California Buckeye

Panicle: a loose branching cluster of flowers. All photos this article by Cheryl Lisen Panicle: a loose branching cluster of flowers. All photos this article by Cheryl Lisen

Aesculus californica One of the first native plants to leaf out each year is California buckeye. Buckeyes don’t even wait for spring, leafing out in mid-winter, when moisture from rains is abundant. In California’s dry summer climate, many native plants have adapted to grow during the wet season and go dormant in the dry season;…

Read More

Pacific Reedgrass in the Garden

The author’s original planting of Pacific reedgrass in the partial shade of an oak tree. All photos were taken in late summer, before the rains. All photos this article by Cheryl Lisin

Calamagrostis nutkaensis This article was adapted from an article written by Cheryl Lisin for the journal Grasslands, Vol. 33, No. 1, Winter 2023 Pacific reedgrass is a large, showy perennial bunchgrass that ranges from Alaska to Central California, where it grows along the coast as well as in the mountains of the Coast Range. It…

Read More


new oak leaves

A Succinct Guide to Distinguishing the Two Species California is home to more than 20 species of oaks, 10 of them occurring here in the Northwest corner of the state. Of these 10, six are evergreen and four are deciduous, losing their leaves in the fall. Two of our most beautiful species are deciduous: black…

Read More

Flowering Currant: Ribes sanguineum

Many of California’s native shrubs are resilient to fire, surviving underground with their strong root systems. Shortly after a fire, these shrubs will sprout new growth from their root crown. One such crown sprouter is flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum, which, when in bloom is one of the showiest of our native shrubs. Blooming in late…

Read More

Bull Kelp

Nereocystis luetkeana It is amazing that something can grow up to 200 feet in one year! Bull kelp is the fastest-growing seaweed in the world and can grow up to two feet per day. This is especially amazing because bull kelp is an annual—germinating, growing, reproducing, and dying all within a year-long cycle. Bull kelp…

Read More

California Fescue

Of the more than 300 grasses that are native to the state, California fescue is among the most beautiful. With its gray-green leaves, it is a bright spot in shady woodlands. A perennial bunchgrass, it forms dense, arching clumps about two feet tall, and in late spring it sends up flower spikes up to four…

Read More


One of California’s most beautiful native shrubs, manzanita, blooms in winter. If you happen to be near a blooming manzanita, you are likely to see and hear Anna’s Hummingbirds, who stay for the winter and feed on the flower nectar rather than flying south. Some manzanitas here in northwestern California start to bloom as early…

Read More