Styles of the New California Garden

Peyton Ellas, Quercus Landscape Design

It used to be that a California native garden meant only a wild-looking, informal garden, or that you could add some California native plants among your existing non-native (exotic) plants in standard planting beds. California landscaping has gone through a phase where a dry creek had to be part of a native-plant garden, and I still add dry-creeks and similar water-theme features in some of my landscape designs, but it’s no longer mandatory. We’ve seen wildflower meadows and native-grass-as-turf-substitute styles come and go.

The new California garden seems to be developing along the following basic styles. See if any of these fit with your yard or goals.

A Cottage style Garden with a mix of native and non-native species to ensure year-round interest. Visalia, CA.

Cottage Style.  This is an informal scheme, with plants that flow into each other in a tapestry of color, form, and foliage type. ABritish term from the 1870’s, “wild garden” is often included in the California native cottage-style garden. The trick is to make sure there is something interesting happening all the time and, if in a front yard, that at least a minimal sense of control is maintained. Structure cannot be forgotten, since the garden must look good even when plants are dormant or are not blooming.

Probably the most well-known Garden Room is a simple place for seating and conversation! With Eriogonum fasculatumPopulus fremontii and a riparian zone as a back wall, with Calystegia macrostegiaand Vitis californica ‘Rogers Red’ draping over a metal-pole pergola. Springville, CA

Garden “Rooms”. In this style, each area has a distinct purpose and look. Garden “Rooms” are a common Mediterranean style, seen all over the world. In the California native plant garden, some rooms may look livelier than others at the different times of the year. There is an emphasis on outdoor living, and special attention to the design concept of floors, walls, and ceilings. Sometimes floor surfaces are used both indoors and outdoors to blend the line between rooms. Outdoor couches, dining areas, and outdoor kitchens are other features of the Garden Room style, often with California wild grape rambling over pergolas.

Backyard garden featuring California natives, like this Salvia apiana, in a modification of French parterre style. Exeter, CA

French Style. Do you have hedges surrounding planting beds? Do you include a kitchen garden surrounded by California ornamental plants? Do you have a long row of trees or shrubs bordering a path or driveway? These, along with raised beds and geometric patterns, are from French landscape design. Using California plants in a more orderly, formal way is perhaps the newest way we are using our state’s species.

Japanese Style. Ideas such as the “borrowed view” and using rocks to mimic water in the garden fit in quite well with the new California garden. Anytime we use bouldersstrategically, or design a strollingpath with turns and mysteries, we are using Japanese garden inspiration.

Americans have always borrowed ideas from around the world for landscape inspiration. In our new California gardens, we continue to use themes that have been pleasing for generations. Thinking in terms of design helps us organize what we are doing and guides our plant choices. Which style is yours?

Article reposted from

Baja California: Renewable Energy in Natural Areas

By César García Valderrama, President of CNPS-Baja California Chapter

Article at CNPS

The CNPS Baja California Chapter shares the biodiversity of the California Floristic Province and the Sonoran Desert that ignores national boundaries. We also share common problems—including habitat loss, urban sprawl, and climate change. Recent proposals for renewable energy projects in Baja California exemplify how these issues are presenting new challenges on both sides of the border.

Renewable energy farms have been placed in natural ecosystems across the world. While positive results have been realized for energy production, environmental conditions and biodiversity have concurrently declined. A few years ago in Baja California a wind farm was developed by Sempra Energy, one of the world’s largest energy companies. The farm currently maintains 40 wind turbines but plans are in the works to build over 1000 more. This growth will impact over 7000 acres of mountain habitat. The project is named Energia Sierra Juarez after the Sierra Juarez Mountains—one of Baja California’s most endearing environments. The region is home to stands of chaparral, oak woodland and some of the last coniferous forests in the state.

The wind farm has been built on private or communal (ejido) land, providing economic benefits for the landowners but compromising the health of natural areas that benefit the whole region. Powerlines are essential for energy transport but can start fires—as has happened in California. Road building for the infrastructure of the power plant will degrade habitat health by vectoring nonnative species into the area while also increasing the risk of fires. Lastly, wind turbines are dangerous to large migratory birds, including the USA’s and Mexico’s national symbols, the Bald and Golden Eagle respectively.

