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Newsletter - Web Edition

Bristlecone Chapter

The California Native Plant Society

“Dedicated to the Preservation of the California Native Flora”

Volume 34, Number 3

May-June, 2013

View Print Edition (pdf)


Eastern Sierra Spring Sojourn in a Year of Drought

Big Pine with Sierra and hillsides of Coreopsis bigelovii in bloom, photo by Steve Matson

Big Pine in early spring, with Sierra and hillsides of Coreopsis bigelovii in bloom
Photo by Steve Matson

Our Eastern Sierra Spring Sojourn is on! Over 50 people from all over the state of California and even one out-of-state plant-lover have signed up for the event. Many people are returning to visit old haunts or remember great sojourn events of previous years, hoping to see old friends as well as the flowers that will bloom despite our dry winter. So come join us on the weekend of May 31 to June 2, 2013 at the Sierra Adventure Center at Bernasconi Ranch near Big Pine, California, as we look for plants and renew friendships.

On Saturday evening, Steve Matson will speak about Baker Creek Meadows. Steve is an amateur botanist with 25 years experience and a part-time resident of Big Pine. One of his important on-going projects is photo documentation of the flora of Eastern California and western Nevada, recorded at CalPhotos website. His talk is titled, naturally, “Botanizing Big Pine.”

Field trips (subject to change as leaders survey their areas) are scheduled for Mazourka Canyon, Joshua Flat/Lime Hill, Marble Canyon, Eureka Dunes, the Buttermilks, Owens Lake and Westgard Pass.

Please contact Edie Trimmer ( or Kathy Duvall ( or see the Sojourn page on this website for more information. The registration deadline closed on April 29, but we still have room for a few more plant-lovers.

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May Bristlecone Chapter Board Meeting

Wednesday, May 22, 7pm, at the Friends of the Inyo office on 819 North Barlow Lane, Bishop. Members are welcome.

Note: Part of the agreement with FOI for use of their building is that the door must remain locked at all times. The conference room is toward the back of the building, and it is not easy to see or hear if someone is at the front door, so everyone should please arrive before the meeting begins at 7:00 PM.

For information on our southern sub-chapter meetings, see the Creosote Ring page.

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Program Notes from March General Meeting

News from Nature’s Pharmacopeia - Medicinal Plants Today

Bottle of St. John's Wort

Medicinal Herbs Today

What a fun opportunity to present a program to the Bristlecone Chapter and members of the public! What some people may not know is, while I am the Bristlecone Chapter’s webmaster, I am also currently in the Nursing Program at Cerro Coso College. We had a “Community Education” project assignment in this, our last semester, and I am so happy I thought of the Bristlecone Chapter! With a background in botany and a future in the medical field, a program about medicinal plants seemed perfect for me.

My focus was not on traditional uses or ethnobotany, subjects that I also enjoy, but on modern uses and the science behind them. I wanted to bring this subject home to the Eastern Sierra by including information about local species related to the ones used in common supplements, and I was able to use photographs that were in the public domain or had creative commons attribution licenses from CalFlora, and also three wonderful local photographers (Steve Matson, Larry Blakely, and Stephen Ingram) generously gave me permission to use their photos in my presentation.

My goal was to shed light on the modern day herbal preparations that are readily available over the counter (OTC). What I found is that while medicinal herbs may have been used traditionally, and some have shown promise in scientific studies, others have shown little to no effectiveness, and may have side effects and drug interactions that are not listed on the labels. Since the FDA regulates botanicals as supplements and not medicines, they don’t have long lists of warnings like pharmaceutical drugs, but this doesn’t necessarily mean there are no issues. Consumers should use caution and discuss herbal preparations with their health care providers as well as researching drug interactions and efficacy on their own to avoid potentially serious health problems.

