California Native Plants at West Valley College
California native plants dominate the grounds at the West Valley College campus in Saratoga. It’s an excellent place to appreciate a wide variety of mature plants in a garden setting. Starting from the front of the campus, between the Administration building and Campus Center, one immediately encounters a huge bed of California fuschias fuschias (Epilobium canum) interspersed with narrow-leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis), salvia, coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica), California roses (Rosa californica), and blue oaks (Quercus douglasii). When the fuschias begin blooming in late summer, this area becomes a hummingbird haven, filled with a charm of these tiny birds zooming around each defending their own patch of flowers.
This huge bed of flowers is a wildlife magnet – in addition to hummingbirds, the area is rich with a variety of birds taking advantage of the nectar, seeds and insects. As can be seen in this picture, the flower stalks provide a perfect perch for a pair of lesser goldfinches to enjoy a meal of fuschia seeds.
Behind the Student Center, there is a patio where Redbud and manzanitas have been planted. A variety of native columbines and other flowers can be found in the flowerbeds that surround the building.
The section of Vasona Creek that runs through the campus has also been restored, and is a delightful place to look for wildlife – including brush rabbits, lizards and more. There have even been reports of bobcats in the area. You can find out more about this restoration project at: http://westvalley.edu/committees/Sustainability/Creek_Restoration/
A stroll through campus will reveal even more California natives. You’ll find specimens of blue elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea), redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens), deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens), bush anemone (Carpenteria alifornica), buckeyes (Aesculus californica) and more. There’s even a small bog with carnivorous plants next to the Science building. Be sure to look at the huge blue oak tree in the center of campus – watch it carefully and you are likely to spot the acorn woodpeckers that are often busily at work in it.
The Saratoga Farmer’s Market is held at the campus on Saturday mornings – stop by and get some fresh produce and then take a stroll around campus.
Native Hill is the name for a native plant garden at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. It was started in 1982 by Robert Will, horticulture instructor at the college and chapter president 1981- 83 and state president 1984-86. He started the collection to teach students native plant identification and care.
Chapter volunteers have expanded and improved the collection ever since. In 1991 Don Brandeau and Mary Kaye, both design professionals and chapter members, created a unified planting design. The College added irrigation as well as removed blue gum eucalyptus, frozen in 1990, through agreement with Mal Leal, director of operations at Foothill. The native plants responded to the tree removal with improved vigor.
160 species of natives planted on this hill bring tremendous educational and aesthetic benefits. The community TV station on campus made a video featuring the garden in 1994. Channel 6 had a half hour show on it in 1999. The SJ Mercury News had a full-page article on Native Hill in the weekend edition in 1993.
Today the plants at Native Hill are used by faculty and students from Horticulture and Biology departments. A faculty member coordinates the activities at Native Hill.
Native Hill - Update March 2016
Author: Tom Lee
Foothill College is making progress in improving Native Hill. Recently Foothill College completed some Measure C construction work in areas adjacent to Native Hill. For example, the parking lot pathway that divided the Native Hill into two gardens was improved. While this construction was underway, a long awaited irrigation project was put on hold. Now that the Measure C work is completed, most of the Native Hill garden has a new irrigation system installed and the irrigation system will be soon connected to an irrigation controller. In the meantime there are occasional workdays at Native Hill with students from the Horticulture and Biology Departments.
Berries for Birds
By Jeff Caldwell
One of the best ways to watch birds is to find native plants laden with ripe fruits of the sorts they love to eat. They often come out in the open to feed, and when there is plenty of good food they seem more at ease with human presence, or at least much less likely to fly far away. About two weeks ago I was gathering ripe coffeeberry fruits and was astonished at what a good look I was able to get of the western bluebirds which continued to feed on them, or retreated but a very short distance, eyeing me as I eyed them! Yellow-rumped warblers were with them.
A very satisfying way to enjoy birds is to plant native plants which provide food for them. Many berrying plants attract birds. Some people plant non-native species such as pyracantha or cotoneaster for the birds, but native berries attract a greater diversity of songbirds and often greater numbers as well. The flowers, foliage, leaf litter, etc., of native species also supports a greater diversity and abundance of invertebrates upon which the birds will feed year round.
Some of the more useful berrying species are:
|Mexican elderberry (Sambucus mexicana)|
Female house finch on blue elderberry (Steve Rosenthal)
This is a common riparian species, sometimes found at the base of hills or in ravines. The fruits in early summer attract an extremely wide range of birds, such as quail, thrashers, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, orioles, house finches, and orange-crowned warblers. It is very easy to cultivate. It does tend to get large and can be rangy, but responds well to pruning. It can be cut to the ground every year (or whenever it gets too big) in its winter dormant season, and it will still grow up to flower and set fruit.
|Hollyleaf cherry (Prunus ilicifolia)|
Holly-leaved cherry (Prunus ilicifolia) (Arvind Kumar)
This popular landscaping subject provides good bird food. The seeds may be planted where the plants are wanted. They are often planted as screens along property lines. They can be severely hedged, but it is best to allow them to grow at least 6 feet tall, or better yet, give them plenty of room to develop as specimens. For maximum value to birds allow them to be branched to the ground and allow leaf litter to accumulate.
