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Newsletter - Web Edition

Bristlecone Chapter

The California Native Plant Society

“Dedicated to the Preservation of the California Native Flora”

Volume 33 No. 6

November-December 2012

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Bristlecone Chapter Meetings

Plants of Rock Creek Lake Basin, Inyo County, California: A Check List, by Frank W. Peirson, 1938
CNPS Event November 28, 6pm: Bristlecone Chapter Potluck & Social, White Mountain Research Station Dining Room

The November General Meeting of the Bristlecone Chapter will be our Annual Holiday Potluck, followed by the program described below. Please bring a dish and/or drinks to share, as well as your own place setting. See you at 6:00 pm for dinner, followed by a talk by Joy England at 7:00 pm (see below).

CNPS Event November Program: Wednesday, November 28, 7pm: A Flora Revisited: Survey of Vascular Species in the Upper Rock Creek Watershed with speaker Joy England.

Wednesday, November 28, 7:00 pm at White Mountain Research Station, 3000 East Line St., Bishop.

The speaker for our next program will be Joy England, a graduate student at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont. Her topic is “A Flora Revisited: Survey of Vascular Species in the Upper Rock Creek Watershed.”

Upper Rock Creek, from the high alpine lakes of Little Lakes Valley to the winding Rock Creek Canyon south of Toms Place, hosts impressive species diversity. With an altitudinal range of 11,000 feet at the headwaters to about 7,000 feet at the canyon bottom, the watershed includes a wide array of plant habitats. Botanist Frank W. Peirson, in his 1938 checklist, postulated that some Sierra Nevada plant species may reach their highest elevation in the Rock Creek Basin
Joy’s thesis project aims to expand the known number of taxa in the Upper Rock Creek watershed and produce a revised checklist of vascular plant species. Her talk will present an overview of field work during summer 2012 and will include research goals for 2013.

Next Bristlecone Chapter Board Meeting

Wednesday, November 14, 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 plan to arrive before the meeting begins at 7:00 PM.

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Message from the Presidents (present and past)

Thank you for your years of service...

Serving on the Board of the Bristlecone Chapter of the CNPS is "a labor of love" in support of our local native plant communities. I wish to thank two dedicated members of our Board who have recently resigned for their many years of service. Departing Membership Chair Sally Manning’s insight and longterm knowledge concerning local environmental issues have been invaluable and her advice will be missed from our Board’s discussions. And Daniel Pritchett has worked hard in support of our on-going outreach efforts while serving as both our Chapter’s Newspaper Editor and Conservation Chair.

We have been fortunate to have had both of these knowledgable naturalists dedicate their time to serve as members of our chapter’s Board. Thank you Sally and Dan.

— Yvonne Wood, Bristlecone Chapter President

The Only Constant is Change...

The Bristlecone Chapter is undergoing some profound changes at this time. There are currently several vacancies on the Board of Directors, including Newsletter Editor, Membership Chair, Publicity Chair, and Conservation Chair, and soon to be a vacancy for Treasurer. The first two are particularly critical; in truth without a Newsletter Editor and a Membership Chair it will be difficult to continue to function as a chapter. These are not onerous jobs; in recent years each has required 20-30 hours. The Newsletter Editor assembles each issue from submitted contributions; the Membership Chair generates the mailing labels and assists in assembling and mailing each issue. Current Board members were able to get this issue out, but for future issues we need members who wish to see the chapter continue to step up and become more involved. If you are willing to give one of these jobs a try, or want additional information, contact me or any other Board member.

By-the-way, if you are looking at a printed copy of the current newsletter, you are missing some great color photographs. To get the most out of our newsletter, and to save us time, printing costs, and mailing costs, please sign up for the web-based version of the newsletter–just send a message to:

— Steve McLaughlin, Past-president

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Upcoming Events

2012 November-December Events

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

November 17, Saturday, 8pm, and November 18, Sunday, 2pm: A Mulholland Christmas Carol, Bishop HS Auditorium

A MULHOLLAND CHRISTMAS CAROL, written by Bill Robens and directed by Alina Phelan, tells the story of the birth of Los Angeles by casting water baron William Mulholland in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in a California-set Christmas Carol. A musical rendition of the LA water wars with Owens Valley that mixes harmonies, history and humor, this production will provide an acoustical, bluegrass take on the music.

