Planting & Watering Guide for California Native Plants

native planting ovlc

I just got home from this year’s Fall Native Plant Sale at the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy’s native plant nursery where I picked up 4 plants and a package of wildflower seed. I know. Some of you are asking why I didn’t tell you about it BEFORE it happened and now it’s over. Well, actually, I did. It was on the calendar in the October newsletter. But here’s the good news in case you missed it. While I was there I learned about their new online publication, “Planting & Watering Guide for California Native Plants.” It’s short,  easy to read, and has good photo illustrations. The page includes a handy downloadable watering chart. Now is the time of year to get those natives going in your garden so they can benefit from the winter rains.

Chinese researcher wins Nobel Prize for malaria drug derived from herbal medicine


In what could be described as a tribute to the efficacy of ancient plant remedies, Chinese scientist Tu Youyou was awarded half of the 2015 Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine for her discovery of artemisinin, now the world’s primary treatment for malaria.

According to a CNN report, “She scoured ancient texts and folk manuals and traveled to remote parts of the country for clues, ultimately collecting 2,000 potential remedies. She whittled these down to 380 and tested each one on mice. One of the compounds tested reduced the number of malaria parasites in the rodents’ blood.”

“Derived from sweet wormwood [Artemisia annua, pictured above], its use as a treatment for malaria was first recorded 1600 years ago in China, when a manual recommended drinking juice extracted from the plant. Her discovery resulted in the drug artemisinin — humankind’s best defense against the mosquito-borne disease, which kills 450,000 people each year.”


Turf Replacement Rebates program


On August 12, 2015, the California Department of Water Resources announced two new rebate programs to further advance water conservation. The “turf and toilet” program offers rebates to California residents to replace one old toilet per household, and up to $2,000 per household for replacing turf with landscapes that require little water Many of our native plants have proven over eons of time to be drought-resistant and make excellent choices for turf replacement. Here’s a link to the Turf Replacement Rebates program. My page of Links to Resources has a section under the heading GROWING NATIVE (NATIVE PLANT NURSERIES & INFO) listing local nurseries where native plants can be found. Grow native!

Fall Equinox Nature Hike on Pine Mountain rescheduled due to road closure


The 3rd Annual Fall Equinox Nature Hike on Pine Mountain has been rescheduled for Sunday, October 11, due to the temporary closure of Reyes Peak Road to allow for the clean-up operation following the recent Chorro Fire. Please visit the new event listing entitled Fall Nature Hike on Pine Mountain for more information.  We still will celebrate the Equinox with an Herb Walk on Wheeler Gorge Nature Trail on Sunday, September 20.

Piedra Blanca Monsoonal Adventure

Every excursion into the Ojai backcountry carries an element of adventure. You never know what you will see, how the weather will develop, what unexpected animal or reptile may pop up. Yesterday’s Piedra Blanca Nature Hike was one such adventure I won’t soon forget. Eleven intrepid hikers trekked across the dry bed of Sespe Creek onto the Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail after a beautiful drive up scenic Highway 33 where Blazing Star (Mentzelia laevicaulis), the flower-of-the month for July, stole the show.

Photo by Baruska Knight.

Photo by Baruska Knight.

photo by Baruska Knight

Photo by Baruska Knight.

With a weather forecast calling for 88˚with a 20% chance of showers and satellite images of Tropical Storm Dolores streaming north we hoped for some cloud cover and maybe a sprinkle, knowing that a typical day in July in these mountains can bring temperatures close to 100˚ under unrelenting sun. Dolores did not disappoint.

After 30 minutes on the trail, and just as we neared the summit of the Piedra Blanca (“white rocks”) formation, composed of 65-million-year-old fossilized sand dunes, a light steady rain began. With lightning a real possibility we avoided the tall pointed Bigcone Douglas-Fir (Pseudotsuga macrocarpa) and huddled under an Interior Live Oak (Quercus wislizenii) where we snacked and drank water and some of us put on rain gear or opened an umbrella. It was enough rain to force me to put my camera in my pack, hence the lack of photos here.

Piedra Blanca trail horizontal

The summit of the Piedra Blanca (“white rocks”) formation on the Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca Trail. Photo by Lanny Kaufer on another sunnier day

On the way up, before the rain started, we saw a Tarantula Hawk Wasp (Pepsis spp.) feeding on one of its favorite nectars, Woolly Milkweed (Asclepias eriocarpa). The female of the species preys on Tarantula spiders, as their name implies. She inserts her double-duty combination stinger-ovipositor behind the head of the spider, paralyzing it and depositing an egg. Then she either drags or carries it back to her nest. Once hatched, the baby spider feeds on the still-living Tarantula, avoiding the vital organs to keep it alive as long as possible. Cute animal story for bedtime, yes? Oh, okay. Never mind. By the way, the Tarantula Hawk Wasp has the second most painful sting in nature, according to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, painfully compiled by entomologist Justin Schmidt who allowed himself to be stung by all the contenders.

tarantula hawk on milkweed

Tarantula Hawk Wasp feeding on Woolly Milkweed nectar. Photo courtesy of

One notable plant species that we saw flowering in several spots along the way was the California Fuchsia (Epilobium canum, formerly Zauschneria genus). This specimen, not really related to true Fuchsias, somehow gained a foothold (roothold?) in the rock formation and appears to be growing right out of the sandstone.


