Bundling GPAs...And More to Do for Conservation

By Frank Landis, Chair Conservation Committee

First, a huge Thank You!! to the Conner Family Foundation for a donation that grew the CNPSSD legal fund by about 50 percent. This was welcome income, as we may well have substantial legal expenses this year.

Hopefully, by the time you read this, you'll know all about GPA Bundling and that it was a kerfuffle. If not, here's my (perhaps belated) explanation.

GPA here isn't Grade Point Average, but General Plan Amendment. It turns out that California Government Code Section 65358 states that "no mandatory element of a general plan shall be amended more frequently than four times during any calendar year." What's the point of a General Plan if it can be amended to allow development at whim? Section 65358 then continues, "Subject to that limitation, an amendment may be made at any time, as determined by the legislative body. Each amendment may include more than one change to the general plan.(emphasis added)" This last sentence has come to be known as "bundling."

EarthLab Demo Garden Update

A report from Kay Stewart

Thanks to Chapter's Mini-Grants, Natives at EarthLab are Growing Beautifully

GroundWorks San Diego-Chollas Creek has brought awareness of our natural environment to community members in central San Diego through programs at EarthLab, a 2-acre plot right off Euclid Ave. and SR 94. Every year, hundreds of public school students learn about growing plants there. Over several years, grants supported staff and volunteers to grow thousands of native plants, to restore Chollas Creek. These projects teach students about wildlife as well as plants. Other projects are teaching students how to grow vegetables and fruit trees.

Most recently, GroundWorks improved 1/4 acre of EarthLab to become a water conserving Demonstration Garden. This area showcases low-water plants that homeowners can plant in their own yards. Mini-Grants from CNPSSD bought CA native plants for the Demo Garden between 2016 and 2018. GroundWorks grants are now funding homeowners to convert home landscapes to conserve water, using many of the plants growing at EarthLab. As the photos show, the native plants sponsored by CNPSSD are growing beautifully on a low-water irrigation schedule.

The Demo Garden is still evolving. It is a dynamic project, engaging community volunteers for various garden projects. With wise management, caring volunteers, and adequate funds, it can grow to be a beautiful community asset for residents of central San Diego. If you are interested, please get in contact to learn more.

The Pollinator Pathway–Providing Nature’s Finest Candy!


Composed of educational and experiential components, the Pollinator Pathway exhibit is designed to inform visitors about the beauty and importance of pollinators, and specific actions they can take to benefit pollinators, whether on your patio or in a backyard garden.

Why we focus on pollinators:
In the United States, pollinators are responsible for 75 percent of our food supply. That is one of every three bites of food we eat! Pollinators help produce some of nature’s finest sweets and baking ingredients: chocolate, pumpkins, blueberries and strawberries.

Pollinators are critical to our food supply and the plant diversity we find in nature, yet across the nation, they are disappearing. 

At the Pollinator Pathway exhibit, you will learn more about bees, butterflies and other pollinators, and how to help them thrive.

Exhibit highlights:

  • Native gardens-walk through our native pollinator garden and learn how to transform your home landscape into a pollinator-friendly oasis.
  • The butterfly house-hang out in our butterfly house for a face-to-face experience with live butterflies.
  • Live honeybees-observe our live honeybee exhibit to get a glimpse of what life is like inside a honeybee hive. 
  • Photo op-take a photo with our giant set of rainbow butterfly wings to share with your friends and spread the word about butterflies and pollinators.

Where to find us:

The Pollinator Pathway is located at the Farm (the infield of the track at the fairgrounds). We are open every day that the fair is open, from June 1 to July 4, 2018.

County Fair address: 2260 Jimmy Durante Boulevard, Del Mar, CA

Speakers and demonstration schedule:
On Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00 PM and 4:30 PM, we will offer a variety of talks and demonstrations. Topics include monarch butterflies, native bees, creating pollinator gardens and butterfly releases. See the Fair calendar for more information.

The Pollinator Pathway is jointly presented by:
The Butterfly Farms
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Sky Mountain Permaculture Institute
San Diego County Fair
Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego County
California Native Plant Society - San Diego Chapter
U.S. Department of Agriculture - Natural Resource Conservation Service

For more information about the exhibit, visit: http://www.rcdsandiego.org/san_diego_county_fair_pollinator_garden.aspx

Prehistoric San Diego County, Part 2

Prehistoric San Diego County, Part 2

By Tom Oberbauer, CNPS-SD President


The cool west wind blew across the broad mesa several miles west of the dark pine covered ridge of what is now Point Loma. The vegetation was a mix of Artemisia californica (California sagebrush), Eriogonum fasciculatum (California buckwheat) and Eriogonum giganteum (Island buckwheat) and Ceanothus (wild lilac) shrubs, and prairie habitat. The grass was dominated by Stipa species but was blended with a lot of wildflowers, including butter yellow Layia platyglossa (Tidy tips), purple Castilleja spp. (Owl’s clover), blue and white Lupinus spp. (lupines) and the bright orange Eschscholzia californica (California poppy). The color of the flowers was brilliant under the hazy sun.  A herd of North American Stilt-legged llama grazed in the midst of the color, bending their long necks to feed on the grasses. They were more slender than modern Llamas in South America and built for speed. The afternoon breeze fluffed the fur of these animals as a couple of them stood holding their heads high, watching for predators.  Down the bluff below, the ocean swell created a dull roar and foamy spray.  

