Monday, November 12, 2012

“Defensive Plants: Sticky Resins, Milky Saps, and Potent Poisons”
Speaker – Margareta Séquin

Plants have had to defend themselves since their emergence millions of years ago.  Myriads of insects and snails feed on them, and larger herbivores devour fresh, green leaves and juicy stems.  Being mostly anchored in place, plants have had to evolve elaborate defense mechanisms to survive the challenges.  Most plants have structural defenses, in the form of tough skins, thorns, or sharp spines.  Through time, plants also evolved a great diversity of defensive substances, in the form of strong odors, bitter saps, sticky resins, or potent poisons.  Plants are masters at chemical defense!

During this presentation we’ll look at families of chemical plant defenses.  This will be illustrated by many plant photos, mostly of California native plants including Marin County plants, and a few non-natives, too.  We’ll examine what is typical of the molecules that compose strong leaf odors, gums and resins, soapy saponins, and the famous alkaloid plant bases (no previous chemistry knowledge required!).  We’ll also remember that plant defensive substances have been the origins of many medicines for humans.

Margareta (Greti) Séquin has a PhD in organic chemistry and is a plant enthusiast.  She has taught organic chemistry, natural products chemistry, and chemistry for non-majors at San Francisco State University for more than 20 years, and has also led numerous field seminars on the subject of plant chemistry.  She is a docent at the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Berkeley, as well as the author of the book “The Chemistry of Plants: Perfumes, Pigments, and Poisons“, published by RSC (Cambridge, UK) in April 2012.

 Monday, October 8, 2012 

“Bringing Nature Back Home: Growing a Wildlife Habitat Garden”Bee Fascularisthumb
speaker – Nancy Bauer

We’ll take a look at San Francisco Bay Area habitat gardens and their plants, including water features and ponds, and some of the wildlife species these gardens attract.  The focus is native plants and their relationships with birds, butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects.

Highlights of this talk will include:

  • The basics of gardening for wildlifehousefinch toyonRWthumb
  • Examples from various Bay Area wildlife gardens of multifunctional native plants that offer cover, food, and nectar for birds and insects
  • Pollinators (honeybees, native bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators) and gardens focused on attracting these pollinators
  • Beneficial insect predators
  • Wildlife ponds and creatures

Lavatera assurgentiflora MW thumbNancy Bauer is a wildlife habitat gardener, garden writer, and author of The Habitat Garden Book: Wildlife Landscaping for the San Francisco Bay Region.  Her new book, The California Wildlife Habitat Garden, was just published by UC Press in August.  She is based in Sonoma County and got her Master Gardener certification in Marin County in 1994.

Bee on narrow leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) by Harmina Mansur
House finch on Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) by Robert Watkins
Lavatera assurgentiflora by Mieko Watkins

 Monday, June 11, 2012 

“What does the new Jepson Manual mean for California floristics?”TJM2cover thumb
Speaker – Bruce Baldwin

Changes in understanding of California’s native and naturalized vascular plants since publication of The Jepson Manual (1993) necessitated a complete revision of the book, which is now complete.  Implications for the flora extend from higher-level classification (e.g., families) to fine-scale taxonomy (e.g., species).  Bruce will review some of the more conspicuous changes affecting our plants and provide some perspective on why these changes are important steps forward for California botany.  He also will talk about new initiatives of the Jepson Flora Project and how they will affect the California botanical community.

Bruce Baldwin is Curator of the Jepson Herbarium and Professor of Integrative Biology at U.C. Berkeley.  He is Convening Editor of the Jepson Flora Project, including “The Jepson Manual: Vascular Plants of California, Second Edition”.

 Monday, May 14, 2012 

GoatRocksWilderness“2,600 Miles on the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail”Pedicularis groenlandica
Speakers – Bob & Martha Sikora

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail extends 2650 miles from the Sonoran Desert at the Mexican border to boreal forests in Canada.  The entire route stays within some of the most strikingly beautiful and pristine habitats in the three westernmost states, California, Oregon and Washington.  Passing through some 50-odd national and state forests, parks, and wilderness areas, the trail winds up the Peninsular and Transverse ranges, across the western tip of the Mojave Desert and the Tehachapi Mountains, and along the length of the Sierra Nevada and the Cascade Mountains.

Bob Sikora and Martha Ashton-Sikora completed the entire Pacific Crest Trail and will share with us some of the scenery and wildflowers they saw along the way.  In a walk of that length, can one make adequate photographs to give a sense of the whole endeavor and still manage to cover the distance?  Join Bob and Martha on their journey and find out. (Hint: It took them 13 years!)

Bob Sikora (MA, zoology, UC Berkeley) was one of the first four research divers at UCB.  He taught advanced placement biology at Berkeley High and enjoys nature photography in his retirement.  Martha Ashton-Sikora (PhD, theater, Michigan State University) did her research in India and has authored two books and numerous articles on Indian theater forms.  She has taught at the University of Chicago and UC Berkeley.

