Wildflowers

Debunking Myths About California’s Native Plants

From Park E-ventures, July 2013

For me, it can be honestly confusing, since in my head brews a romantic comedy of plant love with me cast as the prototypical heroine and the native plants as my hero. I easily envision myself running with bags full of seeds, tossing them in the air, rolling in fields of wildflowers, all set in the gorgeous landscape of Mori Point...or something like that.

But, even if others aren't as imaginative as I am cursed to be, I do often sit back wondering where the lack of love for our native flora comes from. The answer, however, is as simple as the question. People tend to dislike what they don't understand.

With that in mind, let's clear up some common myths about native plants and let the lovin' begin.

Myth: California native plants look scrawny, scraggly, and ratty.

This myth was started due to the fact that some plants undergo a semi-deciduous period during the summer and fall seasons, to help them survive the hot and dry spells of the year.

Fact: Not all California native plants go through this period and those that do are quite a sight to behold after the dry season passes.

If the appearance of some California natives during the dry seasons is something you can't stand about them, never fear—the Golden State boasts enough evergreens to hold you over! The toyon, coffeeberry, mountain mahogany, ceanothus, and manzanita are such plants.

Myth: California natives are hard to grow and make poor garden plants.

A common mistake some people make is treating all plants alike. So, it's easy to understand why some have difficulty growing native plants. Not properly understanding the plant you are trying to grow makes any plant hard to maintain.

Fact: California natives are no more difficult to grow than any other plant with proper maintenance.

Doing a little research goes a long way. What I have learned over time is that it's easy to over-water or over-fertilize these plants, so just as with any plant I am growing, I try to learn as much as possible and meet the plants’ required needs. Just keep in mind California native plants are wild plants and require less maintenance.

Growing native plants can save you money on the water bill! While you pocket those savings, you can still claim a wonderfully diverse yard!

There are still many myths we can dispel about California natives, but just by taking this quick look we can see how important it is to understand the plants properly. The more truths we can unlock about these wonderfully unique plants the more we can come to appreciate them and help save them.

So, take your pick, green thumbs, and remember there is never a good reason to overlook these natural beauties.

By Sarai Crooms
Community Programs Intern, Park Stewardship


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