Take a visual tour through the ENC’s Plant Communities

Coastal Sage Scrub

The Coastal Sage Scrub is a plant community typical of Southern California coastal bluffs and canyons. Coastal Sage Scrub is considered by many to be the most endangered plant community in the United States. It has extremely high levels of species diversity and endemism, and it contains a number of endangered species, including the California Gnatcatcher. Coastal Sage Scrub is located on highly valued, coastal real estate and is threatened by development. This ecosystem represents the struggle between preservation and development.The Coastal Sage Scrub habitat extends from the South Coast Ranges to Baja California, mostly below 3000 feet and below the Chaparral Plant Community. It is characterized by drought adapted shrubs. About 10 - 20 of rain falls annually, and that drains quickly through the dry, rocky or gravelly soil. The growing season is 8 - 12 months annually.

[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/coastal-sage-scrub/thumbs/thumbs_Black Sage.jpg]64k0Black Sage
open-branched shrub 3 to 6 feet tall<br />leaves are 1" - 2" long and about 1/2 as wide<br />small, closely-spaced whorls of large blue flowers April - July<br />excellent source of nectar for honey-making bees<br />seeds dark brown and oblong<br />seeds were used by Native Americans for food and tea<br />leaves were used for food flavoring
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/coastal-sage-scrub/thumbs/thumbs_Black Sage2.JPG]60.6k0Black Sage
open-branched shrub 3 to 6 feet tall<br />leaves are 1" - 2" long and about 1/2 as wide<br />small, closely-spaced whorls of large blue flowers April - July<br />excellent source of nectar for honey-making bees<br />seeds dark brown and oblong<br />seeds were used by Native Americans for food and tea<br />leaves were used for food flavoring
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/coastal-sage-scrub/thumbs/thumbs_Black Sage3.JPG]59.2k0Black Sage
open-branched shrub 3 to 6 feet tall<br />leaves are 1" - 2" long and about 1/2 as wide<br />small, closely-spaced whorls of large blue flowers April - July<br />excellent source of nectar for honey-making bees<br />seeds dark brown and oblong<br />seeds were used by Native Americans for food and tea<br />leaves were used for food flavoring
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/coastal-sage-scrub/thumbs/thumbs_California Sagebrush.JPG]58.6k0California Sagebrush
perennial<br />low, rounded shrub, densely covered with very narrow grey leaves 3/4" - 3" long<br />small yellow flowers bloom August - December<br />Native Americans used this plant's oil as an insect repellent, incense, and for sore throats<br />women drank a concoction of this plant to alleviate the effects of menopause<br />host plant for the American Lady butterfly

Channel Islands Flora

The Channel Islands include 8 islands. Located off the coast of Orange and Los Angeles counties are, south to north, San Clemente, Santa Catalina, Santa Barbara and San Nicholas Islands. Located off the coast of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties are, south to north, Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel. The flora of each island is individual and often quite different than the species found on the mainland. This plant community grows under similar conditions as Coastal Sage Scrub (high humidity) with 15 - 20 of rainfall annually.