A flawed environmental impact report prompted several environmental groups, led by our sister organization Terra Peninsular, to sue the Mexican government. The suit failed, it is speculated, due to the amount of money involved in the project and its benefits to the local economy in Baja California. This was a disheartening outcome. Sierra Juarez is not only valuable habitat but also offers important ecosystem services to the region, including being the headwaters of watersheds that feed Tijuana and Ensenada, as well as purveying a significant area for carbon sequestration. Adding to the insult, most of this energy will go directly to United States consumers across the border. It is inconceivable that Mexico will assume most of the environmental risks, while a foreign company will reap all of the benefits.

Not all the news is bad. A proposal for a new solar farm and a toxic dump containment site in a desert area with rich vegetation has recently been postponed. Close to Mexicali, a city with some of the worst air quality in the West, a network of environmental activists and academics discovered flaws with the EIR and sent it back to the drawing board. This has halted the project for now.

As a small environmental community in northwestern Baja California with limited resources, we have few options to properly assess these projects. We need allies across the border to provide access to the legal tools needed to protect the environment and quality of life throughout the entire California Floristic Province and beyond.

Energías Renovables en Áreas Naturales de Baja California

by César García Valderrama

Director General en Nativs de las Californias A.C. Presidente de la Sociedad de Plantas Nativas de Baja California

La sección Baja California de la Sociedad de Plantas Nativas de California comparten la Provincia Florística de California y el desierto de Sonora que a su vez ignoran los límites políticos. También compartimos problemas en común – incluyendo perdida de hábitat, crecimiento urbano y cambio climático. Recientemente propuestas para proyectos de energías renovables en Baja California ejemplifican como estos temas están presentando nuevos retos en ambos lados de la frontera.

Sierra Juarez Manzanita (Arctostaphylos peninsularis subsp. juarezensis) by Jeff Bisbee

Las granjas de energías renovables se han emplazado en ecosistemas naturales por todo el mundo. Mientras que resultados positivos han sido logrados para la producción energética, las condiciones ambientales y la biodiversidad han ido en declive. Hace unos años en Baja California, una granja eólica fue desarrollada por Sempra Energy, una de las compañías energéticas más grandes en el planeta. La granja actualmente mantiene 40 turbinas eólicas pero hay planes para colocar hasta 1000 en total. Este crecimiento impactará mas de 2,800ha de hábitat de montaña. El proyecto lleva el nombre de Energía Sierra Juarez precisamente por las montañas de Sierra de Juarez, uno de los ambientes más entrañables de Baja California. La región es el hogar de áreas de chaparral, encinales, así como los últimos bosques de coníferas en el estado.

La granja eólica ha sido construida en propiedad privada y ejidal, proveyendo beneficios económicos a los dueños pero comprometiendo la salud de las áreas naturales que benefician a toda la región. Las lineas de transmisión eléctrica son esenciales para el transporte de la energía pero también pueden iniciar incendios – tal como ha sucedido en California. La construcción de caminos para la infraestructura eléctrica degradarán hábitat saludable introduciendo especies no nativas, incrementando a su vez el riesgo de incendios. Finalmente, las turbinas eólicas son peligrosas para aves migratorias grandes, incluyendo los símbolos de México y Estados Unidos, el Águila Real y el Águila de Cabeza Blanca respectivamente.

Un manifiesto de impacto ambiental con diversas imprecisiones motivó a varios grupos ambientalistas, dirigidos por nuestra organización hermana Terra Peninsular, a demandar al gobierno mexicano. La demanda, se puede especular, no prosperó debido a la cantidad de intereses económicos involucrados en el proyecto, así como los beneficios a la economía local de Baja California. Este fue un desenlace decepcionante. Sierra de Juarez no solo es hábitat invaluable, sino que también provee importantes servicios ecológicos a la región, incluyendo ser el origen de las cuencas desembocan en Tijuana y Ensenada, así como también ser un área vital para la captación de carbono. Agregando al insulto, esta energía irá directamente a los consumidores al norte de la frontera. Es inconcebible que las comunidades mexicanas asuman la mayoría de los costos ambientales, mientras que una compañía extranjera disfruta de los beneficios.

Sin embargo no todas las noticias son malas. La propuesta para una granja solar y un sitio de contención de desechos tóxicos en un área con vegetación significativa en el desierto ha sido pospuesto. Cerca de Mexicali, una de las ciudades con peor calidad de aire en el Oeste, una red de activistas ambientales y académicos descubrieron errores y omisiones en el manifiesto de impacto ambiental y el proyecto ha sido retractado. Esto ha detenido el proyecto por ahora.

