Wise choices in native plants
By Rebecca Jepsen
For the Mercury News
We hear about "going native tours," beneficial natives and water-wise natives. Have you ever wondered what constitutes a native plant?
Native plant species are those that appear and thrive in the area in which they evolved. Plants evolve in a particular region in response to naturally occurring conditions such as type of soil, timing and amount of rainfall, drought, frequency and severity of frost, wind and humidity. Also important are hours of exposure to sunlight or lack thereof.
Native plants are essential to the survival of our native habitat such as local birds, mammals, beneficial insects and bees (without which we would not be able to successfully grow the thousands of cultivars of food in the Bay Area). Every year we lose many indigenous birds, butterflies and mammals due to the lack of plant life needed to support them.
Because natives are "wired" to thrive in our local conditions, they require much less attention from us. They are more drought-tolerant than non-natives and are more resistant to insects and diseases. Once established, most native plants need little to no summer water, fertilizers or pruning. You will be amazed at the variety of year-round beauty, interest and habitat that can be delivered by "going native".
For tried and true options that provide year-round interest, you might want to try some of the following:
Shrubs: ceanothus, manzanita, Monardella villosa (coyote mint), ribes (currant), toyon, buckwheat.
Trees: oaks (valley, live, blue), big leaf maples, buckeyes.
Flowers: poppies, godetias, larkspur, lilies, mimulus (monkey flower), galvezia (island snapdragon).
Ground covers: Erigeron glaucus (seaside daisy), Verbena lilacina (lilac verbena).
You can find these and other options at the California Native Plant Society sale, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. today at Hidden Villa, 26870 Moody Road, Los Altos Hills. Admission is free.
Master Gardener Cayce Hill contributed to this article. The Santa Clara County Master Gardener Program is a University of California Cooperative Extension volunteer organization dedicated to providing research-based gardening information to home gardeners. Have a question? 408-282-3105, www.mastergardeners.org.