Chapter Council, Conservation & Rare Plant Surveys

By Frank Landis, Chair Conservation Committee

If you’ve been to a chapter general meeting in, well, the last few years, you’ve probably heard me make a lame joke about wearing many hats in CNPSSD. Here I’ve got news for most of the hats. Rather than just writing about conservation, I’m going to write about all of them, to save some newsletter column space.

Chapter Council: State News

As not enough of you know, our parent society, CNPS, has a bicameral governance structure. On one hand,we’ve got the standard state board of directorsnecessary for any non-profit. On the other, because we have 35 chapters ranging from the redwoods of the North Coast to the chaparral of Baja California, we also have the Chapter Council, where representatives of each chapter get together to talk and hash out policy forthe organization. I’m San Diego’s representative to the Chapter Council.

So, here’s news from the Chapter Council.

Rare and Endangered

Questions and Answers with Frank Landis, CNPS-SD Conservation Chair & Fred Roberts, CNPS-SD Rare Plant Botanist

How did you take an interest in rare and endangered California plant species?

FRANK: That’s a hard question, because I’ve been an environmentalist for a long time. For me, it has become a philosophical issue. I follow James Carse’s notion in Finite and Infinite Games.  We all know what finite games are, because we play them, they end, and you find out who won.  Indeed, you can only determine who won by ending the game.  An infinite game never ends, so you have to play it for different reasons. Carse believes there is only one infinite game, and that the reason to play the infinite game of life is to keep the game going with as many players as possible.  

That’s the game I play. Unlike Carse, I believe that most of the players in the infinite game of life on Earth aren’t human, but that we should work to keep them in the game. That’s why I work to protect rare and endangered plant species, as well as common and uncommon ones.

FRED: That was a while back. I believe I first took a strong interest in rare, endangered, and sensitive plants in the mid 1980s while working in the herbarium at the Museum of Systematic Biology at UC, Irvine, mostly in association with my flora of Orange County project. Roxanne Bittman, working with the Nature Conservancy contacted me about conducting a status review of Laguna Beach Dudleya (Dudleya stolonifera). TNC was pleased with the result and asked me to conduct status reviews of several other rare species. Roxanne Bittman later was hired by the California Department Fish and Game (now Fish and Wildlife) within the California Natural Diversity Data Base program and we have remained in contact to this day. I was hooked on analysis and reviewing rare species. I was volunteered to be the rare plant chair of the Orange Co. CNPS chapter a couple years previously, but it was not until the dudleya review that I began to really take interest in the CNPS position. 

Some Native Seeds Require Sun to Germinate

Some Native Seeds Require Sun to Germinate

By Lee Gordon, CNPS Garden Committee

Some native seeds need long exposure to the sun in order to germinate. This report describes the role sun plays in the germination of seeds from three species. Two are borages: Phacelia parryiand Cryptantha intermedia. The third is Cneoridium dumosum, a citrus. It goes into some detail about the mechanisms that affect germination of these seeds. It then puts all this into the context of Deno’s theories of germination inhibition.  

The final section shows that pretreatment with Gibberelic acid, a plant hormone, enables the borage seeds to germinate as well as pea seeds we buy from a store. 

Genetic Analysis of Six Rare Plant Species

By Cindy Burrascano, Chapter Book Sales

San Diego Management and Monitoring Program (SDMMP) funded and organized a study to look at the genetics of 6 rare plant species that occur in San Diego: Acanthomintha ilicifolia (San Diego Thornmint), Baccharis vanessae (Encinitas Baccharis), Chloropyron maritimum ssp. maritimum (Salt Marsh Bird’s-beak), Dicranostegia orcuttiana (Orcutt’s Bird’s-beak), Deinandra conjugens (Otay Tarplant) and Monardella linoides (Willowy Monardella). The project was headed by Amy Vandergast of the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) and Jon Rebman of the San Diego Natural History Museum (SDNHM). Margie Mulligan (SDNHM) collected specimens, visiting numerous populations for the species, documenting the population sizes in either 2016 or 2017 and the general conditions at the sites, and collecting material for genetic analysis by USGS staff. Salt marsh bird’s-beak was sampled throughout its range (Punta Azufre and Bahia Falsa near San Quintin in Baja California, Mexico; and in California at Newport Bay in Orange County; Naval Base Ventura/Point Mugu in Ventura County; Ormond Beach, Carpinteria, in Santa Barbara County; and Morro Bay in San Luis Obispo County) and work was partially funded by the U.S. Navy. They were also fortunate to have Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar participate in the studies by allowing visits to the bases and collection of materials, which was particularly critical for understanding Willowy Monardella. Margie’s report A Report of Genetic Sample Collections and Curation for Six Rare Plants within the San Diego MSPA San Diego County, California, can be viewed and downloaded from the SDMMP website (https://sdmmp.com). The report from the genetic analysis portion of the study will be posted at the website, hopefully, in the near future. If you have never looked through the reports posted at the website you are in for a treat. A variety of studies have been conducted on various animal and plant species. I unfortunately have misplaced my notes on the meeting that was held and only really remember those aspects pertinent to populations I work with. I guess we will all have to go to the SDMMP webpage periodically to see if the report is posted yet to get the information.

