California Native Plant Society


In this issue: Speaker Series, Message From the President, Member Spotlight,
Scholarships, In the March Garden, and Volunteer Opportunities.
A preview of the "Pinnacles" jewelflower:
an undescribed species
Amelia Ryan - Vegetation Ecologist Pinnacles National Park 
Speaker Series, March 16, 2021 at 7:30pm via ZOOM
Zoom link at

Though identified nearly 20 years ago as a probable new species, the "Pinnacles Jewelflower" has languished undescribed. At last, this species is in the process of being described. As an extremely rare endemic species, describing it is the first step to making sure it is preserved. Pinnacles has also been allocated funding to begin systematic surveys of this rare species. As of yet, however, we have only casual observations about the species and no idea of the sizes, number, and extent of populations. In this "preview" talk, we will look at what we know so far about this species, its characteristics, and its preferred habitat, and discuss the distribution and status of other similar species in the area.  

Amelia Ryan developed a love of wildflowers growing up on 40 acres in western Sonoma County. This love of plants led her to study botany at UC Davis and later acquire a MS in Ecology from San Francisco State. She has been working in habitat restoration and resource management for over 20 years, having started at Armstrong Redwoods in the late 90s, then worked at Point Reyes National Seashore on several restoration and endangered plant projects for nearly 14 years before moving to Pinnacles National Park where she has been the Vegetation Ecologist for 4 years. She is a long-time member of CNPS and served on the Marin Chapter Board for 6 years. 

Contact info:

Speaker Calendar 2021

April: Lorraine Parsons, Microbial Communities in Dune Restoration

May: Trish Tatarian, Ecology of California Tiger Salamander

June: Shane Hanofee, Botanizing Nevada and Placer Counties

September: Cynthia Powell, ED,, Entering Sonoma County Plants


For futher information, contact Leia Giambastiani, Interim Programs and Lectures Chair, Milo Baker CNPS

Follow this link to view past presentations on YouTube


Message from the Chapter President

Your Milo Baker Board has expanded once more! In January we added Rosaleen Murphy as a new Member-at-Large. Rosaleen is looking forward to helping with the volunteer efforts on our Preserves.  In February, Erika Erzberger became our 5th Member-at-Large. Erika is a previous scholarship recipient and is interested in rare plants among other things.  Also, Ruthie introduced us to Lynnette Brown who is helping her in planning for future field trips and ways to organize the registration for trips.  She is a student at the Santa Rosa Junior College and will be our SRJC Student representative. Welcome to one and all, hopefully we will get to meet you in person soon.

Another Member-at-Large this term is Jim Piercy.  Many of you know him as the Treasurer. You may not know that while Treasurer he filled in with many tasks, taking on jobs when we had openings unfilled.  At one point he was doing the membership job, and often filled in to do Preserve work.  Jim has been Treasurer at the Milo Baker chapter since October of 2005!  He has a B.A. in Business Management and Economics from Sonoma State University.  His career has taken him to new heights. After 10 years at Hewlett Packard and Agilent, he went to work at Sonoma County Government.  He has worked various accounting positions there including at the Sheriff’s Department and now at  Regional Parks.  Jim is the kind of person who pitches in no matter what the challenge.  He has been invaluable to our operation and to our future planning. Jim is helping our new Treasurer, Karen Thompson make the transition and has promised to help when questions come up. We are so lucky to have him continue on as a Member-at-Large where he will be assisting with the Preserves.  Jim told me that he was attracted to the Native Plant Society because he looked forward to working with plants.  Now he will have a fantastic opportunity to leave the spreadsheets behind, and do just that. Thank you, Jim for all you do and have done for our chapter.

Toxicoscordion fremontii. Fremont’s deathcamas

As March begins we are hopeful that chapter activities will return to normal.  I hope that you are all well and getting your vaccine appointments.  Maybe in the fall we will be able to join together at meetings and enjoy the Speaker Series in person.  Happy spring plant walking to all!

Wendy Smit,
Chapter President

  Member Spotlight: Caprice Disbrow

What’s your favorite CA native plant?
Calycanthus occidentalis, California spicebush. It's an ancient plant with gorgeous deep red tepals (identical petals and sepals); large, entire, simple, bright green leaves, and wonderful smelling bark. Every year this deciduous shrub surprises me with its graceful shape, vivid colors, and strong aroma.

Calycanthus occidentalis, Photo credit: Steve Law

What is your favorite place to go to look at California native plants in Sonoma County?
Foothill Regional Park in Windsor.

What do you do when you’re not enjoying California native plants?
I have the wonderful privilege of teaching people about biology, including botany!

What is your favorite memory associated with CNPS Milo Baker?
A couple years ago (pre-pandemic), the Education and Outreach Committee was quite active and we had the opportunity to set up educational displays at the North Bay Science Discovery Day and the Sonoma County Children's Museum. We packed as many hands-on, educational activities as we could in our designated spaces! I had a wonderful time engaging not only with youngsters, but with their parents and caregivers as well.

