Darlingtonia, Fall 2000
Darlingtonia logo Darlingtonia, Fall 2000
          selections from the printed edition

Summer Grass Outings, by Carol Ralph

On 18th June about 12 potential agrostologists followed Leonel Arguello up the Bald Hills Road in Redwood National Park to Lyons Ranch area and spent a morning looking at the many native and exotic grasses there.

They concentrated on macrocharacters, learning to recognize genera, which included Danthonia, Elymus, Bromus, Vulpia, Aira, Holcus, Dactylus, Lolium, and Festuca. After lunch the group walked to an oak woodland to see some native species that appreciate a more shaded habitat, Melica, Poa, Deschampsia, Festuca californica, and Festuca rubra. The adaptable and pervasive exotics were there too.

The Bald Hills are dominated by perennial grasses, a mix of natives and exotics. All the annuals found there are exotic. The prairies are maintained by disturbances such as grazing, fire, and moving soils. Gann's Prairie is a small prairie, now 15 acres, but originally was 92 acres. The native Americans burned it to encourage tan oaks for acorns and hazelnut shoots for baskets. In the 1850 settlers arrived with agriculture. When grazing and fire were eliminated, the Douglas fir and grand fir moved in. The former extent of the prairie is seen in the black soil populated by the younger trees. The old forest has red soil. Gann's Prairie hosts a large stand of Calamagrostis nutkaensis, Pacific reed grass.

When the hills were dry and the grass seeds ripe, on 29th July, Leonel returned to Lyons Ranch parking area with group of six (half of them Ralphs) for the harvest. He needs seeds of the native grasses for restoration efforts. The Bromus carinatus (California brome) had mostly dropped their seeds. Danthonia californica (California oatgrass) had dropped much of its seed, but still had some in the terminal florets and had the hidden seeds tight against the stems inside the leaf sheaths. We picked and raked up by hand about ten paper grocery bags full of Danthonia culms. Then with clippers we snipped whole seed heads of the taller Elymus glaucus (blue wildrye) and filled some more bags. Providing a spot of color in the otherwise dry landscape were some blooming Brodiaea elegans (harvest bordiaea). Leonel was pleased with the harvest and looks forward to sharing the planting process with us on the November grass outing.



Oregon Grape, by Natalie Schaefer

Two of the most functional native plants growing in our region is the Oregon Grape, Berberis aquifolium and Cascade Oregon Grape, Berberis repens. Fruiting in the fall, its berries were helpful for preventing scurvy in early native people and later settlers. Native Americans reduced the bark for ulcers, sores, consumption, heartburn and rheumatism. The root was used historically for kidney troubles and skin irritations, and its bright yellow color is handy for dying basket materials. A root tea was prepared for venereal disease afflictions.

Early herbalists soaked the root in beer for hemorrhaging and jaundice, and found that a root decoction stimulated bile production and was agreeable to the liver, spleen and blood. It was listed in the Materia Medica as an alliterative and bitter tonic. Tinctures of the plant are beneficial today for eczema, acne, herpes and psoriasis. In some parts of the northwest, Oregon Grape is gathered commercially by herbalists seeking to gain profit from its medicinal potency, often to the detriment of its habitat and range. Consumers should be cognizant of the risks associated with harvesting practices and demand sustainable methods.

The Oregon grape belongs to the barberry family (Berberidaceae). The barberry family has 16 genera and approximately 670 species that are found worldwide in the temperature and tropical regions. Many species are cultivated plants such as the barberry and heavenly bamboo. The genus Berberis is a Latin word for the ancient Arabic name for barberry and is found throughout the temperate world. There are several endangered Berberis in California, Truckee barberry (B. aquifolium var. repens), Nevin’s barberry (B. nevinii), and island barberry (B. pinnata ssp. insularis). Please note that Berberis roots are often toxic and spines may eject fungal spores into skin. Medicinal plants used incorrectly or taken in wrong dosages can be poisonous.

Oregon grape
oregon grape

Poetry Corner

October 10

Now constantly there is the sound,
quieter than rain,
of leaves falling.

Under their loosening bright
gold, the sycamore limbs
bleach whiter.

Now the only flowers
are beeweed and aster, spray
of their white and lavender
over the brown leaves.

The calling of a crow sounds
loud – a landmark – now
that the life of summer falls
silent, and the nights grow.

Wendell Berry
North Coast Chapter CNPS    8-19-2000