Educational

Documenting Natural Phenomena

By Michael Kauffmann from the CNPS Blog

Kids need nature, and we as parents, educators, and caring adults, need to provide access to it for them. It’s a simple statement, but one that has become harder and harder to achieve in the world of standardized tests, electronics, and organized sports.

To help kids get out and enjoy nature more often, CNPS worked with nature educator John (Jack) Muir Laws a few years ago to publish his nature journaling curriculum. The book guides kids through a combination of art, writing, and science-based activities.

For years, Jack has been developing his curriculum to engage students of all ages in sharpening their observational powers through sketching in the field. He has found that this combination of visual and kinesthetic learning reaches even students who had given up on their artistic abilities long ago.
More recently, the Language Arts component completed the experience. Jack began to work with Emily Breunig, an English and writing instructor, to incorporate exercises such as writing haikus, creating narrative stories, and formulating hypotheses to complement the outdoor observational activities.

This interdisciplinary combination of art, science, writing, and observation exemplifies the California Native Plant Society’s goals in creating educational programs: to engage students of all ages in the incredible natural world of California, to inspire them to keen observations of the wild places in their own backyards, and to foster a desire to protect these unique habitats.

Opening the World Through Nature Journaling has been available for seven years and in that time has guided children and adults throughout California in connecting with their natural surroundings. In classrooms, parks, and vacant lots around the state, more and more people are taking up their sketchbooks and letting nature journaling guide their appreciation of the outdoors. As Beverly Black, a fourth grade teacher in the San Francisco East Bay Area, reports, “Since I’ve been sharing nature observation through journaling with my students, I’ve noticed that they are much more in tune with their surroundings. They’re seeing more, asking more questions, and I think appreciating the natural world more. Nature journaling has been rewarding to me personally, and I hope that I can encourage my students to make it a lifelong passion as well.”

May these activities bring the same passion to you and the children you love! Bring it along on your summer adventures.

Download this FREE curriculum

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.

General Statement on Ants

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

Many people have been experiencing problems with many native species, such as Ceanothus, manzanita, mallow-like plants, and mounding perennials. One of the primary causes, surprisingly, appears to be invasion by Argentine ants! The increasingly hot, monsoonal weather of recent years greatly promotes them. What these ants are doing is placing insects like scale and aphids all over the ROOTS, which literally suck the life out of the plant from below, often undetected to those without the experience to pick up on the subtle clues...

Argentine ants appear to be responsible for other horticultural threats. They plant innumerable types of weeds, including Veldt grass, spotted spurge, petty spurge, purslane, scarlet pimpernel, chickweed, brass buttons, and dandelion, as well as natives like Miner’s lettuce and Purple three awn grass (they’re not very picky). Often massive infestations of weeds can be associated with ant activity; they give themselves away by the weeds they plant. 

An additional concern, of grave consequence, is that these same ants may be spreading pathogens like Phytophthora. This is especially significant as there are virtually no treatments available for these water molds (Sudden Oak Death is just one example of this devastating group of pathogens).

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.

Styles of the New California Garden

Peyton Ellas, Quercus Landscape Design

It used to be that a California native garden meant only a wild-looking, informal garden, or that you could add some California native plants among your existing non-native (exotic) plants in standard planting beds. California landscaping has gone through a phase where a dry creek had to be part of a native-plant garden, and I still add dry-creeks and similar water-theme features in some of my landscape designs, but it’s no longer mandatory. We’ve seen wildflower meadows and native-grass-as-turf-substitute styles come and go.

The new California garden seems to be developing along the following basic styles. See if any of these fit with your yard or goals.

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.

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.