Como parte de una pequeña comunidad ambiental en el noroeste de Baja California con recursos limitados, tenemos opciones limitadas para poder evaluar adecuadamente estos proyectos. Se necesitan aliados del otro lado de la frontera para poder accesar recursos legales con la finalidad de proteger el medio ambiente y la calidad de vida en toda la Provincia Florística de las Californias y más allá.


Photo credit: Martha Pineda


Photo credit: Martha Pineda

Weeding, or The Story of Bob Smith and Sondra Boddy’s California Native Garden – Part Three

Pulling Weeds YCC crew decided to spend some time pulling weeds along one of the walking trails. Photo Credit: BRMBR YCC

By Sondra Boddy, Garden Committee Member

With over 16 inches of rain since October, everything in our California native garden is growing – including a bumper crop of weeds!  Before we can sit back and enjoy the spectacular spring wildflower display, we are working on getting rid of these annoying trespassers. Hand-weeding is our preferred eradication method in late winter, when the ground is soft and the weeds are large enough to be pulled out from the roots. Pulling weeds might not be your idea of fun, but it is very important and there are ways to make it easier and more enjoyable. It can even be good for you. How? Read on, California Native DIY Gardeners!

Eradicating weeds is important not only because it improves the appearance of your garden, but also because it promotes the health of your garden. Non-native or “naturalized” species are genetically programmed to compete with native species; they usually grow and bloom faster, blocking out sunlight and hogging water and nutrients. If left unchecked, weeds can damage or even kill oaks and other native flora by disrupting the fragile fungal network in the soil which allows native plants to share resources and support one another. Pulling weeds promotes good “garden hygiene,” which is essential to building a vibrant California native garden. 

Before you wade out into the sea of green meanies, here are some general pointers: 

1.  Learn to recognize weeds. A great resource is San Diego County Native Plants by James Lightner, which contains photos and descriptions of more than 1,000 native and naturalized species found in San Diego County. Many common weeds like Sow Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus), Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) and Weedy Mallow (Malva parviflora) are easy to identify, but be on the look-out for sneaky interlopers like London Rocket (Sisymbrium irio), Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) and Brass Buttons (Cotula australis). Unless you are actively welcoming native volunteers into your garden, our advice is: “When in doubt, pull it out!”

Sow Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) non-native weed in California

2.  If you sow California native wildflower seeds in the fall or winter (and we think you should!), keep track of where you sowed them by marking the area with a landscaping flag or by recording the location in a garden journal. Find a photo of what that particular wildflower looks like as a seedling.  A good source is the S&S Seeds website ( Knowing how to distinguish good from bad will help you to stay focused when you are out there making decisions about what to pull.

3.  Pulling weeds is easier when the soil is wet, after a good rain. But the sooner you do it, the better, because weeds grow fast and you need to pull them out before they flower. Weed seeds can survive for years and germinate when conditions are right. Because of all the rain we have had this year, we are seeing weeds in our garden that we have never seen before.

Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) non-native weed in California

Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) non-native weed in California

Now that you are ready to tackle the job, let us give you some tips on how to make weeding easier and more enjoyable:

1.  Wear light garden gloves to protect your hands.  Some weeds are prickly and others can cause skin rashes.

2.  Stretch and shake out your body before you start. Adopt a wide stance and slowly lean forward over one bended knee as you reach and pull the weeds that are within arms-length distance. Go easy. Avoid sudden movements and don’t strain yourself. If bending from the waist bothers your back, try bending both knees and crouching down or kneeling. If you get tired, sit on the ground or stand up and stroll around. Take a break, then get back to work.

3.  Weeds with wide, flat leaves and round fleshy stems often break off when you try to pull them out. For these types of weeds, we recommend using a weeding tool. It has a long handle with a forked prong at the end. Position it vertically on top of the weed and plunge down as far as you can into the soil. Wiggle the tool back and forth, make a small circular motion to loosen the roots, then reach down and gently pull the weed out. If it breaks off, take heart. It might never grow back, and at least you slowed it down. If it does grow back, you will get it next time.

4.   Keep a plastic bag or trash can nearby so that you can isolate weed material as soon as you remove it from the ground. If that is not feasible and your hands are full, throw it onto a driveway or other hard surface. Avoid throwing it on the ground.

5.   Be careful with weeds that are flowering. Resist the urge to shake soil off the roots, as you might just be helping that pesky invader to complete its mission, and that soil could be contaminated anyway. You can always fill divots with clean topsoil, if necessary. If you find a weed that has already gone to seed, cup one hand over the seedhead as you pull with the other hand so that the seeds don’t blow away and escape into your garden. 

