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California Native Plants

California Native Plants

By Heidi Broadbent

UCCE Master Gardeners of El Dorado County

Published in the 5-24-2023 Mountain Democrat

05.24.23-Natives_lupine_poppies by S brasuel
Do the bright green leaves of buckeye bring stirrings of spring? Do lupine blossoms remind you of hiking your favorite trails? Did you get to see your favorite wildflower during this year’s super bloom? What a unique experience it is to live in California—the state with more plant species than any other state. California is considered a Biodiversity Hotspot which means that many of the animal and plant species found here are not found anywhere else on Earth (conservation.org/priorities/biodiversity-hotspots). California’s native plants offer many benefits to the home gardener.

Benefit #1: Native plants provide a sense of place.

Whether it’s the sound and surprise of California poppy seeds bursting from the pod, the smell of California sagebrush, or the memory of sitting under your favorite blue oak—native plants often provide a sense of place. This sense of place, according to Tim Cresswell, human geographer and poet, “may provide feelings of meaning, purpose, connection, and stewardship.” The home gardener can creatively and deliberately use California native plants to establish their own unique sense of place.

Benefit #2: Native plants are already adapted.

California native plants are adapted to our soils and to the hot dry summers. As we continue to face wildfires, drought conditions, and climate change, California native plants are more likely to have deeper, more substantial root systems that can regenerate; require less water; help with erosion control and do well without the use of fertilizers. You can learn more about this at the Monterey Bay Master Gardeners website (ucanr.edu/sites/MontereyBayMasterGardeners/files/306816.pdf).

Benefit #3: Native plants support native wildlife.

Since California native plants coevolved with native wildlife species, local plants provide nesting materials, shelter, pollen, nectar, and other food sources for wildlife. As the biodiversity in California continues to decline, providing both native plants and resources for native wildlife help stabilize and improve local ecosystems.

Benefit #4: Native plants support native bees and other pollinators.

An important subset of California’s native wildlife species are the native bees and other pollinators. We rely on bees to pollinate crops for our food supply. A UC Cooperative Extension article from 2011 states: “Researchers have found that in addition to the economic benefits of pollination, animal pollinators provide up to 40 percent of some essential vitamins, minerals, and dietary lipids provided by fruits and vegetables.” The home gardener can be deliberate about planting natives that will attract native bees and other pollinators to their garden.

There are several sources for learning more about California native plants including: Calscape which sorts plants into various categories, Calflora which helps you discover and learn more about native plants, and the UC Davis Arboretum All-Star Plant Database which aims to conserve water and benefit native species. You may want to check out:




May you enjoy the benefits of California native plants.

Master Gardener classes are offered monthly throughout the county. You can find our class schedule at: http://mgeldorado.ucanr.edu/Public_Education_Classes/?calendar=yes&g=56698, and recorded classes on many gardening topics here: http://mgeldorado.ucanr.edu/Public_Education/Classes/

Have a gardening question? Master Gardeners are working hard to answer your questions. Use the “Ask a Master Gardener” option on our website: mgeldorado.ucanr.edu or leave a message on our office telephone: 530-621-5512. We’ll get back to you! Master Gardeners are also on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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