On Sunday, January 9, Abe Sanchez and I took a trip up to the Laguna Mountains to gather Rhus trilobata, one of the four most important plants in southern California used to weave native baskets. Abe uses deergrass, aka Mulenbergia rigens, as the bundle foundation, or warp, for his elaborate baskets, and split sumac as the coiling material.

Those little white berries surrounding Abe are snowberries, Symphoricarpos albus. The berries provide food for quail and other wildlife.

Abe is gathering from a gigantic thicket of Rhus trilobata growing on the side of the road. Generally, plants must be burned or coppiced to produce the straight shoots necessary for weaving. This thicket hasn’t been trimmed, but Abe still found plenty of usable shoots.

The watertower sits across the road from the Rhus trilobata thicket. Exactly one year ago on January 9, 2010 we gathered Rhus trilobata from the same spot across from the watertower, and I wrote about that fieldtrip in an earlier post where you can see a few more examples of Abe’s magnificent baskets.

Abe used split sumac as the white coiling material for this Chumash inspired basket.


Posted by deborah small

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  12. chris robertson May 21, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    beautiful baskets. I’m from new mexico, and have always made willow baskets. Recently moved to Los Angeles, I am wondering if you know where to look for basket sumac in the area. nice blog, thanks

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  13. Thank you. Beautiful, informative post.

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  14. And the not-white parts of the basket? Are those dyed, or using various different coloured grasses?

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    1. The black is dyed Juncus textilis. The dark brown for the designs is the earth end of the juncus, and the light brown is the juncus shoot above the 12″ or so dark brown of the earth end. I’ll be seeing Abe this week-end to gather more Rhus trilobata, so I’ll ask him what he used to dye this particular juncus black. I know he has used acorns, elderberry leaves, and rusted metal objects. Thanks for your question.

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