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Plant Exploration!

We are very excited to partner with Dolby Laboratories for a special Nature in your Neighborhood project for Dolby Cares Week. A time when Dolby brings art and science together to inspire the next generation of innovators, and address the most critical needs in their communities. Thank you for contribution to Sutro Stewards!

By: Bennett Schatz

Carpobrotus edulis

Seen here blanketing a bayside waterfront in Alameda, Carpobrotus edulis (highway ice plant) is a highly invasive succulent that has taken over much of California’s coast. Native to South Africa, it was initially brought to California in the early 1900s to stabilize soil alongside railroad tracks. It has also been used as an ornamental plant in home gardens and landscaping. It can expand more than 3 feet in diameter annually, is highly resistant to physical damage, and is rapidly propagated by animal consumption and defecation. Over time it increases the salt content of the soil and blocks light for other species, creating a more favorable environment for itself and other invasive species. Both the flesh and the fruit are edible, though not as palatable as its close relative Carpobrotus chilensis (sea fig). If looking for a replacement plant for your garden, consider the non-invasive Delosperma cooperi (trailing ice plant) or the native Fragaria chiloensis (beach strawberry).

Pedicularis densiflora

Pedicularis densiflora (warrior’s plume) is a wild native herb that grows throughout much of California and Oregon. I came upon this particular plant while exploring the rolling oak and manzanita woodlands of north Marin in early spring. This herb is hemiparisitic, meaning it can live on its own but will parasitize the roots of another plant if presented the opportunity (in this case it appears to be parasitizing a manzanita tree). Its flowers act as a natural nectar source for hummingbirds and bees and have a loosely documented medicinal history as a skeletal muscle relaxant and mildly psychedelic pain reliever.

Fremontodendron californicum

Fremontodendron californicum (California flannelbush) is a striking evergreen shrub native to California. It grows well in sandy, well-drained soils and requires very little care or maintenance once it has established. It produces stunning yellow-orange blooms in the spring that play host to butterflies. This is an ideal plant for a drought-tolerant native garden as it doesn’t require irrigation, even during the dry season. Its wood was used by the Yokut and Kawaiisu peoples as a building and furniture material, and the sap of the inner bark was used as a remedy for mucous membrane irritation and gastrointestinal upset. There are many cultivars of this species that have been bred for various traits and are available in nurseries throughout the state.

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