This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

April 14, 2013

Native plants of Southern California

If you're interested in planting native plants in Southern California, you may be in for a surprise. The entire landscape from Santa Barbara to San Diego has been so throughly re-designed over the past hundred years that it is nearly impossible to imagine what it looked like before the addition of non-native species. And the reality may be disappointing to you.

The lush, tropical, "palm tree" world of Southern California is beautiful, and it is all fake. Southern California is a desert. That is, it gets very little rainfall. It's a cool desert, but it's a desert all the same. And the things that grow naturally there are mostly grasses, most of which if you planted in your yard would look like weeds.

The stars of the natural landscape, however, are oak trees. This one next to me is in Las Virgenes Canyon in Calabasas. And if you want to see what Southern California looked like before the landscape was "reinvented", go there. It's just a mile or so inland from the 101. This is an open space that has been preserved. This tree is several hundred years old, and there are a lot of them, dotting the hills. So don't bother planting one in your front yard, unless you plan to wait a couple of hundred years.

Get out of your car. Leave your cell phone and your double-espresso latte behind. Walk the trail just a little bit and listen to the silence. Look around. If it's all just weeds to you, I guess I will understand. But I can only hope that you will start to see what I am seeing.

Las Virgenes Open Space, Calabasas
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