California Native Plant Society - Orange County

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Student Involvement

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Students are often looking for ways to get experience with native plants or ways to get involved and ways to learn more about our flora. Sometimes these interests arise out of a senior school project, a scout project, a community service interest or simply out of an interest in our natural world.

However the source of the interest, here are some ways that students and other young individuals can get native plant experience and get involved:

Field Trips: OC CNPS conducts native plant field trips in Orange County and nearby areas. Interested students can assist by helping to record the species seen, helping with sign-ins and registration, writing a post-trip report and in other ways. Learn about our field trip program on our Explore page and contact us by sending a note to the Field Trip Committee Chair at

Invasive Plant Management: OC CNPS is a leader in the early detection and management of many invasive plants in Orange County. Invasive plants are one of the greatest threats to the health of our native flora and natural areas. Periodically, we organize invasive plant Weed Pulls in various places around the county. Learn more about our Emergent Invasive Plant Program at our Invasive Plant section and get involved by inquiring to

Annual Home Garden Tour: During this one-day annual event native plant experts open up their home gardens for the public to enjoy. You may be able to help by hosting a garden, helping with ticket sales, check-ins, some garden work, etc. To volunteer or get more information send a note to the Committee Chair, Sarah Jayne, at

Outreach Programs: Each year OC CNPS hosts information and outreach tables at various events around the county. Some of these include garden shows, environmental fairs, natural history exhibits and more. We are often in need of help setting up, hauling plants and supplies, staffing and take-down. Check our Home page for upcoming events and volunteer to help.

General Meetings: Students are always welcome at our chapter general meetings. Speakers and topics change each month and the meetings are free and open to the public. Say hello and let us know you are interested in getting involved. You can even come early and help set out the chairs and tables. Meeting dates, topics and other details are on our Home page.

In addition, you may be interested in learning about our OC CNPS sponsored Grants.  If there are other ways you would like to get involved, just let us know. You can connect with us through the Contact Us page.
When contacting us about a specific project please include as much detail as possible. Important information might include the project dates and deadlines, the name of the student project coordinator and an outline of the project and its objectives.
Other conservation and stewardship organizations in Orange County also offer volunteer opportunities. Many of these involve plant restoration, invasive plant management, plant conservation activities, planting and much more. Here are a few:

Audubon Starr Ranch Sanctuary

Back to Natives Restoration

Bolsa Chica Conservancy

Chino Hills State Park

Irvine Ranch Conservancy

Laguna Canyon Foundation

Newport Bay Conservancy

OC Parks


2016 Charlie O’Neill Grant is Awarded!

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2016 Charlie O’Neill Grant is Awarded!

We are happy to report that Shannon Lynch, graduate student from UC Santa Cruz, has been selected to receive our full $1000 O'Neill Grant to work on Fusarium infections in native trees of Orange County.

It is hoped her work will help advance basic research on the threat of Fusarium dieback (caused in part by the notorious Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer) to the riparian and oak woodland habitats throughout Southern California.

Also, Thanks to our Chapter’s esteemed review committee: Bob Allen, Jutta Burger, Celia Kutcher, Fred Roberts, and Ron Vanderhoff in helping guide the grant process.



Do You Need a Speaker?

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The Orange County Chapter of The California Native Plant Society provides speakers on the topic of native plants.

OCCNPS is a non-profit organization of volunteers devoted to the conservation of California’s native plants and their natural habitats, and to increasing the understanding, appreciation, and horticultural use of our native plants. Through our activities we fund native plant outreach efforts, research and educational grants, field studies, symposium, conservation efforts and other important work.

Our programs are best suited for groups with an interest in California native plants, local natural history, the outdoors and similar topics. Because our programs are presented by volunteers, availability varies. Please inquire with your program preference, but also include one or two alternatives where possible.

Our requested donation helps fund our outreach, conservation and education efforts and helps to offset the travel costs of our speaker’s.

For more information or to schedule a presentation please contact us.

Our current program offerings:

Emergent Invasive Plants in Orange County                                                                                       Suggested donation - $100

30-60 Minutes, Ron Vanderhoff

This important presentation briefly discusses the issue of invasive plants in Orange County and specifically the actions taken by OCCNPS. The program, which was presented at The California Invasive Plant Council's Annual Symposium, provides an overview of our chapter model of early detection and effective response to emergent invasive weeds. If desired, the individual plants currently determined as Emergent Invasives in Orange County can be profiled and discussed for the group, complete with photos and identification highlights. This program is especially useful for local land managers, naturalist groups, public agencies involved in resource management, volunteer and land steward organizations.

