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Creosote Bush Flowers and Fruit

Creosote Bush in Bloom
Photo by Kathy LaShure

Creosote Ring Sub-Chapter

The Creosote Ring subchapter was formed in the Fall of 2005. Our members live in the Indian Wells Valley at the southern end of the Bristlecone Chapter’s geographically large territory.

Events

Meetings

Future meetings TBA. Contact Kathy LaShure for information.

When we have meetings, we usually meet on the first Wednesday at the Maturango Museum (100 E. Las Flores, Ridgecrest) at 7 pm. Sometimes we have a speaker/program; other times we work on projects and plans (including field trips in our area).


Field Trips and Events

Below are some of the Bristlecone Chapter field trips that are farther south - check the main events page to see more!

March 18, Saturday: Centennial Flat Exploration, Friends of the Inyo

Explore the newest additions to the National Conservation Lands System! The centennial flat landscape comprises Joshua Tree and higher elevation pinion pine woodlands surrounded by the Malpais Mesa and Coso Range Wilderness Areas, Death Valley National Park and Owens Lake. These newly protected lands provide habitat linkages and climate refugia for numerous species of animals and plants as well as ample recreational opportunities. Wildflowers may be a particular highlight of this trip. We will spend the day touring and hiking these BLM lands off of Highway 136. This is a joint Desert Survivors trip. RSVP required. For more info, contact Jora@friendsoftheinyo.org.

March 20-23 and/or 27-30: Volunteers needed for rare plant surveys in Death Valley

Volunteers are needed to help in data collection about populations of Swallenia alexandrae and Oenothera californica ssp. eurekensis in Eureka Valley this spring. The estimated dates volunteers will be needed are: March 20-23, March 27- 30, April 3-6, and April 10-13. Additional dates could be added if needed. Volunteers will be camping at Eureka Dunes Dry Camp in various, possibly inclement conditions, hiking 12 miles a day over sandy, rugged terrain, and assisting with data collection for the impending FWS decision to delist these two species. A commitment of at least 2 days is preferable, but any help is appreciated. Click here for a flier to share!

Contact: Lucy Ellis
Wildlife and Natural Resource Monitoring Specialist
The Great Basin Institute at Death Valley National Park - Resources Management
Lucy_Ellis@nps.gov
760-786-3230

March 21-22, and March 23-24, 2017: Identification of Grasses, Herbarium, University of Nevada, Reno, with Instructor Arnold (Jerry) Tiehm, M.S., Great Basin Specialist and UNR Herbarium Curator

Always wanted to learn grasses? Here’s a great opportunity!

Dates: March 21-22, and March 23-24, 2017
Location: Rm 300G, Fleischman Agriculture, UNR
Cost: $150 non-student, $80 student

This course covers the unique taxonomy of grasses and some grass-like plants. Basic terminology, dissection skills, and use of keys are the focus of this class. You will learn to identify grasses, and also how to collect and press them. You can anticipate working with about 48 different grass genera, along with “grass-like” plants such as sedges, rushes and lilies. For more information contact Jerry Tiehm at atiehm@att.net.

CNPS Event March 22, Wednesday, 6pm: CNPS Bristlecone Chapter Board Meeting

Pizza Factory, 970 N. Main St., Bishop. Join us at 5:30 PM for dinner. All members are welcome.

CNPS Event March 25-26 Saturday-Sunday, CNPS Field Trip: Death Valley, with leader, Mark Bagley

Meet at 9:00 a.m. at Panamint Springs on Highway 190 in Panamint Valley, about one hour east of Lone Pine. Camping Saturday night will probably be primitive (no water, no toilets, no tables). Trip locations will be scouted and determined just before the trip. We'll go to areas in either Panamint Valley and/or Death Valley depending on the bloom. Won't be able to tell you where that will be until we meet Saturday morning. With good rains this year it should be a good, perhaps very good, wildflower year. Easy to moderate walking. Trip will end on Sunday about 3 p.m. Standard car OK, but we will be on some dirt roads; don't forget to gas up ahead of time (there is very expensive gas at Panamint Springs and in Death Valley). Bring good walking shoes, plenty of water for the whole weekend and everything else you need for primitive camping. There's a $25 per vehicle park entrance fee, good for 7 days, if you don't have one of the Park passes. Mark is a consulting botanist with more than 30 years experience in the Mojave Desert and has led many wildflower trips to Death Valley. Questions/more information, contact: Mark Bagley, 760-920-2211.

CNPS Event March 29, 2017, Wednesday, 7pm: Julie Fontaine will present "The Wonder Down Under! Soil Ecology and its Influence on Plant Succession, Habitat Restoration, and Your Garden"
Location: White Mountain Research Center, Bishop.

Habitat restoration ecologist, Julie Fontaine, will explore the nuances of soil ecology and its influence on plant succession, and the restoration of native habitats. The right foundation improves the survival of new plantings, reduces invasive weeds, and enables plants to adapt to the environment faster, resulting in better habitat restoration success. Translating this information to a pollinator garden, or even edible plantings, Julie will provide soils-based applications and tips that will help any garden or native area flourish.