|California coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica)|
California coffeeberry (Rhamnus Californica) (Arvind Kumar)
This shrub is particularly useful because it provides succulent berries in early fall. Many birds visit it year round for insects. It is an attractive foliage plant, easy to cultivate and grows quickly.
|Brown dogwood (Cornus glabrata)|
|Brown dogwood (Cornus glabrata)
(Jed & Bonnie McClellan)
This riparian species grows very fast with some water. It features lush foliage, bright blue berries in late summer loved by many songbirds, and some fall color as well. Small birds like to nest in it. To observe it with its associated birds in the wild check out the stands found along Old Page Mill Road in Palo Alto.
|Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia)|
Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) (Arvind Kumar)
The bright red berries are the favorite food of robins and waxwings in winter, with more than 20 species of birds utilizing them for food. The seeds contain a small percentage of cyanide compounds, but nevertheless purple finches (seed predators) rip open the fruits to eat great numbers of them. In its season no berry is more attractive. The birds do not get "drunk" on toyon as they do with the non-native pyracantha which often results in tragedy if a busy street is adjacent. Toyon is very easy to grow. Give it enough room so that little or no pruning will be required. Very interesting insects, many bees in some cases, visit its early summer white flower panicles.
|Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium) and Shinyleaf barberry (Berberis pinnata)|
Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium)
These are easy to grow and quite decorative. I will never forget how close I was able to approach Phainopeplas feeding on Berberis pinnata fruits at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont. They were most reluctant to leave such a delicious feast.
|Poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum)|
Poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) (Arvind Kumar)
In the cashew family, the fruits are attractive to birds that normally eat mast or insects, such as jays, woodpeckers, titmice, and wrentits. Poison oak is an important food for many birds, especially wrentits and hermit thrushes. Poison oak is not as hard to live with as some people think. Obviously it may be wise to clear it away from trails or heavily used areas; nuisance seedlings can be dealt with conveniently and safely with a mini weed wrench (a product of the New Tribe company).
There are many other fine berries for birds, such as thimbleberry, hairy honeysuckle, wild grape, blue witch -- any berry species is worth trying. Flocks of yellow warblers will come for Pacific wax myrtle.
Books for the Native Plant Gardener
Many of the books listed here are available for purchase during Chapter plant sales and programs. Members receive a discount. A list of books stocked by the chapter is available here.
|DESIGNING CALIFORNIA NATIVE PLANTS GARDENS: THE PLANT COMMUNITY APPROACH TO ARTFUL, ECOLOGICAL GARDENS. Glenn Keator and Alrie Middlebrook. University of California Press (June 4, 2007). 352 pp, paperback. This book was created with the aim of conveying the awesome diversity and beauty of California's native plants and demonstrating how they can be brought into ecologically sound, attractive, workable, and artful gardens. Structured around major California plant communities--bluffs, redwoods, the Channel Islands, coastal scrub, grasslands, deserts, oak woodlands, mixed evergreen woodlands, riparian, chaparral, mountain meadows, and wetlands--the book's twelve chapters each include sample plans for a native garden design accompanied by original drawings, color photographs, a plant list, tips on successful gardening with individual species, and more.|
|CALIFORNIA NATIVE GARDENING, A MONTH-BY-MONTH GUIDE. Helen Popper. University of California Press (2012). 217 pp, paperback. Helen Popper is a long-time member of the Santa Clara Valley chapter of the California Native Plant Society and one of the first Gardening with Natives subgroup members. She was the note taker at the group's early monthly meetings, and this book is a compilation of the knowledge of the native plant society members from those meetings. Popper goes over some of the concepts in the book at a CNPS meeting.|
|CALIFORNIA NATIVE PLANTS FOR THE GARDEN. Carol Bornstein, David Fross, Bart O'Brien. Cachuma Press (December 1, 2005). 280 pp, paperback & hardback. This comprehensive resource features more than 500 of the best California native plants for gardening. Written by three of the state's leading native-plant horticulturists and illustrated with 450 color photos, this reference book also includes chapters on landscape design, installation, and maintenance. Detailed lists of recommended native plants for a variety of situations and appendices with information on places to see native plants and where to buy them are also provided.|
|GARDENING WITH A WILD HEART. Judith Larner Lowry. University of California Press (1999), Berkeley, CA. 252 pp, softback. A compelling investigation into the whys and hows of gardening with native plants. Its engaging style mixes personal history, botany, anthropology, and ecology, and brings it all to bear on what you could be doing in your yard. This book has inspired many to practice restoration gardening.|
|GARDENERS' GUIDE TO CALIFORNIA WILDFLOWERS. Kevin Connelly. Theodore Payne Foundation, 10459 Tuxford Street, Sun Valley, CA 91352. A personal take on wildflower gardening, with a focus on Southern California wildflowers.|
|CALIFORNIA NATIVE TREES AND SHRUBS. Lee Lenz, John Dourley. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. Out of print.|
|SEED PROPAGATION OF NATIVE CALIFORNIA PLANTS. Dara Emery. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Santa Barbara, CA. 115 pp, softback. An extensive table lists germination and propagation requirements of hundreds of native species.|
