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Mirroring Native Plant Communities in Sustainable Landscaping

In nature, plants arrange themselves into communities of “friends” based on common microclimates, water and nutrient needs, and how they interact with the physical environment. Native plant communities also are based on interactions with each other and other species such as insects, birds, and other animals.

Most plant communities occur repeatedly in natural landscapes under similar conditions.

Local native plant communities have evolved together over a long period of time, and grow well together. They will even “reject” the outsiders and work together to compete for nutrients, sunlight, and other resources

This is one of many good reasons to learn about the San Diego region’s native plant communities and to select plants that like to live together in communities for sustainable landscaping.

Three examples of San Diego regional plant communities

California Coastal Prairie Community

California Coastal Prairie along the coast north of Jenner, California. Photo: Wikimedia/Creative Commons

California’s coastal prairies are the most diverse of any grassland in North America. Perennial flowers outnumber grass species here. Plants include: California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium), Fern Leaf Yarrow (Achillea ‘Moonshine’), Seaside Daisy (Erigeron glaucus), and Cliff Buckwheat (Eriogonum parvifolium)

California Coastal Sage Scrub Community

California Coastal Sage Scrub in the San Pasqual area. Photo: Barbara Kus, USGS/Creative Commons

California Coastal Sage Scrub in the San Pasqual area. Photo: Barbara Kus, USGS/Creative Commons

California coastal sage scrub features fire-adapted, drought deciduous plants, which are rapidly disappearing to urbanization in southern California. Fortunately, some areas, including the San Diego Safari Park Biodiversity Reserve, have been conserved. Plants include: grey musk sage (Salvia Pozo Blue), sticky monkeyflower (Diplacus aurantiaus), San Diego sage (salvia munzia), fuschia gooseberry (Ribes speciosum), and woolly bluecurls (Trichostema lanatum)

California Chaparral Community

California Chaparral near the University of California, San Diego. Photo: UCSD/Creative Commons

Chaparral exists in many coastal ranges, and on the western and eastern slopes of the southern California mountains. It is ‘hard’ brush that doesn’t rely as much on summer fog as the Coastal Sage Scrub does, and it is adapted to heat and drought. Plants include desert mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), bent grass (Agorstis pailens), San Diego mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus minutiflorus), bush poppy (Dendromeconi riguda), and clumping wild rye (Leymus condensatus),


This article was inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at



OPINION: End Of An Era At Valley Center Municipal Water District

Something profound happened at 3:22 p.m. on Monday afternoon, November 19, 2018, at the Valley Center Municipal Water District. After serving as a Director for Election Division 3, Board President, and San Diego County Water Authority Representative, Gary A. Broomell walked out of the board room for the last time as a water board director. As the general manager of the district for close to 30 years, i have seen a few board members come and go.  What was profound about Mr. Broomell’s final exit was that it came after 48 years of continuous public service to the citizens, ratepayers and landowners of the Valley Center Municipal Water District.

California’s First Real Soaking of the Season Brings Wildfire and Smoke Relief But Also a Threat of Debris Flows

A major weather pattern change has arrived on the West Coast, bringing relief for California’s wildfires and choking smoke, but it may also unleash enough rain to trigger dangerous debris flows in recently burned areas of the state. Northern California’s Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire on record in state history, is still not fully contained. Smoke from the fires has hung over millions, fouling air quality since last week in the Central Valley and Bay Area. Air quality has begun to improve but remains unhealthy for sensitive groups on Wednesday in the Central Valley of California.

San Diego Region Can Expect Light Rain on Thanksgiving Morning

A low-pressure system sweeping into Southern California will produce light rain throughout San Diego County on Wednesday evening and continue into Thanksgiving Day. The National Weather Service office in San Diego said the majority of the rainfall is expected late Wednesday evening and early Thursday morning. Escondido and Oceanside are expected to receive around a quarter-inch of rainfall, while one-tenth of an inch is expected near the coast and in the western valleys. The mountains are forecast to get between a quarter-inch and one-third inch, and the deserts less than one-tenth of an inch.