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.

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. 

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.”

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.

News from the World of Conservation

News from the World of Conservation

By Frank Landis, Chair Conservation Committee

Halfway through the year, and no slowdown in sight. I don’t really have a theme this month, other than an update on where CNPSSD conservation is at the moment.

• Thank you to those who donated to the CNPSSD legal fund. I’m going to keep begging for donations because, as you’ll see below, they’re likely to be needed. I don’t like writing this any more than you like reading this, but this year is, in bulk, a concerted attempt by moneyed interests to roll back the environmental gains of the last 50 years. We can’t assume anything is safe. If you can’t donate, come to meetings and speak up. If you can’t come to meetings, donate what you can to CNPSSD and other environmental groups.

• Bundling of County General Plan Amendments hasn’t gone away, as I’d fondly hoped it might. As I write this, Lilac Hills Ranch is going to the Board of Supervisors, with only trivial alterations to what we voted down in 2016. The County Planning Commission passed it straight through, even though County Planning had counseled that they needed to hear more testimony. If you haven’t contacted your county supervisor about this, please do so. The script is in previous newsletters, or you can contact me at

• Newland Sierra is set to be heard by the County Planning Commission June 28 and 29. Presumably by the time you read this, it will be on its way to the County Supervisors, since the majority of the County Planning Board right now approves projects no matter what testimony they get. More than other projects, there is well-organized opposition to this one, but like the others, it is likely to end up in court. It has all the same problems of putting expensive homes in high fire danger areas, degrading wildlife movement corridors and human movement corridors alike (in this case, the human corridors are Deer Springs Road and I-15), and the developer is from out of town.

Prehistoric SD County, Part 3

Prehistoric SD County, Part 3

By Tom Oberbauer, Chapter President, CNPS-San Diego

The foothills and valleys in San Diego County would have exhibited even greater differences in vegetation from those of modern times. In addition to El Cajon, the major valleys, including Escondido and Ramona, would have supported low growing shrubs but also grassland due to increased precipitation and fine soils and the large numbers of herbivorous mammals.

Except for the big animals, the environment including the vegetation here would have modeled that of the inner mountain foothill slopes of the Monterey/Santa Cruz areas. Winter snow levels would have been repeatedly at 2,000 to 2,500 feet rather than the 3,500 feet that it is now. The foothill mountains, like Otay Mountain, Big Black Mountain, Mount Woodson, Viejas, Poser, Potrero and Tecate Peaks, were regularly snow- capped forested peaks following winter storms.

The vegetation on the foothill mountains would have been pines with Pinus coulteri (Coulter pine), more Hesperocyparis forbesii (Tecate cypress), Hesperocyparis stephensonii (Cuyamaca cypress) Pseudotsuaga macrocarpa (Big-coned Douglas fir) mixed with Quercus chrysolepis (Canyon live oak), and Quercus kelloggii (California black oak). Average precipitation on Otay Mountain would have been close to 40 inches. Acer macrophyllum (Big leaf maple) andArbutus menziesii (Madrone) were also part of the forest vegetation community, the big leaves providing large yellow patches on the hillsides in the fall. However, Madrones were dark and grew with large shiny leaves and red bark. In the favorable locations with a bit more shade and rainfall, these trees would have also been mixed with Pinus lambertiana (Sugar pine), Pinus ponderosa (Ponderosa pine), Abies concolor (White fir), and Calocedrus decurrens (Incense cedar). This was the same type of forest that currently occurs near the top of the Cuyamaca Mountains and Palomar Mountain. In the hilly areas, Saber tooth cats, Jaguars, and Short-faced and Grizzly bears were common, preying on the Elk, Mule deer, and Bighorn sheep. Mastodons and sloths were individual food processors pulling down low hanging tree branches and shrubs in the forested areas, feeding machines that were actively engaged in eating through much of the day. Shrub oxen browsed on the chaparral and sage scrub vegetation, feeding and chewing for hours at a time, moving in small clusters and tilting their heavy horned heads at unexpected sounds. A Scimitar cat watched them from a shadowy vantage point.

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.