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Annual Wildflower Tests Challenge Conventional Wisdom

Annual Wildflower Tests Challenge Conventional Wisdom

By Lee Gordon, CNPS-San Diego Propagation Committee, from CNPS Blog 

Conventional wisdom says that the best time to sow annual wildflower seeds is in the fall, just before the rains, and that seeds should be covered with a thin layer of soil to protect them from predation. This conventional wisdom may be wrong. Tests in Scripps Ranch and Poway (San Diego County) suggest that it is better to sow wildflower seeds months in advance of the fall rain, and that covering seeds may actually prevent them from germinating.

Citizen Science with Mary Ellen Hannibal

By Michael Kauffmann from California Native Plant Society Blog

As human animals, we’re drawn to the natural world. The impulse to observe, touch, and understand begins at birth. It’s no wonder then that, throughout human history, laypeople—philosophers, gardeners, and vagabonds alike—have contributed to the most meaningful scientific knowledge we have. As Joseph Campbell said, myth is nature speaking, and the goal of human life is to align with nature.

Why would anyone in their right mind keep a collection of dead plants? A visit to the herbarium at UC Davis.

By Ellen Dean, CNPS Blog

In natural history museums around the world are collections of dead plants that are curated by scientists called plant taxonomists. These collections are known as herbaria (in the plural) – a single collection is called an herbarium. If you go to see a bug museum, you say you are going to an entomology museum. If you go see the collection of dead plants, you say you are going to the HERBARIUM! This is generally confusing, because the name makes people think that it is a collection of living herbs – like oregano. But no, it is dead and flattened plants.

Watering Strategies from South Bay Botanic Garden

By Susan Krzywicki from grownatives.cnps.org

After so much debate about how to water native plant gardens, you’d think it had all been said. Let me add some tips and techniques from Eddie Munguia, who is the Horticultural Lab Technician at the South Bay Botanic Garden, located on the campus of Southwestern College in Chula Vista. Eddie installed a native garden over four years ago and one of the key objectives of the botanic garden is to do just this sort of closely observed research and analysis.

The Beauty and Wonder of Seeds

By Michael Wall, mynativeplants.net

The latter part of my working career, maybe the best part, was curating the extensive seed collections at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. My favorite activity? Opening up newly arrived 'packages' of seed. To me this was like being a little boy again on Christmas morning. These seed packages, other wise known as fruits, to the inquisitive reveal a thrilling diversity of nature. Often the seed packages themselves were the focus of my wonder and discovery. Most all seeds however are terribly small and while I could enjoy their tiny beauty through my dissecting scope they were often pretty much invisible or nondescript to the unaided human eye. With whom could I share this joy and exciting adventure I was on?

Fortunately I had the exceptionally good fortune of having a volunteer who, in addition to being a superguy, is also a talented photographer. During his time working with me John Macdonald developed photographic techniques and software skills which allowed him to capture and produce superb images of the seeds in the Garden's collection. I am happy to share here a small sampling of the fabulous images John has created. Each image can be opened on its own for closer viewing.  John also maintains his own website where you can view the many thousands of images in his collection at: www.hazmac.biz/seedphotoslistgenus.html 


John's photography and data base work is truly remarkable and a gift for generations to come.
If you are interested in exploring the beauty and diversity of California native plant seeds or need an image of native seeds, this is the place. 

Click on image below to bring up article and individual plant links.

Baja California: Renewable Energy in Natural Areas

By César García Valderrama, President of CNPS-Baja California chapter

Article at CNPS

The CNPS Baja California Chapter shares the biodiversity of the California Floristic Province and the Sonoran Desert that ignores national boundaries. We also share common problems—including habitat loss, urban sprawl, and climate change. Recent proposals for renewable energy projects in Baja California exemplify how these issues are presenting new challenges on both sides of the border.

Renewable energy farms have been placed in natural ecosystems across the world. While positive results have been realized for energy production, environmental conditions and biodiversity have concurrently declined. A few years ago in Baja California a wind farm was developed by Sempra Energy, one of the world’s largest energy companies. The farm currently maintains 40 wind turbines but plans are in the works to build over 1000 more. This growth will impact over 7000 acres of mountain habitat. The project is named Energia Sierra Juarez after the Sierra Juarez Mountains—one of Baja California’s most endearing environments. The region is home to stands of chaparral, oak woodland and some of the last coniferous forests in the state.