[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/channel-islands-flora/thumbs/thumbs_Catalina Ironwood Bark.JPG]34990Catalina Ironwood
evergreen tree<br />bark is thin, grayish and scaly and peeling in narrow strips (beneath the peeling bark, the color is reddish brown)<br />leaves are pinnately compound, with 7 - 15 leaflets<br />purple pea-shaped flowers appear from April - May; followed by a brown pod (fruit)<br />seeds taste like peanuts, and can be ground into flour<br />Native Americans used this extremely hard wood to make tools
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/channel-islands-flora/thumbs/thumbs_Catalina Ironwood.JPG]31800Catalina Ironwood
evergreen tree<br />bark is thin, grayish and scaly and peeling in narrow strips (beneath the peeling bark, the color is reddish brown)<br />leaves are pinnately compound, with 7 - 15 leaflets<br />purple pea-shaped flowers appear from April - May; followed by a brown pod (fruit)<br />seeds taste like peanuts, and can be ground into flour<br />Native Americans used this extremely hard wood to make tools
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/channel-islands-flora/thumbs/thumbs_Catalina Ironwood2.JPG]31180Catalina Ironwood
evergreen tree<br />bark is thin, grayish and scaly and peeling in narrow strips (beneath the peeling bark, the color is reddish brown)<br />leaves are pinnately compound, with 7 - 15 leaflets<br />purple pea-shaped flowers appear from April - May; followed by a brown pod (fruit)<br />seeds taste like peanuts, and can be ground into flour<br />Native Americans used this extremely hard wood to make tools
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/channel-islands-flora/thumbs/thumbs_Catalina Island Cherry.JPG]31490Catalina Island Cherry
evergreen shrub or small tree (up to 45 feet in height) with a broad crown of spreading branches<br />thick, dark green leaves, 2" - 5" long, oval shaped, mostly without teeth<br />small white flowers bloom May - June, followed in autumn by a 1/2" - to 1" dark purple cherry<br />after careful preparation including grinding and soaking, the Tongva (Gabrielino) Native Americans ate the thin layer of meat of this cherry<br />host plant for the Western Tiger Swallowtail, Pale Swallowtail, California Hairstreak, Variable Checkerspot, and Lorquin's Admiral
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/channel-islands-flora/thumbs/thumbs_Island Mallow.JPG]31400Island Tree Mallow
evergreen, erect, bushy shrub, can grow to 15 feet<br />leaves are alternate, and shaped similarly to maple leaves; grayish-green on top, with a silvery (but not shiny) green color underneath<br />flowers primarily April to August, but at the ENC, flowers can be seen year round<br />native to the Santa Barbara & Santa Catalina Islands<br />fruits are good in salads; young leaves are eaten raw or boiled and seasoned
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/channel-islands-flora/thumbs/thumbs_Island Tree Mallow2.JPG]31420Island Tree Mallow
evergreen, erect, bushy shrub, can grow to 15 feet<br />leaves are alternate, and shaped similarly to maple leaves; grayish-green on top, with a silvery (but not shiny) green color underneath<br />flowers primarily April to August, but at the ENC, flowers can be seen year round<br />native to the Santa Barbara & Santa Catalina Islands<br />fruits are good in salads; young leaves are eaten raw or boiled and seasoned
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/channel-islands-flora/thumbs/thumbs_Torrey Pine.JPG]30930Torrey Pine
sprawling tree with irregularly fissured bark<br />stiff, dark green leaves in bundles of 5 are 7" - 11" long<br />ovoid cones 4" - 6" long<br />native only to Santa Rosa Island and Del Mar, which are separated by 175 miles of ocean<br />resin was chewed for sore throats and made into a tea to treat colds<br />young needles used in tea
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/channel-islands-flora/thumbs/thumbs_Torrey Pine2.JPG]30590Torrey Pine
sprawling tree with irregularly fissured bark<br />stiff, dark green leaves in bundles of 5 are 7" - 11" long<br />ovoid cones 4" - 6" long<br />native only to Santa Rosa Island and Del Mar, which are separated by 175 miles of ocean<br />resin was chewed for sore throats and made into a tea to treat colds<br />young needles used in tea
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/channel-islands-flora/thumbs/thumbs_Torrey Pine3.JPG]30130Torrey Pine
sprawling tree with irregularly fissured bark<br />stiff, dark green leaves in bundles of 5 are 7" - 11" long<br />ovoid cones 4" - 6" long<br />native only to Santa Rosa Island and Del Mar, which are separated by 175 miles of ocean<br />resin was chewed for sore throats and made into a tea to treat colds<br />young needles used in tea

Chaparral

Chaparral is a Spanish word meaning where the scrub oak grow. This plant community is found in semi-arid areas such as the dry slopes and ridges of the Coastal Ranges from Shasta County south, and below the Yellow Pine Forest on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This habitat is found in the Southern California mountains, as well. Soil here is rocky and gravelly or fairly heavy. Average rainfall is 14 - 25 each year. The annual growing season is 8 to 12 months. Brush fires race through this habitat frequently.