Julie has been living in Mammoth Lakes for over 10 years. She is a professional environmental consultant in the fields of soil science, habitat restoration and regulatory permitting. She holds a Master’s Degree in Soil Science with a focus on Habitat Restoration. Julie’s passions lie in helping people take care of their land, whether it is for improving plant productivity on a farm, or restoring habitat. Recently she has been retained to assist in providing cutting edge soils-based solutions to manage the devastating impacts of the Polyshothole Borer on riparian habitat in Southern California. In addition, she also runs Positively Sustainable.com, a blog focusing on sustainable living.

CNPS Event April 1, DEADLINE: Bristlecone Chapter T-shirt Design Contest

The Bristlecone Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) needs a new t-shirt design! We are soliciting artwork that will be used on our new t-shirts. Deadline: April 1, 2017

Contest Guidelines

The original artwork should include a bristlecone pine and be approximately 8 x11”. The work may include other native plants and artistic features, but a bristlecone pine should be central to the work. The words "Bristlecone Chapter California Native Plant Society" should be incorporated. Artwork can be in any reproducible medium, and can be full color, but will ultimately be printed with 6 or fewer colors. The main work will be printed on the shirt-front, and a smaller tag image will be printed on the back below the neck. The tag image should be simpler. It could be derived from the larger piece, or it could be something different suitable for printing in one color. Click here for a printable flyer about the t-shirt design contest!

Contest entries should be emailed to teeshirtdesign@bristleconecnps.org by midnight on April 1, 2017. Please send artwork as PDFs or JPEGs and include your contact information. The winner will be selected by the Board of Directors of the Bristlecone Chapter. The winner will be awarded $200 and a new t-shirt.

For more information, contact Stephen at teeshirtdesign@bristleconecnps.org or (760) 937-9918.

April 1, Saturday: Chocolate Mountain Hike, Friends of the Inyo

Join us for a FOI tradition! Chocolate Mountain borders the Great Basin and the Piper Mountains Wilderness. A spring hike up Chocolate Mountains offers a reprieve from the snow in the Sierra.

Expect a strenuous walk with significant elevation gain and loss- a total of 1,500 feet of elevation over 7 miles round trip. Be prepared for all weather conditions, and bring food, water, and layers.

Space is limited so please RSVP. For more information and to RSVP contact Ben at ben@friendsoftheinyo.org or call 760-873-6500.

CNPS Event April 2, Sunday, 9:30 am - noon: Blooms and Bugs for Beginners, with Nancy Hadlock and Richard Potashin. Dedecker Garden, California Museum, Independence

This program will offer beginning botanists and bug enthusiasts a chance to find and identify the blooming wildflowers around the Eastern California Museum. Bring good walking shoes, water, a snack, and loads of questions, we will have lots of resources to refer to!

April 3-6 and/or April 10-13: Volunteers needed for rare plant surveys in Death Valley

Volunteers are needed to help in data collection about populations of Swallenia alexandrae and Oenothera californica ssp. eurekensis in Eureka Valley this spring. The estimated dates volunteers will be needed are: March 20-23, March 27- 30, April 3-6, and April 10-13. Additional dates could be added if needed. Volunteers will be camping at Eureka Dunes Dry Camp in various, possibly inclement conditions, hiking 12 miles a day over sandy, rugged terrain, and assisting with data collection for the impending FWS decision to delist these two species. A commitment of at least 2 days is preferable, but any help is appreciated. Click here for a flier to share!

Contact: Lucy Ellis
Wildlife and Natural Resource Monitoring Specialist
The Great Basin Institute at Death Valley National Park - Resources Management
Lucy_Ellis@nps.gov
760-786-3230

April 8, Saturday, 9:45am: Pollinator Garden Workshop, Eastern Sierra Land Trust, held at the Inyo Council for the Arts (137 S. Main St. in Bishop)

Want to create beautiful, productive landscaping in your yard or garden that will attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other important pollinators? Eastern Sierra Land Trust is here to help!

At our Pollinator Workshop on Saturday, April 8th, you'll learn how to get your pollinator-friendly garden growing this spring. Guest speakers will share insights on Eastern Sierra gardening topics ranging from drought-tolerant native plants, to composting, to watering systems, and more. The presentations will begin at 10am, so please join us by 9:45am for registration and refreshments.

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Indigo Johnson, ESLT Education Coordinator & AmeriCorps Member, at indigo@eslt.org or (760) 873-4554.

CNPS Event April 8, Saturday, 9am: Division Creek and Sawmill Trailhead, with Steve Matson

Meet at 9:00 AM at the Kiosk and Redwood tree at the corner of 395 and 168 in Big Pine. If you are coming from the south you may meet us at 9:20 at the junction of Tinemaha Road and Division Creek Road, about 2 miles south of Aberdeen. We will drive west on decent dirt roads to the Sawmill Pass Trailhead. From there we will hike slowly south along the trail and feast upon one of the best Lupine displays in the Owens Valley. A rarer plant we will seek out, among many others, is Collinsia callosa, desert mountain blue-eyed Mary, and Tricardia watsonii, three hearts. Also present will be more Cryptanthas than you can shake a stick at! Contact Steve Matson at 775-843- 0389 or ssmat@sbcglobal.net for more information.

April 9, Sunday: Alabama Hills Stewardship Event, Friends of the Inyo

Join Friends of the Inyo, Bishop BLM, and the Alabama Hills Stewardship Group for a stewardship volunteer event in the Alabama Hills. Come help care for a beautiful places outside Lone Pine. Bring water and work appropriate clothing. Tools and gloves provided.