Why Container Gardening Matters for Conservation

Why Container Gardening Matters for Conservation

By Frank Landis, Chair Conservation Committee

It was good to see so many people at the garden tour and at the April general meeting. Being the contrarian that I am, I wanted to flag something we don't do enough of, and argue that it's important. What we don't do is to help people set up container gardens for native plants. Most of our work focuses on in-the-ground gardening, and for good reason. But there's this problem. It's typically a few years out of college, happy to finally at least have a balcony on the apartment or a yard bigger than a surfboard. This problem thinks that native gardening might be cool, buys a white sage at a garden sale, puts it in a pot, watches it die, decides they can't grow native plants, and goes onto some other hobby.

Does this story seem familiar? I've not only heard it, I've lived it, and while I never grew white sage in a pot (mostly because it grows in my mom's yard), I've heard quite a few variations on it over the years.

There are numerous reasons why this is a conservation problem. First and foremost, CNPS members tend to be older, wealthier, and whiter than the population of California as a whole. What we think of as "normal"—having a garden to landscape, being able to take long vacations, comfortably hiking in the back country, are privileges that many people simply don't have. Some things we can do, like leading more field trips and targeting our advertisements where people outside our normal demographics look for fun. Others, like giving everybody a big back yard to garden in, are less possible every passing year. This isn't just about the housing crisis, it's about the sprawl crisis, and it's something I have to deal with in conservation all the time.

Prehistoric San Diego County, Part 1

Prehistoric San Diego County, Part 1

By Tom Oberbauer, CNPS-SD President


Much evidence exists that during the Pleistocene the vegetation in the Southwest of North America was composed of trees and shrubs that require much more precipitation than currently falls here. Some of the evidence is based on the patterns of existing vegetation including isolated and disjunct populations and consideration of prehistoric distribution of plants influenced them. Other evidence is based on fossil woodrat middens which contain plant parts that can be identified as representing the vegetation from thousands of years ago. Fossil evidence also exists for times ranging from the past few million years when the climate was wet enough to provide for native members of the genus Persea (Avocado) with Pinus torreyana (Torrey pine) and Pinus radiata (Monterey pine) and Palms growing with them (Axelrod and Deméré 1984) to closer to 10,000 years ago when forests existed in coastal Southern California (Axelrod and Govean 1996). Fossil evidence also exists that indicates an extremely diverse fauna of large animals that fed on the vegetation supported by greater levels of precipitation.

Best tips from experienced CA native plant gardener Joan Bockman

Joan, what are your 3 best tips for planting native plants?

  • I always start by telling people to take a hike. Literally. You need to find that place you love. For me it was Torrey Pines Reserve because my native San Diegan husband had no idea what was native. So we started hiking and learned about Coastal Sage Scrub. I've been planting that habitat ever since in coastal Oceanside. A great view is from the Coaster south of Sorrento Valley. You come into Rose Canyon and it is exactly the way San Diego mesas and the creek valley should be.
  • Dig a hole exactly the size of the pot. Fill it with water and let it drain before planting. While working with a group at the Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center, we had a debate about how much water to put in the planting hole. The best way to describe it was to have chocolate icing in the bottom of the hole but not chocolate pudding.
  • Plant stuff and see how it does. You are starting on a journey, not finishing a job. You will learn more and wonder why you did some things early on. I have never used fertilizer in old yards or forgotten places. Some of my coyote bush ground cover is pruned by cars running over it on a corner.

Protect Rural Lands to Protect Nature and people: Support “SOS”

By Kay Stewart and Susan Lewitt

As Earth Day approaches, please keep in mind the ripple effect: everything you do affects the planet, from wild plant and animal biodiversity, to our own health. The more we change our planet, the harder it is for most wild species of plants and animals to survive.

One of our biggest impacts is when farms and ranches are converted to housing, and the co-existing plants andwildlife are wiped out. San Diego’s rural land issupposed to be protected from subdividing into small home lots by the County General Plan that allows adding up to 50,000 new homes by expanding theseveral dozen rural “villages”, not by dividing large ruralparcels that are far from major roads. The villages already have services that homeowners need: water, utilities, fire protection, larger roads, and schools. And the impact on wild animals and plants is reduced to the boundaries of the villages, rather than converting intact rural lands that frequently include native habitat.