[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/chaparral/thumbs/thumbs_Prickly Pear.JPG]32520Prickly Pear
grows either erect or spreading<br />woody, with large, fleshy, spiny pads; fruits red and barrel-shaped<br />flowers are normally yellow, bloom mostly May - June<br />Native Americans ate the fruits dried, raw, or made into a syrup<br />seeds were ground into flour<br />used as a poultice for wounds and inflammations<br />needles used as tools
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/chaparral/thumbs/thumbs_Prickly Pear2.JPG]28890Prickly Pear
grows either erect or spreading<br />woody, with large, fleshy, spiny pads; fruits red and barrel-shaped<br />flowers are normally yellow, bloom mostly May - June<br />Native Americans ate the fruits dried, raw, or made into a syrup<br />seeds were ground into flour<br />used as a poultice for wounds and inflammations<br />needles used as tools
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/chaparral/thumbs/thumbs_Chamise.JPG]28620Chamise
one of the most abundant shrubs in Southern California<br />adapted to fires, which are natural and beneficial here (unless they are too frequent)<br />can "crown sprout," or re-sprout quickly from the root crown<br />can reproduce prolifically from seed<br />leaves are needle-like, clustered on shoots along the main branches<br />small white flowers appear at the ends of the branches in spring<br />the Koso people used this tough plant for arrow points<br />Luiseño people used it for the arrow foreshaft

Closed Cone Pine Forest

Forests can be divided into two types: hardwood and softwood. Hardwood forests are flower-bearing and softwood forests are coniferous (cone-bearing). Trees that live in the Closed Cone Pine Forest are softwood trees. Plant fossils indicate that closed-cone forests were once widespread but are now remnants on their way to extinction. The average rainfall for this community is 20 - 60 annually. Additionally this Central California coastal community receives moisture from fog. The growing season is 9 - 12 months, annually.

[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/closed-cone-pine-forest/thumbs/thumbs_Bishop Pine.JPG]15880Bishop Pine
at the ENC, the Bishop pine is conical, but on windswept cliffs it is asymmetrical<br />evergreen; grows to 40 - 80 feet tall; trunk 1 - 3 feet in diameter<br />bark is thick and furrowed with dark purplish-brown scales<br />needles 4" - 6" long; 2 per bundle in crowded clusters<br />male conelets are whorled, about 1/2" long<br />female conelets have no stalk, are ovoid, whorled and erect<br />mature cones 2" - 3.5" long, yellow-brown, asymmetrical and clustered in <br />circles of 3 to 5<br />on low coastal terraces, helps to stabilize sand dunes (its roots bind soil more effectively than coastal sage scrub and annual grass species)
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/closed-cone-pine-forest/thumbs/thumbs_Columbine.JPG]13300Columbine
perennial, erect herb, with a leafy branched stem<br />leaves are basal, compound, lobed<br />showy, solitary flower hangs at the end of the stem; blooms May - August<br />fruits August - September<br />flowers reported to be very sweet and safe, but only if consumed in small quantities; Native Americans reportedly used them as a condiment<br />seeds and roots are highly poisonous; may be fatal<br />Native Americans used very small amounts of Aquilegia root as an effective treatment for ulcers, but medical use of this plant is best avoided due to its high toxicity
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/closed-cone-pine-forest/thumbs/thumbs_Monterey Cypress.JPG]12750Monterey Cypress
evergreen; height depends greatly on growing conditions—mature tree can be 60 - 80 feet tall<br />otherwise symmetrical crown often becomes irregular and flat-topped from exposure to high winds<br />gray, rough, fibrous bark<br />branches horizontal with rope-like branchlets<br />dark green leaves are blunt and opposite in 4 rows<br />cones are brown, 1.5"long
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/closed-cone-pine-forest/thumbs/thumbs_Monterey Pine.JPG]12420Monterey Pine
evergreen tree; grows to 40 - 100 feet tall with a trunk 1 - 3 feet in diameter<br />dark brown to black bark<br />shiny green needles, 3 to a bundle, 4"- 6"long<br />cones tan or cinnamon, ovoid, 3"- 5"long, unsymmetrical, grouped in rings of 3 to 5<br />resin used by Native Americans as a dressing to draw out splinters or boils<br />resin used for waterproofing baskets

Creosote Bush Scrub

Creosote Bush Scrub is a southern California desert plant community. The Mojave and Anza-Borrego areas typify this desert environment. Plant leaves and roots have adapted to withstand intense solar radiation and both extreme cold and extreme heat. Less than 7 of rain falls annually. This region is very fragile. Paths worn into the soil by travelers at the turn of the century can still be seen today.