My “poster child” for illustrating both benefits and risks of medicinal herbs was St. John’s Wort. It turns out that St. John’s Wort works like an SSRI, which is a kind of anti-depressant, and has shown effectiveness in treating mild depression. But like other anti-depressants, it also has some side effects and many potentially dangerous drug interactions. In fact, it is one of the top three drugs for interactions, yet when you buy an OTC preparation of St. John’s Wort, there are NO warnings about these on the label, whatsoever!

Tinker's Penny - Hypericum anagalloides

Tinker's Penny (Hypericum anagalloides), one of our native St. John's Wort Species
© 2010 Keir Morse

While the medicinal herb preparation of St. John’s Wort is made from an invasive species (Hypericum perforatum), we have several lovely native St. John’s Worts in our area, including the delightful “Tinker’s Penny,” Hypericum anagalloides. All who live here know there is medicine in the mountains; my recommendation for those interested in herbal medicines, besides being sure to do your own research and talking to your health care provider in case there are side-effects or interactions to consider, is to follow the advice of John Muir:

“Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. Here grow the wallflower and the violet… Sleep in forgetfulness of all ill. Of all the upness accessible to mortals, there is no upness comparable to the mountains.”

So, as spring turns to summer, be sure to go up into the mountains to find a little patch of Tinker's Penny, which grows up to 10,000 feet in areas such as Rock Creek Lakes Basin or Onion Valley; it may be “just what the doctor ordered”!

— Maggie Wolfe Riley

Resources: Program slide show (PowerPoint - large file, may take time to load) and program handout: resources for learning more about botanical supplements (pdf)

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Volunteer Opportunities

Joy England and Elaine Chow, both recipients of Mary DeDecker grants sponsored by the Bristlecone Chapter, are looking for volunteers in their fieldwork this summer. On May 16-20 and possibly May 27-31, Elaine Chow will be surveying for the Eureka Dunes evening-primose. On July 20, Joy England will be in Rock Creek searching for Botrychium crenulatum (scalloped moonwort) and Calyptridium pygmaeum (pygmy pussypaws) as well as other interesting “cool plants.”

The Inyo County Water Department and Americorps volunteers are co-operating on a watershed restoration service project for the Lower Owens River Recreation Use Plan. The Lower Owens River experienced a major fire at the end of February 2013 resulting in over 400 acres of burned area. This proposed project at the end of May will focus on restoration of willow tree species within the burned area. Volunteers are needed for seed collection, transport and planting.

For details on all these projects, see calendar section below.

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Community Announcements

What to do if you find injured, sick or orphaned wildlife—Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care (ESWC)

ESWC, a non-profit, licensed agency providing rehabilitation services for injured wildlife, is conducting a public awareness campaign about how to respond if you find injured or sick wildlife. The key words are: WARM, DARK & QUIET.

ESWC urges these basic steps if you find an injured, sick or orphaned animal: confine the animal in a box just large enough to contain the animal, with air holes; keep the animal warm with hot water bottles or heating pad wrapped in cloth; keep the box in a warm, dark and quiet place; do NOT give food or water until consulting with ESWC; contact ESWC at 760-872-1487.

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Upcoming CNPS Event Bristlecone Chapter and Community Events of Interest

Be sure to check our events page for the latest updates and more events.

May 7, Tuesday, 7pm: Introduction to the Mushrooms of the Eastern Sierra, SNARL Lecture Series

Presenter: Dr. Jonathan Bourne M.D., Mammoth Hospital.

Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Lab (SNARL) Lecture series, 7 PM Tuesday evenings at the Green Church (Hwy. 395 and Benton Crossing Road). Admission is free and the public is invited. Lectures last approximately one hour. For more information call Leslie Dawson at 935-4356 or email

CNPS Event May 11-20th, Eureka Dunes Evening Primrose Surveys - Call for volunteers!
Eureka Valley Evening Primrose

Oenothera californica ssp. eurekensis; Eureka Dunes Evening Primrose
Photo by Drew Kaiser

Fine tune your eye to spy the endangered Eureka Dunes evening primrose and help complete the fifth and last year of the evening-primrose survey. Volunteer for a weekend, a few days, or a week to survey the evening-primrose, the invasive Russian thistle and other vegetation at the sand dunes of Eureka Valley in Death Valley National Park. Explore the dune systems of Eureka Valley, learn the sand dune flora, and improve your plant identification skills.