Join us for a Saturday evening show or a Sunday matinee of this award-winning Hollywood musical put on by Theatre of Note. This water-related "history on stage" is enjoying its 10th anniversary year and returns to the Owens Valley for the first time since 2005, hosted by Friends of the Inyo through the generosity of the Metabolic Studio in Los Angeles.

Online tickets available at Brown Paper Tickets - hurry, these shows will sell out!

CNPS Event November 28, 6pm: Bristlecone Chapter Potluck & Social, followed by program: A Flora Revisited: Survey of Vascular Species in the Upper Rock Creek Watershed with speaker Joy England. White Mountain Research Station Dining Room

See description above for details!

November 30th (Friday - Mammoth Lakes), December 1st (Saturday - Bishop) and 6th (Thursday - Lone Pine): Wild & Scenic Film Festival, Friends of the Inyo

Friends of the Inyo will host SYRCL's Wild & Scenic Film Festival for a sixth year in the Eastern Sierra in Mammoth Lakes (November 30), Bishop (December 1) and Lone Pine (December 6). There are two exciting film program offerings this year to provide food for thought, and inspire everyone to action and adventure. For details see the Friends of the Inyo website. All programs start at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $10 per person per program and are now available at Friends of the Inyo, 819 North Barlow Lane in Bishop or by emailing

CNPS Event December 10, Monday - Deadline for Mary DeDecker Botanical Grant Applications

Grants for research and projects that increase the understanding and appreciation of native plants and ecosystems in the Eastern Sierra are available to graduate students, college students, and primary and secondary students (K-12). Research projects need not be academic or scholarly but must be relevant to the native plants of the northern Mojave Desert, Sierra Nevada, and Great Basin portions of eastern California. Applications must include written support from a major advisor or teacher.

Grant recipients receive up to $1000 each for expenses and are asked to present their results to the Bristlecone Chapter either at a regular meeting or in the chapter newsletter. Deadline is December 10, 2012. All applicants will be notified of the committee’s decision by January 28, 2013.

Find out about past recipients and download an application

Check the Events page for more.

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Bishop Plant Sale Report

On the day of the Bishop native plant sale, I got to the “station” about 7 a.m. to do the final set up. This year I tried having coffee and Julie Ann brought treats so I had to get the coffee pots going and that table set up. At 7:30 I took my truck and parked it across the street from the entrance to the research station and hang the “Plant Sale” banner on it. As I was walking back through the parking lot some people got out of a van. Upon questioning them, I found out they were there for the sale and had been there since 5 a.m.! It was their first sale and they didn’t know quite what to expect. I explained that they could look and figure out what they wanted but had to wait until 9 when the sale would begin. This family of 4 was very organized, each member had a picture of the plant they were suppose to get on their electronic device, and they had plenty of time to find them all.

Happy Customer at the 2012 Native Plant Sale

This year’s sale was calmer that those in the past, besides the 5 a.m. family only a few people came early and they were there only 15 min. before the sale started. As usual, the rush was from 9-11 a.m. and then the whole experience was over. During that time 67 people bought 595 plants. These numbers are down from last year (84 people and 689 plants), however, we held 4 other small plant sales during the spring and when I factor in those numbers we sold almost as many plants as last year.

My experiment with using just the deeper pots has worked out well. Both Sherry and I have found that we can grow much healthier plants with the deeper pots. The other advantage to the deep pots is that I can fit more plants on a table. So far 45% of the tree pots have returned and 11% of the deep gallon pots are back. I am hoping as people get their plants in the ground more of the pots will come back. They can be returned to The Eastern Sierra Land Trust at 176 Home St. in Bishop, or at the Greenhouse at White Mountain Research Station. Both locations have garbage cans with “pots for Native Plants” signs on them.

Someone asked me if I was relieved when the sale was over. At the propagation center the sale is just another day in the cycle of things. I am relieved to get those plants that are ready to go out of the way so I can repot others and fill the tables again. For example, the plant sale plants took up 3 tables worth of space and now are only using ¼ of a table. But within 3 weeks of the sale those 3 tables were filled with repotted bitterbrush seedlings that need to grow out for another year before they can go in the ground. And now as fall starts winding down and we get hints of winter I anxiously wait for the restoration plants to be planted out so I can use those pots for more plants that need to over-winter. When November rolls around and the plants are tucked in under the row cover then I clean all the seed I have collected, or others have collected for me, to get ready to start again in January.