Why Native Plants Are Better for Birds and People

Why Native Plants Are Better for Birds and People

Article from Audubon.org

By Marina Richie

Your garden is your outdoor sanctuary. With some careful plant choices, it can be a haven for native birds as well. Landscaped with native species, your yard, patio, or balcony becomes a vital recharge station for birds passing through and a sanctuary for nesting and overwintering birds.

Each patch of restored native habitat is just that—a patch in the frayed fabric of the ecosystem in which it lies. By landscaping with native plants, we can turn a patchwork of green spaces into a quilt of restored habitat.

Plant of the Month (February) : California polypody fern – Polypodium californicum

Article reposted from Mother Nature's Backyard

My, how it’s rained recently; almost 9 inches in January alone.  That’s as much as we sometimes get in an entire year!  The ground is really moist, and some of our perennials are looking the best they have in years.  Coming into its own right now is the one native fern we currently grow – the California polypody, Polypodium californicum.  The scientific name is pronounced pol-ee-PODE-ee-um   ka-li-FOR-ni-kum.

Pretty poppies for San Diego

By Nan Sterman  

Copyright © 2017, The San Diego Union-Tribune

The California poppy might be the state flower, but it isn’t the state’s only native poppy, nor the only one that thrives in San Diego’s water-wise gardens.

Creating a native wildflower meadow

By Greg Rubin, CNPS-San Diego Garden Native Committee member

Article reposted from California Native Plant Society Blog

Few things evoke magical memories like spring wildflowers. Whether it is a desire to recapture a serendipitous discovery of a color-laden flower field from our past, or simply re-living that scene from the “Wizard of Oz”, nothing stirs our passion for nature like a beautiful field of flowers. California was once celebrated for its annual floral shows; unfortunately, these delightful events are becoming a thing of the past.  The great Kate Sessions lamented that wildflowers were disappearing from San Diego’s foothills by the early 1900s. Even her attempts to include wildflower displays at Balboa Park repeatedly failed. Why?

The answer is that European settlement in California altered our delicate ecology so profoundly that it was lost at all levels. Nothing is quite so fragile as a wildflower meadow. These annuals serve as pioneers that help re-establish ecology should a disturbance wipe out climax shrubs and trees. Being so low in lignin, they disappear after dying, returning all of their nutrients back to the ecology. Additionally, they fill holes not occupied by shrubby plants, and persist in places inhospitable to anything with deep roots, such as in the shallow soils of true native grasslands. What the Europeans brought were non-native weeds: competitive plants unhindered by native bio-controls while putting all of their life energy into reproducing themselves.  These non-native seed banks now reach 10-100,000 dormant seeds per cubic foot! The wildflowers never stood a chance.

Seed was spread to create overlapping drifts of color, which is essential to maintain drama in such a large planting of wildflowers. Photo by Greg Rubin.

Fortunately, knowledge is the best tool, and we have ways to turn back the clock. Eliminating weeds is foremost. It is usually not sufficient to clear a space and drop seed, as Ms. Sessions learned. Instead, the seed bank must be addressed, either through repeated watering and killing of emerged weeds, or the use of chemicals called pre-emergents that kill seed in the soil when watered in. This must be done months in advance of planting. Solarization with clear plastic can also be used, but the effect is usually temporary. After treatment, seeds can be spread and either gently raked in or covered lightly in decomposed granite (this avoids disturbance and deters birds). Wildflower seeds can be purchased at most garden centers and online; however, be sure that the word “NATIVE” is somewhere in the title, and that the species are native to your locale, or you will end up with a mix of weedy introduced flowers, the worst being Alyssum. (ED note: You can check the local appropriateness of your chosen seed mix ingredients by entering your address in CNPS’s Calscape app, available at calscape.org or on CNPS’s homepage.) Common native mixes include California Poppies, Lupines, Goldfields, Desert Bluebells, Gilia, Baby Blue Eyes, Tidy Tips, and Farewell-to-Spring. You can add Owls Clover, Five Spot, and Thistle Sage if available. Keep the plot lightly moist until germination, continue watering twice a week if rainfall is lacking, and CONTROL WEEDS! The outcome will be thrilling!

CNPS Member Greg Rubin is the founder and owner of California’s Own Landscape Design, Inc. (www.calown.com) and a popular speaker. A specialist in the use of native plants in the landscape, he is responsible for over 700 native landscapes in San Diego County and co-authored (with Lucy Warren) two books on native landscaping: The California Native Landscape: the Homeowner’s Design Guide to Restoring its Beauty and Balance and The Drought Defying California Garden: 230 Native Plants for a Lush, Low-water Landscape, both on Timber Press.