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Hiking Among California Native Plants

By: Bianca Gonzalez


California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum)

Hiking during the fall, it is hardly expected to spend your time gazing at the surrounding shrubs that are often found as flowerless, dry groupings. However, among the hiking trails of San Francisco we find a fascinating variety of native plants. Each serving a distinct purpose in maintaining the health of their environment. Among these shrubs is the California Buckwheat. Most often found in dry slopes, washes and canyons in scrub. California Buckwheat serves an important purpose as a conservation plant on critical areas and problem soils, such as Serpentine, decomposed granites, and high pH soils. In addition to its use on critically eroded areas.


California Buckwheat is a perennial shrub or subshrub capable of living for over two years. It is a native California shrub that can grow about 12 to 39 inches high and 28 to 51 inches wide with egg-shaped leaves. This shrub grows naturally on dry slopes and canyons near the coast in San Diego County north to Marin County. It is also found in Utah, Arizona and northwestern Mexico.


California Buckwheat is a good seed producer and utilizes wind and water to disperse its seeds. It also has several modes of pollination, with pollinators ranging from insects like bees and butterflies to birds. The California Buckwheat are a resilient species that are generally drought tolerant, but may be susceptible to root rot in wet or poorly drained soil.


Pacific Aster (Symphyotrichum chilense)

The Pacific Aster draws your attention along the hiking trail with delicate, yet resilient white flowers adding a sense of liveliness among the usual shrubbery. This herb common among North America can be used in wildlife or pollinator enhancement plantings, native prairie restoration, meadow gardens, and erosion control or critical area plantings. In addition to Its deep, extensive, fibrous root system that can help stabilize slopes.


The Pacific Aster is a perennial herb living for over two years. It is a native California herb that can grow 1 to 4 ft tall with basal leaves that are usually hairless, stalked, thin and tend to wither by the time the plant flowers. This herb grows in a variety of habitats including grasslands, meadows, salt marshes, coastal dunes and bluffs, coastal scrub, and open or disturbed areas. It is often distributed among coastal regions from southwest British Columbia to Southern California at elevations lower than 1600 ft.


The Pacific Aster is a good late-season pollinator plant that provides a critical pollen source for bees active in the late fall. The wind and insects like bees, wasps, and butterflies serve as agents of pollen dispersal. Pacific Asters also utilize the wind to disperse their seeds. They are a resilient plant species that are drought tolerant and have a high tolerance for salinity.



California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

The California Poppy is among the most beautiful plants seen while hiking in San Francisco during the fall. Their distinctive yellow flowers make it shockingly simple to spot this resilient and widespread native species. While California Poppies only serve a small wildlife value, comprising only 5% of small mammal diets, seeds are used in erosion control mixtures, roadside plantings, and in restoration projects across California. This herb tends to grow across a number of habitats including coastal, valley, foothill and desert regions, at elevations lower than 7000 ft.


California Poppy is a flowering herbaceous annual to perennial plant. It is a native California herb that is low-spreading and can grow 0.5 to 2 ft in height with leaves divided into three lobes. California Poppy is native to the western United States from southern Washington south into Baja Sur, and from the Channel Islands and Pacific coastline east to the Great Basin and regions of the Sonoran Desert.


The California Poppy relies solely on the efforts of pollinators like bees and butterflies for reproductive success. It also utilizes the wind as its primary mode of seed dispersal. California Poppies California poppies are resilient in hot, arid conditions and survive mild winters in their native range but die completely in colder climates.

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