Native Plant Garden

Native Plants & Their Uses

These plants are native to Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez River Valley. We grow them here in our Native Plant Garden at the Neal Taylor Nature Center. Each plant has a plaque with a QR code that links to sections of this page.

The indigenous Chumash people used many of these plants for food, fiber and medicine. If not listed here, some of their uses may also be found on the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History website.

Donations are greatly appreciated and help us maintain the garden and other exhibits. You can donate online or place cash/check in the metal box on the door in the breezeway next to the Native Plant Garden. We also offer tree dedications in our native plant garden, for those who would like to make a special memorial for a loved one.

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Amole (Soap Plant)

Chumash Name:

kot’

Scientific Name:

Chlorogalum pomeridianum

Plant Family:

Lillies

Soap Plant is a perennial plant with a fibrous, elongated bulb.  (wiki) The wavy leaves are 1/2 an inch wide and sometimes greater than a foot long.  It produces a thin flower stalk to 6 feet tall with inch-wide white flowers. (Gaspar)

The flowers typically appear in late spring to late summer. The fleshy core of the bulb was crushed and mixed with water to create suds for washing clothing and hair. 

Women of the Chumash tribe applied the juice from the bulbs to their bangs to make them lie flat against their foreheads and make their hair glossy.  Fish “poison” – the bulbs were crushed and stirred into quiet pools in freshwater streams.  Chemicals in the plant stupefied the fish so they floated to the surface.  Brushes were made from the coarse, brown fibers that surround the bulb.  (Timbrook)

 

Leaves:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Basket Rush / Juncus

Scientific Name:

Juncus textilis

Plant Family:

Rush

Basket rush is a perennial, rhizomatous wetland plant. It is a grasslike, usually tufted herb 10-20 dm tall, with stout, rigid, pale green culms. The leaf sheaths are terete, clustered at the base, 2-15 cm long, multicolored from red to tan to dark brown, and bladeless.

The inflorescence forms a lax panicle with many flowers. The brown, oblong-ovoid capsule is as long as or slightly shorter than the perianth, and contains many seeds. Juncus textilis is closely related to Juncus balticus; basket rush can be distinguished from baltic rush by its much stouter habit, its paler green stems, and its somewhat larger, more numerous-flowered panicle.

The stems of Juncus textilis are more woody in texture, retain their terete shape when dried, and do not tend to flatten as do those of Juncus balticus. From this description of their growth forms, it is obvious why Juncus textilis is used for the sewing material and Juncus balticus is compressed inside the coils of baskets.

The Chumash and other Southern California Tribes used Basket Rush to weave baskets. Chumash baskets are made with Juncus stems for the tan color and roots for the black color (Timbrook 1997). The sewing material is made of Juncus textilis and the foundation material is made of Juncus balticus.

Rushes are cut off at ground level, or at the length desired. The rush, in its natural state, furnishes a variety of colors; a deep red near the base, lightening in color upwards passing through several shades of light brown, and ending at the top in a brownish yellow. Juncus stems can be bleached in the summer sun for several months to assure a light tan uniform color.

Chumash dye the mature rushes black by steeping them for several hours in an infusion of either horned sea-blite (Suaeda calceoliformis) or bush seepweed (Suaeda moquinii). This dye is very penetrating, and the color is durable, but has a fetid, disagreeable smell. Juncus species are also dyed yellow in an infusion of indigo bush (Psorothamnusemoryi) (Barrows 1967; Merrill 1970).

Juncus stalks can be harvested throughout the year. Preparation for basket weaving involves splitting each rush stalk into three equal portions. The base of the reed is split using either a thumbnail or pocket knife, then one piece is grasped in the teeth and one in each hand and equal pressure is applied.

One basket weaver describes a point about half way through the reed when the splitting starts to "stutter" and feels like it’s going to break. At this point he throws the remaining parts away. The pith is removed after soaking the plant in water prior to weaving. The individual pieces are then trimmed to a uniform thickness. The stems are soaked in water before using.