Exact time and meeting location TBD. Email ben@friendsoftheinyo.org with questions.

April 19, Wednesday, 7pm: Ripple Effects - using sound to study the effects of introduced trout on bird populations around alpine lakes, with Mary Clapp, at the U.S. Forest Service/BLM Building in Bishop; Eastern Sierra Audubon

The Eastern Sierra Audubon April program will be held at the U.S. Forest Service/BLM Building in Bishop on West Line Street, near the DMV. Doors open at 6:30, with the presentation starting at 7:00pm.

Guest speaker, Mary Clapp, will discuss her ongoing research on the impacts of introduced trout on the native bird community in the high-elevation lake basins of Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks (SEKI). Non-native trout prey heavily upon aquatic insects, potentially outcompeting native insectivores (including birds and bats) for an important food source and altering their foraging behavior, fitness, and reproductive success in unknown ways. Her work studies this connection between water and land by using acoustic recorders to remotely capture lakeside activity by birds and bats, and comparing this technology with traditional survey methods. In this talk, she will give a brief overview of the acoustic methods she has used to compare bird activity at fish-containing and fishless lakesides and review preliminary analyses. Her work is made possible by substantial collaboration with SEKI and the Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division of the National Park Service.

Mary Clapp is currently a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Graduate Group in Ecology at UC Davis. Though native to Maryland, she migrated to the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada in 2010, where her academic imagination took flight and where she has continued to naturalize. When she is not in the alpine zone eavesdropping on birds and bats, she can be found at lower elevations exploring riparian corridors, cliffsides, boulder fields, and hot springs (or at her computer in Davis).

May 6, Saturday, 11am-2pm: GardenFest, Eastern Sierra Land Trust, 250 N. Fowler Street, Bishop

Join us for our annual GardenFest! Held at the ESLT Garden at 250 N. Fowler Street in Bishop. Learn from Master Gardeners, swap gardening tips and stories, share seeds, and purchase plants from local nurseries and organizations. Pizza and refreshments available. Save the date and celebrate the growing season with us! The Bristlecone Chapter will be at the GardenFest with some native plants available for purchase - get a head start on your garden!

CNPS Event May 20, Saturday, 8am Bristlecone Chapter Field Trip: Ainslee Spring and Round Fire Burn. Leader: Jerry Zatorski

At 5500' elevation, Ainslee Spring sits against the Wheeler Crest at the top of the alluvial fan. In the past the spring area was host to many Sierra plants, but in February 2015 all that changed as the Round Fire rapidly consumed everything in its path. Today the spring and associated wetland still shines bright green amid the devastated landscape around it. Due to the dense sagebrush that covered much of the landscape prior to the fire, this area has been spared much of the disturbances from ranching, suburbanization and heavy ORV use in past years, and as a result there are relatively few exotic weeds. Despite the meager rains in spring of 2015, the spring flowers were big and bold.

We will begin at the dirt loop road (Alison Ln. in Google maps) on the west side of Paradise and hike along the Ainslee Spring road making stops as the flora dictates. We will also visit a Bitterbrush planting implemented by BLM in October of 2016 and view the extent of the fire scar on the alluvial fan. There will be about 3-4 miles of moderate hiking at a botanist pace. Participants should bring lunch, snacks and plenty of fluids. Dress for the weather conditions, hat, sunscreen, hiking shoes...

We will meet at 8:00 AM at the dirt loop road which is 0.5 mile up Lower Rock Creek Rd/Old Sherwin Grade from where it crosses Rock Creek and the trail head (old Paradise Resort), or 0.3 mile down from the Paradise Fire House. For more information contact Jerry Zatorski, jerryzat@gmail.com.

CNPS Event May 24, Wednesday, Bristlecone Chapter Field Trip: Volcanic Tablelands. Leader: Ann Howald.

Meet at 9:30 am at the pullout near the intersection of Gorge Road and Old Sherwin Grade Road (west side of Hwy 395). We’ll make several stops along Gorge Road to see mainly spring annuals. There was a spectacular bloom here in 2016, and 2017 may be similar. One thing we’ll look for is colonies of Phacelia saxicola, which is known from only 7 collections in California. We’ll be walking over uneven ground 1-2 miles, and should wrap up by early afternoon. For more information: contact Ann (707) 721-6120 or annhowald@vom.com

June 3, Saturday: Garden Tour, Eastern Sierra Land Trust

Save the Date! Details TBA.

CNPS Event June 10, Saturday: Whippoorwill Flat Field Trip, Inyo Mountains, with Michèle Slaton

We will visit the pinyon-juniper woodlands of the Whippoorwill Flat area in the Inyo Mountains. After driving up the Death Valley Road out of Big Pine, and out on the Saline Valley Road about 12 miles, we will hike in the vicinity of 7500 ft., exploring the Whippoorwill Flat Research Natural Area. We should see a variety of annual and perennial wildflowers, including phlox (Phlox stansburyi), blazing-star (Mentzelia sp.), bitter- root (Lewisia rediviva), buckwheats (Eriogonum sp.), and rockcress (Boechera sp.). Our prize will be rediscovery of the juniper and dense mistletoe hybrid, Phoradendron juniperinum x bolleanum ssp. densum, which was visited by Mary DeDecker about every five years 1968-1995, and so will be our opportunity to carry on the trend of long-term monitoring (see Wiens, D. & M. DeDecker. 1972. Rare natural hybridization in Phoradendron (Viscaceae). Madrono 21:395-402). Delbert Wiens (expert of mistletoes; author of Viscaceae treatments, and Mary's son-in- law) is planning to join us! We will meet at 9am at the parking lot at the junction of Hwy 395 and Hwy 168 in Big Pine, and carpool to the extent possible to the field trip area. Bring everything you need for a full day in the field. Please contact Michèle Slaton (760-920- 8693 or mslaton02@gmail.com) with questions.

