California Native Plant Society | Nov. 2022

Evening Program

From the Neotropics to the California Floristic Province, a plant journey seeking to understand plant diversification. Dr. Oscar Vargas, botany professor at Cal Poly Humboldt, will describe his past research into tropical South American plants and what they reveal about speciation and diversification. He will also discuss his current research into the geography of California native plants. His lab is dedicated to investigating questions about the evolution of biodiversity hotspots, from the Amazon to the California Floristic Province. In-person at Six Rivers Masonic Lodge, 251 Bayside Rd., Arcata.  Refreshments at 7:00 p.m.; program at 7:30 p.m.  A Zoom option is available through our website www.northcoastcnps.org.

Field Trip

November 6, Sunday. West Ridge Trail Day Hike. The Greater Prairie Creek Restoration Project is part of the larger, exciting Redwoods Rising project that is thinning dense second-growth stands of Redwood to allow faster development of old growth forest characteristics in our Redwood parks.  One place to see the “lop and scatter” method of doing this is about two miles up from Newton B. Drury Parkway in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, on the West Ridge Trail accessed via the Zig Zag Trail #2.   This four-mile, up-and-back hike does include elevation gain and loss! Meet at 9 a.m. at Pacific Union School (3001 Janes Rd., Arcata).  Dress for the weather; bring lunch and water.  Contact Carol at 707-822-2015 or theralphs@humboldt1.com. 

Amazing Mycorrhizae 

Beach buckwheat, one of the many plants on the dunes that survive in a low nutrient environment with the aid of mycorrhizae.

Native plants are highly dependent on the symbiosis of plant roots and fungi known as mycorrhizae. The fungal partner consists of microscopic tubular threads (mycelium) that are ubiquitous in soils. These tubes wrap themselves around the fine roots of trees or shrubs, and at the point of exchange, deliver nutrients to roots. This allows the tree to exploit a far greater volume of soil for nutrients. An individual fungus can infect multiple trees, essentially connecting them. Mycorrhizae can actually “mine” tiny particles of rock in the soil for their minerals, which they dissolve by excreting acid. For their part, trees provide sugars to the fungus. Up to 80 percent of sugars produced by a tree can be allocated to the fungus. Herbaceous plants have a slightly different mycorrhizal structure, with fungal mycelium actually penetrating the roots and forming arbuscules, where the exchange takes place. Arbuscular mycorrhizae are efficient suppliers of phosphorus, which increases the drought tolerance of plants. Mycorrhizae have also been shown to penetrate silverfish, tiny invertebrates in the soil, to extract nutrients. Mycorrhizae are just one component of a complex collection of fungi, bacteria and other organisms that comprise the root microbiome. Next time you admire a plant, remember to give credit to the amazing microcosm beneath it.