Other Uses: Juncus species are used by a wide range of mammal and avian species for food and habitat (Hoag and Zierke 1998). Rush seeds are eaten by waterfowl, songbirds, and small mammals such as jackrabbits, cottontails, muskrats, porcupines, and gophers (Martin 1951). Rushes help improve habitat for amphibians and spawning areas for fish. Muskrats feed on the roots and rhizomes, and various wetland wading birds find shelter among the stems. (Natural Resources Conservation Service)

Leaves:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Seeds:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Big Berry Manzanita

Chumash Name:

sq’o’yon

Scientific Name:

Arctostaphylos glauca

Plant Family:

Heath

Big Berry Manzanita is in the Heath family and is an evergreen shrub to small tree, with red-brown bark, 7-10′ foot high and wide. The fruit is edible, light red in color and has a thick pulp covered in a tough, sticky coat. Seeds require exposure to fire before they can germinate. (Wiki) Berries were used as a source of food by the Chumash people and can be eaten both fresh and dried.  They have a mildly flavored sweet flesh (Gaspar)

Plant type: Shrub, Moderate growth rate, Evergreen, Slight Fragrance, Flower color: white-pink, Flowering season: Winter, Spring

Leaves & Branches

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Berries:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

California Bay Laurel

Scientific Name:

Umbellularia californica

Plant Family:

Laurel

Evergreen shrub or tree to heights of 100 feet. Leaves are fragrant, smooth edged and lance shaped. (Gaspar) Leaves used for rheumatism and neuralgias. A tea was made from the leaves to treat stomach aches, colds, sore throats, and to clear up mucus in the lungs. The leaves were steeped in hot water to make an infusion that was used to wash sores. The Pomo and Yuki tribes of Mendocino County treated headaches by placing a single leaf in the nostril or bathing the head with a laurel leaf infusion. (Wiki) Hunters stood in the smoke – presumably the strong scent of bay camouflaged the human smell and deer were attracted to it. (Timbrook)

Leaves & Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Bark:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

California Broom Deerweed

Scientific Name:

Acmispon glaber

Plant Family:

Pea

Also known as common deerweed, deer weed, deervetch, California broom or western bird’s-foot trefoil, and previously labeled with the scientific name is Lotus scoparius. This plant is a perennial subshrub in the family Fabaceae (pea family). The plant is a pioneer species found in dry areas of California, Arizona, and Mexico. It is commonly found in many areas including chaparral, coastal sand and roadsides at elevations below 1500 m.

Stems are green, erect, somewhat branched, with small, deciduous, pinnate leaves consisting of three to six leaflets. The plant blooms from about March to August and has flowers that are bilateral, small (7–11 mm), yellow, and clustered together in an inflorescence consisting of two to seven flowers in the upper leaf axils. The flowers become reddish with age. The fruit consists of a curved legume with two seeds.

Acmispon glaber is a food consumed by numerous wildlife, providing intake for hummingbirds, bees, butterfly larvae, and deer. Among the larvae are the Acmon blue, Afranius duskywing, Avalon scrub hairstreak, bramble hairstreak, funereal duskywing, and northern cloudywing.[3] Common plant associates in chaparral, especially in the transition between coastal chaparral and coastal sage scrub, include California sagebrush and toyon.

Landowners seeking to provide a home for reintroducing the Palos Verdes blue butterfly have been required to have sufficient Acmispon glaber plants to provide the butterflies with shelter. Adult Acmispon glaber plants are usually killed by fire due to their thin epidermis and broom-like foliage that burns easily, but the seeds of Acmispon glaber are scarified by fire and readily germinate in the first rainy season after a fire.