There are a few plants left that if you missed the sale you can contact me and arrange a time when I am out at the greenhouse to buy them. Otherwise they will be at one of the spring sales. (Alabama Hills Day, Earth Day or The Eastern Sierra Land Trust Garden Fest).

I do enjoy the plant sale. I love to see all the enthusiasm people have for growing natives and meeting these incredible enthusiastic folks who drive from far away and get up at unreasonably early hours of the morning to be the first at the plant sale. The proceeds for all the plant sales go toward the DeDecker Grants, see Jan’s article.

The plant sale could not happen without the tremendous amount of help I get from lots of volunteers. I have a cadre of planters who come throughout the season and help seed and repot plants and would like to thank them all for the many hours they put in: Elsbeth Otto Hillary Behr, Kirsten Dutcher, Kathy Duvall, Julie Ann Hopkins, Rosemary Jarrett, Laurie Morrow, Minon Moskowitz, Martin Oliver, Hilary Parish, Margaret Phelps, Richard Potashin, Terry Russi, Steve McLaughlin, Jim Varnum, Sue Weis, Kay Wilson, and Yvonne Wood.

— Katie Quinlan

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Future Farmers Go Native!

Lone Pine Future Farmers repotting native plant seedlings

On September 25th, 30 students from the Lone Pine FFA program spent the morning learning how to pot bitterbrush seedlings. These plants will be used in a restoration project on some land up in Swall Meadows. This work project came about through a joint grant between the BLM and FFA. Lone Pine High School now has a greenhouse and the students will learn to grow native plants that will be used for restoration projects in the lower end of the Owens Valley. Last year the students spent hours cleaning 600 desert bitterbrush seeds and cold stratified them, but their greenhouse wasn’t ready when the seeds were so they saw all that hard work go to waste. This year Katie Quinlan is working more closely with the students and Brenda Lacey, their instructor, to make sure the facilities will be ready when the plants are, and the students will experience more success with growing the plants. Katie greatly appreciated the help from the students potting up 200 of the bitterbrush seedlings.

— Katie Quinlan

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Native Demonstration Garden Plot in the Bishop Community Garden

Native Plant Demonstration Garden - Summer 2011 - Solarizing

Solarizing soil, summer 2011

Working with the Inyo Mono Master Gardeners and the Friends of Eastern Sierra Community Gardens in the newly established Bishop Community Garden, Sue Weis and Katie Quinlan have planted a native plant demonstration plot using plants grown in the Cooperative Plant Propagation Center. The community garden is on the east side of Bishop Park and includes about 30 plots for community members who need garden space, which is fenced, and several planned demonstration plots. An eagle scout installed the water system for the community plots as his service project, and Dan Holland, volunteer, worked on the water system for the demonstration plots and roto-tilled the whole garden area several times.

The native garden was the first of the demonstration plots to be planted, in the late fall of 2011, after the plot was solarized to reduce the weeds and grasses that are present. A drip irrigation system was installed early this summer and the plants appear to be doing very well.

Native Plant Demonstration Garden after second planting session, October 2012

Garden after second planting session, October 2012

Ten to fifteen members of the public attended fall workshops on native plant use at the plot in 2011 and 2012. There were planting demonstrations by Sue and Katie, assisted by other Master Gardeners and some of the attendees, and discussions of soil preparation and watering.

Stop by and see the garden and give us your suggestions and comments. There are some other demonstration plots in various stages of planning, including a pollinator garden sponsored by the Audubon Society, an edible landscape and vegetable growing plot, a First Bloom garden involving the local tribes, and a perennial flowers plot that the Rotary Club has adopted. There are still xeriscape and meadow plots (native grasses) waiting for ambitious garden designers, installers, and keepers. If anyone is interested in helping with the upkeep of the native plant plot or becoming involved in any of the other demonstrations, contact Sue or Katie

— Sue Weis

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DeDecker Botanical Grants

In 2001, the Bristlecone Chapter established a grants program as a fitting tribute to our chapter’s founder and renowned local botanist, Mary DeDecker. Our goal is to facilitate research and projects that increase the understanding and appreciation of native plants and ecosystems in the Eastern Sierra.

