Volume 26 No. 2 March/April 2006


Bristlecone Chapter
Dedicated to the Preservation of the California Native Flora



Next Chapter Meeting

The next Chapter meeting will be on Wednesday March 29th at 7:00 at the White Mtn. Research Station. Our speaker will be Sarah Kimball a doctoral candidate at UC Irvine. She will talk about her work with two penstemon species in the Sierra Nevada, mountain pride and Davidson's penstemon. She's studying how they hybridize and their distinctive adaptations to different elevations. Please invite your friends to this presentation!

Next Board Meeting  

The Bristlecone Chapter Board will meet on Wednesday, March 22nd, 7:00 PM at the US Forest Service Conference Room, 351 Pacu Lane, Bishop. Everyone is welcome.


The governing boards of the California Native Plant Society meet four times a year. Chapters take turns hosting the meetings and this June 2nd-4th it will be our turn, co-hosting with the Kern and Mojave chapters. Our newly formed Creosote Ring subchapter has graciously offered to head the hosting effort under the leadership of Kathy LaShure. The Board of Directors meeting on Friday evening and the Chapter Council meeting on Saturday will be held at the Ridgecrest Methodist Church. An early Saturday evening social hour will be held at Maturango Museum. Dinner and an evening program featuring US Forest Botanist Fletcher Linton on the "Flora of the Sequoia National Forest" will follow. Janet Westbrook will lead a Sunday morning field trip to the burn area near Kennedy Meadows. You are welcome to attend any of the events. We may even put you to work! Please call me if you would like more information.

The very next CNPS State meetings, however, are in March. Kathy La Shure and I will be attending and we are both looking forward to meeting the new president of the Board of Directors and our new Executive Director.

Board President Brad Jenkins from Orange County was the driving force behind the Orange County Chapter's brochure on gardening with native plants. The brochure became the template for the statewide brochure on gardening with natives. Below his signature on a letter reads, "A fan for authentic California species and landscape."

Our new Executive Director Amanda Jorgenson began work at CNPS on January 17th. She came from a position as Country Program Coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society in Ecuador where she supervised and coordinated the design and implementation of activities to promote research and conservation of biological diversity at the landscape scale. We welcome Amanda and hope she will visit our chapter in the near future so we all may get to know her.

Enjoy the Field Trip and Activities pages in this newsletter. Remember to check out our website for updates. Hope to see you on many of these trips this year!

.. . .....Sherry1 Taylor


2006 Bristlecone Chapter Field Trip and
Activity Schedule

Please refer to the newsletter insert for a complete list of trips and activities for the 2006 season.

March 12, Sunday. Highway Clean-up. Leader: Scott Hetzler. Meet at the intersection of Highway 395 and Pine Creek Rd., west of 395, at 9:00 AM. We will try to be done by 1:00 PM. For more information, call Scott Hetzler at 873-8392.

March 18, Saturday. Shrub Identification in the Rademacker Hills. Leader: Shelley Ellis, BLM Botanist. The purpose is to identify as many shrubs as possible in the popular hiking area for Indian Wells Valley residents. The BLM is hoping to fund a project to place engraved plaques identifjmg the variety of shrub species to replace old faded signs. Participants may hike as far as they like along the trail to enjoy the wildflowers and views. The trail is easy if you only go to where we are planning to put the name plaques. However; the trail is very steep and rocky if you plan to take an extended hike south along the ridge. Meet at 8:30-8:45 AM Sunland Trailhead. Take College Heights Blvd. east from China Lake Blvd. on the south side of Ridgecrest. After 3.5 miles turn east onto the dirt Belle Vista Rd. Continue for 0.5 miles to the trailhead. Bring water, sunhat, field guide, hand lens, binoculars, camera, food, walking stick if you plan to hike south along the ridge. For more information contact Shelley Ellis; 760-446-5012 (h); 760-384-5426 (w); "Shelley_Ellis@ca.blm.gov".

March 19, Sunday. Mary Dedecker Native Plant Garden Spring Cleaning. Leader: Jerry Zatorski. This is an annual spring cleaning for the garden. March is a great time to jump on any exotic weeds and get them out before they drop their seed as well as trim up anything that might need it. We'll meet at the garden at the Eastern California Museum in Independence at 9:00 AM, bring garden gloves, trowels, hand pruners, and wear sturdy work clothes. For more information contact Jerry Zatorski at 872-3 8 18 or jerryzat@verizonmail.com".

