The Value of Native Plants

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Native plants evolved to live with the local climate, soil types, and wildlife and are crucial to establishing and maintaining a healthy San Francisco Bay. Save The Bay’s on-the-ground wetland restoration projects aim to re-establish native plants in the transition zone, creating important buffer areas adjacent to tidal marshes.

There are many benefits to native plants. For instance, native plants generally require less water than non-native plants and are often drought tolerant. Native plants attract and sustain native wildlife and help maintain the landscape by preventing erosion and enriching the soil.

The Bay Area is home to around 400 native plant species and over 70 non-native, invasive species. Invasive plants are both non-native and able to grow on many sites, spreading quickly and disrupting plant communities. Invasives degrade wildlife habitat and disrupt ecosystem functions. They are the second greatest threat to endangered species, after habitat destruction.

Our restoration staff works to remove invasive species from the Bay’s marshes and wetlands, planting native plants along these sites. Meet some of the native plants that are planted at our restoration sites along the Bay.

California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) is the most important native source of honey in California. Our local bees love this plant, which is native to the Bay Area and can be found above the high tide line. It is often found around the Bay growing on rocky, dry slopes in a variety of plant communities. This species is extremely drought tolerant. CA buckwheat can grow to be a relatively large shrub, providing cover for wildlife and crowding out encroaching invasive species.

Fleshy Jaumea (Jaumea carnosa) can be found in the low zone of the marsh right by the Bay. These native plants form thick mats along the shoreline, which helps hold soil together and prevent erosion. Fleshy jaumea is in the Sunflower family, which is evident when you examine the flowers closely. Jaumea is a halophyte, meaning that it is a plant that is very salt tolerant and is commonly found in areas of high salinity.

Blue Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bellum) blooms from March to July and can be found in grassland, foothill woodland, and sage scrub around the Bay Area. Song sparrows, house finches and other songbirds eat the seeds of this native plant. It is relatively common but can be hard to identify when not in bloom. It is actually not a grass, but is in the same family as Iris.

Sticky Monkey Flower (Mimulus aurantiacus) typically bloom from mid-spring into mid-summer and can be found above the high tide line. Hummingbirds and moths love the sweet nectar that these tube-like flowers hold. Mimulus is latin for comic or mime, perhaps named for the funny face of the flower. Sticky monkey flower are found throughout California, southern Oregon, and Baja California in a variety of plant communities.

California Aster (Symphyotrichum chilense) is an important plant for the larvae of the Field Crescent and Northern Checkerspot butterflies. Asters are late bloomers, blooming as late as November. This late flowering period is important for insects who still need nectar late in the season. California aster is native to California and is found only slightly outside of California’s borders. It is rhizomatous, meaning that it can propagate itself through underground stems and is often found in large clumps or colonies. CA aster is a perennial plant. It grows and blooms during spring and summer and dies back every autumn and winter, returning again in the springtime.

Learn more about the native plants that help restore our Bay shoreline. Sign up to volunteer.