Installation of California Native Plants and Notes on Pollinators

Installation of California Native Plants and Notes on Pollinators

A Conversation on the CNPS-San Diego Listserv

Compiled by Mike Gonzales, Founding Member, San Diego Pollinator Alliance and Former Chairperson, CNPS-San Diego Garden Committee

Can restoring our yards into native urban gardens, albeit very difficult to do given the nature of urban yards, help San Diego’s endemic plants survive and thrive?

Believe me, I understand the part about not being easy! I’ve been stumbling around my front and back yards for 20+ years sluggishly transforming iceplant-covered slopes into some semblance of a native urban garden, or at least semi-native at this point. I thought Wayne Tyson was joking when he posted on the CNPS-SD listserv that, “it's as easy as duplicating the conditions [or functionally mimicking them] under which indigenous ecosystems function.” Well, maybe it was just tongue-in-cheek as he followed up with, “That can be difficult, but it's not impossible, especially the mimicking part [due to] the site conditions that one has to begin with, but it can be done.”

This post epitomizes the macrocosm of my ongoing quest-to create something that hopefully might be considered a decent foundation for, as Wayne puts it, “preserving indigenous germplasm while not sacrificing beauty or utility, and further minimizing the use of imported water and nutrients from other places.” I know, this certainly sounds like a lofty goal, but I’ve been having fun at it – thanks to all the wonderful information streaming across the list-serve from very knowledgeable people whose advice I deeply respect.

Ok, so if you don’t mind too much I’d like to take a slight detour here, as I feel I should at least try to understand what Wayne means when he refers to the term ‘germplasm’. I’m guessing it may have something to do with what both Wayne and Greg Rubin refer to as “the mycorrhizal net (i.e., the natural soil-crust community of algae, mosses, and other cryptobiotic/cryptogamic soil-crust plant communities[1] which are fireproof, erosion-protectors, and infiltration-facilitators).Symbiotic benefits of a mycorrhizal net include disease resistance, pest resistance, and increased availability of moisture. Absence of a mycorrhizal net (and many other microbial constituents of the indigenous microbiome) is a contributor to weed growth, as most weeds are not obligately mycorrhizal; in fact, their presence may inhibit their formation.”

How to Keep Your California Native Garden Long-lasting: A Brief Q & A with Lucy Warren and Greg Rubin

Lucy and Greg have co-authored two books on California native gardening: "The California Native Landscape: The Homeowner’s Guide to Restoring its Balance and Beauty" and "The California Drought-Defying Garden". They graciously accepted our invite to speak on the care and maintenance of  a California native garden at our Native Gardening Workshop this past September 8. We asked them a few questions at the time in advance of their presentation.

In your own California native garden what has been the most fascinating or surprising thing that has happened over the years? 
 
LUCY: I have loved watching the plants grow and develop to their maturity. One of the most surprising things was watching the supposedly tame Leymus condensatus 'Canyon Prince' run rampant and become aggressive. The original 'Canyon Prince' has been compromised and while it is still a beautiful plant, it limits where I will plant it.
 
GREG: I have been doing much of my Argentine ant treatment research and development in my own ½-acre yard, always striving for more directed and organic approaches. It has proven quite epiphanous and incredibly satisfying to bring plants like Ceanothus, Fremontodendron, Dendromecon, Arctostaphylos, and Lavatera back from the brink of death, and to realize how adaptable and resilient these plants can be in the absence of ant infestation. Many of the plants slapped with the moniker of being "short-lived" and difficult are precisely the plants ants seem to target most! 

On average, how often would one need to prune their native garden for optimal growth?
 
LUCY: It depends on what plants you have in your garden. Colorful perennials along the edges of the garden will need to be dead-headed regularly for appearance and to extend their bloom cycle or will need to be trimmed back at the end of their bloom cycle. Grasses need a haircut every year or two. Most of your landscape should be evergreen perennial plants which will need little pruning if they are planted to their mature size.
 
GREG: Hopefully you've chosen plants optimally sized for your spaces, otherwise there may be frequent pruning in order to keep them in-bounds. Short of that, the main reasons for pruning are for shape, to remove dead growth, and dead heading. On a plant by plant basis, this is rarely over once or twice a year. Perennials that bloom continuously (like seaside daisies) may require dead heading every month or two, which in turn stimulates more flowering.
 
