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Plant Observations

Through our virtual programming series, Nature in your Neighborhood, we challenged volunteers to go out into their neighborhoods or backyards to see what plants sparked their interest. Whether plants are native or non native, we can all appreciate a connection to nature and the curiosity that it can spark!

By: Dagny Wallace

Aizoaceae: Ice plant. Ice plants can be used for medical purposes as a soothing agent for irritation, pain, swelling, itching or redness in your skin similar to aloe vera. Ice plant is also edible and can be eaten both raw or added to dishes like salads. It is also frequently used to make tea. Ice plant is native to the coasts of South Africa and was brought to California in the early 1900’s. It is used to stabilize soil near the railroads being built at the time. Ice plant is an invasive species that repopulates quickly and has taken over large plots of land. There is a large and continuously growing population of Ice plants in both the Presidio and The Sunset districts of San Francisco. Ice plant is still planted around California despite it’s invasive nature because it absorbs water rapidly improving soil quality and preventing landslides in areas with lots of cliffs and rain.

Leptospermum laevigatum: Coastal tea tree. The coastal tea tree also referred to as the Australian tea tree is native to south eastern Australia. This is another invasive species in California and is actually classified as a weed. It can be destructive to plants around it under ideal conditions. These conditions are provided on the coast of san francisco in the form of sand dunes, and wind that spread the seeds of the shrub. This same shrub is called the California Big Tree in Los Angeles. Like Ice plants it can also be used to stabilize soils in areas like San Francisco where the soil gets overrun with sand. However it lacks many uses other than serving as protection from wind.

Drosanthemum floribundum: Pale dew plant. The Pale dew plant is native to South Africa near the Eastern Cape. It has reached other areas including Australia, and the California coast. In california it is frequently referred to as the magic Carpet and is another succulent that improves the quality of soil for gardeners. This is useful in San Francisco because of the drought-prone environment. However like the other succulents it is an invasive species that creates risks for the natural wildlife in the city. It has adapted to withstand the dry summers that California tends to provide as well as the cold winters.

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