Powerpoint/Keynote and Plant Profile Handout


Color with Natives in the Off Season                                                                                                   Suggested donation - $100

45-60 Minutes, Ron Vanderhoff

This illustrated talk will discuss the occasional misconception that California Native plants may not be attractive in their “off” season. Flowers, foliage, fruit and many other aspects will be highlighted. A few of our native plant habitats will be explained, helping to understand the “cycle of bloom” from coast to foothills to mountains and even deserts.


Goldilocks Native Plant List for Orange County Gardens                                                                  Suggested donation - $100

45-60 Minutes, Brad Jenkins                                                                            

Native plants are intriguing, but sometimes they are too much this or too little that for urban gardens. The Goldilocks List presents plants with a “just right” balance of aesthetics, low water use, year-round color, maintenance simplicity, value to wildlife, nativeness, and availability for Orange County gardens.

                                                                                                                                           PowerPoint/Keynote and Handout List

Native Adventures                                                                                                                                 Suggested donation - $100

45-60 Minutes, Ron Vanderhoff

Ron Vanderhoff is a prolific native plant explorer. In this presentation he will profile a few of his more interesting and entertaining local botanical trips. From the Orange County coast to the highest peaks he will discuss a selection of our native plants and many of the adventures involved in attempting to locate or re-locate them.


Native Gardens: Plant Community Garden Design                                                                            Suggested donation - $100

45-60 Minutes, Laura Camp

Using the philosophy of natural plant communities as a basis for garden design, this talk includes examples of beautiful, natural California plant communities, and great gardens and interesting garden styles from throughout the world. It provides examples of native plants that can be adapted to many styles, and inspires you to bring our incomparable California heritage into our gardens

Laura is the President of the board of the California Native Plant Society. She is an avid hiker, photographer and native plant enthusiast, and works at Tree of Life Nursery, the renowned specialty nursery in San Juan Capistrano. All native plants, all the time!


Native Plants for the Small Garden                                                                                                     Suggested donation - $100

45-60 minutes, Celia Kutcher

A "small" garden can be anything from a large container to an average-sized yard.  This talk depicts and discusses landscape uses of some of the many California natives that are inherently small and/or don't mind being kept within the bounds of a small garden.  Accompanying handouts extend the ideas and the choices.


Orange County's Native Plants: Preservation and Challenges                                                          Suggested donation - $100
45-60 minutes, Celia Kutcher

About 144,000 acres--or about one-fifth of Orange County's total acreage--are protected natural open space.  These acres are essentially all the natural open space that Orange County will ever have.  This talk explores the many challenges to--and some opportunities for--maintaining and enhancing these lands, with an emphasis on the role of Orange County's native plants.


The Dudleya’s - Live-Forevers of Orange County                                                                                Suggested donation - $100

45-60 Minutes, Ron Vanderhoff

This illustrated talk will introduce the audience to one of our most interesting and loved group of local native plants – the Dudleya’s, or “Live-forevers”. All seven of our Orange County species will be discussed with beautiful photography from here in Orange County. Habitat preferences, conservation issues, general distribution and more will be provided.


The Eco-system Garden: How Native Plants Make the Best Neighbors for Your Edibles                 Suggested donation - $100

45-60 Minutes, Thea Gavin

Learn about Eco-system Gardening, a “new, old” way to enhance your edible garden efforts by creating nearby habitat with California native plants. Sustainable techniques for dealing with water, kitchen scraps, and green waste will also be explored, with plenty of images to inspire you.


Wild Plants, Places, and Poems: Celebrating OC’s Natural History in Words and Images             Suggested donation - $100

45-60 Minutes, Thea Gavin

Our nearby sage-scented foothills—and the plants and creatures that make their homes there—have inspired Orange County poet-naturalist Thea Gavin to create this presentation of words and images to share the beauty of our local wild places. Via her vivid, accessible, and sometimes humorous poetry, you will meet an enticing sample of some of our lesser-known Orange County neighbors—and perhaps be inspired to go on your own adventure and create your own wild stories.   



