these lands, much of which is now overgrown by plants that come from far away and displace our native plants. Habitat restoration programs attempt to recover degraded areas and to convert them back into stable native habitats. Healthy native habitats in San Diego County typically hold a diverse range of native plants and animals. One of the joys of walking through native habitats is the constant possibility of finding something new and interesting. When non-native plants move in, they can displace the native plants so thoroughly that all that is left is an uninteresting monoculture of weeds. Many of these invasive plants are just plain unpleasant to be around.

Habitat restoration projects in San Diego County employ different methods, with varying costs and varying results. A lot of money, typically ranging between $2,000 - $5,000/acre/year, is spent to restore habitats using traditional methods involving site acquisition (if needed), environmental approvals/permits, site preparation, grading, installation of fencing/signage/storm water controls/irrigation systems, plant installation, and long-term maintenance/monitoring/reporting. However, there has been too little native habitat restoration performed relative to the large area of disturbance that needs work.

CNPS-SD members involved in volunteer habitat restoration work have been using the Bradley method, and it is our hope to see this method used more widely in the future. The Bradley method, also called the “recruitment method”, consists of suppressing weeds near where native plants are already growing so that the native plants can expand outward, ultimately to fill the restoration area. Eliminating competition from weeds enables the indigenous native plant population to recruit and expand into the areas vacated by the dead weeds. The Bradley method is ineffective where there are too few native plants that can establish natural recruitment into an area. However, in most of the county’s open spaces, it is easily the most effective method available in terms of both cost and manpower.

Today, we are finding that many past habitat restoration efforts that did not employ the Bradley method are unfortunately unsuccessful, consisting once again of weed beds. The CNPS-SD Invasive Plants Committee is now responsible for the restoration of 3,000 acres, of which 1,100 acres have been fully restored. Our goal is to increase the rate of native habitat restoration throughout the region, and the Bradley method could make this possible.

Lee Gordon is an engineer and physical oceanographer. He has been a long-standing, vital, and very involved member of the CNPS-SD Native Gardening Committee.

Arne Johanson is Chair of the CNPS-SD Invasive Plant Committee, and is also a long-standing, vital, and very involved member of the CNPS-SD Native Gardening Committee. Last year, Arne was honored with a San Diego area “Cox Conserves Heroes” award, given by Cox Communications and The Trust For Public Lands, for his exemplary community service restoring weed-infested open spaces in San Diego County back to healthy native habitats using the Bradley method.


June 16, 2015

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park Reforestation Project
Speakers - Mike Wells & Lisa Gonzales-Kramer

Young conifer saplings begin to overtop the surrounding vegetation.
Seedlings were planted on this site along Azalea Springs Road in 2009 after the 2003 Cedar Fire destroyed 95% of the conifer forest in CRSP.
For more information visit:

Lisa Gonzales-Kramer
Lisa Gonzales-Kramer, Environmental Scientist, California State Parks

Mike Wells
Mike Wells PhD, is a retired Colorado Desert District Superintendent.

The Cuyamaca Rancho State Park (CRSP) Reforestation Project is a California State Parks (CSP) initiative to restore the native mixed conifer forest in CRSP, 98% of which was burned by the catastrophic Cedar Fire in 2003. The fire intensity was so great that conifers within the park experienced greater than 95% mortality. The seed bank and cone-producing forest canopy were nearly destroyed and post-fire surveys conducted between 2004 and 2008 found minimal conifer regeneration on these formerly forested lands, while shrub cover had increased from 3% to 31%. Without active reforestation, site conversion to shade-intolerant brush and exotic annuals was likely to be permanent.

Conifer forest has become a vanishing habitat in San Diego County. Between 2002 and 2007, over 51% of the montane Mixed Conifer Forest (MCF) in San Diego County was burned by wildfires. Prior to the Cedar Fire, CRSP held approximately 20% of the MCF habitat in the County.

In 2007, the Colorado Desert District of CSP initiated a mixed conifer forest restoration project to re-establish native conifer trees at CRSP. The project consists of planting 2,530 acres of formerly forested lands in a mosaic of patches that will become centers for seed dispersal, and are expected to restore the larger conifer forest. The restored habitat will provide important protected areas for a wide variety of native and special-status species which were found in CRSP prior to the fire.

IMPORTANT NOTE: On Thursday, June 18th, CRSP staff are offering to all CNPS members a post-meeting field tour to view selected CRSP reforestation plots and to answer any additional questions. If you may be interested in attending this field tour, please send an email message to

Mike Wells, PhD, is a retired Colorado Desert District Superintendent. He was instrumental in initiating the CRSP Reforestation Project and was also manager of the CSP Prescribed Fire Program for nine years. Dr. Wells is currently a retired annuitant and science advisor to the project. He is an adjunct professor and lecturer at the University of San Diego.

Lisa Gonzales-Kramer is an Environmental Scientist and the Project Manager for the CRSP Reforestation Project. She has been involved in reforestation efforts since 1990 in the Midwest and the west. Ms. Gonzales-Kramer holds a BS degree in Biology from Adrian College and previously worked in plant pathology research.


Christina Schaefer is originally from Germany where she studied landscape ecology and resources management. As a restoration ecologist, she specializes in the restoration of vernal pools. Christina restored her first vernal pool in San Diego in 1992 with Dr. Ellen Bauder, and has planned and installed many vernal pool restoration projects since then. While preparing the Vernal Pool Conservation Strategy for the North County MSCP, she also assisted Dr. Bauder with data collection for the Hydro-geomorphic Model for vernal pools.  Recently, she assisted SANDAG as expert advisor on the City of San Diego’s Vernal Pool Habitat Conservation Plan.

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[Dedicated to the Preservation of California Native Flora]
California Native Plant Society, San Diego Chapter
c/o San Diego Natural History Museum - P.O. Box 121390, San Diego, CA 92112-1390 -