California flora

By Levi Clancy for לוי on

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Mediterranean region

Mediterranean plants evolved to deal with dry summers and wet winters. Very unique climates.

Mediterranean plants from other regions on the world. Where are the Mediterranean regions? Mediterranean, California, Central Chile, South Australia, South Africa.

Small white leaves that point up and smell good. These also need fire to regenerate

Coast Live Oak California has about 20 native oaks. It is a temperate tree, distinguishable by its radial branching (to collect sunlight cast at an angle); small leaves; leaves hard and dry, don't hold water.

Native California Indians in the past used oak as a staple crop. The acorns are smashed and rolled into a paste and then drained with water to leach out the tannins (The red stuff in wine). After water is poured through the acorn mush a number of times, hot rocks are dropped in the basket to heat it up. The end product tastes like a hot oatmeal.

Ribbonwood Common in Chaparral of California. Notice the branches that hang out. Need fire to regenerate. Bark is flammable and contains turpentine.

Manzanita (Spanish little apple) About 60 different species of genus Arctostaphylos (manzanita) in California. Leaves are small and face upwards to capture sunlight (typical of temperate vegetation). The bark is dense and the branches are hardy. Native Indians used the branches to make bow and arrow. The ‘apple’ fruits are also used to make cider.

Lamiaceae Salvia (White sage) The leaves give off a mint flavor which acts as a form of chemical defense for the plant. You would not eat to much of it or get sick. Natives use the leaves for treating headaches. Further up, you will find another variety of sage plant. The fragrant leaves are used to produce incense.

Ceanothus Another Mediterranean scrub. There are over 60 species in California. Easy to ID by three veins in the leaf and greenish bark. The seeds are hard to open. Require fire to open up the seeds for regeneration.

Temperate region

Oak Notice that the branches sprout out in different direction to capture sunlight. The trunk is short.

California Coastal Redwood World’s tallest tree at 300 feet (100 meters). Typically found in Northern California; Used to be widespread in all of America and Europe but is now restricted to California/Oregon coast. The redwood is now endangered due to heavy logging. Old growth redwoods have been reduced to less than 1% of their original range in the last 200 years. This particular tree easily fetches $5000 in the timber market.

California Buckwheat Indians mash up the seeds to make pancake, this is from California. Ever heard of the El Segundo Blue Butterfly? It lives on the Coast in a patch of Coastal Scrub at the End of the LAX runway and the Chervon Refinery and at Torrance Beach. It only can eat only one species of Buckwheat that is found in that small area

Bald Cyprus Found in the south; occur in swamps; especially in southern states such as Louisiana and Alabama. Note how it is a temperate tree. Leaves are like needles

Torrey Pine Rarest pine species. Endemic to San Diego county (near La Jolla) and Santa Rosa island. Very resistant to urban smog. Needs fire to regenerate. Fire suppression has caused the tree to be endangered. Note that the needles are sharp to protect the trees from animals. As a rule of thumb, the colder the environment, the shorter the needles.

California Buckeye Deciduous Temperate tree. Uses: Toxic seed pods are used by native Indians for fishing. You crush the Buckeye seeds and through them in a stream. Them the fish are stunned by there poison (no oxygen to gills) and they float to the top.

Tropical region

Note that most tropical trees have narrow trunk and a huge canopy on the top to tap the sunlight; leaves are generally broader. Long straight trunk. Branches are restricted to the top. Large leaves, not needles. Note Tropical trees generally have smooth bark so no fungus grow.

Palm Palm generally only grows in the tropics. One native species in Southern California; but only in the palm oases of desert – not Los Angeles or the coast

Re-introduced trees

Dawn Redwood from China. Once widespread across North America, lot of fossil evidence even from LA. Discovered in central China in 1944. Note how the tree trunk twist upwards to reinforce the strength of the tree. It is Deciduous = drops its leave in winter. Evergreen trees keep their leaves.

Cycads A small group of slow growing gymnosperms that survive in tropical and subtropical habitats. Widespread and common during the Jurassic period (when dinosaurs roam the earth). Highly valued. Try to identify the male and female species. Note: Red seeds are used as an aphrodisiac! This is what goes in your gas tank.

Ginko Tree Originate from Asia, fan-shape leaves; gives off a slightly pungent smell. Formerly a fossil remain but was rediscovered and cultivated in China (was once common in North America and Europe). Long-lived trees, often growing over 100 feet tall. Excellent resistance to disease, pests, fires and air pollution. Ginkgo leaves are a Chinese herb and are touted to help in short-term memory improvement; depression; impotence, etc. Also for ornamental purposes. (said to be the most common tree planted along Manhattan sidewalks).