|COMPATIBLE PLANTS UNDER AND AROUND OAKS. Bruce Hagen et al. California Oak Foundation, 1212 Broadway, Suite 810, Oakland, CA 94612. 69 pp, softback.|
|FLOWERING SHRUBS OF CALIFORNIA AND THEIR VALUE TO THE GARDENER. Lester Rowntree. Stanford University Press. 1939. One of the earliest and best written books on native plants. Worth looking for in used book stores.|
|THE LANDSCAPING IDEAS OF JAYS: A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE BACKYARD RESTORATION GARDEN. Judith Larner Lowry. University of California Press, 2007. 292 pp, softback. Elegantly organized by season, this lyrical yet practical guide to backyard restoration gardening celebrates the beauty, the challenges, and the rewards of growing native plants at home. Judith Larner Lowry, winner of the prestigious John Burroughs award, here builds on themes from her best-selling Gardening with a Wild Heart, which introduced restoration gardening as a new way of thinking about land and people. Drawing on her experiences in her own garden, Lowry offers guidance on how to plan a garden with birds, plants, and insects in mind; how to shape it with trees and shrubs, paths and trails, ponds, and other features; and how to cultivate, maintain, and harvest seeds and food from a diverse array of native annuals and perennials. Working in passionate collaboration with the scrub jays, quail, ants, and deer who visit her garden, and inspired by other gardeners, including some of the women pioneers of native plant horticulture, Lowry shares the delights of creating site-specific, ever-changing gardens that can help us better understand our place in the natural world.|
|THE CALIFORNIA LANDSCAPE GARDEN: ECOLOGY, CULTURE, AND DESIGN. Mark Francis, Andreas Reimann. University of California Press. 1999. 254 pp, hardcover. The beauty, resources, and natural processes of the California landscape are brought to the home garden in Mark Francis and Andreas Reimann's fine testament to ecological gardening. The authors connect history, culture, region, and design to help us understand how California and its human population have evolved historically and how individuals today can make a difference in the state's future in their own backyards. The authors' goal is to bring the history of the California garden up to date with the ecological and cultural concerns of our time. Francis and Reimann use California's natural beauty and habitat as a starting point for inspiring Californians to see their gardens as extensions of the surrounding landscape. They provide essential information on native plants and wildlife, ecology and bioregionalism, landscape history and design concepts, as well as numerous examples showing how to integrate environmental principles in one's garden. Landscape meaning and regional thinking are an important part of an ecosystem approach to home gardening, say the authors. This is a book for anyone seeking a garden philosophy that is environmentally sensitive, and even experienced home gardeners, landscape professionals, and horticulturists will find new and useful material here.|
|GROWING CALIFORNIA NATIVE PLANTS. Marjorie Schmidt. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. 366 pages, softback. First published in 1981, this book is still at the top of the heap when it comes to books on native plant gardening. Written for the gardener, the book covers a wide variety of native plants, their characteristics, culture information, and estimate of garden value. This is a must-have book for beginners and experts alike.|
|NATIVE PERENNIALS OF CALIFORNIA. Glenn Keator. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA. 303 pp, softback. This out-of-print book is worth hunting for in used bookstores for its encyclopedic content.|
|NATIVE SHRUBS OF CALIFORNIA. Glenn Keator. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA. 314 pp, softback. A handy reference on woody native plants. A particularly useful section is the appendix on commonly available cultivars.|
|SUNSET WESTERN GARDEN BOOK. Kathleen Norris Brenzel, Ed. Sunset Publishing, Menlo Park, CA. 2001. 768 pp. The mother of Western gardening references. Its Plants Selection Guide has a section on native plants, including California natives, with color photos. The Encyclopedia section contains more California natives.|
|RELIABLE RAIN: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO LANDSCAPE IRRIGATION. Howard Hendrix, Stuart Straw. Taunton. 140 pp, softback.|
|DRIP IRRIGATION FOR EVERY LANDSCAPE AND ALL CLIMATES. Robert Kourik. Metamorphic Press. 118 pp, softback.|
|THE JEPSON MANUAL: HIGHER PLANTS OF CALIFORNIA. James Hickman, ed. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. The final word on California native plants.|
|A CALIFORNIA FLORA. Philip Munz. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. 1681 + 224 pp, hardback. Obsoleted by Jepson, this reference is still a favorite of many botanists.|
|FLORA OF THE SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS OF CALIFORNIA. John Hunter Thomas. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA. 434 pp, softback.|
|FLORA OF THE MOUNT HAMILTON RANGE. Helen Sharsmith. CNPS, Berkeley. 94 pp, softback. Out of print but worth hunting for at used bookstores.|
|FLORA OF THE SAN BRUNO MOUNTAINS. Elizbeth McClintock et al. CNPS, 909 12th Street, Suite 116, Sacramento, CA 95814. 223 pp, softback.|
|CONIFERS OF CALIFORNIA. Ronald M. Lanner. Cachuma Press, P.O. Box 560, Los Olivos, CA 93441. 288 pp, softback. Award-winning book on all 52 majestic evergreen trees of the state. A superb mix of writing style, botanical knowledge, and appealing presentation. It may be the only book you need on the subject.|
|OAKS OF CALIFORNIA. Bruce Pavlik et al. Cachuma Press, P.O. Box 560, Los Olivos, CA 93441. 184 pp, softback. An engagingly written and produced work on California's native oaks. Browse the beautiful pictures and captions, or read a chapter at leisure. A great first reference for identifying common oaks.|