I love teaching people about native plants, but these events are special. More often than not, I become the student. A 5- year-old corrects me on the topic of ants, an adult shares with me their experience with a mysterious thing on their tree (a gall!), a fellow exhibit mate excitedly exchanges display ideas, the list goes on! Let's all strive to learn from our community, even if it must be over Zoom for a little while longer!


CNPS Milo Baker Chapter is excited to highlight active members in our “Member Spotlight”. This short newsletter feature shares your story with other CNPS Milo Baker chapter members, inspires future botanists and plant enthusiasts, and strengthens awareness of the importance of native flora and the CNPS Milo Baker chapter activities.

We’ll highlight an individual member in our newsletter and social media platforms. Nominate yourself or another member by emailing Caprice, Newsletter Chair, at or by clicking the link below.

Nominate a Member!

Scholarship Announcement 

The California Native Plant Society Milo Baker Chapter offers two scholarships this spring for students of SSU or SRJC who are interested in plant science.

One is a $1,000 merit scholarship, which is needs-based; the other is up to $3500 for a student who is doing research. Applications are due by March 2, 2021.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email the Scholarship Committee chairperson:

Milo Baker Scholarships

In the March Garden

The Sonoma County native garden is in full swing by early March, tempting us outside to enjoy its daily changes.  Although it is best to use plants specific to the plant community your garden occurs in, there are some that can do well in any garden.  Many California native plants aren’t big fans of summer water or soils with a bunch of amendments. This group of plants can thrive with a little more summer water and aren’t fussy about soils. We call them “garden tolerant natives”. They are great gateway plants to the obsession with California native plants that many of us share.

One of my favorites is Arctostaphylos ‘Howard McMinn’ (see photo below). McMinn Manzanita is a medium size  mounding shrub with flowers that are a showpiece of any February to March Garden. Once it’s done blooming, McMinn Manzanita is a bright green specimen with lovely peeling red bark. This plant is easy to find at nurseries too (or wait for our CNPS Milo Baker Fall Plant sale to score a few).

arctostaphylos 'Howard McMinn'

Arctostaphylos (Manzanita) is a Sonoma County garden staple with a bunch of great selections and species to experiment with. I use it as an accent and critical habitat shrub within 30 feet of the home then as a mass (3-10 plants in a group) beyond that. Well tended, meaning clearing the stems below 2’ or so, Manzanitas are a March delight and not the fire risk as many believe. 

Some other fun garden tolerant plants to look out for this month are Ceanothus spp. (California Lilac; photo below, left), Salvia spathacea (Hummingbird Sage; photo below, right), and Ribes spp (Flowering Currants and Gooseberries).

Ceanothus Salvia Spathacea (Hummingbird Sage)

April Owens, Horticulture Chair CNPS Milo Baker

Liz Parsons' Garrya elliptica

Winter in the garden need not be dull; two species of native plants can add charm and interest.  The clusters of bell-like flowers on the manzanitas (Arctostaphylos sp.)are blooming brightly in colors ranging from white to deep pink.  This early source

of nectar brings in the bumblebees and hummingbirds.  Another shrub of the chaparral, Garrya elliptica, is conspicuous because of the long male catkins which begin to elongate in January and remain attractive through the spring.  The common name, coast silk tassel, refers to how these greenish/white staminate flowers show well against the background of the dark evergreen foliage.

Garrya elliptica, Coast Silk Tassle


The family Garryaceae has the single genus Garrya, which contains 14 species in the western United States and Mexico, 6 of which occur in California.  They are dioecious, which means that the male and female flowers appear on different plants.  This characteristic is reflected in our gardens in that only the male plants, with their long decorative catkins, are sold in nurseries.  Garrya elliptica, native to the chaparral areas of the central and northern Coast Ranges, is the only genus consistently available with  two named cultivars, ‘James Roof’ and ‘Evie’.  G. e. ‘James Roof’ grows to 15’ and has unusually long catkins.  G. e. ‘Evie’ is a smaller plant, to 10’ and the flower tassels are shorter, to 12 inches.  It was named after one of the owners of the Heather Farm Nursery that was in business for many years west of Sebastopol. 


Plant coast silk tassel in full sun or partial shade, especially inland where high summer temperatures can be a problem.  Plant in well-drained soil, where, once established, it will require little supplemental water. 


Propagation is done by taking cuttings of vigorous new growth in the late spring.  If you don’t care whether you get male or female plants and are able to locate a female plant in the wild, the fleshy seeds, which mature in the summer, should be cold stratified for 3 months before planting out. 


Silk tassel is drought tolerant, slow growing, and can take four to five years before flowering.  A perfect background plant in the dry shrub border.  Garrya requires little pruning to keep a nice shape. The dark rich evergreen leaves recommend the use of Garrya for more formal composition such as a pruned hedge.  It can be pruned to a small tree and makes an excellent specimen plant.  Pruning should be done in the spring after the flowers fade.  Garrya is a delightful genus which is suitable for large or small gardens.  The fascinating flowers bring interest to the winter garden.


The Garrya elliptica ‘Evie’ that grew in my Sonoma Creekside garden for over twenty years, burned to the ground in the 2017 Tubbs Fire.  It re-sprouted vigorously and is still a prominent part of the dry border, along with western spice bush (Calycanthus occidentalis), redbud (Cercis occidentalis), Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), pink flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum glutinosum), and fuchsia flowering gooseberry (Ribes speciosum).  After four years, it has not bloomed again.

Karen Thompson's Symphyotrichum chilense

Oh, behold the chilensis aster

Than mice it doth multiply faster

It has leaped o’er my path

Incurring my wrath,

And it's rooted itself like a master.

Symphyotrichum chilense Point St. George

No, seriously, I love this plant, Symphyotrichum chilense ‘Point St. George’ which lives on the edge of the rain garden and spreads its cheery lavender flowers all around the garden.  It’s durable and dependable, not fussy, and keeps on blooming all spring, summer and fall.  So even though my initial thought was, “What are you doing, Ms. Aster Chilensis, over here in the bulb bed?” I decided to leave it there.


Send us some pictures and notes about your garden waking up in the sunshine of March.  We’d love to share your stories.

Learn more about Horticulture!

Get Involved!

Volunteer Opportunities

Sonoma County Living Learning Landscapes first Friday of the month at 10am meet 1808 Albany Drive Santa Rosa email or call April Owens 707.331.2070 
Bring: hand pruners if you have them and a mask of course.

Invasive Ice Plant Removal Wednesdays 9:30-11:30 at Doran Beach. Text Invasive Plant Chair Jan 707.569.4724 to find out where they are working let her know you are coming!

Volunteer Opportunities

We invite you to help us share the CNPS mission. We have many ways to get involved from helping in the nursery, on our preserves, with education and outreach and on our demonstration garden projects. Please contact Horticulture Chair April Owens, or Education and Outreach Chair, Virginia Hotz-Steenhoven, (707)528-6030 for more information

stump beach field trip
  Plant Walks/Field Trips

While our Plant Walks and Field Trips are on hold at this time, we hope to be back in the great outdoors in 2021. Sign up for Email Alerts for our Plant Walks and Field Trips. Contact Ruthie Saia:

Right image: Stump Beach, July 2019, Courtesy of Ruthie Saia.
Middle image: Piles of ice plant at Doran Beach Park, Courtesy of Jan Lochner.
Left image:Native plant garden
2021-2022 Milo Baker Board Members


 Wendy Smit   707-481-3765
 Past President:  Leia Giambastiani   707-322-6722
 Vice President:  Liz Parsons   707-833-2063
 Secretary:  Kerry Wininger  707-888-5616
 Treasurer:   Karen Thompson  415-786-6788
 Conservation Co-chair:  Sean McNeil  707-480-2965
 Conservation Co-chair:  Trish Tatarian 
 Director at Large:  Cody Ender
 Director at Large:  Michelle Halbur  707-477-1648 
 Director at Large:  Rosaleen Murphy  
 Director at Large:  Jim Piercy 707-539-3441
 Director at Large:  Erika Erzberger

 Plant Walks:   Ruthie Saia  707-322-7462
 Horticulture Chair:  April Owens  707-331-2070
 Hospitality:  Karen Thompson  415-786-6788
 Hospitality:  Liz Parsons  707-833-2063
 Invasive Plant Chair:  Jan Lochner  707-569-4724
 Membership:  Susan Dean
 Newsletter Editor:  Caprice Disbrow
 Outreach Co-Chair:  Virginia Hotz-Steenhoven  707-528-6030
 Outreach Co-Chair:  Catherine Lipson
 Plant Sale:  Liz Parsons  707-833-2063
 Programs/Lectures:  Virginia Hotz-Steenhoven
 Interim Progams/Lectures  Leia Giambastiani  707-322-6422
 Nursery/Garden Tour  Betty Young  707-595-1463
 Publicity:   Judith Rousseau  707-326-6454 
 Social Media Chair:  Allison Titus  530-859-5055
 Sales Chair:  Judith Rousseau  707-326-6454
 Website Administrator:  Natasha Granoff
 SCCC Representative:   Wendy Krupnick  707-544-4582
 SRJC Representative  Lynnette Brown
 SSU Representative  OPEN    
 Vine Hill Preserve:  Sarah Gordon  707-833-1243
 Southridge Preserve:  Michelle Karle
 Rincon Ridge Park:  Michelle Karle
 Cunningham Marsh:  Marcia Johnson  707-829-3808


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