Our project goals are to understand patterns of population density and spatial distribution of the rare and endemic evening primrose and non-native Russian thistle.

Volunteers will use a compass, binoculars, range finder, GPS units and quadrats to record plant observations. Volunteers must be physically able to hike 7 to 14 miles each day in the spring time weather conditions of the desert (e.g. lots of sun, high temperatures, and some windy days) and to hike up and down the sandy slopes of the dunes.

Food and water will be provided. Please bring your own sleeping bag and tent to car camp at the main campground of the dunes.

Data sampling will be conducted between May 11-20th and possibly extended to between May 27-31st to complete sampling.
Contact Information:

If interested, please contact Elaine at Please write PRIMROSE VOLUNTEER in the subject heading. Thanks!

May 16, Thursday, 2:30-4:30pm: Gardenfest! Eastern Sierra Land Trust

With spring in bloom and the gardening season starting up, it's time for the 2013 Gardenfest! Eastern Sierra Land Trust will be hosting this year's event at our office garden at 176 Home Street in Bishop on Thursday, May 16th from 2:30pm to 4:30pm.

In addition to the Bristlecone Chapter selling some native plants, other organizations that promote local gardening and food production, such as Master Gardeners, the Community Garden project, Sierra Bounty, 4-H, and local farms will be at Gardenfest. This means that you can get gardening tips, learn where to buy local farm products, and purchase starts for your garden all in one place! Bring your extra seeds to participate in our free ESLT Seed Swap. We will have games and activities for kids, food and drinks, and music. Come get inspired and celebrate gardening in the Eastern Sierra!

May 21, Tuesday, 7pm: The Devils Windstorm: The Great Tree Blowdown of 2011, SNARL Lecture Series

Presenter: Chris Smallcomb, National Weather Service, Reno, NV.

Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Lab (SNARL) Lecture series, 7 PM Tuesday evenings at the Green Church (Hwy. 395 and Benton Crossing Road). Admission is free and the public is invited. Lectures last approximately one hour. For more information call Leslie Dawson at 935-4356 or email

CNPS Event May 31 through June 2, 2013, Return of the Sierra Spring Sojourn

Mark the dates! The Bristlecone Chapter will once again host the Sierra Spring Sojourn on May 31 through June 2, 2013 with field trips to view wildflowers from Paradise to Owens Lake along the Eastern Sierra. The gathering place for programs, field trips and accommodations for out-of-town participants will be at the Sierra Adventure Center at Bernasconi near Big Pine, 15 miles south of Bishop. Registration information and more details coming soon.

Field trip extravaganza! Potential trips so far (SUBJECT TO CHANGE, based on where the best blooms are the weekend of the Sojourn- keep checking back for updates as the date grows closer): Mazourka Canyon – Steve McLaughlin, Buttermilks – Jerry Zatorski, McMurry Meadows – Paul Satterthwaite, Eureka Dunes area – Michele Slaton, Owens Lake – Steve McLaughlin, Marble Canyon – Scott Hetzler, Joshua Flat & Lime Hill – Mark Bagley, Westgard Pass – Sue Weis.

As many members remember, the Bristlecone Chapter hosted these sojourns every two years but the last one was four years ago in 2009. We are working hard to assure that this sojourn will match the success of past years. We still need volunteers to help with planning, leading field trips, working on publicity and other tasks. Call Edie Trimmer at 801-597-2104 or email at if you are interested in helping to make this work.

More information on registration, programs and field trips available on the Sojourn page!