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Orange County Chapter CNPS Grants

The Charlie O’Neill Grant

The Orange County CNPS chapter established the Charlie O’Neill Grant in 1993 to honor the late Charlie O’Neill, OC-CNPS President from 1990-1992 and a highly inspirational member of the chapter. This grant is awarded to graduate students for field research related to southern California native plants.

The Charlie O’Neill Grant is awarded annually to a graduate student planning to conduct field research related to biology, ecology, floristics, taxonomy, ethnobotany, of native plants. Awards range from $500 to $1000 based on the number of suitable applicants and the relative quality and merit of their proposals. Grant awards are presented as a lump sum award at project begin and may cover items such as supplies, equipment, and travel costs not covered by other sources of funding and include a one-year membership with CNPS.  By accepting funding, grant recipients agree to provide a one paragraph synopsis of their work to be posted on the OC-CNPS website upon begin of the project and a copy of the final project results, in the form of a report, thesis, dissertation or newsletter article. Any publication should include acknowledgement of Orange County CNPS. If the project is of strong local interest, the grant recipient may be invited to present their work at the Orange County local chapter meeting.                                                            

Application Format

Applicants should submit a cover letter and proposal to for review.  The proposal should be 3-5 pages in length include the following sections: Abstract (or Project Summary), Introduction, Goals and Objectives, Methods, and Budget (total requested and otherwise funded cost estimate). 

Review Process and Selection Criteria

Applications must be submitted by December 18th (deadline extended from Dec. 15th) in order to be considered for funding. Proposals will be reviewed by committee and applicants will be notified as to whether they have been selected for funding by February 5th. 

Selection will be based on each proposal's completeness, technical quality, consistency with CNPS goals, intended use of funds, local relevance, and likelihood of completion. All proposals considered for funding must directly support or be consistent with the mission of CNPS, which is to ”conserve California native plants and their natural habitats, and increase understanding, appreciation, and horticultural use of native plants." Preference will be given to proposals including study of species occurring within Orange County and its environs.  If the review committee concludes that no proposal meets selection criteria, then the grantaward may be suspended until the following year.

PDF version of this description

The Acorn Grant

Purpose: We realize that the future health and diversity of our state’s flora will depend upon the youth of today. It is hoped that given engaging educational opportunities, students will begin to appreciate how mankind fits within the network of ecology, biology, and of course, botany. The purpose of the Acorn Grant is to encourage such understanding.

Goal: The Acorn Grant targets Orange County students in Kindergarten through 12th grades to acquaint them with Southern California’s rich plant diversity and habitats. Examples of programs that might be funded include: class visits by qualified personnel who incur expenses related to the visit; purchase of materials for simple botany experiments involving native plants; funding of school gardens that highlight native plants; and instructive field trips to native gardens or to natural areas where the role of native plants is explored.

How much? Depending upon the number of grants awarded, the amount will range from $150 to $400. Grant recipients are asked to contribute a short article about the project for the chapter newsletter.

Questions? Contact Sarah Jayne at or (949) 552-0691 or Dan Songster or (949) 768-0431

The Horticultural Grant

The Horticultural Grant is awarded to a high school, community college, or university student involved in utilizing native plants in ornamental horticulture, landscape design/architecture and other related fields. The grant is to be used to complete a project assigned and overseen be a faculty member. Possible projects might include ornamental horticulture with an emphasis on natives, a naturalistic demonstration garden, or a native revegetation effort. Up to $500 will be provided to offset material and supply costs. The grant could be awarded to a class project or to an individual.

The Traveler’s Grant

The Traveler’s Grant pays expenses for a deserving person to attend a workshop or seminar on native plant-related topics.

To apply for one of these grants, please email


Our newsletter is published six times a year and is the best source of information about current activities. The newsletter also contains useful and fun articles.



2016 Charlie O’Neill Grant is Awarded!

We are happy to report that Shannon Lynch, graduate student from UC Santa Cruz, has been selected to receive our full $1000 O'Neill Grant to work on Fusarium infections in native trees of Orange County.

It is hoped her work will help advance basic research on the threat of Fusarium dieback (caused in part by the notorious Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer) to the riparian and oak woodland habitats throughout Southern California.

Also, Thanks to our Chapter’s esteemed review committee: Bob Allen, Jutta Burger, Celia Kutcher, Fred Roberts, and Ron Vanderhoff in helping guide the grant process.



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