June 16-18: Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua, birdchautauqua.org

Get your binoculars ready for the 16th Annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua coming June 16-18, 2017! We hope you’ll be here to celebrate and support the rich diversity of bird life, the legacy of avian research, and the ongoing conservation efforts in the Eastern Sierra—all while having a darn good time. Happy birding, botanizing, and naturalizing! We hope to see you at the Chautauqua!

Registration opens April 15th at 6:30am. We encourage you to register online at that time as some classes do fill quickly. The complete Chautauqua program is available online. If you didn't register early, there are often last minute openings available on trips, so don't let that stop you from enjoying this fantastic event.

CNPS Event June 17, Saturday: Conglomerate Mesa, with Jerry Zatorski

Nestled in the southern Inyo Mountains, Conglomerate Mesa is the second most southern peak in the Inyo Mountains, and the has the most southern pinyon/juniper woodlands in the range. Unlike the basalt covered Malpais Mesa to the south or the granitic pluton of Cerro Gordo to the north, Conglomerate Mesa is composed of older Permian sedimentary rock. This part of the Inyo Mountains has great potential to hold numerous botanical treasures as much of the Inyo Mountains have not been explored botanically especially away from established roads.

We will begin at the northeast side of the mesa and hike and botanize our way up to the summit and mesa flat above 7000'. There will be about 7-10 miles of moderate to challenging hiking at a botanist pace which should take us a full day, 8 hours or so. Participants should bring lunch, ample snacks and plenty of fluids as this is a dry hike. Dress for the weather conditions, hat, sunscreen, hiking shoes, appropriate clothes. Bring field guides, hand lens, binoculars, topo maps, and a willingness to hike and explore.

We will meet at 7:00 AM at the intersection of SR 190 and Saline Valley Rd. Alt. Route (34.5 mi E of US 395 near Lone Pine or 17mi E of SR 190 x SR 136), we then have a 1 hr. drive to the beginning of the hike. 4WD vehicles with clearance are required because the dirt roads can always be unpredictable. For more information, contact Jerry at jerryzat@gmail.com.

CNPS Event July 8, Saturday, Bristlecone Chapter Field Trip: Bodie Hills. Leader: Ann Howald.

This will be a driving loop trip going in on the Masonic Road and returning on the Aurora Canyon Road. Meet at 9 am at the Bridgeport Forest Service Office on Highway 395, a few miles south of Bridgeport. On the Masonic Road we’ll be stopping to look at pinyon-juniper woodland, seasonal wetlands, aspen groves, and montane sagebrush scrub. Easy walking. An all-day trip. High clearance vehicles needed. Road conditions after a snowy winter could cause rescheduling of this trip so check with Ann the week before: (707) 721-6120 or annhowald@vom.com

CNPS Event July 15, Saturday, Bristlecone Chapter Field Trip: Glass Mountain Peak and Sawmill Meadow. Leader: Julie Anne Hopkins.

We will explore the eastern flank and summit plateau of this obscure volcanic peak, following a vague hiking trail near Sawmill Meadow. Starting in lodgepole and Jeffrey pine woodland, we’ll quickly ascend a deep pumice valley passing things like Penstemon newberryiMonardella odoratissima, and Eriogonum lobbii. We’ll lunch on the wide summit plateau accompanied by dwarfed Pinus albicaulisPenstemon speciosusAstragalus monoensis, and Raillardella argentea. Stupendous 360-degree views of the Mono Basin, Adobe Valley, Long Valley, Sierra and White Mountain crests will be unavoidable. We should return to the cars around 3:00. Check back closer to the date for more logistical details and a map. Contact Julie Anne Hopkins for more information.

CNPS Event August 12, Saturday, Bristlecone Chapter Field Trip: White Mountains / Crooked Creek. Leader: Courtney Collins.

Plant identification in the White Mountains-Sagehen Flat. Meet at Crooked Creek research station at 9 am and we will do a short hike up to Sagehen Flat. Bring comfortable shoes and water. Pack lunches will be available at Crooked Creek station. Please be prepared for high altitude conditions (3258 m, 10,698 ft). We will focus on plants from the GLORIA survey list.

CNPS Event August 19, Saturday, Bristlecone Chapter Field Trip: Glass Meadow. Leaders: Julie Anne Hopkins and Sue Weis.

Glass Creek Meadow is a beautiful spot about 1 1/2 to 2 miles west of Obsidian Dome. We should see lovely summer meadow flowers, a few Mono Lake lupines in sandy open spots among the pines, and some riparian flowers along Glass Creek, including Lewis' monkeyflower. The hike is sandy and uphill. Meet at the parking area next to 395 at 9:00 am and we will carpool from there. Bring lunch, water, hat, sunscreen and insect repellent.

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Wildflower photos!