When you go out to look at your gardens, what is the thing you check most frequently?
 
GREG: I look for struggling plants. If they have certain weeds growing right around the base (and nowhere else) that is a strong indicator of possible ant infestation. Then I check around and look for ants, as well as soil looseness, which is often associated with ant nests. Finally, if I've ruled out ants, I use my soil moisture indicator to see if the plant is too wet or dry. It is about 12" long so I can check moisture at the roots.
 
LUCY: I check for weeds always.
 
What sorts of pests prevail in California native gardens?
 
GREG: Ants and the sucking insects they support may be the single greatest cause of native plant mortality in landscapes. Unfortunately, by the time you see aphids and scale in the branches, they have long infested the roots, far from the reaches of horticultural soap or alcohol. The big question is whether it is this simple desiccation/sugar appropriation that is the cause of collapse, or whether it is the pathogens that researchers have found to be spread by this activity. Either way, there is absolutely nothing good about Argentine ants!
 
LUCY: I agree with Greg, definitely the Argentine ant is the most destructive, aggressive and prevalent pest in California native gardens because it farms the sucking insects on the roots of the plants.
 
If you could have done or corrected one thing early on in your native garden, what would that be?
 
LUCY: Learn about natives earlier in my life and plant them then.
 
GREG: Use less plants! Many of my older gardens are a little over-planted, partly because I'm such a plant nut, and partly because much of the size data 15-20 years ago was on the small side.
 
What is a memorable response you have had from a reader of your books?
 
LUCY: One of my fellow Master Gardeners came up to me and apologized for the fact that their book was so full of notes and highlights--I loved it!
 
GREG: "Tashkent is NOT in the Ukraine, it is in Uzbekistan!" as I incorrectly described the derivation of Chitalpa tashkentensis as being developed in the Ukraine (especially embarrassing since much of my family on my father's side emigrated from the Ukraine!).
 
Aside from a geography lesson Frank Landis corrected my description of mustard being facultatively mycorrhizal. It is actually non-mycorrhizal, instead secreting cyanide compounds into the soil that destroy the symbiotic fungi that help support the native plant community. We were able to get that correction into the second printing.

Lucy A. Warren, a Virginia native, transplanted to California in early adulthood. With a Masters in Marketing, her first career in marketing research aided decision making with and for major corporations. Long fascinated with plants and horticulture, she is a former editor of California Garden magazine, wrote feature articles and a gardening column on edible plants for the San Diego Union Tribune, and many articles for other gardening publications. She collaborated on the University of California public information pamphlet on killer bees. 
 
Ms. Warren has been assistant coordinator for the flower and garden show at the San Diego County Fair and the Spring Home/Garden Show. A 20+-year UCCE Master Gardener, she has served on many boards, including San Diego Horticultural Society and Pacific Horticulture Society. She joined the board of Friends of Balboa Park as Horticulture Chair and was integral in the preparation of the 2015 Panama-California Exposition Centennial with the Adopt A Plot program. She has appeared on numerous local television news segments and frequently makes presentations to garden clubs and other organizations. She is co-author of two books on California native plants with Greg Rubin: "The California Native Landscape: The Homeowner’s Guide to Restoring its Balance and Beauty" and "The California Drought-Defying Garden".


Greg Rubin was recently named the 2018 Horticulturist of the Year by the San Diego Horticultural Society. He is the president and founder of California’s Own Native Landscape Design, Inc., and is a licensed landscape contractor (C-27 No. 717147) who has been working with California native plants since 1985.  By 1993, Greg fully transitioned out of his career as an aerospace engineer to devote himself to his successful and unusual landscaping business. His company has designed over 700 residential, commercial, and institutional native landscapes in Southern California. Specialties include year-round appeal, low maintenance, water efficiency, rich habitat, and fire-resistance. Greg has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, San Diego Union Tribune and Los Angeles Times, and magazines such as Sunset, San Diego Home and Garden, California Gardener and Kiplinger's. Media coverage includes appearances on all of San Diego's local news outlets, CNN & MSNBC. Greg regularly gives presentations and workshops on native plants to conferences, garden clubs and other organizations throughout Southern California. 

Greg is co-author, with Lucy Warren, of "The California Native Landscape: The Homeowners’ Design Guide to Restoring its Beauty and Balance," published by Timber Press, 2013. This popular native horticultural literary work covers all aspects of native landscape design. He and Lucy now have a second book, "The Drought Defying California Garden", also published by Timber Press in 2016. His website is:  
www.calown.com.