End of May (TBA) - Watershed restoration project for the Lower Owens River

Jaryd Block, Americorp Volunteer with Sierra Nevada Conservancy and Larry Freilich, Inyo County Water Department are co-operating on a watershed restoration project for the Lower Owens Recreation Use Plan. The Lower Owens River experienced a major fire at the end of February 2013 resulting in over 400 acres of burned area. This proposed project will focus on restoration of willow tree species within the burned area. Many volunteers are needed for collection, transport and planting of seed within a week's time. Timing depends on optimum conditions for collection and planting.

Contact: Jaryd Block

June 5, Wednesday, 12-1pm: Climate Change in the Eastern Sierra: What's Already Happening, and What Might Happen in the Future? Brown Bag Lunch Series from Eastern Sierra Land Trust

Holly Alpert, Program Manager for the Inyo-Mono Integrated Regional Water Management Program, will be our speaker for the June installment of our Brown Bag Lunch Series. Everyone is invited to attend, and is encouraged to bring his/her own lunch. The Brown Bag Lunch will be held in ESLT's garden at 176 Home St. in Bishop (and indoors during inclement weather).

CNPS Event June 9, Sunday, 9:00am, CNPS Field Day: 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 contact Scott at (760) 873-8392.

CNPS Event July 6, CNPS Field Trip: South Fork Big Pine Creek, Leader: Steve Matson

Meet in Big Pine at the parking area next to campground at Junction of 395 and 168. We will drive 10 miles up Big Pine Canyon to the trailhead by Glacier Lodge. I propose to hike 6 to 7 miles round-trip. I hope to find Lupinus padre-crowleyi, Nama rothrockii, and Penstemon papillatus.

Contact: Steve Matson 760-938-2862 or

CNPS Event July 13, Saturday, CNPS Field Trip: Mammoth Lakes Basin, Heart Lake and Arrowhead Lake, Leader: Ann Howald

Meet at the far end of the parking lot that is beyond the Coldwater Campground, at 9:00 a.m. We will hike up the Heart Lake trail, through the montane form of sagebrush scrub that is “enriched” with many wildflowers, then cross a talus slope with an array of multi-colored hybrid columbines, then return from Arrowhead Lake through subalpine forest. This is a moderately strenuous, although short (approximately 2.5 mile) hike. We should return to the parking lot by mid-afternoon. Bring lunch, water, sunscreen and a hat; and hiking poles if steep downhill bothers your knees. For more information contact Ann at (707) 721-6120 or

CNPS Event July 20, Saturday, 9am: Little Lakes Valley (Upper Rock Creek) thesis field work with Joy England

Assist Joy with her fieldwork for her thesis research. Translation: look for cool plants. Meet at Mosquito Flat trailhead at 9:00 AM. See a summary of Joy's work from last summer in our January-February 2013 Newsletter. Contact Joy for more information: or 626-208-7904.

July 20-28: GLORIA week in the White Mountains (Attend Session 1: July 20-24; Sesson 2: July 24-28; or both!)

JOIN US for a fun and educational stay at Crooked Creek Research Station (University of California, White Mountain Research Center) at 10,200 ft in the White Mountains!

The international GLORIA project (Global Observation & Research Initiative in Alpine Environments) monitors alpine plants at risk from climate change at the tops of the world’s highest mountains.

This year, the California GLORIA field crew is holding an open-invitation field trip. Interested parties are encouraged to come join us and learn about the alpine environment. Educational walks, hiking tours, and lectures will be led by some of the scientists who know the White Mountains best.

Lodging: Accommodations are at the UC White Mountain Research Center’s Crooked Creek Research Station, a lovely high elevation mountain lodge surrounded by ancient bristlecone & limber pines. Three delicious meals a day are included.

Cost: Prices range from $60-$85/night per person depending on room type (shared room, private room with shared bath, or private room with private bath). Please see the GLORIA California website or download/view the GLORIA week flyer (pdf) for details!

Full Details:

Additional questions or to register contact: Adelia Barber

CNPS Event July 27, Saturday, CNPS Field Trip: White Mountains, Leader: Jerry Zatorski

It always a treat to see what can be found in this high desert mountain range in mid-summer. This trip will focus on the sub-alpine and alpine habitats in the White Mountains. Although if the Monsoon Gods are good to us, there could also be some nice blooms lower down as well. Expect to see many herbaceous and shruby alpine species along with the famous Bristlecone Pines. All areas are accessible by car although the dirt road portions can be dusty.