March 25-26, Saturday-Sunday. Panamint Valley or Death Valley. Leader: Mark Bagley. The location will be determined just before the trip as will the locations we'll go to botanize. We'll go to areas in either Panamint Valley or Death Valley depending on the bloom. Easy to moderate walking. Standard car OK, but we will be on some dirt roads; don't forget to gas up ahead of time. Bring good walking shoes, plenty of water for the whole weekend and everything else you need for camping. Camping Saturday night will be in a campground, probably primitive. Meet at 9:00 a.m. at Panamint Springs on Hwy. 190 in Panamint Valley, about one hour east of Lone Pine. Trip will end on Sunday about 3 or 4 p.m.

April 1, Saturday. Desert Tortoise Preserve. Leader: Kristin H. Berry, USGS Western Ecological Research Center. This trip will provide people with information for the possible service project of providing better "digs" for Bob, the resident tortoise at Jawbone Station Visitor Center. The Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area is in a part of the Mojave Desert where floras typical of the Central Valley, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert come together. Depending on amounts and timing of winter rain, we may see many species of annuals, and participants can learn the preferred forage plants of the desert tortoise. There will be 2-4 miles of easy hiking. Meet at 8:30 AM, parking lot of the Interpretive Center, Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area, east Kern Co., CA. Take Highway 14 or 58 to California City. From the eastern end of California City Blvd., take the Randsburg-Mojave Road NE for about 5.2 miles to the sign to the Desert Tortoise Natural Area and Interpretive Center. Turn left or west onto the dirt road leading to the Interpretive Center and drive about 0.6 mi. Park in the parking lot. Regular 2 WD vehicles okay. Bring water, sack lunch, field guides, notebook, hiking shoes, hat, jacket, sunscreen, long sleeves and long pants. Please bring layers and plan to watch carefully for rattlesnakes. For more information contact Jane McEwen; 760-371-1225 (h); 760-384 2615 (w); "mcewanmj@gmail.com".

April 7-9, Fri-Sun, 10 AM-5PM. Maturango Museum Wildflower Show. Whether the winter rains have been bountiful or not, somewhere in the northern Mojave, wildflowers will be blooming in the spring. The Museum's annual show will save you the trouble of searching everywhere yourself. Reduced admission charge of $1.OO per person. Many dedicated volunteers contribute their time to make this show an unforgettable experience. Contact the Maturango Museum at 760-375-6900 for further details.

April 14-17 Fri-Mon. Surprise Canyon Tamarisk Removal Service Trip, Car-camp & Hike, Panamint Mtns. Sponsored by C/NCC Desert Committee, Desert Peaks. Leader: Jim Kilberg. Improve the environment and learn the Surprise Canyon story. Court order temporarily closed Surprise to extreme 4WDs. Flash floods completed the closure, but the tamarisk invasion remains. Learn tamarisk removal technique from BLM staff and Tom Budlong, Surprise Canyon wilderness steward. Bad attitude toward tamarisk required and there will be tasks for all abilities. See this beautiful, recovering desert riparian canyon, spring wildflower display, Easter egg hunt, and learn about local mining history. Sunday's hike will either be on original trail to Panamint City or on the miner's trail in Goler Canyon to a 100-year old site, about 5 mi. hike on rugged trail (intermediate to strenuous). Primitive camping under the stars with potlucks, campfire & camaraderie. 2WD vehicles OK. Send large SASE, rideshare info, vehicle type, H&W phones, E-mail to Reservation Co-leader: Sue Palmer, 32373 Saddle Mt. Drive, Westlake Village, CA 9136l,818-879-0960, "dotts333@adelphia.net".

April 22, Saturday. Nellie's Nip Restoration. Leader: Marty Dickes, BLM Wilderness Specialist. This is an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in passive desert restoration, i.e., techniques to camouflage and close vehicle routes and jumpstart recovery (natural restoration processes). The BLM & the Student Conservation Assoc. have been working to restore this illegal hill-climb in a wilderness. For more information contact Marty Dickes, 760-384-5444, "Martha_Dickes@ca.blm.gov".