For 2 to 3 years after a fire in a sage scrub habitat, the flora consists primarily of herbaceous annuals and short-lived herbaceous perennials, but after the first 2–3 years, Acmispon glaber generally becomes dominant, being gradually replaced by long-lived shrubs after 5–10 years post- fire. Due to their seeds’ fire adaptation, Acmispon glaber benefits from heat scarification in cultivation. Heat treatment significantly increases germination rate. (Wikipedia)

Leaves

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

California Buckwheat

Chumash Name:

tswana’atl ‘ishup

Scientific Name:

Eriogonum fasciculatum

Plant Family:

Buckwheat

California Buckwheat is commonly seen on hillsides and along highways this perennial shrub grows 2-3 feet in height and can occupy an area 1-10 feet in diameter with a crowded array of stalks.  Its flowers bloom in clusters 1/2 -1 inch in diameter and are distributed along the stalk every few inches and at the end of branches. (Gaspar)

There appears to be confusing reports mixing buckwheat usage with Monardella, please refer to Timbrook’s book page 84) Plant type: Shrub; Size: 2-3′ tall, 3-4′ wide; Rounded; Moderate, slow growth; Evergreen, Summer semi-deciduous; No fragrance; Flower: cream, pink, white, Flowering season: Summer

Leaves & Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

California Fuchsia

Chumash Name:

s`akht`utun `iyukhnuts

Scientific Name:

Epilobium canum

Plant Family:

Evening-Primrose

California Fuchsia is a small perennial shrub most notable for its profusion of bright scarlet flowers in late summer and autumn that attract hummingbirds.  Native populations of these plants exhibit considerable variation in appearance and habit. (Wiki) This plant was used medicinally for cuts, sores, and sprains, particularly in livestock.  The Chumash term means “hummingbird sucks it” (Timbrook)

Plant type: Perennial herb; Size: 3′ tall; Flower: red; Flower season: Summer, Fall

Leaves:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

California Sycamore

Chumash Name:

hsh’o

Scientific Name:

Platanus racemosa

Plant Family:

Plane-tree

A species of plane tree known by several other common names, including Western Sycamore, California Plane, and Aliso. It is native to California and Baja California, where it grows in canyons, floodplains, and along streams in several types of habitats. It is also planted as a landscape tree in its native range. This large tree grows to 35 meters in height, but is more commonly 20-25 meters, with a trunk diameter of up to one meter.

A specimen on the campus of Stanford University has a trunk circumference of 10.5 feet. The trunk generally divides into two or more large trunks splitting into many branches. The bark is beautiful, with areas of white, pinkish gray and pale tan, with older bark becoming darker and peeling away. The leaves can be extremely large, up to 10 in. wide.

The plant is deciduous, with leaves turning an attractive yellow and orangish brown in the fall. The rather plain-looking flowers are 1 in. spheres that becomes seed balls.

Western Sycamores are tough and easy to grow, but they need a lot of water. Plant by a stream or seep, or be prepared to give it plenty of supplementary water – 1x per week. Roots tend to go down not out if the plants are given sufficient water, so they are a good tree to plant near patios or in urban environments. It tolerates a wide variety of soils, and prefers to have its leaves in full sun. They grow
quickly if given plenty of water, often growing to 30 feet in just five years. (calscape.org)

Sycamore wood is pleasantly mottled (“all mixed up”). The Chumash in the Santa Barbara region made wooden bowls from the gnarled branches or burl-like growths. Wood had to be worked while still green, and a burl at this stage was called hsh’o, which was the same word they used for sycamore. Bowls were described as “polished and perfectly formed as though turned on a lathe, beautiful and with inlay.”

Several tribes used sycamore branches for the construction of homes and ramadas, and even for wagon wheels. There are a few references to medicinal use of sycamore bark tea. In present day Mexico, sycamore bark and roots are boiled for a coffee substitute. (NatureCollective.org)

Leaves (Autumn):

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Seeds:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Bark:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

California Walnut

Chumash Name:

tipk

Scientific Name:

Juglans californica

Plant Family:

Jugland

It can be either a large shrub with 1-5 trunks, or a small, singled-trunk tree. The main trunk can fork close to the ground, making it look like two trees that have grown together, then diverged. It has thick bark, deeply channeled, or furrowed at maturity. It has large, pinnately compound leaves with 11-19 lanceolate leaflets with toothed margins and no hair in the vein angles. It has a small hard nut in a shallowly grooved, thick shell that is difficult to remove. (Wiki) The nuts are edible and considered superior in flavor to the introduced English walnuts.