6.   Dispose of all weed material in a green waste can. Don’t compost it or leave it laying around.  Some weeds are remarkably resilient and can release viable seeds or even take root again after being pulled out of the ground.

7.   If you have a large property, work one area at a time, as it will give you a sense of accomplishment and you will be more efficient. If the task seems overwhelming, prioritize: concentrate on the larger weeds, the ones that are flowering, and the ones that are near your native plants. Don’t forget to look underneath your shrubs and perennials; lots of weeds like to hide under there.

8.   Drink lots of fluids – your beverage of choice! Take breaks and treat yourself to a favorite snack. Reward yourself.

9.    Unlike other garden maintenance tasks such as pruning and mulching, which often can be done in a day, weeding requires sustained effort throughout the rainy season because those pesky invaders just keep coming. Don’t get discouraged; keep at it. Strive for improvement, not perfection, each time you go outside to pull weeds. If you have recently started your California native garden, you may need to do more weeding now than in later years, when your lovely native plants are covering more open ground.

If this sounds like back-breaking hard work and drudgery, let us explain how we think weeding can be beneficial for both you and your garden:  

1.  Weeding is a form of exercise. Repeatedly bending from the waist, reaching, pulling, straightening up and throwing strengthens the muscles in your arms, legs and torso, and burns 200-400 calories per hour. While you are outside weeding, soak up the sunlight and breathe in the fresh air – that’s good for you too!  

2.  Weeding gets you out into your garden and gives you a close-up view of what is going on. You might experience the joy of seeing a young perennial blooming for the first time, a favorite tree sprouting, or something unexpected like a native Wild Cucumber (Marah macrocarpus) poking its way up through the soil. Or you may notice something that needs attention like a shrub that has been attacked by a gopher or a tree that needs staking after a rainstorm. Make mental notes or carry a small notepad and jot down notes of things that you may need to go back and fix later. 

3.   Weeding is also a wonderful way to connect with Mother Nature. As you are working your way through your garden, try not to focus only on the weeds. Yes, you have a job to do, but allow your eyes to take in all the beauty around you. Late winter is a magical time in the garden. Step back and admire the fresh green foliage of a shrub after you have finished weeding around it. Stop and appreciate the birds, bees, butterflies and insects that you have attracted into your garden. Tune into the sounds of the birds and see how many calls you recognize. Or, if you prefer, you can strap on your smartphone and earbuds and listen to music or an audiobook while you are weeding, or turn on the speaker and have a nice, long conversation with a friend or loved one. Before you know it, your garden will be looking great and you will be feeling great.

The winter rains are a blessing and we are so grateful for them, but they foster fast-growing weeds that impair the beauty and health of our beloved California native gardens. If weeding is too boring or too tiring for you, or you don’t have time, get a gardener to do it. Even the best California Native DIY Gardeners need a little help sometimes. Just please don’t ignore the problem. Weed on, San Diego!

~ Sondra Boddy, Garden Committee Member

Sondra is the owner of Maximum Impact Writing and can be reached at

Native Moonshine

By Susan Kryzwicki for the California Native Plant Society Blog

Last year, I gave you my tried and true shortbread recipe. This year, I experimented with a new fun project: Tecate Cypress-infused bourbon.

Infused whiskeys and bourbons are all the rage of do-it-yourselfers and of artisanal restauranteurs. The idea is to take stems, greenery, berries, flowers or other plant parts and allow them to transfer flavor to a favorite spirited liquor.

Before you think about trying this at your place: warnings and caveats!

Caveat One: Never put anything in your mouth that you think you have the slightest chance of being allergic to. We are not suggesting that this is 100% safe for you. Call the Poison Control Center Hotline (which I did before I started my experiment) and talk to one of their experts. Call 1-800-222-1222.

Caveat Two: Don’t forage wild plants. Please grow your own, and forage your own garden, or ask permission to pick from someone else’s garden.

Caveat Three: Drink responsibly.

Caveat Four: You may not like these sorts of flavors, so test this out in small batches before you go using up all your expensive supplies.

Here is what I did. I took a small sprig of Tecate Cypress (Cupressus forbesii, now called Hesperocyparis forbesii) – about seven inches long and stuffed it into a quart Mason jar and filled it with bourbon. I set it on my counter in my kitchen and let it seep. Every once in a while I took a sip to see how it was coming along. Many online resources say this takes about two weeks, but after about eight days, I felt the flavor was strong enough to make an impact.