Foothill Woodland

Much of California's area is included within the Foothill Habitat, including the foothills of both the coastal and the Sierra Mountains. The soil here is fertile, so wherever water is available, trees and plants flourish. The average rainfall is 15 - 40 and the growing season is 6 - 10 months annually.

Freshwater Marsh

The Freshwater Marsh is an aquatic community of emersed plants. It is found throughout California where there is permanent standing water. The water table is at or just above the surface. Examples would be the margins of lakes and ponds, ditches, and some extensive shallow marshes such as in the Great Central Valley. The ENC constructed a freshwater marsh in 1998 and 1999.

Mixed Evergreen Forest

Inland from the redwood forest in the Klamath and Coast ranges in Northern California and a partly riparian forest transitional to yellow pine forest in Southern California. Average rainfall is 25 - 65 annually, with some fog. The growing season is 7 - 11 months.

[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/mixed-evergreen-forest/thumbs/thumbs_Bay Laurel.JPG]15620California Bay Laurel
evergreen tree; 40-80 feet tall<br />short trunk, forked into large, spreading branches forming a dense crown of pungently aromatic foliage<br />lance-shaped leaves, thick and leathery with prominent veins; shiny dark green with a pale underside<br />pale yellow 1/4" flowers are clustered at the leaf base, followed by the growth of 1" green to purple berries. Flowers December - May and fruits May - October<br />Cahuilla Native Americans placed a wet bay leaf in their nostril to cure headaches and colds<br />nuts were eaten and the leaves were made to brew a tea to cure stomachaches<br />used as an insecticide
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/mixed-evergreen-forest/thumbs/thumbs_DouglasIris.JPG]13080Douglas Iris
<br />perennial herb; grows 1/2 to 3 feet tall<br />densely matted from thick root stocks<br />blue-purple flowers February to April<br />leaves were used by Native Americans to obtain a fiber for threads, twine and rope for fishing nets and snares for catching deer, birds and other game<br />babies were often wrapped in the leaves to retard perspiration and prevent dehydration
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/mixed-evergreen-forest/thumbs/thumbs_Incense Cedar.JPG]12750Incense Cedar
resinous, aromatic tree; 60 to 150 feet tall<br />tapered and irregularly- angled trunk, with thick, deeply furrowed, reddish-brown bark, and shredded ridges. Crown is conical. Upper branches erect; lower ones drooping with leaves<br />shiny green, scale-like leaves grow in 4 rows, overlapping in pairs down the twig, which is multi-branched and flattish<br />oblong cone 1" long at the end of the leafy stalk, maturing in one season<br />green branches were used by Native Americans as deodorant<br />bark was used for buildings and as tinder; limbs were used for bows
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/mixed-evergreen-forest/thumbs/thumbs_Incense Cedar2.JPG]12410Incense Cedar
resinous, aromatic tree; 60 to 150 feet tall<br />tapered and irregularly- angled trunk, with thick, deeply furrowed, reddish-brown bark, and shredded ridges. Crown is conical. Upper branches erect; lower ones drooping with leaves<br />shiny green, scale-like leaves grow in 4 rows, overlapping in pairs down the twig, which is multi-branched and flattish<br />oblong cone 1" long at the end of the leafy stalk, maturing in one season<br />green branches were used by Native Americans as deodorant<br />bark was used for buildings and as tinder; limbs were used for bows

Northern Oak Woodlands

This open, grassy woodland is found in the North Coast Ranges, roughly north of the San Francisco Bay to Humbolt County and inland from the redwood forests to 3,000 - 5,000 feet in the Yolla Bolly mountains at the northern extreme of the Sacramento River Valley. Average rainfall is 25 - 40, and the growing season is 6 - 9 months annually.

