Plant Exploring: Mendocino County

Plant Exploring: Mendocino County

Sensitive Plants of the Jug Handle

Sensitive Plants of the Jug Handle

Throughout the Pleistocene, as the climate fluctuated, sea levels rose and fell in conjunction with the size of the polar ice caps. This process allowed oceanic wave-action to cut coastal terraces around the world. Subsequent tectonic forces then slowly pushed these terraces upward. Through other dynamic processes, beach materials like sand, gravel, clay and other rock have been deposited on the terraces at varied depths. What we now witness in coastal Mendocino County is the best preserved example of marine terraces in the Northern Hemisphere.

Directly adjacent to the Pacific Ocean on the first step, wind sculpts coastal scrub and grassland on coastal bluffs or “Bonsai” beach and bishop pine forests (Pinus muricata). Further up the staircase-out of reach of the salty air-ample precipitation, Pleistocene and Holocene sand dunes, and the deposition of conifer needles nurture trees with deep roots and tall shoots. However, the most amazing staircase story begins just to the east of the ancient dunes.

In the mid-section of the second step, and upward on each subsequent step, ancient dunes have cut off surface drainage, flushing perennial moisture onto the step. Via seepage and springs, moisture has created pooling basins that ever-so-slowly drain. Prolonged seepage leaches nutrients like calcium and potassium from the Pleistocene beach deposits, leaving behind sterile hard-pan soils. The year-round leaching, coupled with summer dryness and heating, nurtures an inhospitable layer called a Podzol Horizon (podzol is a Russian word meaning “ash soil”). This unique soil layer creates edaphic microsites.

Exploring the Pygmy Forest.

Exploring the Pygmy Forest.

Certain hardy plant species–some now endemic–survive in spatial isolation on these podzolized terraces. Mendocino cypress (Hesperocyparis pygmaea), Bolander pines (Pinus contorta spp. bolanderi), and Fort Bragg manzanita (Arctostaphylos nummularia ssp. mendocinensis) are just a few of the unique plants that can be found on these staircases.

The California Native Plant Society has had a long history of working to preserve these botanically unique areas. In fact, the Dorothy Young King Chapter (formerly the Gualala Chapter) formed in 1966 when citizens of coastal Mendocino and Sonoma counties joined together to dig up native plants that were going to be bulldozed in the region. Later, in 2006, with pygmy forests designated an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area within the California Coastal Zone the chapter presented litigation against clearing pygmy forest for development.

Take a journey to coastal Mendocino County and visit, what Hans Jenny called the best preserved ecological showplace of coastal landscape evolution in the Northern Hemisphere.

Aricle previously published at

Upcoming Gardening Symposia in South Bay and San Diego Regions

San Diego Chapter
Garden Native Workshop
Saturday, September 10, 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Landscaping with Native Plants: How to Bring Year-Round, Low-Water Beauty to Your Gardens. Order tickets online at Lunch and books will be available for purchase. Join us for a day of speaker presentations and hands-on sessions with field experts. Learn how to successfully plant and maintain native gardens; encourage sustainable native habitats for birds, insects, and butterflies; and use local resources for both new and experienced native gardeners. Girl Scout Headquarters, 1231 Upas St, San Diego, CA 92103.

Santa Clara Valley Chapter
Native Horticultural Symposium
Saturday, September 17, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Landscaping with California native plants is a proven technique for creating low-water, low-maintenance gardens that also provide refuge for wildlife and repair the damage to our urban and suburban areas. Be inspired to create a garden that welcomes wildlife by attending the Native Horticultural Symposium Creating Habitat in the Dryland Garden at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. There will be presentations by Judith Larner Lowry, Sara Leon Guerrero, Liam O’Brien, Frederique Lavoipierre, and Bart O’Brien. Further details available at
Register in advance at Early registration closes August 31. Same day registration begins at 8:00 AM. Email
or call: 650-260-3450 with questions. Foothill College, Auditorium 8338 in Building 8300, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills, just off I-280.



A Productive Season for CNPS Training Workshops

Learning in a beautiful place! CNPS Rare Plant Survey Protocols workshop, Point Mugu State Park, March 2016. Becky Reilly Photo

Learning in a beautiful place! CNPS Rare Plant Survey Protocols workshop, Point Mugu State Park, March 2016.