Looking for More Volunteers

By Frank Landis, Conservation Committee Chair

Yes, it’s Fall, the busiest time of year for volunteering for CNPS-SD. In addition to volunteering to help with the Native Gardening workshop and the Fall Native Plant Sale, I’m going to ask for your help with conservation.

But first, the news. To no one’s surprise, on July 25 theBoard of Supervisors passed the first General Plan Amendment (GPA), approving in a single item of three projects: Valiano, Harmony Grove Village South, and Otay 250. Almost no one protested against Otay 250, but quite a few people protested against the Harmony Grove developments, as you might expect. The supervisors even spoke of a threat to litigate. Since CEQA lawsuits have to be filed within 30 days of when an EIR is certified, by the time you read this, we will know if anyone actually sued over it or not.

That GPA was an interesting legal situation. What theBoard of Supervisors voted on wasn’t eachdevelopment, it was a single project comprised of the three disparate developments. By law, every project (like a general plan amendment) is supposed to have a CEQA document analyzing its impacts. With the GPA the Supervisors approved, there was no CEQA document that covered the cumulative effects that the developments had on the County. Since two of the three are in Elfin Forest, and I do not recall that they analyzed the cumulative impacts they had on the area, that may be a problem, although the County assertsthat everything’s fine and proper.

Update of the International Code of Nomenclature

By Bobbie Stephenson

Formerly called the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN), the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) is the set of rules and recommendations dealing with the formal botanical names that are given to plants, fungi and a few other groups of organisms, all those "traditionally treated as algae, fungi, or plants".

Rare Plant Hunting in a Dry Year

By Fred Roberts, Rare Plant Botanist 

You’ve probably noticed this. It is a dry year, a very dry year. According to the National Weather Service, the rainfall between October 1, 2017 and July 6, 2017 at Oceanside, my hometown, was 5.54 inches (141 mm), only about 55 percent of the yearly average of 9.90 inches (250 mm). Nearly three inches (75 mm) of that fell in a single day in January. Other places in Southern California saw even lower totals during the season. Alpine, for example has only seen 45 percent of normal rainfall. So yes, indeed, this is a dry year.

There are only two ways to deal with a year like this. Stay home and hope for better next year or look harder. Job necessity required I do the later for project surveying rare plants over the 8,600-acre Canyon and Canyon 2 burn. The two fires swept through the Anaheim Hills and northwestern Santa Ana Mountains last September.

Typically following fire, we see a spectacular bloom. Hillsides dressed in color: orange, magenta, blue, and white. Not so in 2018. The steep hillsides were largely open blackened earth with charred branches reaching for the sky. Color was scattered and patchy at best. At the north end of this, a place called Coal Canyon, we saw only rare shrubs and perennials. Rare annuals were largely absent. By mid-April conditions were so dry we thought our surveys would be over in a month.

A Small Milestone

By Arne Johanson, Co-chairperson Habitat Restoration Committee

I noted the following in Bob Byrnes' weekly restoration committee email: “Last week we noticed for the first time a large area of Goldenbush (Isocoma menziesii, I believe) and California sagebrush (Artemisia californica) interspersed with the endless artichoke thistle (Cynara cardunculus to us nerds) that I often mention in these emails. We treated the artichoke last week, leaving the natives to continue to thrive and spread. This is yet another encouraging sign that recruitment following the disastrous fire of four years ago is proceeding nicely.”

My California Native Plants Story: Mike Gonzales

I became a member of CNPS-San Diego Chapter over 28 years ago, for one reason alone – to drive my Nissan pickup truck to the Annual Fall Sale at Balboa Park and load it up with as many native plants as I could stuff into the bed, and then spend the next few weekends plugging up dead patches of ice plant which was the ONLY vegetation on the slopes in the front and rear yards of our first home purchased in 1992 (see attached photo). Having been a CNPS member for only 1-2 years before my wife and I bought our home, I gained a swift appreciation for the many benefits of “native-scapes” and was eager to pull out all this dreaded stuff. “Hold your horses”, my wife said, explaining she didn’t want our yards becoming eyesores of bare dirt turning into unsightly mud pits come rainy season, also resulting in erosion and chocolate stormwater runoff. So, the plan became–fill in small patches of ice plant as it dies off–which I did for years until the final patch. Subsequently different approaches emerged with respect to my journey of “native plant conversion,” eventually morphing into a combination of experimentation and learning how to water my plants through accrued patience borne from laziness.