April 29, Saturday. Burn area recovery in the Argus Range, China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station. Leader: Mark Bagley. Meet at 8:30 am, plan on a long day. We'll visit the 2-year-old lightning-caused burn at the top of Mountain Springs Canyon and the more recent burn at Bircham Springs where we'll document the recovery of the local flora and compare burned areas with the remaining islands of unburned vegetation. High clearance vehicle required, come with a full tank of gas. Because this is a military base, we will be limited to 10 vehicles and the base will need a list of people and vehicles attending at least 1 week in advance of the date. Participants will have to provide Social Security numbers for base clearance. Trip access to the base may be cancelled on short notice. In that event we will have an alternate trip lined up for a nearby eastside canyon in the Sierra or the west side of the Coso Range on BLM land. Reservations are required & must be made by April 19., so please sign up by contacting Kathy LaShure at (760) 377-4541 or email at "desert_encelia@verizon.net". Kathy will let you know the meeting place in Ridgecrest. For those planning to attend the trip to Sage Flat the next day, there is a primitive campground at Fossil Falls, just north of Little Lake, between Inyokern and Sage Flat Road. Mark plans on camping there and all are welcome to join.

April 30, Saturday. Sage Flat, southwestern most end of the Owens Valley. Leaders George Waite and Mark Bagley. We'll explore George's 500-acre property and surrounding Forest Service land which is located at the base of the Sierra Nevada where the desert meets the mountains. Easy walking from the cars. Bring lunch, water, good walking shoes, etc. Trip will end about 3 or 4 p.m. Meet at 9:30 a.m. along Sage Flat Road, about 40 minutes south of Lone Pine, a few miles south of Olancha. Turn west on Sage Flat Road, about 5 miles south of Hwy. 190 on 395. Proceed to the meeting spot 4.5 miles up the road at a corral on the right, just before the road turns from paved to dirt. The dirt roads are a little rough in places, high-clearance vehicles recommended but not required. We can carpool at the corral.

May 6, Saturday. Restoration at Jawbone-Butterbredt ACEC & in the Rand Mountains. Leader: Marty Dickes, BLM Wilderness Specialist. This trip is an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in passive desert restoration, i.e., techniques to camouflage and close illegal vehicle routes and to jumpstart recovery (aiding natural restoration processes) on those routes. We will be touring Student Conservation Association (SCA) restoration sites in the Jawbone-Butterbredt and West Rand Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs). Our guides Cody Hanford and Brendan Hughes are crew bosses for the SCA crews currently working in these areas. The crews will be will be available to answer questions and to demonstrate the techniques they are using. Hiking will be light. We'll be driving to most of these sites and will be walking only short distances, 4WD or 2WD w/high clearance vehicles recommended. We will be carpooling from Jawbone Station. Bring water, food, hat, sunscreen, good walking shoes, and a jacket in case it gets cold. For more information contact Marty Dickes, 760-384-5444, "Martha_Dickes@ca.blm.gov".

May 13, Saturday. Little Lake Exploration. Leader: Shelley Ellis, BLM Botanist. Join us for a short hike along the bluff east of Little Lake. The purpose is to view the area that BLM will develop as an interpretive site and to list all plants seen in the vicinity and make note of those in bloom. Participants may hike as far as they like along the bluff to the south, which is public land, to enjoy the wildflowers and views. Meet at 9:00 AM at the Inyokern Post Office (on Brown Rd. just south of Hwy 178/Inyokern Rd). Bring water, food, hat, field guide, hand lens, binoculars, and camera. For more information contact Shelley Ellis; 760-446-5012 (h); 760-384-5426 (w); "Shelley_Ellis@ca.blm.gov".

May 14, Sunday. Mary DeDecker Native Plant Garden. Leader: Jerry Zatorski. The self taught botanist, Mary DeDecker, explored our region extensively along with her husband Paul, and has been credited for numerous plant discoveries from our area. The Mary DeDecker Native Plant Garden is a botanical garden dedicated to Mary DeDecker the person and the flora she loved and appreciated so much. This will be a half day stroll through the garden at the Eastern California Museum to see the garden in its spring time splendor. Jerry will be on hand to answer questions about the garden and its flora. Meet at the Eastern California Museum in Independence, in the north parking lot at 9:00 AM. For more information contact Jerry at 872-3818 or "jerryzat@verizonmail.com".