The CNPS Education Program is wrapping up a fantastic spring-summer season of workshops through the Plant Science Training Program. We have held seven workshops this year around California, training 120 individuals on vegetation monitoring and mapping, introductory plant family identification, and rare and wetland plant identification and assessment skills. Many workshop participants attend on behalf of their organizations, planning to bring their new skills back home to help other coworkers or volunteers become proficient in these science-backed techniques and resources, spreading the reach of this program even further to help ensure a healthy future for California’s native plants and special places.

In keeping with the traditions of this training program, locations for our core workshops are varied each year to make them more accessible to those around the state. We like to choose field sites that are particularly interesting or attractive botanically, so participants get the most education (and enjoyment!) out of their experience. Some location highlights this year have included classes in the Mojave Desert, the White Mountains, and CNPS’s birthplace, the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Berkeley.

Sampling using nested quadrats. CNPS Measuring & Monitoring workshop, Mojave National Preserve, May 2016. Becky Reilly Photo

Sampling using nested quadrats. CNPS Measuring & Monitoring workshop, Mojave National Preserve, May 2016.

CNPS workshops support California’s native plants in many ways. Educating attendees on sound scientific techniques and resources ensures that California’s plants are being treated and accounted for properly by those collecting and utilizing data – whether they are consultants, agency staff, land managers, scientific researchers, or advocates – so that the plants and their habitats can continue to be properly managed and protected.

These workshops not only provide necessary education around the state, they often produce valuable results beyond the knowledge imparted to attendees. This March, the Rare Plant Survey Protocols workshop visited Point Mugu State Park and assessed a population of small-flowered morning glory (Convolvulus simulans), a California Rare Plant Rank 4 species, collecting data which were contributed to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB). In July, the Vegetation Rapid Assessment/Relevé workshop conducted field surveys high in the bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) forest above 10,000 feet in the White Mountains, adding the first survey data points in this area to the CNPS Vegetation Program’s rapid assessment database. Other CNPS workshops also regularly complete “practice” surveys and reporting forms in which real data are collected and submitted to other scientific resources, so that they can be utilized throughout California.

CNPS’s training workshops have spread knowledge and information to countless numbers of individuals over the past 10 years that this program has been in place, and in the next 3-5 years, we are anticipating offering even more workshops around California in conjunction with the new California Consulting Botanist Certification Program. The more people we can educate on sound science and information, the better protected our native plants will be! We are developing our 2017 training schedule now, which will be posted soon at – so stay tuned for another spectacular year!

Photos and article by Becky Reilly, CNPS Events Coordinator

UC Berkeley’s Jepson Herbarium Joins Forces with CNPS on Calscape

CNPS is excited to announce a strategic partnership with the Jepson Herbarium at UC Berkeley to cooperatively develop Calscape, re-launching the site to showcase its many great resources. Calscape now includes plant profiles for all recognized native California plant species, approximately 7000 in total.  Nearly every plant includes a detailed geographic distribution map, built using algorithms based on over 2 million GPS specimen records from the California Consortia of Herbaria, along with detailed elevation profiles across each of the 36 Jepson geographic subdivisions. The plant maps are integrated into Google maps so that users simply type in any California address, city, or GPS location to find out which plants would grow naturally in that spot.

calscape screenshot

Screenshot of Calscape

At its core, planting a native plant garden is nature restoration work, reducing water use and helping to reestablish ecological habitats. “We’re pleased to be working with CNPS and Calscape to help facilitate nature restoration at the local level. Small changes have the potential to make a big impact on the landscape and can help combat the effects of global climate change and degradation of natural systems. Through this partnership, we have combined powerful sources of information to develop a user-friendly interface that will inspire more Californians to include native plants in their gardens and make it easy to choose and purchase native plants from local nurseries,” said Staci Markos, Assistant Director at UC Berkeley’s Jepson Herbarium. The partnership will be ongoing, which means Calscape will provide up-to-date and scientifically-accurate information on distributions from now on into the future.

Plant recommendations are ordered by landscaping popularity, and cross-referenced against Calscape’s nursery database.  In depth plant profiles include photos, plant descriptions, moisture, sun and soil requirements, and landscaping tips to help people choose which plants they want and how to grow them.