|CALIFORNIA'S WILD GARDENS: A Living Legacy. Phyllis M. Faber, ed. California Native Plant Society, Sacramento. 235 pp, hardback. The breathtaking beauty of California's native plants is captured in over 500 photographs and engaging commentary in an all-color, coffee table book format.|
|WILDFLOWERS OF CALIFORNIA. Larry Ulrich, Susan Lamb. Companion Press, Santa Barbara, CA. 136 pp, softback. While not about gardening, this book will leave you marveling at the beauty and diversity of California native wildflowers, and wishing you could grow them in your garden. Detailed captions accompany each photograph, with the plant name and location, allowing you to plan field trips, or visit your local native nursery for seeds.|
|AN ISLAND CALLED CALIFORNIA. Elna Bakker. University of California Press. 400 pp, softback. A classic reference which connects the native flora, fauna, climate, and geography of each biotic community in the state.|
|TENDING THE WILD: NATIVE AMERICAN KNOWLEDGE AND THE MANAGEMENT OF CALIFORNIA'S NATURAL RESOURCES. M. Kat Anderson. University of California Press, 2006. 555 pp, paperback. John Muir was an early proponent of a view we still hold today--that much of California was pristine, untouched wilderness before the arrival of Europeans. But as this groundbreaking book demonstrates, what Muir was really seeing when he admired the grand vistas of Yosemite and the gold and purple flowers carpeting the Central Valley were the fertile gardens of the Sierra Miwok and Valley Yokuts Indians, modified and made productive by centuries of harvesting, tilling, sowing, pruning, and burning. Marvelously detailed and beautifully written, Tending the Wild is an unparalleled examination of Native American knowledge and uses of California's natural resources that reshapes our understanding of native cultures and shows how we might begin to use their knowledge in our own conservation efforts. Tending the Wild persuasively argues that this traditional ecological knowledge is essential if we are to successfully meet the challenge of living sustainably.|
|THE HABITAT GARDEN BOOK. Nancy Bauer. Coyote Ridge Press, P.O. Box 192, Sebastopol, CA 95473. 56 pp, softback. This little gem makes for a great beginning to gardening for birds, bees, and butterflies, with written and pictorial vignettes of habitat and food plants in bloom. Native plants are well-represented, although the book includes some non-natives as well. If you are just getting interested in bringing natives into your garden, this book puts it all into context.|
|BUTTERFLY GARDENING. Xerces Society, Smithsonian Institution. Sierra Club Books, San Francisco. 1998. 208 pp, softback. Essays by experts on gardening for butterflies, with many exquisite color closeups, master plant list, life cycle, photography, and resource list.|
|NATIVE PLANTS FOR CALIFORNIA GARDENS. Lee Lenz. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. 1956. 166 pp, hardback. Out of print, but may be available through used book sellers.|
|OUT OF THE WILD AND INTO THE GARDEN. Bart O'Brien, Lorrae Fuentes, Lydia Newcombe, Eds. Symposium proceedings. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden Occasional Publications.
Part I, 1992, 212 pp.
Part II, 1995, 262 pp.
Part III, 1997, 134 pp.
a document that lists many moth and butterfly species and their host & nectar plants
BUTTERFLY GARDENING: SELECTED REFERENCES
Arbuckle, Nancy and Cedric Crocker (eds.). 1991. How to Attract Hummingbirds and Butterflies. Ortho Books.
Caldwell, Jeff. Notes on Larval Food Plants of Some Bay Area Butterflies. 3pp.-xeroxed
Garth, John S. and J.W. Tilden. 1986. California Butterflies. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Stewart, Bob. 1997. Common Butterflies of California. Point Reyes Station, CA: West Coast Lady Press.
Stokes, Donald, Lillian Stokes and Ernest Williams. 1991. The Butterfly Book: An Easy Guide to Butterfly Gardening, Identification, and Behavior. Little, Brown and Company.
Tekulsky, Mathew. 1985. The Butterfly Garden. Boston: The Harvard Common Press.
Xerces Society/Smithsonian Institution. 1990. Butterfly Gardening. Sierra Club Books.
The Gardening With Natives group of the California Native Plant Society (Santa Clara Valley Chapter) provides a yahoogroup-based email discussion forum or egroup for those interested in growing California native plants -- in their home gardens, parking strips, school gardens, parks, and elsewhere.
This egroup is a forum for communication, for asking questions, and for offering helpful answers. Members come from all backgrounds, from beginners to experts. This forum is particularly welcoming of those new to native plant gardening; they are encouraged to join and post their questions.
This egroup also carries announcements of major native plant gardening events in the Bay Area and around the state.
This egroup is open to all and is moderated. It currently has over 1300 members. Email traffic ranges from 3 to 7 messages a day.
To join, visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gardeningwithnatives, and click on the "Join This Group" button.
Alternately, type your email address below and click on the "Subscribe" button.
By Ellie Gioumousis
Aquilegia formosa (Western columbine)
Will take sun or shade but takes more water in sun. It blooms in spring with delightful red and yellow hanging flowers.
Many species; bloom from January to March and are drought tolerant. Part sun to light shade. Berries provide food for other birds.
Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow)
This seldom seen plant grows by washes and oases in the desert so does need some water. It has beautiful rose- lavender flowers but needs heat to bloom. There is a nice specimen in the De Anza Environmental Center.
This is the cobweb thistle, a native. It has white foliage and a brilliant red flower and is not invasive. It grows in open woodlands in this area and may be seen along Page Mill Road. It is an extremely good source of nectar.