[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/northern-oak-woodlands/thumbs/thumbs_Big Leaf Maple.JPG]7780Big Leaf Maple
deciduous; 30 - 70 feet tall shade tree<br />rounded crown of spreading or drooping branches and with the largest leaves of all maples (6" - 10")<br />shiny green leaves turn yellow or orange in autumn; have 5 deep, pointed lobes and 5 main thickened veins. Leaf edges have small, blunt lobes and teeth<br />yellow flowers up to 6" long cluster at twig ends in spring<br />fruit is paired, with long, winged seeds<br />Native Americans used the wood to make dishes and paddles<br />syrup can be made from the sap, although the sugar content is lower than that of the Sugar Maple (so it takes significantly more sap to produce the syrup); also differs in taste from traditional maple syrup
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/northern-oak-woodlands/thumbs/thumbs_BuckeyeFlower.JPG]5580California Buckeye
deciduous tree 15 to 30 feet tall with a broad round crown<br />bark is smooth and gray<br />compound leaves are dark green above, paler beneath, with 5 leaflets 3" - 6" long<br />white flowers appear in early spring<br />loses its leaves by mid-summer, revealing pear-shaped fruit<br />Native Americans used the seed covering as fish poison--thrown into ponds, the pulverized nuts would stupefy fish, making them float to the surface for easy netting<br />spindles from young shoots were twirled against a wood plate to make fire
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/northern-oak-woodlands/thumbs/thumbs_Buckeye.JPG]4920California Buckeye
deciduous tree 15 to 30 feet tall with a broad round crown<br />bark is smooth and gray<br />compound leaves are dark green above, paler beneath, with 5 leaflets 3" - 6" long<br />white flowers appear in early spring<br />loses its leaves by mid-summer, revealing pear-shaped fruit<br />Native Americans used the seed covering as fish poison--thrown into ponds, the pulverized nuts would stupefy fish, making them float to the surface for easy netting<br />spindles from young shoots were twirled against a wood plate to make fire
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/northern-oak-woodlands/thumbs/thumbs_Buckeye Seed.JPG]5020California Buckeye
deciduous tree 15 to 30 feet tall with a broad round crown<br />bark is smooth and gray<br />compound leaves are dark green above, paler beneath, with 5 leaflets 3" - 6" long<br />white flowers appear in early spring<br />loses its leaves by mid-summer, revealing pear-shaped fruit<br />Native Americans used the seed covering as fish poison--thrown into ponds, the pulverized nuts would stupefy fish, making them float to the surface for easy netting<br />spindles from young shoots were twirled against a wood plate to make fire
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/northern-oak-woodlands/thumbs/thumbs_Blue Eyed Grass.JPG]4900Blue Eyed Grass
tufted perennial with a short root stalk<br />deep blue flowers are 6-parted with yellow centers; appear on the top of branching, flattish, foot-tall stems<br />blooms March - June
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/northern-oak-woodlands/thumbs/thumbs_Blue Eyed Grass2.JPG]4570Blue Eyed Grass
tufted perennial with a short root stalk<br />deep blue flowers are 6-parted with yellow centers; appear on the top of branching, flattish, foot-tall stems<br />blooms March - June

Redwood Forest

Cretaceous coal deposits contain fossil records of Coast Redwoods looking very much like they do today. Redwoods were once much more widely distributed, however. The remains of a grove have been found in Costa Mesa, California, but today the Redwoods are restricted to a narrow, noncontiguous coastal strip from upper San Luis Obispo County to Brooking, Oregon (just over the California border). This is temperate rainforest with an annual rainfall of 60 - 140 and an additional 12 or so of precipitation in the form of fog drip.

[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/redwood-forest/thumbs/thumbs_Redwood.JPG]13120Redwood
common name Coast Redwood<br />the tallest trees in the world<br />tiny seeds: there are120,000 per pound!<br />evergreen<br />life span of 1500 years<br />grows as high as 350 feet at maturity<br />the tallest living tree ever found is a Coast Redwood nicknamed “Hyperion” in Redwood National Park. It is 378 feet tall!<br />the base of the trunk has burls capable of resprouting. The reddish brown bark is very thick and spongy. the needles are flat, soft, pointed and 1/2” to 1” long, two-ranked and arranged in flat sprays. Male and female flowers are found on the same tree. The cone is about the size and shape of a large grape<br />Native Americans used the wood for structures and canoes
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/redwood-forest/thumbs/thumbs_Redwood2.JPG]11220Redwood
common name Coast Redwood<br />the tallest trees in the world<br />tiny seeds: there are120,000 per pound!<br />evergreen<br />life span of 1500 years<br />grows as high as 350 feet at maturity<br />the tallest living tree ever found is a Coast Redwood nicknamed “Hyperion” in Redwood National Park. It is 378 feet tall!<br />the base of the trunk has burls capable of resprouting. The reddish brown bark is very thick and spongy. the needles are flat, soft, pointed and 1/2” to 1” long, two-ranked and arranged in flat sprays. Male and female flowers are found on the same tree. The cone is about the size and shape of a large grape<br />Native Americans used the wood for structures and canoes
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/redwood-forest/thumbs/thumbs_Tanbark Oak.JPG]10390Tanbark Oak
not a true oak (but related to the oak family)<br />evergreen tree with a narrow conical crown; 60 - 150 feet tall at maturity; trunk 3 - 7 feet in diameter<br />bark is thick and fissured<br />male flowers are yellowish-white in erect catkins; brown-green female flowers are at the base of the catkins; blooms June - October<br />fruit (acorns) September - November<br />tannin is extracted from the bark and used to tan leather
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/redwood-forest/thumbs/thumbs_Wax Myrtle.JPG]10130Wax Myrtle
6 - 10 foot shrub or small tree can reach 50 feet tall<br />bark is smooth, thin, gray or light brown<br />male bracts are light brown and papery; female bracts are found on different branches and are greenish<br />flower March - April<br />brown-purple fruits about 1/2 inch in diameter; June - August