Mojave Aster and Prince's Plume, El Paso Mountains

Mojave Aster and Prince's Plume, El Paso Mountains
Photo by Kathy LaShure

A few more wildflower photos to whet your appetite: California Poppy, Coreopsis, Desert Chicory, Grape Soda Lupine, Mojave Bush Penstemon, post-fire wildflowers in Indian Wells Canyon.

Desert Candle, El Paso Mountains

Desert Candle, El Paso Mountains
Photo by Kathy LaShure


News

First Place for Number of Rare Plant Occurrences in 2013 Rare Plant Treasure Hunt!

First Place!

Our own Kathy LaShure, leader of the Creosote Ring Chapter and hunter of rare plants, was completely surprised with an award from the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt committee for documenting the most species of rare plants in the California Rare Plant Treasure Hunt. She and her team documented 15 occurrences of rare plants in their area winning her first place among botanists participating throughout the state. Her 3-year total is an impressive 72 populations recorded.

The Rare Plant Treasure Hunt is fun if sometimes arduous, but also very important to conservation of rare plant species. Among partners and supporters of the effort are US Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, National Forest Foundation, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Parks and National Park Service. The program also receives support from Whale Tail grants, funded by proceeds from special license plates with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. More information is available at Rare Plant Treasure Hunt Project Background and Results.

Kathy is setting her eyes on some very enigmatic and elusive species for 2014 – Phacelia novenmillensi or 9-Mile Phacelia. She will have help from Erika Gardener, a Claremont College graduate student. Their field date is sometime between May 7 and 9 along the Pacific Crest Trail south of Walker Pass. Volunteers are welcome. Contact Kathy LaShure for more information at 760-377-4541.

Creosote Ring and the Red Jeepsters Win Again in 2012!

In last year's Rare Plant Treasure Hunt, The Red Jeepsters won 2nd place for their team, and also for Rich LaShure's great photo (see below).This time, the "intrepid" team came in 1st Place for both overall rare plants found and documented and for most trips led!

"The Creosote Ring subchapter of the Bristlecone Chapter submitted the most rare plant occurrences this year. Trip leader Kathy LaShure organized and led nine trips, documenting many rare plant occurrences from the southern Sierra Nevada. Although it’s a small subchapter, the Creosote Ring members filed in force this summer, and they had great success in finding and documenting their local rare plants. Thank you for your inspiring efforts!"

(from the CNPS Rare Plant Treasure Hunt Awards page)

Erigeron multiceps - photo by Kathy LaShure

Erigeron multiceps
A rare plant documented by the Creosote Ring subchapter
Photo by Kathy LaShure.

Kathy Says: "Yippee! The Creosote Ring won First Place honors this year! Our subchapter now has its own copy of Jepson II for field work & IDing."

The CNPS e-Newsletter has a different write-up about the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt & the 2012 awards. Here are some excerpts:

“Volunteers from the Creosote Ring subchapter and the Sierra Club visited Horseshoe Meadows, a high-elevation, easily accessible, subalpine meadow, as well as some of the surrounding passes and trails. We were fortunate to be joined by Tim Thomas, who has been studying the region's flora for 30 years. Despite the area's accessibility (a paved road makes the steep climb up the eastern slope of the Sierra to the trailhead), many exciting botanical finds awaited us. We found new and historical locations of Tulare rockcress (Boechera tularensis), field ivesia (Ivesia campetris), and Tulare campion (Silene aperta). Jean Dillingham, a new volunteer, was excited to find a very old occurrence of Sharmith's stickseed (Hackelia sharsmithii), a plant named after her friend Carl Sharsmith.”

And this:

“Individuals from many CNPS Chapters participated in the RPTH this year, but a few chapters led the way in organizing treasure hunts. This year's top chapter was the Creosote Ring subchapter of the Bristlecone Chapter. Kathy LaShure of Creosote Ring led many trips this year, some with other chapter members, and some with her two-person team, "The Red Jeepsters". They were able to find many new and historical occurrences of southern Sierra endemics this year, and their work will help with the proposed downranking of field ivesia (Ivesia campestris) from rank 1B to Rank 4.”

Thank you to everyone who participated in a Treasure Hunt this year.

Please come to our evening meeting on Wednesday, December 5th to hear more about the 2012 Rare Plant Treasure Hunt & see pictures of the plants we documented this past summer.

Rare plant treasure hunters at Osa Meadows

You Won't Find Plants by Looking Up!
Award-winning photo by Rich LaShure

The Red Jeepsters Score Rare Plants and Awards in the 2011 Rare Plant Treasure Hunt

The results are in for the 2011 Rare Plant Treasure Hunt, a state-wide collaboration between CNPS & the Department of Fish and Game to update data on rare plants and their associated habitats. The Red Jeepsters team (Kathy & Rich LaShure of Inyokern & the Creosote Ring subchapter) were declared Intrepid Treasure Hunters, the Second Place designation for team awards. Rich also received a Third Place for his photograph of the subchapter field trip to Osa Meadows in late August.

The LaShures began their adventures in the spring, exploring desert locations, with their first rare plant sighting on April 3, the Glamour Girl of local flora, Phacelia nashiana, Charlotte’s Phacelia. When the weather warmed, they moved to higher terrain, making a dozen trips to the Kern Plateau between June and the end of October. In all, documentation (both the required CNDDB form and supporting photographs) was submitted for 35 occurrences of 16 rare species. Of these 24 were new occurrences, 5 were updated recent occurrences, and 7 updated historic (older than 20 years) occurrences.