Anyone may apply for a grant, but we are especially interested in helping graduate students, college students, and primary and secondary students (K-12). Research projects need not be academic or scholarly but must be relevant to the native plants of the northern Mojave Desert, Sierra Nevada, and Great Basin portions of eastern California.

Grant recipients receive up to $1,000 each for expenses and are asked to present their results to the Bristlecone Chapter either at a regular meeting or in the chapter newsletter. Recipients must submit a progress report at the end of the year.

We have awarded grants to graduate students for research on various ecological, taxonomic and physiological aspects of our native flora. We have also helped to fund an education program on native plants for local schools, a mural project which included native plants, native plant gardens and invasive weed eradication projects.

Submit written proposals of no more than two pages in length to the Mary DeDecker Grant Committee. Each should contain title, objectives, methods, expected final product, brief statement of applicant’s qualifications, and breakdown of proposed costs. Students should include a letter of support from their advisor or teacher.

This year’s Deadline is December 10, 2012. All applicants will be notified of the committee’s decision by January 28, 2013.

Send proposals or requests for information to:

Jan Bowers
Mary DeDecker Grant Committee
P. O. Box 819
Big Pine, CA 93513

Proposals and requests for information may also be submitted by email:

Read more about the DeDecker Grants and past recipients

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Birch Creek Journal

Water Birch, photo by Jo Ann Ordano, CalAcademy

Photo by Jo-Ann Ordano
© California Academy of Sciences

Autumn slipped into our neighborhood while Steve and I were out of town for five days. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus vitacea) is turning red, Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii) is turning yellow, and water birch (Betula occidentalis) is turning bronze. All of a sudden, I need a sweater when I start my morning walk, and when I pick tomatoes off the vine, they feel as chilly in my hand as if refrigerated. I took down the hummingbird feeder before we left, but an Anna’s hummingbird ignored the hint and will probably stick around until the last flowers of autumn sage (Salvia greggii) either fade or freeze. I used to worry that these laggardly hummers would be caught by the first winter storm until a knowledgeable birder assured me that they can get to Ridgecrest in a few hours. We had a day of intermittent rain earlier this month, but it hardly qualified in my mind as a winter storm, and the hummingbird evidently agreed.

My vegetable garden, like the world beyond, has registered the change to cooler nights and shorter days. Tomatoes crack less but (because there’s no silver lining without its cloud) now taste more like food for mere mortals than ambrosia for gods. Eggplant leaves have faded like swatches of velvet left in the sun, and flower production has slowed to a standstill. Cucumber vines stagger onward, producing a pound or two of fruit every week, despite a leafhopper infestation of Biblical proportions. These tiny green bugs are so numerous that every time I enter the garden I must cover my face with my hand lest they leafhop right up my nose or down my throat. When days were warmer, dragonflies perched on tomato cages and hawked the leafhoppers out of the air. I applauded their efforts, but truth to tell, they hardly made a dent in the population. The curious thing is that I never saw leafhoppers in the garden before this summer, or maybe just a few. Same thing with tomato fruitworms. Nary a fruitworm in previous years; this year, a dozen or more. Be grateful if you’ve never seen one of these insidious borers. The first sign is a perfectly round hole in what appears to be a perfectly good tomato. Don’t do what I did and take the fruit indoors for final ripening. The only thing worse than having a living fruitworm invisibly riddle a tomato as it ripens on your counter is having a dead fruitworm, gray and limp, flop out of said tomato after you’ve parboiled and cut it open.

That rainy day earlier this month dropped two-tenths of an inch of rain at our place–perhaps as much as a quarter of an inch, depending on which of our two rain gauges you feel inclined to trust. I felt revivified after the storm, and I enjoyed the novelty of sinking ever so slightly into damp soil on my morning walk, but desert vegetation around our house seemed essentially untouched. Mojave indigobush (Psorothamnus arborescens) remained in a state of profound dormancy, as did hopsage (Grayia spinosa), horsebrush (Tetradymia axillaris), and other dominants. Leafless they were before the storm, and leafless they remained afterward. I should not have been surprised. It wasn’t much rain, after all. In a multi-year study of plant phenology in the Mojave Desert, ecologist Janice Beatley found that most shrubs needed an inch of cool-season rain to break the long dormancy enforced by summer heat and drought.