Indigenous people traded native walnuts from Southern to Central California. A gambling game called “pi” was played with dice made from wild walnut shells split into hemispherical halves and filled with tar. The Chumash occasionally used walnut bark in basket making.

In more recent times, a Santa Ynez Chumash man mentioned that walnut leaves were good for making tea to drink for the blood. (Timbrook)

Leaves:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Nuts:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Image Source: streetsla.lacity.org

Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Bark:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Chalk Lettuce

Scientific Name:

Dudleya pulverulenta

Plant Family:

Stonecrop

Chalk lettuce is a succulent plant that has fleshy, pointed, bluish gray-green leaves with a waxy, chalky coating. The rosettes produce several flowering stems from May through July. (Gaspar)

Plant type: Perennial herb, succulent; 1′ tall, 1′ wide; Spreading; Moderate growth; Summer deciduous; Slight to no fragrance; Flower: orange, pink, red; Flower season: Spring, Summer

Leaves:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Chaparral Yucca

Scientific Name:

Yucca whipplei

Plant Family:

Asparagus

Chaparral Yucca, scientifically known as Yucca whipplei, is a resilient and iconic succulent native to the diverse landscapes of California, including the chaparral regions. Also referred to as Our Lord’s Candle, this yucca species is characterized by its striking rosette of long, narrow leaves that form a dense cluster at ground level. The leaves, often bluish-green in color, are rigid and end in sharp points, contributing to its adaptation to arid and chaparral environments.

“The fruit is a dry winged capsule, which splits open at maturity to release the seeds. It is pollinated by the California Yucca moth (Tegeticula maculata); this relationship has become a classic example of symbiosis. Working at night, the female California Yucca moth collects up to a dozen sacks of pollen grains called pollinia and forms them into a massive ball. She then flies to another plant and lands on the ovary of a flower. Standing with her head near the stigma, she inserts her ovipositor into the ovary wall and lays a single egg. She then rubs her pollen mass against the central stigmatic depression, ensuring pollination. The pollinated ovary will now produce many seeds, ensuring an ample food supply for the larva.”

calscape.org

Chaparral Yucca has cultural significance for indigenous peoples and has been utilized for various purposes. Historically, Native American communities in California have made use of the plant’s fibrous leaves for weaving baskets and creating cordage. Chumash communities used the fibers for fishing line.

Plant type: evergreen shrub. Height: 4-8ft. Width: 4-6ft. Flower height: up to 10ft. Flower Fragrance: Sweet. Flower Color: White, yellow, cream, and/or purple. Flower Season: March-May

Leaves:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Coast Live Oak

Chumash Name:

ku’w

Scientific Name:

Quercus agrifolia

Plant Family:

Oak

A prevalent evergreen tree throughout Santa Barbara County, growing to heights of 25-50 feet. Leaves are holly-like, ovate, and toothed. The acorns are slender, reddish-brown, .79 -1.38-inch-long. (Gaspar)

The Chumash People used acorns as food by first making flour, then using water to leach out the tannin and finally by cooking the resulting mush. (Gaspar) They also made concotion of the ashes of the green bark of this tree to treat indigestion. (Timbrook 1990). Valuable as fuelwood and for manufactured items. Wood was used for food paddles, game hoops, baby cradles, wooden bowls (Timbrook)

Plant type: Tree; Size: 25-82′ tall, 15-35′ wide; Rounded form, Moderate, slow growth; Evergreen; No fragrance; Flower: yellow, cream, green; Flowering season: Spring, Winter

Native Habitat Range:

Leaves:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Acorns:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Coastal Sage Brush

Chumash Name:

wewey

Scientific Name:

Artemis californica

Plant Family:

Sunflower

A perennial shrub, growing 2 – 5 feet has very narrow branched thread-like leaves and small yellow to brownish purple flowers. The foliage is very fragrant and when pinched it releases the characteristic “sage brush” aroma. (Gaspar) Leaves and stems were used in rituals, made into tea for colds, or soaked and used in hair rinse. (tag) The Chumash people used the wood for fire sticks and arrow shafts. They burned the leaves as an incense. (Gaspar) The Chumash used sagebrush in a wide variety of ways including tools, construction, medicine, and rituals. (more) (Timbrook)

Plant type: Shrub; Size: 1-8′ tall. 4′ wide; Mounded, rounded, spreading; Fast growth; Summer deciduous; Pleasant fragrance; Flower: cream, white, yellow; Flowering season: Spring, Summer

Leaves:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Coyote Bush

Scientific Name:

Baccharis pilularis

Plant Family:

Sunflower

A perennial shrub, growing 6 feet and having the distinction of being “dioecious”- having separate male and female plants. (Gaspar)

Plant type: Shrub; Size: 1-10′ tall, 12′ wide; Mounding, Spreading; Moderate, fast growth; Evergreen; No fragrance; Flower: yellow, cream, white; Flowering season: Spring, Winter, Summer, Fall

Leaves & Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Seeds:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Fremont Cottonwood

Chumash Name:

qweleqwel

Scientific Name:

Populus fremontii

Plant Family:

Willow

A large evergreen tree, native to Southwestern US. Grows in areas that have water just below the surface such as streams and rivers. (Wiki) Leaves are deltate (triangular shaped) with coarsely scalloped margins. Seeds are covered in white, cotton-like hairs. (Gaspar) Used in basket making, tools and musical instruments (Wiki)

The Chumash people used this plant for house poles, wooden bowls, trays, and containers. Sometimes dugout canoes. Poor women made skirts out of cottonwood fibers. Also used to stabilize and cushion objects they carried on their heads or layered on the ground so that rodents would not gnaw through baskets (Timbrook)

Plant type: Tree; Size: 66′ tall; Flower: white, cream.

Leaves & Seeds:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Bark & Branches:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Fuchsiaflower Gooseberry

Scientific Name:

Ribes speciosum

Plant Family:

Gooseberry

Fuchsiaflower Gooseberry shows spectacular blooms during the wet season in California. It has beautiful fuchsia-red tube-shaped flowers that hang throughout the bush during flowering season. Its leaves are bright green in the wet season and turn dark green as the soil dries.

It produces red-orange beries about 1cm long, with lots of thorns on the branches. The flowers provide nectar for hummingbirds, and the berries are eaten by many birds and small mammals.

The plant’s native range extends across the coast to the western foothills of southern and central California, from Baja California to Salinas, and in the foothills of San Jose. It prefers full or near-full shade, in moist spots on north-facing slopes.

Plant type: Shrub; Size: 6-10′ tall, 3-8′ wide; Flower: fuchsia; Flowering season: January to May; Berry Season: Late Spring, Early Summer

Leaves & Berries:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Flowers & Thorns:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Giant Rye

Chumash Name:

shakh

Scientific Name:

Elymus condensatus

Plant Family:

Grass

A native grass that grows to heights of 6 -8 feet. It has flowering stalks that rise an additional 1-2 feet above the plant. (Wiki)

The Chumash people used the stalks as paintbrush handles and as thatching on their houses. (Wiki) Dried stems were used for arrow shafts. Sometimes used to thatch their houses. The hollow, cane-like stems were used for smoking tobacco.  Stems were inserted into the holes of newly pierced ears to keep them from closing while they healed.  Stems were also used as straws.