After users identify their plant selections they can create an account and save the customized plant list for future reference as well as locate the nearest native plant nursery by going to the Calscape nursery page. The nursery page maps the locations of nurseries throughout California that offer native plant inventory, many of which have integrated their current availability into the database allowing users to view plant inventory through a Calscape ‘plant list’.  This feature not only aims to help users source nearby native plant material but promotes nurseries that have a shared mission in making native plants widely available and routinely incorporated.

calscape nursery screenshotCNPS and the Jepson Herbarium at UC Berkeley hope to use this resource to help bring native plants back to the developed part of the state, along with the birds, pollinators, and other wildlife that depend on them.  With the ongoing destruction of habitat, the California drought, and the growing impacts of climate change, it has never been more important to choose native plants for our landscapes. Calscape makes choosing the appropriate native plants for any location easier than ever, giving Californian’s the tools to restore nature one garden at a time. Please help us spread the word!

Neonicotinoids in Your Garden

Bees on Arroyo Lupine

Carpenter bee, bumblebee and Arroyo Lupine (Lupinus succulentus). Photo by Debbie Ballentine.

In celebration of National Pollinator Week (June 20th-26th) the Xerces Society, the largest pollinator conservation organization in the world, brings awareness to the dangers of a commonly used class of insecticide known as neonicotinoids, or neonics. One of the many benefits of gardening with natives is their ability to provide food and habitat for pollinators. However, when treated with neonics, the insecticide is expressed systemically to all parts of the plant, thus turning pollinators’ sources of pollen and nectar into a toxic danger. The Xerces Society explains, “As a gardener, you have a unique opportunity to help protect pollinators by avoiding the use of these insecticides, asking your local nursery or garden center if plants have been treated with neonicotinoids, and encouraging your city or park district to use alternatives to neonicotinoids on plants that are visited by bees or are bee-pollinated.” Jennifer Hopwood and Matthew Shepherd of the Xerces Society explore the effects of neonicotinoids in further detail in the article “Neonicotinoids in Your Garden”: Read More.

CNPS makes progress against pathogen threat to native plants

Comparison of healthy and unhealthy sticky monkeyflower, courtesy of Suzanne Rooney-Latham, CDFA.

Comparison of healthy and unhealthy sticky monkeflower, courtesy of Suzanne Rooney-Latham, CDFA

May 31, 2016, marked the one-year anniversary of the CNPS Chapter Council’s decision to form an Ad Hoc Committee on Phytophthoras.  This decision was triggered by a request from the Willis Jepson Chapter for CNPS to enact a policy addressing the threat that Phytophthoras and other harmful plant pathogens pose to California native plants.  Since that time the Ad Hoc Committee has completed almost all the tasks necessary to fulfill the intent of the Chapter Council.  The committee’s hard work and steadfast dedication is owed a debt of gratitude for the contributions they have made in just one year’s time.  Their accomplishments were shared with Chapter Council at the June 2016 meeting, focusing on progress made and opportunities for education and assistance on Phytophthora prevention.  Here are some highlights from the committee’s progress report:

  • We collaborated with the U.C. Cooperative Extension’s Working Group on Phytophthoras in Native Habitats to develop Best Management Practices by nurseries and project sponsors to minimize pathogens in native plant nursery stock used in habitat restoration projects;
  • We developed Best Management Practices for clean nursery practices for use by CNPS Chapter Plant Sale Growers to minimize pathogens in CNPS plant sale stock;
  • We conducted two workshops to educate CNPS Chapter Plant Sale Growers on clean nursery practices; and
  • We drafted a CNPS policy on Preventing Infection and Spread of Harmful Pathogens via Native Plan Nursery and Plant Sale Stock, which the Chapter Council adopted last December.

From this point onward, the Ad Hoc Committee will:

  • Educate CNPS Chapter Plant Sale Growers about harmful plant pathogens through our website;
  • Support CNPS Chapters in implementing Best Management Practices that will minimize pathogens in CNPS plant sale stock by offering site visits or consultations by Committee experts; and
  • Collaborate with other organizations on new developments, outreach, research, programs and legislation that support the CNPS plant pathogen policy.

If you want to learn more about how Phythophthoras are affecting native plants you can attend a free symposium session sponsored by the University of California on June 23 at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco (free but registration is required).

If your CNPS Chapter needs assistance to implement Best Management Practices in your nursery, contact Steven Goetz at

Ribes in Spring

RibesArticle and photos by Jennifer Jewell

The spring woodland garden has many bright stars in the form of shrubs: ceanothus and mahonia come immediately to mind. But look a little closer and you will see how lovely the ribes are as well this time of year. The native ribes are far more soft-spoken but have equally nice things to say as their brighter companions. Continue reading