Riparian Woodland

Riparian habitat is the habitat along freshwater rivers and streams, and it exists within all other plant communities where water flows most of the year. Flowing water is much more common in Northern California than in the South, but this habitat is found along the Ortega Highway and the Corona Freeway. In nature, the water table, snow melt and seasonal differences determine the amount of available water in a riparian plant community. The stream at the ENC is run by a recirculating pump and the area is representative of an arroyo riparian community.

[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/riparian-woodland/thumbs/thumbs_Arroyo Willow.JPG]19380Arroyo Willow
thicket-forming shrub or small tree<br />pale, gray-brown bark and slender erect branches form a narrow, irregular crown<br />narrow, leathery leaves, dark green above, whitish and hairy on the underside; reverse lance-shaped and blunt pointed at both ends<br />catkins 1 - 2 inches long with dense, long white hairs form in early spring<br />used by Native Americans to alleviate headaches<br />Salix species are host plants for several butterfly species, including the Western Tiger Swallowtail, Loquin's Admiral, Mourning Cloak, Viceroy, and several Hairstreaks
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/riparian-woodland/thumbs/thumbs_Blackberry.JPG]17710California Blackberry
thorny, trailing shrub; grows in dense, impenetrable thickets<br />tri-foliate leaves<br />white, 5-petaled flowers grow in clusters of 2 to 15<br />berries are edible; dried leaves make a delicious tea
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/riparian-woodland/thumbs/thumbs_Mulefat.JPG]17370Mule Fat
large bush with sticky foliage<br />plentiful small, fuzzy, pink or red-tinged white flowers<br />Native Americans boiled the leaves to make a liquid for cleaning wounds<br />the wood was used to make arrows and fire-making drills<br />Baccharis flowers are a favorite nectar source for many butterflies
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/riparian-woodland/thumbs/thumbs_Sycamore.JPG]17090Sycamore
<br />deciduous tree often growing to 90 feet high<br />stout trunks usually twisted and leaning, with smooth, whitish bark peeling in reddish-brown flakes, creating a mottled effect<br />star-shaped, yellowish-green leaves with hairy undersides grow up to 10" wide and are divided into 3 to 5 deep, pointed lobes<br />flowers are small in 2 to 7 ball-like clusters on slender stalks near the ends of the branches<br />fruiting balls approximately 1" in diameter fall apart in winter, releasing small seed-like nutlets<br />hummingbirds weave the downy undersides of these leaves into their nests<br />host plant to the Western Tiger Swallowtail
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/riparian-woodland/thumbs/thumbs_SycamoreBark.JPG]16880Sycamore
deciduous tree often growing to 90 feet high<br />stout trunks usually twisted and leaning, with smooth, whitish bark peeling in reddish-brown flakes, creating a mottled effect<br />star-shaped, yellowish-green leaves with hairy undersides grow up to 10" wide and are divided into 3 to 5 deep, pointed lobes<br />flowers are small in 2 to 7 ball-like clusters on slender stalks near the ends of the branches<br />fruiting balls approximately 1" in diameter fall apart in winter, releasing small seed-like nutlets<br />hummingbirds weave the downy undersides of these leaves into their nests<br />host plant to the Western Tiger Swallowtail

South Oak Woodland

The Southern Oak Woodland habitat is located in the foothills below 4,000 feet from the Pasadena region to San Dimas and south to eastern San Diego County. It gets 15 - 25 inches of rain annually, and temperatures are mild to warm. The growing season is 7 - 10 months. Luiseños Native Americans made their lives here, hunting deer and making stone and bone tools. Today, raccoons and coyotes hunt on the ground while Turkey Vultures and Red-Shouldered Hawks patrol above.