We will meet at the Triangle campground entrance just north of Big Pine, at the intersection of US 395 and SR 168 at 8:00 AM and go from there. This will be an all day trip, so have plenty of food, fluids, along with field guides hand lens, sun protection, dress for weather (temps at high elevations are much cooler than on the valley) and so forth, plant to return to Big Pine by ~ 5:00 PM. For more information contact Jerry Zatorski at (760) 387-2920 or

CNPS Event September 14, Saturday, 9-11:30am: Bristlecone Chapter Native Plant Sale

A wonderful array of native plants are offered every year.  We’ve been busy coaxing from seed dozens of  brittlebush, various buckwheats, penstemons, Mojave aster, lupine and many more favorites!! See our sortable database of species that have been available at our plant sales for ideas of what to expect. Plant prices are currently $5.00 for a small tree pot and $8.00 for gallon pots. Contact Katie at if you have any questions.

Check the Events page for more to come.

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2013 Wildflower Exhibit at the Maturango Museum

Wildflower Show

Two young wildflower admirers - photo by Liz Babcock

I don’t know about the rest of the Bristlecone Chapter, but it’s been terribly dry down here in the Southern Territory. I mean maybe one inch of rain in 15 months. That produces parched land and certainly didn’t bode well for this Spring’s Wildflower Exhibit. Early scouting reports said that even Erodium plants were tiny, shriveled, and almost crispy by March. Alien grasses, usually so unfortunately reliable, were taking a bye this year. We tried to keep a positive outlook as the collecting days (April 10-11) approached but it was hard.

The Exhibit organizers sent out teams of collectors, armed with permits from the Ridgecrest BLM, to specific sites within a 50-mile radius of Ridgecrest. Sites do vary somewhat from year to year but there are always some constants such as the east-facing Sierran canyons (9-Mile, Short, Grapevine, and Indian Wells), Poison Canyon on the way to Trona, the Rademacher Hills to the south. This year collectors had to walk or hike further and fewer collections than normal were made at lower elevation. This extra effort paid off.

While the tables in the Museum Gallery were certainly less full than previous years with fewer collections from multiple locations and though many of the blooms were smaller, we still had 44 plant families and 182 species represented. For comparison the results for 2012 (also a dry year, but less so) were 42 families and 201 species and in wet 2011 there were 43 families and 228 species. Not bad, not bad at all. Remarkably, there were 8-10 species that had never come in before, perhaps due to the determination of collectors to go just a bit further in their searches.

Please make plans to join us next year, either as a visitor or possibly as a participant (helping collect, display and/or identify). Contact Creosote Ring subchapter coordinator Kathy LaShure ( for more details.

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April 27 Field Trip Report, Baker Creek (Bernasconi Hill)

As this was the first trip I have lead for the Bristlecone Chapter of CNPS, I was worried no one would show up for the new guy. On top of that, two years of drought has left most low elevations quite parched. Even weedy annuals were hurting! Ultimately, 7 of us drove up above Big Pine to a region north and west of the Bernasconi Center. I had been walking this circuit for the last 5 years and felt largely comfortable with the flora and brought along a plant list and notes I have been accumulating for those 5 years, back into an age when many of the plants had different names and resided in different families.

One could have held all the annuals we saw in a large handful. Earlier years (2009 thru 2011) provided beautiful carpets of Coreopsis, Layia, and Malacothrix. This year, no carpets but blessedly little Erodium (Fillaree/Storksbill) and Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass). The perennials fared better, the Purshia (Bitterbrush) doing well after the fire of 2008.