May 20th,Saturday. McMurry Meadows and Volcanic Flow. Leader: Kathleen Nelson. We'll travel approximately seven miles on a decent dirt road (McMurry Meadow Road), making stops and taking short walks along the way. Depending on how dry/wet/cool/or hot our spring is, we'll either spend a bit more time in the dry foothills and volcanic flow, or higher up in the meadow. Floral highlights that we'll seek out on the trip include the beautiful bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva), and two CNPS listed plants: the Coso Mountains lupine (Lupinus magnificus var. glarecola), and the Inyo County star-tulip (Calochortus excavatus). Our trip will conclude in the early afternoon. Bring lunch, water, a hat, and sunscreen. Meet at 9:00 am, at Triangle campground in Big Pine, at the intersection of Highway 395 and Highway 168. For more information, call Kathleen at 760-873-1095.

May 27, Saturday, Sherwin Slope. Leader: Karen Ferrell-Ingram. We will walk 2-3 miles wherever the flowers are best along the northwest rim of the Owens Valley, 5500' -6500' in elevation. Expect to enjoy good displays of blooms in the sagebrush/bitterbrush scrub. Meet at the gravel pit on Sky Meadows Road at 9:00 AM. Wear good walking shoes, hat, and bring water and snacks. Trip will end around noon. Well-behaved dogs are welcome. Call 387-2913 or write "ingram@bishopwireless.net" for more info.

FIELDTRIP POLICIES: For all field trips, be sure to bring plenty of water, lunch, good walking shoes or boots, and appropriate clothing for hot sun and/or inclement weather. Also useful would be a hand lens, binoculars, camera, floras, and plant lists. Trips will leave at the time announced, so please arrive at the meeting sites a few minutes early. Unless indicated, the average car should do fine. Car pooling is encouraged. Everyone is welcome, but not pets. For general question on field trips or if you would like to lead a trip, please call Jerry Zartoski (760) 872-3818 or write jerryzat@verizonmail.com


A Fish Story

Soon it will be time for the 2006 fishing season opening, an event which contributes much to our local economy. In honor of the opening, I will tell the story of grass-killing trout. Unfortunately, it is true.

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Blackrock fish-rearing facility was established in 1941. It made use of water from Blackrock Springs. As of 1988, about 750,OO trout a year were grown at the facility from fingerlings to a size of about three fish per pound for stocking in the Sierra Nevada.

Because DWP pumping dried up Blackrock Spring in 1971, DWP agreed to provide pumped groundwater to "mitigate" the impact. When the Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement (LTWA) was negotiated in 1991, pumps which supplied water for the facility were exempted from the LTWA's On/Off groundwater management protocol. This means the pumps run continuously, just as the spring used to.

Unfortunately, DWP pumps about 12,000 acre feet (af) every year from the exempt wells, while the average flow from the springs was only about 7,000 af/year. The pumped groundwater flows briefly through the facility then directly into the LA Aqueduct, less than 1/4 mile away. The excessive pumping creates permanent water table drawdowns under a large area to the south and west. Drawdowns are destroying what was formerly one of the nicest alkali meadows around. Such meadows are rare, so it is disturbing that DFG, an agency responsible for protecting California biodiversity, has not objected to the meadow's destruction.

DFG, however, is not ultimately responsible: DWP is. Just as we hear about the use of "human shields" in war-tom parts of the world, DWP uses the Blackrock fish-rearing facility as a "piscene shield" (from the Latin "pisces" for fish) to exempt its pumps from the LTWA's On/Off management.

The Blackrock exemptions, however, are only two of several such exemptions which account for much of DWP's excessive groundwater pumping. At the direction of Inyo County Supervisors, the Inyo County Water Department is developing a protocol for groundwater management to replace On/Off. Any new pumping management protocol must reduce pumping to levels which allow water table recovery south and west of the Blackrock fish rearing facility to protect the groundwater dependent meadow.

Before 1970 there were meadows AND fish at Blackrock. In agreeing to piscine shields in the LTWA, Inyo unwittingly allowed DWP to use fish to shield pumping for export, sacrificing meadows in the process. With proper groundwater management we can once again have meadows AND fish, and the story of grass-killing trout can be changed from a true story to a fish story.

........Daniel Pritchett

News from the Creosote Ring Sub-Chapter

As you can see, the Mojave desert denizens of the Chapter now have a proper identity. We thought it fitting that since the northerly membership is represented by the longest-lived tree, that we should be represented by the longest-lived shrub. Our Chapter boundaries encompass such a wide range of habitats and interesting plants. Before I left southern California in the late Spring of 2005, I wrote an article about Creosote for my final issue (after 10 years) as editor of The Paintbrush, newsletter of the San Gabriel Mountains CNPS Chapter. An amended version follows.