Growth patterns of some desert plants are plastic enough to respond to unseasonal moisture, as long as there is enough of it. Up the road from our house is a cattle trough filled by pipe from Birch Creek. The trough overflowed for several consecutive weeks this summer, making a moist swath of earth on the downhill side. A dense stand of downy monkeyflower (Mimulus pilosus) germinated in the wet soil and many shrubs within reach of the wet zone put out fresh shoots and leaves, among them Mojave indigobush and cheesebush (Ambrosia salsola). One small plant of California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) even bloomed, perhaps for the first time ever. Steve and I saw the same thing in our native plant garden, which we soaked with a sprinkler once a month this summer. Desert brittlebush (Encelia actoni), we learned, will bloom all summer long if given enough moisture. We found that flowering of desert fernbush (Chamaebatiaria millefolium) can be prolonged in this way, too. But certain other shrubs, such as desert peach (Prunus andersonii), grape-soda lupine (Lupinus excubitus), desert purple sage (Salvia dorrii), and Mojave aster (Xylorhiza tortifolia), did not respond to sprinkler irrigation, perhaps because the normal cues for flowering–cold nights or increasing day lengths, for example–were missing.

Rabbitbrush, photo by Robert Sivinski

Ericameria nauseosa, photo by Robert Sivinski

This is the time of year when I amaze myself with the sheer abundance of rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa). The golden masses of blossom make the plants leap out of obscurity, and every year I have the same thought: “Wow, I never realized that there was so much rabbitbrush out there.” (The corollary is that I am reminded, year after year, of how extensively the Owens Valley was farmed in the decades before DWP, rabbitbrush being an early occupant of old fields.) Given the general lifelessness of natural desert vegetation right now, the abundance of flowers on rubber rabbitbrush is most welcome. Green rabbitbrush (Ericameria teretifolia) is flowering now, too, also in apparent defiance of the odds. A quarter-inch of rain is hardly enough to wash the dust off these plants, much less bring them into bloom, yet they flower luxuriantly every autumn nonetheless, as yellow as the best Irish butter, as unfailing as death and taxes.

Dissertation work undertaken in the Owens Valley by our own Sally Manning helps explain why this is so. Sally’s comparative studies of green rabbitbrush, which blooms in autumn, and the closely related Cooper’s goldenbush (Ericameria cooperi), which blooms in spring, showed a strong contrast in rooting patterns. The taproot of green rabbitbrush reached a depth of 56 feet, whereas Cooper’s goldenbush penetrated to 39 feet at most. Moreover, the root system of green rabbitbrush branched little until it got down to about two feet, while that of Cooper’s goldenbush branched just below the soil surface. Clearly, the deeper roots of green rabbitbrush–and of rubber rabbitbrush, as well–tap a layer of soil moisture not available to most other desert shrubs, enabling them to bloom at a time of year when drought-induced dormancy should prevail.

I keep thinking about that quarter-inch of rain and its minuscule effect on native vegetation. My hope for this winter is for more rain than last. More rain, fewer leafhoppers, and no tomato fruitworms. Is that too much to ask? We’ll see. Meanwhile, I take comfort in the knowledge that, no matter what the winter brings, deep reserves of soil moisture can be tapped by rabbitbrush when autumn rolls around again.

— Jan Bowers

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."
~Albert Camus

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From the Editor

Next Newsletter Deadline: December 15, 2012 (a bit early because of Christmas)

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

Newsletter editor sought – if interested, please contact the email address above.

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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
Vice President: Holly Alpert (760) 709-2212
Treasurer: Rosanne Higley (760) 387-2803 - OPEN SOON - interested? Contact any board member!
Secretary: Rosemary Jarret 760-387-2782
Past President / Partnerships: Steve McLaughlin (760) 938-3140
Membership: OPEN - interested? Contact any board member!
Newsletter Editor: OPEN - interested? Contact any board member!
Conservation: OPEN - interested? Contact any board member!
Adopt-A-Highway: Scott Hetzler (760) 873-8392
Plant Communities:
OPEN - interested? Contact any board member!
Education: OPEN - interested? Contact any board member!
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: Jan Bowers (760) 938-3140
Publicity: OPEN - interested? Contact any board member!
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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