Our first glimpse of Piedra Blanca Creek showed that there was, indeed, fresh water in it, even in this record drought year.

Piedra Blanca Creek below campsite

Before arriving at Piedra Blanca Camp, our destination, we picked a few Whitethorn Ceanothus berries (Ceanothus leucodermis) to wash our hands in the creek before lunch.

whitethorn berries

On the way back, we scanned the dark clouds and appreciated the dust-free trail, courtesy of the monsoonal moisture that sporadically sprinkled on us. We stopped to nibble on Cattail pollen (Typha domingensis) in the dampened Sespe Creek bed.


Then we made our final ascent back to the parking lot with my faithful companion and trail sweep, Rondia, shown here.

Miraculously, just at the moment we arrived back at the shelter of our cars and the restroom in the parking lot, the heavens unleashed a downpour, accompanied by the crack of lightning and a peal of rolling thunder. Another unforgetable adventure on  a summer day in the Los Padres.



Wild Foraged Breakfast

This is what today’s all-natural, partly-foraged breakfast looked like: Green eggs (sorry, no ham, Dr. Seuss) consisting of Vital Farms pasture-fed eggs scrambled with homemade Stinging Nettle pesto and toasted Rudi’s organic whole-wheat hamburger bun with homemade ghee (clarified Trader Joe’s organic butter) topped with homemade Hollyleaf Cherry jam from last year’s harvest.

nettle pesto, hollyleaf cherry jam

Both Giant Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica subsp. holosericea)

Stinging Nettles

Stinging Nettle leaves

Giant Stinging Nettles4

Giant Stinging Nettle













and Hollyleaf Cherry (Prunus ilicifolia)









are common and abundant in my area of Southern California so they are among the FEW plants that I recommend for foraging.

Before breakfast I started the day with a warm Chia drink made from Trader Joe’s organic Chia Seed soaked in well water from Euterpe Farms. Our local wild Chia (Salvia columbariae) is not so abundant these days with the current drought so I only harvest very small amounts on Herb Walks for demonstration purposes.


Rose Valley Falls 06-13-15

Drought or no drought, once again Rose Valley Falls did not fail to impress. Video by Steve Toscher.

New opportunities in alternative medicine

I recently received the message below from David Clark, a career consultant in Chicago, IL who found my website while researching alternative medical programs for young women. It’s encouraging for me to see these new programs becoming available. Keep up the good work, David!



My name is David and I am a career consultant here in Chicago, Illinois. I came across and have been using a lot while researching on new career opportunities that may benefit the youngsters. I wanted to send you a quick email saying how helpful your site has been to us!

Currently I am doing a project on doctor alternative courses that provide great career opportunities for young girls who want to get going with their career quickly. After some research I have come up with some resources that offer short term courses that are great for women’s career .

Few of them are listed below.

I wanted to share this with you in case you wanted to also add it to your other resources. It seemed to have good information, so thought it might be interesting to you and your other visitors.

Please let me know if you are able and I will be excited to see my career suggestions on the way to help as many students as possible.

Thanks again,
David Clark

Petrichor in June!

Raindrops in Matilija Creek

You know that “smell of rain” after the first drops fall? Ever wonder what causes it? It’s called “petrichor.”  According to Wikipedia, “the smell derives from an oil exuded by certain plants during dry periods, whereupon it is absorbed by clay-based soils and rocks. During rain, the oil is released into the air along with another compound, geosmin, a metabolic by-product of certain Actinobacteria, which is emitted by wet soil, producing the distinctive scent.”

We experienced it on a private Herb Walk today in Matilija Canyon along with the welcome sight of raindrops in the Upper North fork of Matilija Creek.


Wildlife sighting on Memorial Day Nature Hike on Potrero John Creek

Coast Horned Lizard

Coast Horned Lizard. Photo by Michael Tiffany

Michael Tiffany spotted this reptile on the Memorial Day Nature Hike. We also identified and discussed 8 native trees, 32 native plants, 2 native butterflies, and 2 native insects. All those on the hike will receive a complete list of all species with Latin and common names.