[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/south-oak-woodland/thumbs/thumbs_California Black Walnut.JPG]7730California Black Walnut
small to medium-sized deciduous tree up to 40 feet tall, with several trunks<br />shiny green leaves, alternate, compound, 6” to 9” long with 11 - 15 leaflets<br />small, greenish male and female flowers in early spring<br />1” diameter walnuts<br />Cahuilla Native Americans used the hulls of the black walnut to make a dye for their baskets
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/south-oak-woodland/thumbs/thumbs_LemonadeBerries-1.JPG]6170Lemonadeberry
evergreen, aromatic, rounded, thicket-forming shrub up to 20 feet high<br />elliptical leaves are stiff and leathery, 1" - 2" long and mostly without teeth. Leaves are shiny dark green above and pale with raised veins underneath<br />1/4" flowers with 5 pinkish-white petals are clustered at the end of the twig<br />1/2" fruit is elliptical, berry-like, dark red, hairy and covered with a white, resinous, sour secretion<br />Native Americans dried, soaked, and heated the berries, producing a drink that tastes like pink lemonade<br />The Cahuilla Native Americans used a tea made out of the leaves for coughs and colds<br />leaves were often smoked<br />stems used in basketry
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/south-oak-woodland/thumbs/thumbs_LemonadeBerry.JPG]5810Lemonadeberry
evergreen, aromatic, rounded, thicket-forming shrub up to 20 feet high<br />elliptical leaves are stiff and leathery, 1" - 2" long and mostly without teeth. Leaves are shiny dark green above and pale with raised veins underneath<br />1/4" flowers with 5 pinkish-white petals are clustered at the end of the twig<br />1/2" fruit is elliptical, berry-like, dark red, hairy and covered with a white, resinous, sour secretion<br />Native Americans dried, soaked, and heated the berries, producing a drink that tastes like pink lemonade<br />The Cahuilla Native Americans used a tea made out of the leaves for coughs and colds<br />leaves were often smoked<br />stems used in basketry
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/south-oak-woodland/thumbs/thumbs_Poison Oak.JPG]5690Poison Oak
"Leaves of three, Let it be!" The resin of this plant causes a painful rash for most people<br />tall, stiff, bushy plant, with three leaves, arranged alternately<br />flowers April - May<br />Native Americans used poison oak for fire-making drills

Valley Grassland

This community encompasses a number of perennial bunch grasses as well as many of our common wildflowers. The California Poppy grows here, along with blue-eyed grass, lupines and many plants from the aster family. This habitat is found in the Great Central Valley and the low hot valleys of the inner Coast Ranges such as Antelope Valley, and ascending to about 4,000 feet in the Tehachapi Mountains and eastern San Diego County. The growing season is 7 to 11 months, and 6 - 20 of rain falls annually.

Yellow Pine Forest

The Yellow Pine Forest is found throughout California. In the North Coast ranges it is found at elevations of 3000-6000 feet, in Northern California at 1200 - 5000 feet, in the Sierra Nevadas from 2000 - 6500, and in Southern California at elevations of 5000 - 8000 feet. The average rainfall is 25 - 80, partly as snow. The growing season is 4 - 7 months.