The Desert Peach (Prunus andersonii) had gone to fruit, Ephedra nevadense was spectacular, the Ceanothus vestitus (formerly greggii var. vestitus) in bloom but not as outstanding as some other locations nearby. We passed through some populations of Blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima)which had no flowers at all, along with abundant mounds of Calystegia longipes. On top of what I call Bernasconi Hill, we found Eriogonum inflatum (Desert Trumpet), Stipa hymenoides (Ricegrass), Cirsium occidentale, Cryptantha confertiflora (yellow cryptantha), and surprisingly some Lepidium fremontii (Fremont's peppergrass), Symphoricarpos longiflorus and a Brickellia too early to key out.

All in all: a pleasant trip, to be repeated next year at about the same time. A complete plant list to appear on our website very soon (watch for updates here). Thanks to all attendees and support from the chapter.

—Steve Matson

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The Saga of the Greenhouse

The rodents got an upper hand in the shade house this winter. In January when I uncovered the plants to water them I looked upon a scene of total devastation. Those beastly varmints had crawled in under the row cover and had a nice warm and protected feast. The 1500 bitter brush plants had been eaten to their roots, and many of the plants I was overwintering for a spring plant sale were now just bare stems sticking up out of the soil. I took some of the plant sale plants home to see if they could recover and hoped that the bitterbrush would re-sprout off their roots. I then declared war! I put out 15 traps in my small area and checked them every day. Over the course of 2 weeks I caught 13 rodents: mice, packrats and ground squirrels but now I need a new bait as they have wised up and are not going in the traps anymore.

I wondered why this level of rodent damage had not been a problem before. Since the propagation center has been in existence, the research station has always had people living on site and active research going on. So there have always been pet dogs and cats around and people walking by to scare the rodents away. Now the station is much quieter and the dogs that are around are so old and arthritic they can barely walk. Who would have thought that growing restoration plants would be so affected by budget cuts to our education system?

The maintenance on the greenhouse is done. My helper from the BLM and I reattached the plastic. Instead of using staples, which has been the method in the past, we used spring lock channel and wire. This has made the seal so much tighter that the temperature is staying more constant and I don’t have to open and close the greenhouse as often.

I did manage to save some plants from the rodent damage and sold them at Earth Day in the Bishop City Park. I also sold the plants that go summer dormant such as Mules Ears and Bush Sunflower. I had hoped that some plants that I started early would be ready to sell by April 20th but this year they grew slower than last. However they will be at the fall sale.

By now the greenhouse is full of seedlings and the week of April 22 will be our first re-potting of seedlings into larger pots. One positive thing about losing a lot of the restoration bitter brush is that there is more room in the shade house for plant sale plants. This year I have a couple of new plants that I am hoping will make it to the plant sale. A wonderful CNPS member from Inyokern has been sending me seed from her garden so I have Penstemon parryi and Penstemon patens and I found an envelope of Delphinium parishii. Of course at this point in time they are little tiny seedlings and who knows if they will make it to the plant sale.

The Bishop plant sale will be on September 14th at White Mountain Research Station. The list of plants that will be available at the sale will be updated a little later in the season once the plants start growing and I can tell if they will survive.

— Katie Quinlan

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Remembering Bob Hudson

Bob Hudson and Judy Wickman returning from an Owens Lake bird census

Bob Hudson and Judy Wickman
returning from an Owens Lake bird census

Many of us here in the Owens Valley knew Bob from birding, hiking/biking or native plant gardening. His warm personality and interesting stories of working for the USFS as a fire lookout in Oregon and his many travels around the world on birding trips were wonderful. Bob attended the bird study group meetings at Tom and Jo Heindel’s home for many years and regularly showed up to buy native plants at the Bristlecone plant sales each September. He actively birded around Independence and found many rarely seen birds such as the vermillion flycatcher and rose-breasted grosbeak.

Bob grew up on a farm in the Santa Barbara area and attended UC Davis. For decades he was a fire lookout near John Day, Oregon during the summers and then would travel the world including the U.S. with friends on trips celebrating birds and natural history. He also began to establish his residency in the Owens Valley. Bob spent four weeks crossing the Sahara, including waking up one morning with the expedition covered with sand after a night time sand storm. He made multiple trips to South America – Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and Brazil.