Cynoglossum grande (Hound's tongue)
This is a native forget-me-not that is found in open woods and blooms in March. It is fairly drought tolerant when established, going completely dormant in summer. Best to start from seed.
Delphinium cardinale (Red larkspur)
Beautiful brilliant red flowers on 2' to 5' stalks blooming from May to June make this a very desirable plant. It needs good drainage, partial shade and regular water while growing. It will go dormant in summer and must be protected from snails.
The bright red snapdragon-like flowers on this small shrub give it the common name of Island bush snapdragon. It is tender to frost but grows back quickly if well-mulched. it will produce flowers almost all year and hummers visit it frequently. It should be cut back in late February as you would a fuchsia.
Known as Bladder pod for the interesting balloon shape of its seed pods, this small shrub has gray green foliage and yellow flowers. It is very drought tolerant and blooms nearly all year.
Lavatera assurgentiflora (Tree mallow)
This Channel Island native will grow 10 feet in one year. It blooms nearly all year with pretty rose- pink flowers that are most valuable as a nectar source for hummers.
Known as Twinberry because of the flowers and fruit that grow in pairs, this native honeysuckle is easy and quick to grow but prefers some shade and needs regular moisture.
Like the sages, there are many different species and all like full sun and are drought tolerant. They usually require good drainage.
Ribes speciosum (Wild gooseberry)
Bright red fuchsia-like flowers in early spring. Light shade and some water.
Ribes glutinosum (Wild currant)
Many selections with beautiful pink pendulous blossoms in early spring. Light shade to part sun and some water. Berries are attractive to other birds.
This is a native perennial related to the herb Summer savory. It has orange flowers in great abundance all summer and even into fall. It grows to a clump 2-3 feet wide in one season.
There are many native species that are good sources of nectar. They are drought tolerant and take full sun. Visit the Salvia demonstration planting that Betsy Clebsch has grown at Gamble Garden, 1431 Waverley Street, Palo Alto (just off Embarcadero Road).
Silene laciniata (Fringed Indian pink or Catch fly)
This is a pretty little plant that is unfortunately very attractive to snails as well as to hummers. Louise Blakey has found that it does very well in hanging baskets and is thus protected from the snail's depredations.
Trichostemma lanatum (Wooly blue curls)
Striking shrubby blue-flowered perennial that is native to the southern coastal ranges. It requires good drainage and no summer water when established. It is very attractive to hummingbirds and has a long blooming period.
Epilobium canum (formerly Zauschneria) (California wild fuchsia)
Several varieties, but all have bright orange flowers which bloom in late summer and fall and are excellent nectar sources. They are hardy and extremely drought tolerant.
Locally Native Trees for Landscaping
By Jeff Caldwell
With the possible exception of the coast redwood and white alder, most of our locally native trees deserve to be cultivated more often in the San Francisco Bay area. Many are beautiful and easy to grow--they are well adapted to our climate and soils. Native trees offer special values for wildlife as well.
Big-leaf maple is a very attractive species, and also fast growing--it deserves a place in more landscapes.
The gray pine is a quite ornamental tree in cultivation and more drought tolerant and more resistant to air pollution than most pines.
Contrary to general opinion, the valley oak and coast live oak, two beautiful heritage species, grow fairly quickly and are easy to cultivate. While ancient trees which grew to maturity under summer dry conditions may resent irrigation, young oaks adapt to garden watering. Indeed, under garden conditions seedling oaks may reach 25 feet in ten years--they actually grow faster than many commonly planted trees! Our native oaks deserve to be planted far more often than they are; happily, they are becoming more popular.
The California nutmeg is an unusual conifer and not difficult to grow, though a bit slow. Its needles are extremely sharp, so it should not be planted near a path.
Our California laurel becomes a stately tree. It is slow growing, but well-situated specimens are a fine gift to future generations.
The coast redwood is met with often enough in cultivation locally, some say too often. It would be refreshing to see it mixed more often in man-made landscapes with its proven companions in the natural landscape, especially Douglas fir, tanbark oak and California laurel. Other possible redwood companions include big-leaf maple, white alder, coast live oak, interior live oak, California nutmeg, black cottonwood, and madrone.
Many people long to grow the madrone, one of the world's most beautiful broadleaf evergreen trees. It has not proven easy to cultivate, but if you like a gardening challenge, try this treasure!
Two of our native trees regarded as "ugly ducklings" deserve to be mentioned here especially for those who garden with wildlife in mind.
The California buckeye has lovely structure, interesting fruits, spectacular flowers, exquisite spring foliage--but a decided off-season as the deciduous leaves turn brown in the summer; it is the first to drop its leaves. Its flowers are despised by some because their pollen is somewhat toxic to the non-native honeybee, but no flowers have more value to butterflies. In bloom this tree may be festooned with butterflies; we have seen seven species nectaring on one tree simultaneously! The tiger swallowtail, mourning cloak, California sister, California tortoiseshell, spring azure and many others visit this tree. It is easy to grow.
The blue elderberry is considered too coarse and "common" by many gardeners, but the summer fruits attract a wider range of birds than any other tree. Songbirds favor it highly for food and nesting. It is easy to grow and very fast. A stump-sprouter, it is amenable to pruning, which may help keep it presentable.