If I had found the flavor to be too strong, I would have simply diluted it with more spirits.

But it is just fine. It tastes slightly resinous. Just like it smells. I love it. For our family get-together on New Year’s Day, we swap under $10 gifts and the theme this year is to bring a gift that has a connection to wherever the person comes from. So, my little Mason jar of Tecate Cypress Bourbon is gonna be a hit, I am sure. I do plan to put a cute label on it, in the holiday spirit, excuse the pun.

If you see any members of my family before the gift exchange on the 1st, don’t let on. This is a surprise.

Why Native Plants Are Better for Birds and People

Why Native Plants Are Better for Birds and People

Article from

By Marina Richie

Your garden is your outdoor sanctuary. With some careful plant choices, it can be a haven for native birds as well. Landscaped with native species, your yard, patio, or balcony becomes a vital recharge station for birds passing through and a sanctuary for nesting and overwintering birds...

So the County got sued again, and...

So the County got sued again, and...

Despite what some may think, I'm not anything like an inside player in local politics. As the latest example, I found out that the Sierra Club and the Cleveland National Forest Foundation are each suing San Diego County again by reading about it online at the UT San Diego. CNPSSD is not involved in either lawsuit, of course--you would have heard about it otherwise. Still, these two suits are part of the difficult struggle we're all facing as San Diego grapples with diverging pressures to decarbonize, to grow, to build huge numbers of affordable homes, and to not destroy what's left of our environment. While I don't know much more about the suits than what is in the newspaper article, I do know a bit about the surrounding conditions, and that's the topic of this essay.

Road to Tree of Life reopens

After a long construction project on the Ortega Highway which limited access to the brilliant Tree of Life Nursery on that road, the project is finished and TOL is celebrating. You can check out their extensive website in advance to gather planting and maintenance details about everything they sell. If you've never been you should visit their beautiful property-you won't come away empty handed.


  • 33201 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano CA 92675
  • 949-728-0685

Farewell to Dichelostemma?

By Fred Roberts, Rare Plant Botanist 

Yes, the name Dichelostemma may soon be a history note in San Diego County and the rest of southern California. The genus Dichelostemma will not be going away, it just won't apply to the plants we have known as blue dicks, school bells or wild hyacinth.

I am writing this in Sacramento to the sound of pounding rain, returning from a two-day symposium hosted by the Northern California Botanists. Not many of you, perhaps none of you, have been to one of these excellent symposiums typically held in early January at Chico, California. It is a good long drive from San Diego. The symposium was held over January 9th and 10th. The drive to get to it and back was also an excellent opportunity to sample the atmospheric river that had been making news and apparently beating at my hotel window.

At the symposium's poster session this morning, a poster presented by a prominent northern California botanist and contributor to the Jepson Manual, Robert Preston, caught my eye. Currently, Preston has been focusing some attention on Brodiaea and related groups. The poster was titled: “Not another Damn Name Change! Why Blue Dicks is not a Dichelostemma”.

Dichelostemma capitatum already has a bit of a checkered history. It has been called variously Hookeria puchella, Brodiaea pulchella, and Dichelostemma pulchella. All three names, as Preston explains, have ultimately been shown to be incorrectly applied to this plant and the name that appeared in the 1993 edition of the Jepson manual was Dicholostemma capitatum. Many of you familiar with Latin names may only have known blue dicks by this latter name. Those of us that spent our formative botany years clutching a Munz book knew this plant as D. pulchella.

Mr. Preston made a compelling argument that we should be using Dipterostemon capitatus for this plant. The name is already available and was proposed by Per Axel Rydberg in 1912. Apparently no one took Rydberg or his name seriously, as you can hardly find reference to it. I'd certainly never heard of it. However, recent researchers have found genetic and embryologic evidence that suggest Rydberg was right on the mark. Will the botanical community at large accept this new name with old roots? Very likely they will. 

Image: Dawn Endico from Menlo Park, California, Dichelostemma capitatum, 2005CC BY-SA 2.0

Plant of the Month (February) : California polypody fern – Polypodium californicum

Article reposted from Mother Nature's Backyard

My, how it’s rained recently; almost 9 inches in January alone.  That’s as much as we sometimes get in an entire year!  The ground is really moist, and some of our perennials are looking the best they have in years.  Coming into its own right now is the one native fern we currently grow – the California polypody, Polypodium californicum.  The scientific name is pronounced pol-ee-PODE-ee-um   ka-li-FOR-ni-kum.

