California is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, with more plant diversity than any other US state; about a third of the country’s plant diversity is found in California; about a third of California’s native plants are endemic to California! The great variety of plant communities in California has evolved in response to the state’s vast geological, topographical, and microclimate diversity. In this collection we group plants by these communities, which include: alpine fell-field, chaparral, coastal beach and dune, desert, oak woodland and pine forests, pygmy forest, redwood forest, riparian, serpentine, freshwater marsh, and vernal pool.
The Garden’s Californian Area—approximately one-third of the Garden—contains one of the largest species collections of California native plants in the world, including over 200 taxa which are on the California Native Plant Society’s list of rare and endangered species.
Included in the collection is a rich diversity of manzanitas (Arctostaphylos spp.), California-lilacs (Ceanothus spp.), and geophytes—plants from bulbs or corms. The Garden’s conservation program includes propagation of many endangered California species for reintroduction into the wild.
In California’s fire-prone ecosystems, plants have adapted to fire. Some species actually benefit from smoke or fire, which may open closed cones and stimulate seed germination. Others have adapted by being able to vigorously sprout from root crowns after burning. The nutrients provided in the ashes, along with a lack of competition from perennial plants, can bring forth a dazzling array of blooming annual wildflowers in the spring.
Many beautiful selections of California natives are popular in gardens, including Pacific coast iris and their cultivars (Iris spp.), poppies (Eschscholzia spp.), manzanitas (Arctostaphylos spp.), California-lilac (Ceanothus spp.) and flannel bush (Fremontodendron californicum). Many are deer resistant and typically require little water or maintenance. Native plants provide resources for wildlife, including hummingbirds and insect pollinators.