Native Trees of San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties
|Aceraceae (Maple Family)|
|Acer macrophyllum||big-leaf maple|
|Acer negundo var. californicum||box elder|
|Betulaceae (Birch Family)|
|Alnus rhombifolia||white alder|
|Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle Family)|
|Sambucus mexicana||blue elderberry|
|Ericaceae (Heath Family)|
|Arbutus menziesii||Pacific madrone|
|Fagaceae (Oak Family)|
|Lithocarpus densiflorus||tanbark oak|
|Quercus agrifolia||coast live oak|
|Quercus chrysolepis||canyon live oak|
|Quercus douglasii||blue oak|
|Quercus garryana||Oregon white oak|
|Quercus kelloggii||California black oak|
|Quercus lobata||valley oak|
|Quercus wislizeni||interior live oak|
|Hippocastanaceae (Buckeye Family)|
|Aesculus californica||California buckeye|
|Lauraceae (Laurel Family)|
|Umbellularia californica||California laurel|
|Oleaceae (Olive Family)|
|Fraxinus dipetala||flowering ash|
|Fraxinus latifolia||Oregon ash|
|Pinaceae (Pine Family)|
|Pinus attenuata||knobcone pine|
|Pinus ponderosa||Pacific ponderosa pine|
|Pinus sabiniana||gray pine|
|Pseudotsuga menziesii||Douglas fir|
|Platanaceae (Sycamore Family)|
|Platanus racemosa||Western sycamore|
|Salicaceae (Willow Family)|
|Populus fremontii ssp. fremontii||Fremont cottonwood|
|Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa||black cottonwood|
|Salix laevigata||red willow|
|Salix lasiolepis||arroyo willow|
|Salix lucida ssp. lasiandra||shining willow|
|Taxaceae (Yew Family)|
|Torreya californica||California nutmeg|
|Taxodiaceae (Bald Cypress Family)|
Ferris, Roxana S. 1968. Native Shrubs of the San Francisco Bay Region. University of California Press.
Hickman, James C. (ed.). 1993. The Jepson Manual Higher Plants of California. University of California Press.
Metcalf, Woodbridge. 1959. Native Trees of the San Francisco Bay Region. University of California Press.
Sharsmith, Helen K. 1982. Flora of the Mount Hamilton Range of California. California Native Plant Society.
Thomas, John Hunter. 1961. Flora of the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Stanford University Press.
Prepared by Jeff Caldwell (revised 2/98)
Native Plant Professionals
At the bottom of this page, find a link to a list of local professionals in the Santa Clara Valley and San Francisco Peninsula areas who are dedicated to working with California native plants and providing landscape services in an environmentally responsible manner.The list includes landscape professionals who specialize in native plant landscape design, installation, and maintenance.
Please note that this is an informational listing only and does not constitute a referral or recommendation. Although we are enthusiastic about providing information about local native plant professionals, we cannot take responsibility for the performance of any of the professionals listed below.
If you are a solicitor, please be respectful of this listing and do not cold call any of the names below selling services.
Public Gardens of Native Plants
|Visit these gardens any time that they're open (please check websites for hours).|
|West Valley College. 14000 Fruitvale Avenue, Saratoga. California native plants dominate the grounds at the West Valley College campus in Saratoga.|
|NATIVE HILL AT FOOTHILL COLLEGE. Foothill College, 12345 Moody Road, Los Altos Hills. Begun in 1982 by former faculty member Robert Will as a teaching aid for students, this small patch of land has grown under CNPS member Ellie Gioumousis's care to house 170 species within one acre of land. It is the best demonstration garden of California native plants in the South Bay. It was slated to be paved over in 2000, but an outpouring of public support has spared its life ... so far.|
|CHEESEMAN ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY AREA. De Anza College, corner of Stelling & McLellan (inside the campus), Cupertino. Over 300 species of native plants representing 12 natural communities.|
|DUNCAN HALL BOTANICAL & HABITAT GARDEN. San Jose State University, San Salvador St (near 4th St), San Jose. Planted in the mid-1980s, this 4,000 sq.ft. area is landscaped with natives such as lemonade berry, Brewer's saltbush, spice bush, coffeeberry, and toyon, and home to a variety of species of birds, bees, squirrels, and lizards. It is maintained by the Natural History Club.|
|MISSION COLLEGE. 3000 Mission College Boulevard, Santa Clara. New plantings of natives.|
|A CALIFORNIA NATIVE GARDEN AT STANFORD. Stanford University, Palo Alto. Designed by Meg Webster and installed in 2002, this garden replaced a lawn that was surrounded by redwoods, giant sequoias and coast live oaks.|
|CHERRY CHASE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. 1138 Heatherstone Way, Sunnyvale. (408) 522-8241. A small native plant garden is located on a piece of land right next to the street.|
|PETERSON NATURAL AREA. A 2-acre site planted in 1970 with native plants from eight biotic communities. Peterson Middle School, 1380 Rosalia Way, Sunnyvale. Bryan Osborne 408-736-1402 or 408-720-6540 ex 3335.|
|HACIENDA ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE MAGNET SCHOOL. A 1-acre site planted in 1971, contains redwood forest, oak woodland, chaparral, grassland, streamside and pond habitats. Hacienda Environmental Science Magnet School, 1290 Kimberly Drive, San Jose.|
|OVERFELT GARDENS, Educational Park Drive (at McKee), San Jose. A section of this city park called "California Wild" is devoted to California natives.|