California polypody is a member of the Polypody fern family (Polypodiaceae), a large family of ferns with about 40-50 genera and 500-700 species worldwide. At one time, many more ferns were included in the family and the exact numbers are still debated.  Most polypodies grow in moist climates, commonly in rainforests.  The majority are also epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants, rather than in the soil).  That makes California polypody unique on two accounts: it grows in a mediterranean climate and it grows in the ground.

Ferns are placed in a separate division of the Plant Kingdom (Pteridophyta).Pteridophytes are ancient plant forms that do not produce seeds.  Their life cycle involves alternating generations of sporophytes (what we commonly think of as the ‘ferns’) and gametophytes (small, moss-like plants).  Reproduction depends on water; sperm can only reach eggs to fertilize them via water.

Sporophytes produce tiny spores in small, rounded sori on the bottom surfaces of the leaves.  The spores, given moist growing conditions, develop into the gametophye generation, which produces eggs and sperm.  Fertilized eggs, when they occur, then give rise to new sporophyte plants. For more on ferns and their reproduction see references 1 and 2, below.

California has five native Polypodies. [3]   Only two are native to Southern California: California polypody and Western polypody (Polypodium hesperium).  California polypody has a natural range from the Northern California coast to the coast of Baja California, Mexico.  It grows in shaded canyons, along streambanks, on rocky, north-facing slopes, in rock crevices and on cliffs/coastal bluffs.  It can still be found in the coastal sage scrub and chaparral communities of the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountain foothills and on the southern Channel Islands, at elevations below about 4000 ft. (1500 m.).

California polypody is a small, herbaceous perennial fern.  Its sporophyte generation grows 1-2 ft tall (usually 6-12 inches, but may be taller in garden) and about as wide.   Like most ferns, its leaves (called fronds) are compound, with many leaflets (called pinnae in the ferns) along a stout, hairy midrib.  The fronds are fairly simple, being only once pinnate.  The pinnae have rounded tips and are minutely serrate.  The sori develop on the underside of the pinnae; the indentations of the sori can be seen from the upper side in young leaves (see above). 

Plants spread slowly via stout underground stems (rhizomes). The rhizomes have many knobby projections, alluded to by the scientific name (poly = many; pody = feet). Plants die back to the ground in the dry season (summer/fall).  New fronds appear with the winter rains.  

California polypody is a nice fern for the garden.  Its small size makes it appropriate for even small spaces.  While preferring a well-drained soil, Polypodium californicum can be grown in most S. California soils.   It will tolerate morning sun, dappled shade or quite shady conditions.  It likes good winter/spring moisture, but then needs to dry out by late summer/early fall.  You can water it once a month or so in early/mid-summer and plants are fine with winter flooding.

Ferns don’t ask for much in the way of management.  Trim off dead fronds for neatness – that’s about it.   You can grow Polypodium californicum just about anywhere with some shade and late summer dry.  This is a cute one for a porch container.  It’s charming with shade-tolerant Carex, Heucheras, Columbine (Acquilegia) and other perennials with similar requirements.   It’s often used in moist rock gardens, rocky slopes and fern grottos.  But it can even do well in the dense shade under native oaks and other trees.

A fern often sold as Polypodium californicum ‘Sarah Lyman’ or Polypodium calirhiza 'Sarah Lyman' is actually a hybrid between Polypodium californicum and P. hesperium.  This cultivar has all the characteristics of California polypody, but its leaves are ruffled and much showier.  It’s a little charmer that’s widely available from California native nurseries and online fern sources.  We’ve grown it and love it!

The young fronds (fiddlenecks) can be eaten, raw or cooked, fresh or dried.  Native Californians used the roots in the treatment of coughs, chest soreness, and the pains of rheumatism.  Plants were also used as a laxative and for skin wounds.  This is not a major medicinal plant, but was useful enough to include in our Garden of Health.

Native ferns are an interesting addition to local gardens.  While not as important food, habitat or medicinal plants as other natives, they add a particular charm and personality to the shady garden. We love the idea of creating a Victorian fern grotto using California natives – perhaps we’ll do so sometime.  As perennials, Polypodies die back each year, but then reappear with the rains as if by magic.  It’s such a joy to see the new fronds unfurl each season.   Are you hooked yet?

For a gardening information sheet see:

For more pictures of this plant see:

For plant information sheets on other native plants see: