Before I launch in - Anybody know what that caterpillar munching on a hairy honeysuckle leaf is? I saw it this morning as I was taking photos for this post.
The deeper into restoration gardening I get the more of a botanist at heart I am becoming.
Last Wednesday, I had a four hour consultation with a botanist who works for Central Coast Wilds - Ellen Holmes. She also runs their nursery. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, they are a restoration landscaping company, who will grow from your native seed, to order, and also bring crews out to work on restoration landscaping jobs. We clambered all over everywhere and examined so much and I got so much straightened out. It was heavenly. I learned a lot and have forgotten more. I'm just going to focus on a couple things in this post.
First - the needlegrass I've been calling Nassella lepida is in fact Nassella cernua. I actually have both, but had not noticed the key difference.
Ellen brought a marvelous flora with her, An Illustrated Field Key to the Flowering Plants of Monterey County – Mary Ann Matthews. It's available only from the Monterey chapter of CNPS, and they don't seem to have any on hand at the moment. Santa Cruz county has many of the same plants as our next-door-neighbor down the coast, so it's a great aid.
She read off the length of the awns which is a distinguishing characteristic - N. cernua has much longer awns than N. lepida. (4 cm vs 2.5 cm) I went out this morning to get pictures and of course, after yesterday's hot weather, most of the seeds have flown! But above shows the very long awns of Nassella cernua - and you'll just have to imagine the awns of the N. lepida being about half that length and straighter.
So I propagated only Nassella cernua. I'll have to try propagating N. lepida too, and also learn more about these two plants - their range and so on.
Moving on to grass number two....
The other great discovery is that the other grass I've been propagating as Mellica imperfecta is in fact Mellica torreyana. Above is a bank of it growing below the redwood grove. They are very similar but M. torreyana has a bit more of an slender and drooping habit - M. imperfecta is a bit more spreading and upright. Ellen talked about a plant's "gestalt" and I think when you have a lot of experience you get that sense of things. That caused her to question my naming.
The key distinguishing factor between the two plants is very very tiny. The last floret on the spikelet is sterile. It has a "rudiment" in it. That rudiment is either a small blob on a long stalk (think lollipop) - M. torreyana. Or it's a long blob on a short stalk - (think Dove bar) - M. imperfecta.
Here are some young Mellica torreyana plants I grew from seed from this bank, and then planted in a bald spot. They look very happy.
Ellen asked me if I would take the approach of a purist like Randy Morgan, botanist with Elkhorn Nursery - who simply removes weeds and observes what grows, or if I would bring in plants that are more or less local and could grow there but just don't.
I do have a very strong puritanical streak that puts me in Randy's camp - but as I get closer to the house, I become more of a regular gardener. However, if I go with Randy's approach, then, as Ellen says, that cleared north facing slope just wants to become mixed evergreen forest, and if I let it go, that's what it will become again. I don't want that. So I guess I'm a bit conflicted. I would be more of a recreation/restoration gardener at this point I guess, keeping some control mainly for fire safety, and maybe also for aesthetics. But really, I am so in awe of Mother Nature, I prefer just removing the plants we humans have introduced. Then again, as I blogged about here, this land has been tended for 10,000 years by its native people before we late comer immigrants arrived.
A book Ellen mentioned on that topic is the well-known Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources by M. Kat Anderson. Something for the bookshelf to be sure. Town Mouse - didn't you mention that book in a post some time back?