Rare plant treasure hunters at Osa Meadows

Fritillaria pinetorum, photo by Kathy LaShure

Kathy’s favorite was the dainty Phacelia orogenes, Mountain Phacelia, which occurred in carpets in several locations. Rich was fascinated by the bold stems of weirdly-marked Fritillaria pinetorum, Pine Fritillary, also found in more than one meadow. The most unusual find had to be Cordylanthus eremicus ssp. kernensis, Kern Plateau Bird's-beak, found almost as an after-thought on a late season expedition to see aspens in their golden fall garb along Jackass Creek. Another Bird’s-beak, Cordylanthus rigidus ssp. brevibracteatus, was the last find of the season on Oct. 28.

Plans are already being made for more expeditions next year. Kathy is now authorized to use the DFG’s RareFind database, making research easier. The Red Jeepsters hope to find additional populations of some of this year’s species, as well as targeting several new species and also looking in some locations near the Chimney Peak By-way at the southern edge of the Sierra Nevada range.

More Rare Plant Treasure Hunt Photos: Sidalcea multifida, Viola pinetorum ssp grisea and PDF of Kern Plateau Rare Plants of 2011.

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News Archives

Ridgecrest Solar Power Project:

Cause for Celebration
An update on the Ridgecrest Solar Power Plant project

Can I have a round of applause please? Or three “Hip, Hip Hoorays”? Or just a loud “Yippee!”? Yes, it’s true the Ridgecrest Solar Power Plant project is officially history. In a letter dated Jan. 21, 2011 Solar Millennium withdrew its application for this project. In their own words “A review of the process and staff position on the project strongly suggests success is unlikely.” In other words the continuing CEC biological staff assertion that the site should not be disturbed was not going to change, even with a Mojave Ground Squirrel genetic connectivity study (which Solar Millennium proposed).

While those of us who opposed this ill-conceived project from a local and personal perspective can give ourselves some credit for standing up to Big Industry, we really owe the CEC staff a huge “Thank You.” Not only did the biological staff perform professionally, but the other CEC staff, those in charge of this project’s approval process, also carried out the proceedings in a thorough and thoughtful manner. Thanks should also go to the official Intervors: the Center for Biological Diversity (Ileene Anderson and Lisa Belenky); Desert Tortoise Council (Sid Silliman); Basin And Range Watch (Laura Cunningham and Kevin Emmerick); Western Watersheds Project (Michael J. Connor); Kerncrest Audubon (Brenda and Dan Burnett and Terri Middlemiss); California Unions for Reliable Energy (Elizabeth Klebaner). These groups and their representatives brought a wide array of expertise to the table, making sure that Solar Millennium did not slip anything over on us.

In celebration of this outcome my husband and I have spent three mornings in the past two weeks exploring the northern edge of the El Paso Mountains that overlook the site. Last Saturday we climbed the large volcanic hill just to the west of the site. While it was tempting to gaze downward at all the little green wildflower sprouts, the larger picture was more important. From the top we looked out over the El Paso Wash alluvial plain. My heart was full of gratitude that the fully functioning ecosystem below would remain a home for Desert Tortoises, Mojave Ground Squirrels, Desert Kit Foxes, LeConte’s Thrashers, Western Burrowing Owls and all the native plants that support them. It was a wonderful sight!

Kathy LaShure
Creosote Ring Leader

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Hurray for the Little Guys!
Update on the Ridgecrest Solar Power Plant Project

I could also have titled this report “Creeping but Not Yet Dead” as the approval process for this ill-conceived project has slowed considerably since last spring. At that time, we thought recommendations would be made by both the BLM and the California Energy Commission (CEC) in time for final rulings by the end of this calendar year with construction to begin in 2011, if the project was approved.

However, once the CEC Staff Assessment/Draft Environmental Impact Report (SA/DEIR) was released in late March it became apparent that the CEC approval schedule would likely change (the BLM timetable was & remains different). This was due to the CEC staff’s findings that the biological resources of the proposed site could not be mitigated, nor could the visual impacts. This is the first time that CEC staff has made such an unequivocal finding for preserving a site and its intact, fully functioning ecosystem.

Their decision was based on the high number of Desert Tortoises of all ages and the functioning genetic corridor for Mojave Ground Squirrels. Of course neither of these species would thrive without high quality habitat. The Creosote Ring’s plant survey on April 17 showed just that. 23 participants helped to document the annual and perennial plant species found on the proposed RSPP site. 72 species from 25 plant families were observed, indicating a complex well-functioning ecosystem. Especially note-worthy were the existence of Winter Fat (Krascheninnikovia lanata) and Spiny Hop-Sage (Grayia spinosa), indicators of Mojave Ground Squirrel habitat and, perhaps more importantly, the occurrence of many preferred food plants for both juvenile and adult Desert Tortoises.

At the opening of the May 3-4 public workshops we were most pleased to hear Dick Anderson, CEC biologist, reference our plant list. Jane McEwen's terrific research documenting the preferred Desert Tortoise food plant observed bolstered CEC's position that this is a unique site. During the workshops Dave Hacker (CA Dept. Fish and Game) very strongly supported the need to preserve biological connectivity for the Mojave Ground Squirrel and Desert Tortoise as well. It was clear that the mitigation measures proposed by Solar Millennium do not meet the requirements of DFG & USFWS.

There are some other major issues with RSPP besides the biological and visual ones. The plan is to use trucked-in propane to keep the transfer fluid thin enough to work. We think that they have greatly underestimated how much propane they will need, as our fall-winter-spring air temps are lower than they have allowed for. This will increase the cost of generation, the carbon foot-print and traffic. Ridgecrest sits downwind of the site giving concerns about Valley Fever with the grading of such a large area (over 2000 acres). They claim mitigation will control 75% of the dust but that leaves 25% than can infect people. Valley Fever is not a fun disease.

Over the next weeks and months many excellent comment letters from both environmental organizations and private citizens were submitted to both the CEC & BLM (http://tinyurl.com/2dmkv2c). Most have supported the position that this project would irreparably alter a biological treasure and should not be built. I wrote a detailed letter for CNPS. The Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake also wrote two letters expressing their considerable concerns.

Then on June 30, Solar Millennium requested a suspension of their application. They proposed conducting a 2-year survey to study connectivity issues for local populations of Mojave Ground Squirrels. This was approved by the CEC but the BLM approval process continues to move forward on its own timetable. After the July 8 mandatory status conference Solar Millennium realized that this request needed to be modified as it was perceived as “a complete halt to all activities.” Therefore on Aug. 8 Solar Millennium asked for the suspension to be changed to “a modification of … milestones.” We will have to wait to see what this really means.

However, since Solar Millennium has two other California sites (Blythe and Palen) moving through the approval process, they may be hoping that approval of one or both of them will give them additional monetary resources to put into Ridgecrest down the road. In the meantime, we should not be complacent, thinking that the little guys (Mojave Ground Squirrels) will do the heavy lifting for us. We must continue to monitor the CEC website for developments and maintain contacts with the excellent interveners. I am particularly grateful to two of them: Dan Burnett (Creosote Ring member and Kerncrest Audubon intervener) and Ileene Anderson (personal friend, Center for Biological Diversity biologist/intervener, and desert expert extraordinaire). My personal crash course in conservation work would have been far less successful without their generosity and dedication.

— Kathy LaShure

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Thank you to everyone who submitted comments to the California Energy Commission (CEC) and BLM about the Ridgecrest Solar Power Project (RSPP).

Click here for a PDF file of the letter I sent, as Creosote Ring Coordinator, to both the CEC & BLM. The plant list generated by the Creosote Ring April field trip to the RSPP site is available here. If you have not been reading the comment letters as they are posted on the CEC website here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/26nhrwp. The latest posting was from the Naval Air Warfare Center, towards the bottom of the list, with points that no one else could make.

As for where we are in the permitting process, this site was taken off fast-track schedule in May, which means that the original timetable was scrapped. A new schedule will not be set until late September, after the publication of the Revised Staff Assessment. However, two additional biological workshops are to be scheduled, one still in June & another in July. There are no precise dates for these yet. As I will be out of the loop for the next several weeks due to family concerns, please check here http://tinyurl.com/23zo4tk for schedule postings.

Again, if you are not on Don & Judy Decker's email list for updates on Ridgecrest Solar Power Project, you may wish to contact Don ddecker@ridgenet.net. The Deckers have been providing excellent summaries of all the action.

click for photo album of proposed solar power project site

Click for Album
(opens in new window)

To the left is an online photo album showing the area of 2002 acres that will be bulldozed and scraped bare if the proposed Ridgecrest Solar Power Project is approved. The photos were taken between February and April, 2010, just a brief sample of the scenery and flora that will be competely and irreplaceably destroyed. Many of these spring flowers are food plants for the desert tortoise which still live here, as well kit fox, burrowing owl, lizards, and snakes, signs of which are evident is one takes the time to look.

Below is a field trip report for the area for more information.

If you want to read up on the permitting process, here is the link to the CEC site for RSPP:
http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/solar_millennium_ridgecrest/index.html

Kathy LaShure,
Creosote Ring Leader

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Field Trip Report: El Paso Wash, April 17, 2010

It’s been a late and balky spring in the Indian Wells Valley. But 23 individuals showed up on a glorious (i.e. calm wind/warm temperature) morning to explore the El Paso Wash drainage southwest of Ridgecrest. Solar Millennium, LLC has proposed to use nearly 4000 acres of BLM land there for a 250-megawatt solar thermal electric power plant. The project site lies just northeast of the El Paso Mountains and is bisected by Brown Road (old Highway 395) forming a north field and a south field. The first iteration of the plan had the facility partially sited in the El Paso Wash proper. That was changed after the first public meetings in Dec. 2009. Now it is sited on both sides of the Wash. But the entire site is in an historic drainage, as evidenced by the tumbled appearance of the rocks there.

The original purpose of the field trip, as planned in January, was to informally survey the flora of this area. No rare plants were known to occur there, but that may be because no one had looked in the right place or at the right time. However, fauna there has been well-documented. The most significant species are Desert Tortoise, Mojave Ground Squirrel, Desert Kit Fox, Burrowing Owl, LeConte’s Thrasher, and Loggerhead Shrike. Of course theses animals would not be present without the specific plant resources needed for food and shelter.

Once CNPS hired Amber Swanson as Rare Plant Treasure Hunt coordinator for the Mojave Desert, she agreed to trek north from her Claremont home-base and help us survey the flora. She provided a list of specific rare plants that have been known to occur not far away in other El Paso Mountains locations. So we kept an eye out for them as well. We also had other participants from Southern California.