But land speculators can make huge profits converting those distant rural lands. They mislead people by sayingthat “we need housing.” They don’t want people torealize that the County General Plan allows newhousing. Please read this April issue’s Conservation News about one speculator’s plan that threatens a large rural area. If you act by April 9, you could help prevent it from happening.

The public shouldn’t have to leap into action every timea new speculator wants to violate the General Plan. So a huge alliance of over 20 San Diego area groups areworking to get an initiative called “SOS – Save Our SanDiego Countryside” on the Fall ballot. This initiativewould require every proposed General Plan amendment to automatically go to a public County- wide vote.

The petitions to put the initiative on the ballot must be turned in by May 1. If you have not signed a petitionalready, and you’d like to, or want to help gathersignatures, send a note to conservation@cnpssd.org. If“SOS” gets on the ballot and passes, it may be able to stop sprawl. The benefit to San Diegans includes reduced greenhouse gas output from excessive commuting, reduced fire risks by reducing long strands of powerlines over wildlands, and reduced direct destruction of San Diego’s native animals and plants. CNPS cares.

HELP! (Your Conservation Activities for Native Plant Month)

By Frank Landis, Chair Conservation Committee

Yes, it's really Native Plant WEEK, April 15-21, 2018, but we need a month of work this year. Fortunately, or unfortunately, there are things you need to do to help CNPSSD conservation this month. I'm going to highlight some of the same things that Susan and Kay did in their article that follows this one. Unfortunately for nature, they are not the only things going on right now.

To be blunt, this is the busiest I've ever been as conservation committee chair. Here is what the conservation committee is dealing with, as of St. Patrick's Day

Holed is Beautiful

By Frank Landis, Chair Conservation Committee 

This was inspired by the opening plenary talk by Dr. Doug Tallamy at the 2018 CNPS Conservation Talk. If you were there, hopefully this will look vaguely familiar.

If you don't want to read this column, here's the gist: ecosystem ecology. If you like birds in your yard, most of our birds get their protein from invertebrates, which depend ultimately on plants.  Therefore, if you want more birds breeding successfully in your neighborhood, you need to grow more bird food, and that means...having more native plants in your yard. But it's not quite that simple. Here's why:

The basic biology may actually surprise people: many, perhaps most, birds need more protein than they get from plants. The adults may get by on seeds (at least when seeds are available), but their chicks need bugs to get the protein they need to reach maturity. Dr. Tallamy even had a heart-breaking picture of a failed chickadee nest with dead chicks surrounded by birdseed from nearby feeders. In the absence of bugs, the chickadee parents had tried in desperation to feed their chicks bird seed. It didn't work. 

Rocking Out on Lake Hodges: Garden Tour MPG (Multi-Purpose Garden)

Rocking Out on Lake Hodges: Garden Tour MPG (Multi-Purpose Garden)

An interview with owners Joe and Laurie Ferguson

Driving just a road snippet up from Lake Hodges, one doesn’t enter the tour garden, MPG (Multi-Purpose Garden) from a front yard. Instead a back street will open onto a separate property behind the house. The owners, Joe and Laurie Ferguson purchased a half-acre lot behind their house, a completely bare space, to create an area for their 3 small children with no playgrounds in the neighborhood. After doing some major grading with the soil to create a flat play area, they tried tropical plants and banana trees, but nothing really fit.

Then, Joe ran into Greg Rubin, the renowned California native plant landscaper in San Diego County. The Fergusons were about to put in the same 20 landscaping plants you see across San Diego but Greg persuaded them to try California natives. And thus 600 native plants were installed in 2001.

The Fergusons did and continue to do 95% of the work of planting, watering, and maintenance. For them “it is fun, a way to get away from the kids” they say, laughing. Laurie would point out areas in the garden that could become a design feature. She is the originator of many of the built-out garden features. As the ideas grew it became “Now let’s do this, now let’s do this.” Today, viewing the expansive landscape filled out with native plants and still including the flat play space, the hard work has paid off richly.

Update on the Ocean Beach Elementary School Ethnobotany Garden

By Deirdre Encarnación Slaughter

The Ocean Beach Elementary School Ethnobotany Garden is happy to celebrate its first anniversary.  The plants for the garden were provided by the San Diego Chapter of the CNPS, through the efforts of CNPSSD board member Cindy Burrascano in collaboration with school parent and Academic Achievers committee co-chair Deirdre Encarnación Slaughter.  Planting, watering, weeding, and upkeep is done primarily by parent volunteer Brian Slaughter with help from interested students, especially their first-grade daughter Lillianne.