CNPS San Diego Chapter - California Native Plant Society

Work Party at Old Town State Park Native Plant Garden
Peter's report below (click here)

June of 2007April of 2008

Peter St.Clair plants the first oak

Volunteers hard at work

On Saturday, April 12, more than 120 volunteers planted 250 California native plants and virtually eliminated weedy Garland chrysanthemum from the north end of San Diego Old Town Historic State Park.

The 2 to 3 acre planting was designed by CNPS member and landscape architect, Kay Stewart working with State Parks' landscape architect, Robert Patterson and maintenance supervisor, Guy Raffetto.

It was very helpful that Ronie Clark, Superintendent of the Coastal Division of California State Parks, was once a CNPS San Diego officer and good friends with Kay. Ronie approved the project virtually the day she received CNPS San Diego's letter asking for permission to restore the garden. In addition to Bob Patterson, her staff historians and archaeologists worked closely with Kay and CNPS to realize this first phase of a project that is planned to transform a number of Old Town State Park's landscaped areas and approach to identifying key plants used by residents of Old Town through history.

CNPS San Diego and its partners, San Diego River Park Foundation, State of California Parks and Recreation Department, and the state-chartered San Diego River Conservancy, planted annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees that would have flourished along the San Diego River, which before 1850 ran along Taylor Street, then south on Congress Street toward San Diego Bay.

The plants are representative of the most important riparian and riverbank species used historically and contemporaneously by the Kumeyaay, whose village of Koss'ai (Cosoy) was founded tens of thousands of years before Spanish, Mexican and American settlers arrived in what we now call Old Town.

Kumeyaay ethnobotanist Richard Bugbee, working with Kumeyaay elder Jane Dumas and a number of tribal healers in California and northern Baja provided CNPS San Diego with information on California native plant species used for food, to construct shelter, to make baskets, clothes tools and medicine. The Kumeyaay names and uses will ultimately be reflected in new interpretive signage at the California Native Plant Garden and linked to other exhibits in Old Town.

In addition to providing plants, CNPS San Diego paid for site work, an expanded irrigation system, and tons of mulch to be applied around April 21. The funds came from a bequest from Rita Delapa, a CNPS member and volunteer, whose interest was to showcase native plants in public places. CNPS graciously matched the bequest with chapter funds. The plants and irrigation system will be donated to the State of California.

CNPS will be hosting monthly maintenance work-days at the native plant garden starting in June. To volunteer, please contact Peter St.Clair at

San Diego River Park Foundation provided advice on selection, care and maintenance of riparian species and was responsible for recruiting at least 100 of the volunteers, using its extensive network and contacts among community-based organizations interested in parks, plants, culture and history along the San Diego River.

CNPS is engaged in discussions with the San Diego River Conservancy to use state bonds funds to pay for later phases of the California native plant restoration in Old Town State Park, and more extensive interpretive programs, signs and other information on California native plants, their uses by the Kumeyaay and subsequent residents of Old Town, and the history and ecology of the San Diego River and its watershed.

The Old Town State Historic Park Native Plant Garden is located at the north end of the park, just east of the Old Town Trolley Stop (Congress St.), south of Taylor St., west of the old CalTrans HQ, and north of McCoy House. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There is no charge for entry. The native plant garden is just steps from the trolley, but there is often free parking available in lots on the west side of Calhoun St. just north of Taylor Street and immediately east of the north end of the native plant garden.


[Dedicated to the Preservation of California Native Flora]
California Native Plant Society, San Diego Chapter
c/o San Diego Natural History Museum - P.O. Box 121390, San Diego, CA 92112-1390 -