The trip’s participants amiably split into two survey groups. Jane McEwen and Judy Breitenstein led the exploration of the north field which lies to the east of the broad, braided El Paso Wash. The second group tackled the south field on the west side of the drainage and was led by Amber Swanson and Kathy LaShure. We did not hope to cover the entire large footprint of the proposed solar site, but did the best we could in a single morning.

No rare plants were found by either group. But the combined plant list has 70 species in 25 families, indicating a diverse flora. Many known Desert Tortoise preferred food plants were documented. If you would like a copy of the plant list please contact Kathy LaShure, desert_encelia@verizon.net.

The Draft EIR/Staff Assessment was released on April 9 and the BLM comment period extends for 90 days from that date. Information about the DEIR can be accessed here: http://tinyurl.com/2cugk79. The Creosote Ring subchapter is working with Greg Suba, CNPS State Conservation Director, to be sure that our response to this poorly sited facility is as effective as possible.

— Kathy LaShure

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Wildflower Alert!

4/16/2010: A sub-chapter member reports there are amazing blooms in Kelso Valley: take Hwy 178 to Kelso Creek Rd and keep going south til you see the orange and purple on the slopes to the west. There is also a slope full of Baby Blue eyes.

Click on the images below for larger pictures.

Kelso Valley Wildflowers
Kelso Valley Wildflowers
Kelso Valley Wildflowers

Meeting Report

Our February evening program was on Wednesday, February 3 at 7 PM at the Maturango Museum. First we talked briefly about our participation the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt being organized by the State CNPS office and chose some dates & locations for 2010 field trips. Then CR member Jane McEwen presented Desert Microbial Life Matters:

Jane shared preliminary results of her investigation of microbial mats growing in the wash in Poison Canyon illustrated with her photographs as well as with photomicrographs taken by Wayne Lanier, PhD. These microbial mats are highly photosynthetic, as evidenced from the prolific production oxygen bubbles. The small spring-fed stream in Poison Canyon was covered with colorful masses of microbes up until the recent rainstorms. Now that the flood has washed away almost all signs of the microbial mats, Jane plans to study the recovery of the microbial community over the next year.

She also presented photographs, photomicrographs and samples of soil crust collected northeast of Searles Lake. Cyanobacterial filaments bind soil particles into a crust, referred to as cryptobiotic or microbiotic soil crusts. These soil crusts reduce soil loss from wind and water erosion and also provide a living mulch that retains soil moisture. The cyanobacteria in the soil crust are photosynthetically active when enough moisture is present. They also fix nitrogen from the atmosphere making it available for plant growth in the desert soils, which other wise are low in nitrogen.

For those of you interested in more information on microbial life such as those found in salt marshes and soil crusts see Wayne Lanier's archived website http://www.hikingwithafieldmicroscope.com/ and Wayne Lanier's and his colleague Cris Benton's website: http://ostro.ced.berkeley.edu/~crisr/he/.

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Field Trip Suggestions

For current information about our activities, please contact Kathy LaShure, subchapter coordinator: (desert_encelia@verizon.net or 760-377-4541). We have an email notification list for current activities. Also, be sure and check the main Bristlecone Chapter Events page for events a little farther north!

Calochortus Venustus

Butterfly Mariposa Lily, photo by Kathy LaShure

Here are some more suggestions for native plant activities now and over the summer months:

Last Friday (May 27), Rich & I hiked the Flynn Creek trail that starts at McNally's above Kernville. You cross the roaring Kern River on the bridge & turn south. Above the split with the Tobias Creek Trail (about 1-1.25 miles in) there are thousands of Calochortus venustus (Butterfly Mariposa Lily), more than I've seen anywhere else. The bloom should still be good this weekend as there were lots of buds.

On the drive west on Hwy 178 just past the Canebrake Reserve (large new sign), on the south side of the road there is a magnificent population of Mojave Bush Penstemon (Penstemon incertus) just coming into full bloom (& there is room on that side of the road to safely pull off & park for photos).

If you don't want to drive that far, Paul Decker shared the location of a huge colony of Sand Plant (Desert Christmas Tree) Pholisma arenaria here in Inyokern. Here are some of his photos of those strange plants:

[Click on the images for larger pictures]

Pholisma arenaria
Pholisma arenaria
Pholisma arenaria
Pholisma arenaria

Finally, if you aren't up to getting out, here are 3 websites with lots of interesting information & wonderful pictures:

As always, I hope each of you has a terrific summer with close encounters of the native plant kind!

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Wildflower Guides and Creosote Information

Clone Ring of Creosote bushes, estimated to be 11,700 years old, quite possibly the oldest living thing.

Quite possibly the oldest living things (even older than the ancient Bristlecone Pines), Creosote rings are formed by cloning as new growth sprouts up around the perimeter of the original shrub. This is the oldest known Creosote ring, "King Clone," which is located south of us in the Mojave Chapter's territory.

Guides to local wildflower hotspots and Mojave shrubs:

Each brochure also includes when to go, how to get there & a short description of the most noteworthy wildflowers to be seen. Please click on any link for a printable PDF of these guides.

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Information about our sub-chapter namesake, the Creosote Bush:

Creosote Ring and Owens Peak

Creosote Ring with Owens Peak in the background
Photo by Kathy LaShure