[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/yellow-pine-forest/thumbs/thumbs_Giant Sequoia2.JPG]31300Giant Sequoia
the most massive trees in the world (related species the Coast Redwood, is the tallest)<br />seeds are so tiny there are 91,000 seeds per pound!<br />Old growth sequoias trunks average 10 - 15 feet in diameter and about 250 feet in height<br />The largest sequoia, nicknamed "The General Sherman Tree," is found in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park. It is 275 feet tall with a circumference of 102.6 feet<br />life span of 2500 years<br />cinnamon-colored trunk<br />native only to a narrow belt within the cool Sierra Nevada forest zone
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/yellow-pine-forest/thumbs/thumbs_Bitter Cherry_Michael Charters.jpg]30300Bitter Cherry
this tree grows in thickets 10 to 15 feet tall<br />gray bark gives off a cherry fragrance when bruised; new twigs are reddish<br />leaves are oval and alternate; 1 or 2 glands can be seen at the base of the blade<br />white flowers appear in July, and have an almond-like fragrance<br />extremely bitter red berries appear in autumn
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/yellow-pine-forest/thumbs/thumbs_Giant Sequoia.JPG]29890Giant Sequoia
the most massive trees in the world (related species the Coast Redwood, is the tallest)<br />seeds are so tiny there are 91,000 seeds per pound!<br />Old growth sequoias trunks average 10 - 15 feet in diameter and about 250 feet in height<br />The largest sequoia, nicknamed "The General Sherman Tree," is found in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park. It is 275 feet tall with a circumference of 102.6 feet<br />life span of 2500 years<br />cinnamon-colored trunk<br />native only to a narrow belt within the cool Sierra Nevada forest zone
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/yellow-pine-forest/thumbs/thumbs_Giant Sequoia3.JPG]29530Giant Sequoia
the most massive trees in the world (related species the Coast Redwood, is the tallest)<br />seeds are so tiny there are 91,000 seeds per pound!<br />Old growth sequoias trunks average 10 - 15 feet in diameter and about 250 feet in height<br />The largest sequoia, nicknamed "The General Sherman Tree," is found in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park. It is 275 feet tall with a circumference of 102.6 feet<br />life span of 2500 years<br />cinnamon-colored trunk<br />native only to a narrow belt within the cool Sierra Nevada forest zone
[img src=http://encenter.org/wp-content/flagallery/yellow-pine-forest/thumbs/thumbs_Jeffrey Pine.JPG]29400Jeffrey Pine
the rugged pine most often seen clinging to stark granite domes in the Sierra Nevada<br />big-limbed spreading crown, and a stout, reddish barked trunk with lots of furrows<br />barks smells like vanilla<br />mature height ranges from 65 - 190 feet<br />blue-green needles<br />cones resemble a pineapple and are about 6.5" long and 5" wide; scales are thick; spines point down

Plant Communities of California at the ENC

California’s varied topography, climate and soils have given rise to a remarkable diversity of habitats, with a corresponding diversity of both plant and animal species. The ENC showcases representative plants from 15 of California’s plant communities, although it does not come close to representing all of California’s amazing biodiversity!

Download the ENC’s Plant Communities Guide to learn about California’s flora or click on the links below to learn about each plant community.

Topography
Geological and climatic forces have created California’s topography and soils. Glaciation, sedimentary and volcanic deposits, movement along fault zones, the uplift of subterranean rock and sediment layers, and gradual erosion have created unique topographical features and an assortment of disparate bedrock and soil types.

Habitats
California’s extensive range of latitude, along with the varied landscape features, climatic conditions, and geological substrates and soils that exist here has yielded a tremendous diversity of habitats, including alpine meadows, desert scrub, coastal wetlands, sandy beaches, dunes and bluffs, oak woodlands, diverse grasslands, moist redwood forests, spring-fed lakes, and freshwater streams, rivers, and marshes.

The factors that determine where and how a particular plant species grows are:

  • Weather, including precipitation, temperature and wind
  • Climate, including elevation, humidity, sunlight, heating effects and evaporation rates
  • Substrate, including rock and shallow, sandy, loamy or muddy soil
  • Local Effects, including fire, soil creep, frozen winter soil and disturbances from burrowing animals and human activities

Plants adapt to combinations of these factors by growing specialized leaves, bark, stem tissues and roots. With its exceptional range of these factors, California has more species than any other state in the US, as well as the greatest number of endemic (existing nowhere else) species. As a result, California is one of the top “hotspots” for biodiversity in the world.


Photo Credits for Plant Communities of California at the ENC: ENC Staff
Bibliography for Plant Communities of California at the ENC:
A Natural History of California (California Natural History Guides) by Allan A. Schoenherr
Natural History of the Islands of California by Allan A. Schoenherr, C. Robert Feldmeth, and Michael J. Emerson