But my strongest memories of Bob were when he joined Judy Wickman and me for uncountable trips out onto Owens Lake 20 or more years ago collecting the first modern bird census data. For years we combed every inch of Owens Lake to record its importance for birds, often returning home covered in mud. His love of birds and Nature was endless. Those data eventually led to the current efforts to create an Owens Lake Master Plan that will protect and enhance large swatches of habitat, control hazardous dust and conserve water.

Memories of Bob will travel with all of us in the Bristlecone CNPS chapter and Eastern Sierra Audubon as we go outside. Bob’s generous contribution to both groups is deeply felt. See along the trail Bob, thank you.

— Mike Prather

Note: Robert Hudson remembered the Bristlecone Chapter in his will. He also left sums to the Nature Conservancy, Audubon, Wilderness Society, Eastern California Museum, and Sierra Club. He was a retired USFS worker with an interest in plants and an avid birdwatcher.

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Birch Creek Journal

Water Birch, photo by Jo Ann Ordano, CalAcademy

Photo by Jo-Ann Ordano
© California Academy of Sciences

April 12, 2013—My husband Steve and I have long maintained that even after a dry winter, you can find the usual spring annuals if you look hard enough in the most favorable habitats–sandy washes, overhanging boulders, shaded slopes, and so forth. This particular spring, coming at the end of two dry winters in a row, has tested that hypothesis and found it wanting. Here along Birch Creek, we have a few filaree (Erodium cicutarium) where water drips out of a spigot for a few seconds when we detach the hose. We have some fiddlenecks (Amsinckia tessellata) of diminutive size and unimpressive floral impact. We have red brome (Bromus madritensis ssp. rubens) and cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), the exotic annual grasses that appear every year, no matter how dry; this spring, however, they are sparse enough that yanking them will be a matter of a few hours rather than a few weeks. And that’s about it. No scale bud (Anisocoma acaulis) or yellow tackstem (Calycoseris parryi), no whispering bells (Emmenanthe penduliflora) or chia (Salvia columbariae). In short, this is not a spring to set a botanist’s heart a-dancing.

Yet my heart does dance. Today I saw my first western tiger swallowtail of spring as it lilted over the creek. It would be a hard heart indeed that did not rejoice at the sight of this broad-winged butterfly with its elegantly tapered yellow and black stripes. White-lined sphinx moths–recognizable by the deep pink patch on the hindwing and the white racing stripes on the thorax and head–have been particularly abundant this year. They caused some consternation in our neighborhood with respect to tomato plants–specifically, was this going to be the worst year ever for tomato hornworms? I was happy to set minds at rest, insofar as a gardener’s mind ever can be at rest in the Owens Valley. The caterpillars of the white-lined sphinx moth are generalists, feeding on a wide variety of plants, and although it is not inconceivable that they might feast on tomato foliage, I doubt that it is a favorite with them.

Although the landscape around our neighborhood is as parched as I’ve ever seen it, our garden of native plants is flowering abundantly thanks to irrigation this month and last. By irrigation, I mean a good, deep soaking such that my feet sank inches into the ground when I retrieved the sprinkler. Now native bees of at least three kinds probe the flowers of purple sage (Salvia dorrii) as if their lives depended on these half-dozen plants. Their bodies are too large to fit inside the flowers but the stamens protrude far enough that bees cannot help bumping into them. In this way their fuzzy bodies pick up pollen, which they then carry to adjacent flowers.

I suspect that running the sprinkler not only brought purple sage into bloom, it triggered bee emergence, as well. That’s my guess, anyway. In arid North America, some species of native bees have adapted to unpredictable and irregular rainfall in much the same way as desert annuals. Just like the seeds of desert annuals, these bees spend most of their lives underground, first as eggs laid on balls of pollen, then as larvae, finally as pupae. Also like desert annuals, the pupae emerge as adult bees only when they receive the proper signal, a substantial rainstorm in the cool season. A higher proportion of adult bees emerge after wetter winters than after drier ones, and in this way too the bees are a lot like desert annuals.