You will also see in the field trip listings that we have planned a number of outings in our territory over the next several months. As the weather turns hot over the summer, we may plan some additional higher elevation trips as well. Watch future newsletters for announcements. We hope that some of you will wander south to join us on your choice of trip.

. . ... . ..Kathy LaShure

Plant Profile: Creosote, Larrea tridentata

Those of you who live at the northern end of the Bristlecone Chapter may not have paid too much attention to this ubiquitous desert shrub as you travel south along Highways 395 and 14. But there's plenty of Creosote territory in the Kern County portion of the Chapter, particularly the Indian Wells Valley, the home base of the new Creosote Ring Sub-Chapter.

I've had a relationship with Creosote my entire life, having grown up in Phoenix. It provided the unique fragrance that permeated the desert after summer thunderstorms released the aromatic resins in its leaves. The desert really does smell like rain for desert dwellers, as so wonderfully recounted in Gary Nabhan's excellent book The Desert Smells Like Rain. Just as Sagebrush (Artemesia tridentata) defines the higher, colder Great Basin Desert, Creosote is the signature plant of the lower, warmer Sonoran, Mojave, and Chihuahuan deserts. It ranges from southern California east to central Texas and south into several Mexican states. In fact, in Mexico it is called Gobernadora, reflecting its tendency to form monocultures. And it might be the reason so many newcomers to the West think that the desert is pretty boring, at least from a car roaring down a freeway. In California Creosote grows below 3500', covering vast stretches of land where few other large shrubs grow.

As might be expected with such a prolific plant, it provides homes and food for a wide variety of animals and birds. Last summer I was amused by Antelope Ground Squirrels deftly traversing the narrows stems to harvest seeds-although they were treating my cactus collection like a salad bar installed just for them. A pair of Desert Iguanas munched on the succulent annual wildflowers beneath a large Creosote in our new back yard. Native Americans have made considerable use of this plant for medicinal purposes, as have more contemporary herbalists.

The plant sports many branches growing from a central point and they can be 12 feet tall but are usually less, about person-height. Mature branches are reddish brown to gray. The foliage (tiny waxy leaves) varies in color according to the moisture the plant receives: rich green with ample rain, olive-drab during the dry seasons, brown and dropping under extreme drought. It can be covered with many bright yellow flowers after any significant rainfall.

The seed capsules are round and so fuzzy that you can easily see them fram a speeding car.

Creosote is the most drought tolerant perennial plant in North America. It can survive for two years without a drop of rain, It does so by shedding leaves (drought deciduous) and even branches. Creosote bushes space themselves according to the available water.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Creosote is its longevity. The plant tends to grow into clonal clumps with individual stems in the center of the plant dying and being replaced with stems farther out, eventually forming a ring. Some of these rings in the Mojave desert may be 10,000 years old or more. This makes Creosote the oldest living plant known. Rings occur near Walker Pass within our Chapter's boundaries. Ask one of the Sub-chapter members to reveal their location.

. . .. . . ..Kathy LaShure

The Bristlecone Chapter warmly welcomes the following new members!

Jennifer Scott
South Lake Tahoe, CA

Melinda Clark
Bend, OR

Dan Burnett
Ridgecrest, CA

Jerry Mumford
Ridgecrest, CA

Rita Read
Ridgecrest, CA

Bristlecone Chapter Newsletter Volumes On-Line

Now members and all other interested individuals can access all the back issues of the Bristlecone Chapter newsletters that are filled with great plant lists, stories and other newsworthy information on our web page. Larry Blakely, chapter member and long-time dedicated volunteer has again spent many hours scanning all the back issues of our newsletter to make searching for salient local flora news a breeze. Check it out at www.bristleconecnps.org.

Thank you Larry!

Mono Lake Needs You

Volunteer Program at Mono Lake this summer
Training Begins in Late May

The Mono Lake Committee, US Forest Service, and California State Parks are teaming up to sponsor a volunteer program at Mono Lake this summer. Volunteers will have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and share their knowledge of the Eastern Sierra. Participants may staff information desks and/or rove and answer questions at the lakeshore.

Free training will be held during the last week of May and first two weeks of June in the Mono Basin. Volunteers are required to attend six half-day training sessions and are asked to donate 8 hours per month from June through September. Participants must be at least 18 years old, and be able to walk short distances and stand for 2 hours.

Please contact Janet Carle at 760-647-6431 or Fran at frances@monolake.orrr, for more information or to sign up.

Next Newsletter Deadline: April 28th.