Into the Hot Part of the Year

By Frank Landis, Chairperson Conservation Committee

Yes, I’m aware that the worst San Diego heat-waves are typically in June and July, and hopefully we’re done with that. All we have to worry about are the fall fires. And politics. And the politics and science of fires.

By the time you read this, I suspect that the County Supervisors will have approved their first General PlanAmendment Bundle (GPA), since they’re hearing it onJuly 25. This one bundles Harmony Grove Village South, Valiano, and Otay Village 250. The first two appear to be the most controversial, primarily because of fire issues.

Unfortunately, the County seems hell-bent on ignoring its general plan and bargains made with communities about where to put dense growth and where not to grow. Instead, they appear to be following the old political aphorism that you shouldn’t let a good crisis goto waste when it comes to making money.

Prehistoric SD County, Part 4

Prehistoric SD County, Part 4

By Tom Oberbauer, President CNPS-San Diego

During the Pleistocene, the San Diego County deserts would have looked very different. The coniferous forest would have grown far down slope onto the leeward side of the mountains into the upper deserts. Acer macrophyllum (Big leaf maple) grew in stands on the upper slopes. Lower down, Pinus monophylla (Single leaf pinyon) grew down to the desert floor near Blair Valley and Oriflamme Canyon.

Granite Mtn and the Pinyon Mtns not far from Earthquake Valley (aka Shelter Valley) as well as the slopes of the San Ysidro Mountains, and the slopes of Rabbit Peak northeast of Borrego near the San Diego/Riverside County Line were covered with coniferous forest of Pinus jeffreyi (Jeffrey pines), maybe some Pinus coulteri (Coulter pines), Quercus chrysolepis (Canyon live oak) and Juniperus occidentalis (Western junipers). Pinus flexilis (Limber pine) grew on Rabbit Peak. They were predominantly coniferous forest but the deciduous tree Quercus kelloggii (California black oak) would have also been found on the western parts.

Juniper woodland grew in Borrego Palm Canyon with 14 inches of precipitation per season. The Junipers occurred in groves around the perimeter of Borrego Valley except for the very sandy areas and the bottom of the Borrego Sink, the low point of the basin in the valley, that held water during winter and spring. Clark Lake was also full of water most of the year and was surrounded by Juniper and Pinyons. South toward Ocotillo and east toward Ocotillo Wells, the vegetation gradually dried and thinned. The Junipers dropped out to the east of Borrego Valley and near what is now the east County Line, the vegetation was semi-desert scrub with Larrea tridentata (Creosote bush) and Fouqueria splendens (Ocotillo). This vegetation would have existed on the eastern and southern edges of the County where rainfall was roughly 5-6 inches a season. The snow would have occasionally reached the desert floor. However, during summer, monsoonal moisture still occurred on the floor of the desert, augmenting the winter/spring rainfall.

Habitat Improvement at Mission Valley Preserve

The San Diego River Park Foundation, a CNPS San Diego partner, has begun a project at the Mission Valley Preserve to improve the native riparian habitat.

Mission Valley Preserve is a 52-acre open space preserve in urban San Diego. This beautiful area is a shady spot to enjoy views of the San Diego River or stroll along interpretive trails. It is home to important native wildlife, including the endangered least Bell’s vireo.

Volunteers with the San Diego River Park Foundation and the Friends of Mission Valley Preserve, as well as City park rangers, have worked in the Preserve for more than 17 years; clearing trash, creating signage and trails, and removing invasive non-native plant species. As part of the current project, volunteers with the new Invasive Management, Plant Assessment, and Conservation Team (IMPACT) will remove 6 acres of invasive plant coverage by September 2020. This effort is funded by the San Diego River Conservancy.

Invasive plant species to be removed: Giant Reed (Arundo donax), Bridal Creeper (Asparagus asparagoides), Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus), Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensi), Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globules), and many others.

Native plant species expected to re-establish: several native Willow (Salix)  species, Mule Fat (Baccharis salicifolia), San Diego Marsh Elder (Iva hayesiana), Buffalo Gourd (Cucurbita foetidissima), and others.

On Sunday, July 22, the San Diego River Park Foundation will be offering a tour of this special area and an update on the status of the project. To RSVP for the tour or get involved in IMPACT, email Steffani Clark-Jijon at steffani@sandiegoriver.org or call (619) 297-7380.