Walking around the native plant garden, I see many small holes in the ground where bees dug their way to fresh air and freedom this spring. The holes look as though someone made a sideways gouge in the dirt with a thumb. Significantly, I see no holes where I did not water. That good, deep irrigation made all the difference to both the flowers and the bees. Makes me feel a bit like a god, even though I know that my omnipotence arises solely from possession of a sprinkler, a hose, and a well. Believe me, if I had godlike powers I would have gone to work last October, centering my celestial sprinkler smack dab above the Owens Valley and setting the stage for the best spring ever.

Had I not watered the native plant garden this spring, the bees would have been fine. Just like seeds of desert annuals, they would have waited in the ground for a better year. Out there in the desert, in fact, millions of bees are doing exactly that. Meanwhile, I’m glad that I inadvertently gave a few hundred bees a chance to dance among flowers.

— Jan Bowers

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Like trains of cars on tracks of plush
I hear the level bee:
A jar across the flowers goes,
Their velvet masonry

Withstands until the sweet assault
Their chivalry consumes,
While he, victorious, tilts away
To vanquish other blooms.

His feet are shod with gauze,
His helmet is of gold;
His breast, a single onyx
With chrysoprase, inlaid.

His labor is a chant,
His idleness a tune;
Oh, for a bee's experience
Of clovers and of noon!

— Emily Dickinson

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From the Editors

Next Newsletter Deadline: June 15, 2013

Send articles to:

If you still receive this newsletter via US Mail, please send your email address to the editor (email address above) so you can receive the electronic version. Please help the Bristlecone chapter save money, energy, and trees

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The California Native Plant Society is an organization of lay persons and professionals united by an interest in the plants of California. It is open to all. The society, working through its local chapters, seeks to increase the understanding of California's native flora and to preserve this rich resource for future generations. Varied interests are represented.


Membership Application

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Bristlecone Chapter Directory

President: Yvonne Wood (760) 258-7949
Vice President: Holly Alpert (760) 709-2212
Secretary: Rosemary Jarret 760-387-2782
Treasurer: Paul Satterthwaite (773) 208-7858
Past President / Partnerships: Steve McLaughlin (760) 938-3140
Membership: Edie Trimmer/Thomas Brill 760-920-3702
Newsletter Editors: Edie Trimmer/Thomas Brill 760-920-3702
Conservation: Julie Anne Hopkins (831) 566-6012
Adopt-A-Highway: Scott Hetzler (760) 873-8392
Programs: Holly Alpert (760) 709-2212
Field Trips: Sue Weis (760) 873-3485
DeDecker Native Plant Garden: OPEN - interested? Contact any board member!
DeDecker Grant Program: Kathleen Nelson (760) 873-1095
Publicity: Kristen Luetkemeier (703) 862-4395
Historian: Ann Fulton (760) 873-9261
Librarian: EvelynMae Nikolaus - (760) 878-2149
Rare Plant Committee Chair: Kathleen Nelson (760) 873-2400
Bishop Plant Sales: Katie Quinlan (760) 873-8023
Mammoth Plant Sales: Sherry Taylor (760) 934-2338
Book Sales: Sue Weis (760) 873-3485
Posters: Stephen Ingram (760) 387-2913
Creosote Ring Sub-Chapter Coordinator: Kathy LaShure (760) 377-4541
Webmaster: Maggie Wolfe Riley

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THE CALIFORNIA NATIVE PLANT SOCIETY ( Bristlecone Chapter Newsletter comes out bimonthly. It is free to chapter members. To subscribe to this newsletter without joining CNPS, please send $5.00 per year to CNPS, P.O. Box 364, Bishop, CA 93515-0364. ATTN: subscriptions. Send newsletter articles (not memberships) to newsletter editor Daniel Pritchett at

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