So, the County passed Newland Sierra, and...

By Frank Landis, Chair Conservation Committee

CNPS will be joining the litigation against the Newland Sierra Decision. We have grave problems with its treatment of native plants, problems with wildfire issues for both the plants (with increased ignitions), for existing residents and for new residents, all of whom will have trouble evacuating, and problems with the way they want to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by buying offsite carbon offsets somewhere else (as ifthere’s an infinite market of these things). We will bejoining a coalition of local businesses, institutions, residents, and environmental groups in this suit.

In late September, a judge overturned the County’slatest Climate Action Plan, ruling in favor of Sierra Club and the Golden Door, who had sued on the way that the County wanted to allow carbon offsets outside the County (does this sound familiar?). The plaintiffs wanted the judge to find the County in contempt of his ruling before it could approve Newland Sierra (thereby blocking it), but the judge refused, allowing the County to approve the project. in a hearing right before Christmas, the court will decide whether the County is in contempt of court in moving forward on Newland, Otay Ranch Village 14, Lilac Hills Ranch, and others. And undoubtedly the County will appeal. Exciting, no?

In the meantime, the County is moving ahead to approve Otay Ranch Village 14, Lilac Hills Ranch, and the rest in mid-December. To me, this smacks of chutzpahif not hubris, but we’ll see what happens. It’s possiblethat in December, the judge will forbid the County from approving any projects until they come out with a third Climate Action Plan that passes legal muster. AlthoughI’m sure the County will scramble to rewrite their Climate Action Plan, they’ll probably push it so that it’sgetting approved in spring, 2020, right around the time we get to vote on the Save Our San Diego initiative to take General Plan Amendments to the voters. As I said, it’s getting exciting here. Yay (?)(!)

Growing from Seed: Questions and Answers with Cindy Hazuka, Seed and Bulb Coordinator, CNPS-SD

How did you get started with California native seeds and bulbs?

The simple answer is that I heeded the call! In late 2015 there was a blurb in the CNPS-SD newsletter that predecessor Amy Huie was ready to pass on the torch for managing the seed and bulb sales.  Without ever working with the group I decided to volunteer and step up to the challenge.  This was easy to do as there was an amazing base of volunteers involved who helped me learn the ropes.

The background to this decision is that I have been involved in California native plants since the early 1990s, primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area. Besides being self-taught, I volunteered for years at a California native plant demonstration garden called Native Hill at Foothill College run by the CNPS-Santa Clara Valley chapter.  Then when I found myself in homes with yards I could work in, I focused on natives & edibles. My interest in seeds stemmed primarily from by bank account. It was too expensive for me as a student to buy plants, but I could start hundreds of plants for a fraction of the cost and my love of germinating was born. My family left our home, with over 100 different native plants, to live in San Diego in 2012. The move was going to be temporary but when we decided we were going to stay in the area I decided to get involved in the San Diego chapter by doing the seed sales.

Park Champions and Park Staff Help with Preparing the Old Town Native Plant Landscape for Changes

Park Champs 1.jpg

Park Champions and Park Staff Help with Preparing the Old Town Native Plant Landscape for Changes

Six Park Champions volunteered alongside Old Town State Park staffers Chad, Susan, and Matt, to rebuild and paint another section of the old wood picket fence around the historic McCoy House, while four other Champions helped CNPS member Kay Stewart remove overgrown black sage from the Native Landscape. The purpose of the landscape is to “re-create a usable, edible landscape-like the one used by the Native Americans who lived here before Europeans arrived.” The work was started in 2006 and at the time the species selection seemed fine. Sadly, large shrubs provided hiding places for people, so the landscape is being “remodeled” to eliminate them.

After some irrigation repairs are completed by Park staff, on November 17, at the next Park Champions volunteer work party, CNPS members Kay Stewart and Peter St. Clair will show volunteers how to sow wildflower seeds. Seeds of locally common species of annuals will be scattered in bare spots to result in short-term beautification. Kay and Peter are also planning to replant using plants that will not reach more than 2’ in height and have ethnobotanical value. They hope that funding to replant the Landscape with an estimated 300 plants, at a cost of $2,000 to $3,000, will be found. If so, planting parties in December and/or January will be scheduled.

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.”