[Fosc] Rethinking Native Grassland Plantings

Stephen Weitz weitzs at earthlink.net
Sat Jul 19 22:36:49 PDT 2008

I am in the middle of reading a new book published just this year  
(2008) by Prof. Richard Minnich, UC Riverside.  His book is  
"California's Fading Wildflowers: Lost Legacy and Biological Invasions.

His thesis is that pre-hispanic coastal california from San Diego to  
San Francisco (including Oakland) and much of the central valley were  
herbaceous wildflower ecosystems, and not the native bunchgrass  
ecosystem thesis made popular during the dust bowl times of the  
earlier 20th century, and taught as gospel in college classes.

You may want to read this book published by UC Press.  It may  
radically change the way you plant in "grassland" areas here, even if  
not changing how you plant in a riparian area.  Perhaps, we may not  
have had any "bunchgrass grasslands" to begin with.  This may be why  
it has been so hard to find "native" bunchgrass ecosystems.  It's hard  
to find something that may not have been around much to begin with.

He includes important observations made by the first spaniards to  
travel on foot in our area.
Near Oakland: "very green and flower strewn, with an abundance of  
lilies.  A little north they wrote "the fields are as green with herbs  
and as thickly covered with wildflowers as those further  
back" (Oakland).   They said they had seen wildflowers for several  
days over more extensive lands than he had seen that day.  Near  
Richmond they saw "ten heathen.... adorned with plumes and garlands of  

One of my favorites, of course, the famous quote by John Muir about  
the central valley:  "The Great Central Plain of California, during  
the months of March, April, and May, was one smooth, continuous bed of  
honey-bloom, so marvelously rich that, in walking from one end of it  
to the other, a distance of 400 miles, your foot would press a hundred  
flowers at every step."

This does not sound like native bunchgrasslands!  Very herbaceous!

So anyway, you don't need to believe me, but you might want to see  
what this Prof has to say.

Stephen Weitz in Oakland

"It's a question of discipline," the little prince told me later on.    
"When you've finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend  
your planet."

from: The Little Prince

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