|ULISTAC NATURAL AREA, Lick Mill Boulevard, Santa Clara. A 40-acre site saved from development and in the long, slow process of restoration.|
|STEVENS CREEK TRAIL, Mountain View. New landscaping is all natives. Plants include ceanothus, iris, fremontodendrons, elderberry, sages, native roses, buckeye, alder, and sycamore. Landscaping starts at La Avenida (off Shoreline, where there's a trailhead), then follows Stevens Creek for about a mile south to Central Expressway.|
|HILLSBOROUGH WATER CONSERVATION PARK, El Camino Real at Floribunda, Hillsborough. Mixed planting of drought tolerant species includes many California natives.|
|WOODSIDE LIBRARY GARDEN, 3140 Woodside Road, Woodside. The garden (in the back of the library) is composed entirely of California native plants. It is open to the public during library hours: Mon-Thu 11-7; Fri-Sat 11-5. It is maintained by the Woodside-Atherton Garden Club. There is a brochure with a map of the different plants.|
|Nursery Demonstration Gardens|
|LARNER SEEDS DEMONSTRATION GARDEN. A 1-acre site planted in 1980 with plants from several biotic communities. Definitely worth a visit. 235 Grove Road, Bolinas. Tue, Thu 10-2, Sat 12-4.|
|REGIONAL PARKS BOTANIC GARDEN. Tilden Park, Berkeley. The largest collection of California native plants, with plenty to excite the native gardener.|
|STRYBING ARBORETUM, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Contains a section devoted to California natives, the Arthur Menzies Native Garden.|
|UC BERKELEY BOTANIC GARDEN, Strawberry Canyon, Berkeley. 200 Centennial Drive, #5045, Berkeley, CA 94720. (510) 642-0849. 13 acres of California natives.|
|UC SANTA CRUZ ARBORETUM, Empire Grade, UCSC Campus, Santa Cruz. Large sections devoted to plants from California, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and a "Natives Come First" Garden.|
|PACIFIC GROVE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, 165 Forest Avenue, Pacific Grove, CA 93950. (408) 648-3116. Winter home of migrating monarch butterflies.|
|ASILOMAR CONFERENCE GROUNDS,
800 Asilomar Boulevard, Pacific Grove, CA 93950. (831) 372-8016. Worth a visit for the dune restoration project. The plant nursery includes a 960 square-foot greenhouse, which grows more than 400,000 plants, representing 25 native species for transplantation on the grounds.
|PORTOLA VALLEY TOWN CENTER, 765 Portola Road, Portola Valley. Native garden next to the Historic Schoolhouse.|
All photos © Arvind Kumar
Where to Buy Native Plants
CNPS SCV Nursery History
The CNPS SCV Nursery was started in 1995 when Jean Struthers got a $10,000 grant from the Packard Foundation to build a nursery for the chapter. With that grant and the donation of some fencing left over from a Christmas tree lot, the nursery was started at Hidden Villa. The following excerpts from the July-August 1995 through the March--April 1997 editions of the Blazing Star trace the development of the Nursery's first few years.
Jean and David Struthers Native Plant Nursery
The Santa Clara Valley Chapter of CNPS maintains the Jean and David Struthers Native Plant Nursery on the grounds of Hidden Villa Ranch in Los Altos Hills. Volunteers propagate native plants throughout the year for the chapter's Native Plant Sales. Proceeds from plant sales are the major source of funding for all chapter activities. Inventory is updated once a month before the plant sale. Here is the most recent inventory.
Nursery work sessions take place every Tuesday and Wednesday from 11am to 2pm November through April and 10:30am to 1:30pm May through October. Volunteers should bring garden gloves. A sunhat, a jacket, and a lunch may also be helpful. Other tools will be provided at the nursery. Knowledge of plants is not necessary: your willingness to help is all that's required. Drop-in volunteers are welcome.
You can check the weather at the nursery on our Bloomsky Weather Station.
Directions: Hidden Villa is located on 26870 Moody Road Los Altos Hills, CA 94022. It is west of Foothill College. From Hwy 280 in Los Altos Hills, take the Moody Road exit and head west. Two miles west of Foothill College, look for the Hidden Villa sign and driveway on the left. Proceed over the bridge, and park in the Dana Center parking lot to your right. The Native Plant Nursery is at the greenhouse just beyond the Dana Center. Free parking for volunteers.
Milkweed (Asclepias) [August 31, 2015]
Milkweed (Asclepias) is the primary host plant for Monarch butterfly caterpillars. Planting locally native milkweed in your garden will provide much needed habitat for these beautiful insects. There are fifteen species of milkweed that are native to California. The Nursery currently grows two of them. More information about California milkweeds is available from the Xerces Society.
Keep in mind that a single plant is usually not enough to provide habitat for butterflies, and providing multiple species of milkweed is better than one. In her book, The California Wildlife Habitat Garden, Nancy Bauer recommends including at least three plants of each species grown.
Asclepias fascicularis (Narrow-leaved Milkweed)
As one might guess from its name, this milkweed has narrow leaves that grow up to five inches long. They are fairly tall plants, growing up to three feet tall with multiple stems topped with clusters of white and pink flowers from June through September.
