30 plants Commonly Found in and around San Elijo Lagoon


Most PHOTOS TAKEN BY   Michael L. Charters, Sierra Madre, CA   http://www.calflora.net/bloomingplants/photographsmainindex.html





Alkali Heath (Frankenia salina)

  • Found in high marsh
  • Pink summer blooms are insect pollinated
  • Edges on small flat leaves are sometimes rolled giving the leaf a needle shape







Arroyo willow (Salix lasiollepsis)

  • grows in riparian zone
  • aspirin comes from bark
  • flexible branches used to make baskets and huts





Black sage (Salvia mellifera)

  • Found in coastal sage and chaparral
  • Tiny seeds were gathered, ground, and made into meal
  • Melliferameans “honey bearing”






Bladderpod (Isomeris

  • Found along seashore bluffs as well as dry desert sands
  • Characteristic disagreeable smell in leaf and blossom
  • Fat pea pods are a prominent feature in fall-winter






Broom (Baccharis sarothroides)

  • Grows in disturbed chaparral
  • Once used for brooms, brushes, toothrbrushes
  • Male and female flowers are on different plants






Buckwheat, California  (Eriogonum fasciculatum)

  • Common in dry uplands
  • Blue butterfly especially likes pollen and nectar.  Birds eat the seeds
  • Tea brewed from leaves used to cure headache and stomach aches



Bulrush (Scirpus californicus)

  • Mostly found in freshwater but tolerates brackish water
  • Seeds, fruits, and stems important food source for mammals and birds
  • Light footed clapper rail has adapted to habitat







Bush sunflower (Encelia californica)

  • Found on coastal bluffs and slopes
  • Flowers have bright yellow rays with brown centers
  • Blooms from January-July, excellent nectar source for many insects





Cattail (Typha latifolia)

  • Common in freshwater marshes in coastal California
  • Blooms in June-July
  • Leaves of cattails were made into mats by Indians







  • Signature plant of chaparral
  • Nicknamed greasewood, burns fast and gives off a thick black smoke
  • Tea from leaves was said to cure tetanus, rabies, and syphilis






Ceanothus, Wart-Stem (Ceanothus verrucosus)

  • Coastal Chaparral and Sage scrub
  • Sometimes called popcorn bush b/c of popcorn sound of seeds bursting in summer
  • Washing with leaves relieved itching, especially from poison oak







Coastal goldenbush (Isocoma menziesii)

  • Common in dry sandy slopes
  • Blooms until late fall
  • Typically last nectar source for insects, especially butterflies






Coast Prickly Pear (Opuntia littoralis)

  • Pads and fruit of this cactus are edible
  • Spines were used to apply tattoos
  • Plant supports insect cochineal






 Cordgrass (Spartina foliosa)

  • Grows in low marsh – roots are bathed in salt water
  • Male flowers have pollen, stigmas on female flowers catch pollen. 
  • Home to endangered bird, light footed clapper rail





Cottonwood (populis fremontii)

  • Found in riparian habitats
  • Deciduous growing to 70’
  • Produces a lot of cottony seed litter






Deerweed (Lotus scoparius)

  • Common shrub grows on dry disturbed habitat
  • Red flowers fading to red after pollination
  • Nitrogen-fixing (ba cteria in root change N in air into a form plants can use)





Dodder (Cuscuta californica)

  • Absence of green shows a true parasite
  • Parasitic on Sage, Buckwheat and Deerweed
  • Also known as Love-vine, Devil’s Hair,

            Witch Hair and Golden thread





 Elderberry (Sambucus caerulea)

  • Twigs and branches used to make flutes and whistles
  • Late summer berries provide food supply for migrating birds, are also edible
  • Tea was made from blossoms to treat fever, colds, flu and stomach disorders





Laurel Sumac (Rhus laurina)

  • Indicator of frost-free climate
  • Produces seeds for birds and mammals throughout the winter
  • Relative of poison oak, some people react to it







 Lemonade berry

  • Abundant in coastal sage
  • Thick waxy leaves
  • Summer berries are coated with sticky substance that tastes like lemon




Diplacus puniceus


Monkey Flower, Coast (Diplacus puniceus)

  • Can you see monkey face in the flower?
  • Leaves are sticky and borne in pairs along the pale brown stems
  • Tubular, red flowers attract hummingbirds








 Mule Fat (Baccharis sp.)

  • Found in coastal sage and chaparral
  • Blooms all year, has fragrant root
  • Thought to be favorite browse of livestock






Pickleweed (sarcocornia sp.)

·        Found throughout salt marsh, salt accumulator, also called chicken claws

·        Plant is edible and used in salads

·        Home to endangered Belding’s Savanah Sparrow – birds nest and eat seeds.







Sagebrush (Artemisia californica)

  • One of dominant plants in Coastal Sage
  • Smells sagey, but is not related to sage
  • Indians and early settlers used it as a flea repellant




Salt grass (Distichlis spicata)

·        Grows over a wide area – from middle of salt marsh to wet salty inland places

·        Salt excreter

·        Endangered butterfly, the wandering skipper, lays eggs on salt grass leaves









Shoregrass (Monanthochloe littoralis)

  • Found in high marsh, salt excreter
  • Prickly and sharp leaf tips
  • Produces seeds for birds and mammals






 Spiny rush

  • Found in coastal saltmarsh in brackish locales
  • Juncus baskets made from plant, when bound tight can hold water
  • Tips are very sharp, can be used as needle and thread






Tree Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca)

  • Non-native from South America –not typically invasive here
  • Long tubular yellow flowers can bloom year-round
  • All plant parts are poisonous







 Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia)

  • Found in coastal sage and chaparral
  • Also called Christmas berry or CA Holly – Hollywood was named for this bush
  • Berries are a favorite food for birds, foxes; were also eaten by Native Americans






Wild cucumber (Marah macrocarpus)

  • Found in coastal sage and chaparral
  • Also called manroot due to man-sized root, pulverized roots were used to stun fish
  • Prickly fruits are inedible, but oil from seeds were believed to cure baldness