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Native and Non-Native Plants of California

By: Maeve Gilbert

Pyracantha angustifolia Narrowleaf Firethorn

The firethorn is a non-native, invasive shrub that grows mainly in Northern California. The name pyracantha derives from the Greek root pyr, meaning fire, and akanthos, meaning thorn. There are multiple varieties of the firethorn which live in California, all of which are introduced. Their native territory extends from Southwest Europe to Southeast Asia. Despite being invasive, its effects are not pernicious enough to be labeled a true threat to native species. Its berries are eaten by numerous birds, which disperse the seeds widely. It appears to be originally introduced for ornamental purposes, given its bright red berries. Firethorns may be commonly found in semi-disturbed areas, such as roadsides, parks, and other coastal or prairie areas. They favor cooler, moister climates. This particular firethorn bush was found in a park which contains coastal redwoods (see below), and it appears they prefer similar climates.

Sources: iNaturalist California Invasive Plant Council: Pyracantha angustifolia Plant Assessment Form – California Invasive Plant Council (

Sequoia sempervirens Coast Redwood The coast redwood is the only living member of the Sequoia genus, not to be confused with the Giant Sequoia, a member of the genus Sequoiadendron. It is found almost exclusively along the California coast and is a native tree. They prefer cool, moist environments and can tolerate shade. Coast redwoods are known to live for thousands of years and can grow to be some of the tallest living trees. Besides being an icon of California, the coast redwood was also used for a variety of purposes by various Native American groups. Among these were construction of homes or canoes using the wood. Tonics made from infusing the inner bark or the sap were also used to aid a range of conditons from earaches to syphilis. Today, coast redwoods are present in many protectedareas, including Muir Woods and the Redwood National and State Park complex.

Sources: iNaturalist Native American Ethnobotany: BRIT - Native American Ethnobotany Database Calflora: Sequoia sempervirens Calflora

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