Stems were dried and split handmade into sharp cane knives.  Paint brush handles, counter sticks for dice games.  New shoots were boiled and drank as a cure for gonorrhea. (Timbrook) Seeds were eaten, Dried reeds were used to make arrow shafts. (tag)

Plant type: Grasses; Size: 3-6′ tall, 2-8′ wide; fountain, weeping form; Moderate growth; Evergreen; Flower color:
brown

Leaves:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Image Source: naturecollective.org

Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Golden Currant

Chumash Name:

sqayi’nu

Scientific Name:

Ribes aureum

Plant Family:

Gooseberry

A small to medium-sized deciduous shrub with 3 -5 lobes on green leaves that turn red in the fall. The plant blooms in spring with racemes of conspicuous golden yellow flowers, often with a pronounced, spicy fragrance like that of cloves or vanilla. The berries are about 0.4 inch in diameter, amber yellow to black, and are edible raw, but very tart, and are usually cooked with sugar.

The flowers are also edible. (Wiki) Many kinds of gooseberries and currants were eaten by native peoples throughout California. (Timbrook)

Plant type: Shrub; Size: 6-10′ tall, 5-10′ wide; Upright, fountain, Fast, moderate growth; Winter deciduous; Pleasant, slight fragrance; Flower: yellow, cream; Flowering season: Spring, Winter

Leaves & Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Berries:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Holly-Leaved Cherry

Chumash Name:

`akhtayukhash 

Scientific Name:

Prunus ilicifolia

Plant Family:

Rose

An evergreen shrub or tree, producing edible cherries, with shiny and spiny toothed leaves similar in appearance to those of a holly. It has small white flowers growing in clusters, similar in appearance to most members of the rose family. The purple to black fruit is sweet, with a very thick pulp around a large single stone. (wiki)

Fruit was eaten fresh or dried by the Chumash tribe. Pits were ground into mush for soups, stew, or cakes. Leaves were used in medicinal tea. (tag)

Plant type: Tree; Size: 30-50′ tall, 20′ wide; rounded, upright columnar; fast to moderate growth; Evergreen; Flower: cream, white; Flowering season: Winter, Spring

Leaves & Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Fruit:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

image source: biology.sjsu.edu

Horehound

Scientific Name:

Marrubium vulgare

Plant Family:

Mint

A perennial European import that grows widely in Santa Barbara County.  It has simple hairy, blue-green leaves and grows up to 3 feet in height.  Whorls of pale white flowers grow along the stem. (Gaspar) It does not seem to have been important to the Chumash is the early days.  In the mid-twentieth century, Santa Ynez Chumash state that horehound-leaf tea was formerly drunk to induce abortion. People have continued to take this tea for cough, colds, and sore throat. (Timbrook)

Leaves:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Hummingbird Sage

Chumash Name:

qimsh

Scientific Name:

Salvia spathacea

Plant Family:

Mint

An evergreen perennial with flowering spikes and velvety, aromatic leaves. Leaves were used by the Chumash tribe in tea or steeped in bath for medicinal purposes. (tag)

Plant type: Perennial herb; Size: 1-3′ tall, 3′ wide; Moderate growth; Spreading; Evergreen; Slight fragrance; Flower: pink, red; Flowering season: Winter, Spring, Summer

Leaves & Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Lace Lichen

Scientific Name:

Ramalina menziesii

Lichen Category:

fruticose

Lace Lichen grows on many of the oaks near the water at Cachuma Lake. It grows up to a meter long, hanging from bark and twigs in a distinctive net-like or lace-like pattern that is unlike any other lichen in North America. (wiki) Lace lichen is a staple in the diet of mule deer and an integral part of the nesting materials used by various birds. It is also being studied for its antibacterial properties. Humans have found great use for the species’ sensitivity to air pollution and climate change by using it to monitor air quality.  (lpfw.org)

Lichens are often mistaken as moss, however, unlike moss, lichens are not plants at all. Lichens are organisms that are a symbiotic combination of fungus and algae or cyanobacteria. The algae or cyanoacteria can photosynthesize like plants, however many of them are single-celled organisms that can grow in a matrix of fungi.  The integration of life forms results in organisms that can grow on a wide variety of substrates and survive extreme environmental conditions.  They grow only when moistened and remain dormant when dry.  They get their nutrients from sunlight, air, water, and minerals. (Gaspar)

Father and child holding a fish they caught
Father and child holding a fish they caught

Mountain Mahogany

Scientific Name:

Cercocarpus sp.