This is the most adaptable of the California milkweeds, growing well in both sun and shade, and tolerating both clay and sand. They even do well under oaks and can be found under them in the wild. With their striking flowers and long blooming season, these are ideal plants for any garden.
They are perennials, but will die back to their roots in the fall. They reemerge from their deep taproot in the spring, putting out additional stems each year.
Although they are known for their relationship with the Monarch butterfly, their flowers are also popular with bees and other pollinators.
Asclepias speciosa (Showy Milkweed)
This milkweed is native to the Bay Area and northern California. It has wide fuzzy grey to white leaves and spectacular 4 to 5 inch pinkish-white flower heads. It can grow three or four feet tall, although it tends to grow slowly and may take a couple years to reach full height. It prefers full sun and does not need supplemental water once established.
Like narrow-leaved milkweed, it will die down to the roots in the fall. It usually emerges a bit later than narrow-leaved milkweed, so give it time to come up in late spring to early summer. The bloom period doesn't last as long - flowers tend to appear in June and July. However, the huge, gorgeous flowers more than make up for the shorter length of time.
Osmaronia cerasiformis - Oso berry [May 6, 2016]
Oemleria cerasiformis (Oso berry)
Common names: Oso berry, Indian plum
This underutilized plant can be cultivated as either a shrub or small tree. It grows up to 12 feet tall and 8 feet wide when mature.
It is deciduous but forms bright green leaves in early spring. It develops flowers at the same time, with cascades of small white flowers appearing as soon as February. Bloom can continue for a couple months and is followed by fruit in late spring and early summer.
One of its common names, Indian plum, comes from its fruit, which resemble small plums when ripe. Its fruit is popular with birds making it a great addition to a habitat garden.
This plant is dioecius, which means that male and female flowers bloom on different plants. You must have at least one of each before the female plants will set fruit. Both male and female plants produce flowers, although the male flowers tend to be a bit showier. Some people think the scent of the male flowers is unpleasant, while the female flowers are said to smell like watermelon.
Oso berry prefers loamy soil, but will tolerate clay. In the wild, it is usually found in moist areas, and it will grow more quickly when provided with water. It is able to handle dry conditions once established. It prefers light shade, but can tolerate full sun.
Phytophthora in our Nursery?
By Melanie Cross, Chapter Nursery Manager
An issue that has surfaced in native plant nursery and revegetation circles this year is the appearance of deadly exotic pathogens: Phytophthora species, and lots of them. You may know of this algae relative because sudden oak death is caused by an airborne species, P. ramorum. The new pathogens that are showing up are water-borne. Susceptible plants at revegetation sites and other landscapes have been devastated by these “plant destroyers.” Unfortunately, nurseries offer the right conditions to cultivate and disseminate them. This is just what we do not want to do.
Pollinators and Blooming Beauties [9/16/2015]
What's Blooming in the Nursery
Most of the time, these articles will be about specific plants that we think you would enjoy adding to your garden. But sometimes, we can't resist sharing the wonders that we see as we work in the nursery. This week the Grindelia camporum (Great Valley gumweed) was a pollinator magnet. Skippers, bees and flies (masquerading as bees) were busily feasting.
Of course, the parade of flowers didn't end there. A few of the others on display included:
- Achillea millefolium (common yarrow) - the Island Pink variety was eye-poppingly bright
- Corethrogyne filaginifolia (common sandaster)
- Dendromecon harfordii (bush poppy)
- Diplacus X (hybrid monkeyflower)
- Epilobium canum (California fuschia)- in addition to the usual reds, 'Summer Snow' brings white into the mix
- Ericameria nauseosa (rubber rabbitbrush)
- Eriogonum (buckwheat) - a huge selection of these wonderful summer and fall bloomers continue to put on a show.
- Monardella macrantha (hummingbird monardella)
- Monardella villosa (coyote mint)
The Life of a CNPS SCV Nursery Plant
When you buy a plant at our nursery, you’re getting the result of a year or more of careful nurturing by our volunteers.
Our plants are grown from both seeds and cuttings, which we obtain from our stock area, commercial growers and CNPS members. We don’t focus on a specific area of the California Floristic Province, so we grow plants for a wide variety of environments from many regions of California – in addition to a wide variety of local natives, we also raise plants from the mountains, deserts and wetlands.
More Articles ...
Gardening With Natives
Do you want a garden teeming with life? One that changes with the seasons? One that looks stunning? One that saves water, energy, effort, and money? Consider incorporating California native plants in your garden to attract butterflies, birds, and other wildlife. These beautiful plants will bring seasonal color to your landscape. They will give your California garden a unique sense of place.
This website is for gardeners and home owners who want to learn how to grow California native plants in their landscapes. Visit this site to find out about talks, classes, workshops, garden tours, native plant sales, and other events where you can learn more. Visit this site for plant lists and useful articles on the propagation, growth, and care of native plant gardens.
Gardening with Natives is a special interest group of the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. The group contains a mix of beginners and seasoned professionals, and is a great place to learn. Newcomers are particularly welcome. Gardening With Natives maintains a discussion egroup where people can ask questions, get answers, offer advice, and stay informed about upcoming events. Sign up below to participate in this forum. Membership is voluntary. Email traffic ranges from 10 to 20 messages a day. You can opt for individual emails or a daily digest.
The fall Seed Exchange is held at the Peninsula Conservation Center (PCC) in Palo Alto.
- CNPS Nursery