Monday, April 9, 2012

“Alaskan Wildflowers: From the Mountains to the Sea”
Speaker – John Baston

John’s program will be a survey of wildflowers that he has found in Alaska’s diverse habitats, and he will have some ideas about arranging a trip that accesses all these wildflower hotspots.

Some of the plnats to be reviewed are: Castileja Elegans-Elegant Paintbrush, Papaver macounii-Macoun’s Poppy, Saxifraga bronchialis-Spotted Saxifrage, Cypripedium parviflorum-Yellow Ladyslipper Orchid, and Gentiana platypetala-Broad-petaled Gentian.

John Baston has been a National Park Ranger and guide for 22 years.  His love of botany started in Marin when he was working at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and at Point Reyes National Seashore.  He went on to spend 17 summers in Alaska working as a ranger and sea kayaking guide.  He always carries his little pocket camera and has captured images of wildflowers from the beach fringe of Glacier Bay, the deep forests of the Tongass, and up into the subalpine of Denali National Park.  Currently he is working again in the Bay Area as the Director of North American and Alaskan Programs at Mountain Travel Sobek.

 Monday, March 12, 2012 

GooseLake thumb“Goose Lake, Modoc County”Lithophragma tenellum thumb  Downingia laeta thumb
Speaker – Dick O’Donnell

“This is a photographic record of my first visit to Modoc County, limited to the immediate vicinity of Goose Lake.  The season started late in 2011.  Snow and muddy conditions made access to the Warner Mts. difficult … and just as well since numerous, very colorful flowering plants decorated the lowlands very richly.  Had I gone to the Warners instead, I would probably have missed all of what you’ll see in the slides.  I was amazed at the diversity.  But in addition to the floral highlights, there were artifacts from earlier days … arrowheads, mortars, rock art.”

Dick ODonnell is a retired economist who has determined that hiking, learning, and talking about it are cost-effective. His botanical excursions into New Mexico, Arizona, and all over California have inspired him to write articles, some of which were published in Madrono, The Four Seasons, and Manzanita.

The three pictures are landscape around Goose Lake showing snow in the highlands; Lithophragma tenellum; and the rare Downingia laeta.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Calystegia collina oxyphylla“Native Plants of Walker Ridge and Bear Valley, Colusa County”Styrax redivivus
speakers – Vernon and Doreen Smith

Walker Ridge, mostly managed by BLM, covers an area of 14,000 acres along an 11-mile, north-south trending ridge located on the boundary of Lake and Colusa Counties. The serpentine soils, high elevation (over 3000′), and unique geography of the ridge support many rare plants, but this invaluable resource is threatened by a Canadian company which wants to develop a massive wind turbine project. The giant turbines and the associated infrastructure would require clearing of the native chaparral vegetation to provide footprints for the turbines and drastic widening of the existing dirt roads. Some preliminary clearing has already taken place. For these reasons CNPS is proposing the designation of Walker Ridge as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

The Ridge is situated immediately to the west of Bear Valley which is renowned in good years as having the best remaining display of fields of wildflowers in Northern California. These vast flowery panoramas have proven to be a mecca for wildflower enthusiasts for decades.
We made four visits to these two areas in 2010 and 2011 to see and photograph some of the flora that make them so special.

More information can be found, for example, from the October 2011 edition of the Four Seasons, and by visiting Tuleyome and similar websites.

Doreen Smith graduated from Bristol University with a degree in Botany. One of her first job afterwards was working on the Flora of Tropical East Africa at the Royal Botanic Gardens Herbarium, Kew. Since emigrating to the United States in 1967 she has focused on learning the plants of California, especially those of Marin County. She is the rare plant specialist for the Marin Chapter CNPS.

Vernon Smith is a retired medical physicist who enjoys hiking in the outdoors and, while on the trail, photographing the flowering plants. Doreen helps him find the correct identification, and suggests plant subjects, sometimes even those that appear to most people as obscure little green weeds.

 Monday, January 9, 2012 

“Sonoma spineflower: the natural history and future survival of one of Marin’s rarest plants”
Speaker – Amelia Ryan

Chorizanthe valida2 thumbChorizanthe valida AR thumb

The Federally Endangered Chorizanthe valida (Sonoma spineflower) currently has only one wild population, located within Point Reyes National Seashore, making it one of the rarest plants in Marin County and in California in general.  Though commonly called Sonoma spineflower, the site on the Point Reyes Peninsula is the only location where a population of this species has been documented.  This talk will cover the quest to understand the likely historic distribution of Sonoma spineflowerand the factors contributing to its current restriction to one location, and touch on other aspects of its natural history.  It will also discuss current efforts by the Park Service to provide for the ongoing survival of this species.  In particular, it will focus on a project undertaken in 2010-2011 (funded by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Preventing Extinction Grant) that included new introductions of this species.

Amelia Ryan is an Ecologist with the National Park Service at Point Reyes National Seashore where she has worked since 2003.  She has a B.S. in Plant Biology and an M.S. in Biology, emphasis: Ecology and Systematic Biology. 
She grew up in the north Bay Area and has been interested in California native plants since childhood.  She has been a member of the Marin Chapter of the California Native Plant Society since 2004, and has served on its board since 2010.