Plant Family:

Rose

A shrub or small tree that grows up to 20 feet. The common name “mahogany”; comes from the hardness and color of the wood, although the genus is not a true mahogany.  The leaves are distinctive in that they have smooth edges from the base to about halfway up, then are wavy or toothed to the rounded tip. The fruit is a tubular achene (a small, dry one-seeded fruit that does not open to release the seed), with the long, plume like flower style still attached. (Wiki) The Chumash sometimes made digging sticks of mountain-mahogany.  (Timbrook)

Leaves:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Bark:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Mugwort

Chumash Name:

molush

Scientific Name:

Artemisia douglasiana

Plant Family:

Sunflower

An herbaceous perennial native to Western US. There are several species of mugwort that grow all across the USA. Grey-green, evenly spaced leaves, elliptical and lobed at tips. (Wiki) The underside of the leaves are fuzzy and white.

Artemisia douglasiana is used by Native American tribes as a medicinal plant to relieve joint pain and headaches, and to treat abrasions and rashes (including poison ivy). It is also used to treat women’s reproductive issues, including irregular menstruation and is occasionally used as an abortifacient (Wiki). The herb is also used to promote vivid dreams.

Plant type: Perennial herb, Size: 8′ tall,  Upright; Fast growth, Winter deciduous, Pleasant Fragrance; Flower: cream, white, yellow; Flowering season: Spring, Summer, Fall

Leaves:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Seeds:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Purple Needle Grass

Scientific Name:

Nassella pulchra

Plant Family:

Grass

A perennial native bunch grass formerly known as Stipa pulchra. This is the California State Grass. (Gaspar) The extensive root system can reach 20 feet (6.1 m) deep into the soil, making the grass more tolerant of drought. The pointed fruit is purple-tinged when young and has an awn up to 10 centimeters long which is twisted and bent twice. The shape of the seed helps it self-bury. (Wiki) Native perennial grasses such as these help to prevent erosion and are healthier companions for trees than invasive annual grasses.

This grass is the preferred material used by the Indigenous California basket weavers for teaching the art of basket weaving. (Wiki)

Plant type: Grasses; Size: 3.5′ tall, 1.5′ wide; Fountain form; Evergreen; No fragrance; Flower: cream, green, purple, red; Flowering season: Spring

Leaves & Seeds:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Purple Sage

Scientific Name:

Salvia leucophylla

Plant Family:

Mint

A perennial evergreen shrub that grows up to 5 feet tall and wide. Purple flowers grow in tight whorls about 2 inches apart. A common plant in the Cachuma Lake area and grows well in dry alkaline soils. Leaves contain fragrant essential oils. (Gaspar) Seeds were collected, stored, and eaten throughout the year. Fresh or dried leaves were used for tea and food seasoning. (tag)

Leaves & Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Skunkbush Sumac / Basket Bush

Scientific Name:

Rhus trilibata

Plant Family:

Sumac

This species closely resembles other members of the genus that have leaves with three “leaflets” (“trifoliate” leaves), including poison-oak. People with sensitivity to poison-oak should use caution around fragrant sumac. The shape of the leaflets and the habitat of the shrub make this species, like some other Rhus, resemble small-leafed oaks (Quercus).

Grow 2 – 8-feet; a deciduous perennial shrub with trifoliate, compound lobed, 1-inch leaves. Crushed leaves smell medicinal hence the name “Skunk Bush.” Edible fruit, the plant yields hairy and slightly sticky red berries which have an aroma similar to limes and a very sour taste. (Gaspar/Wiki) The barkless stems are used to make baskets and rugs. The bark can be chewed or brewed to relieve cold symptoms. The berries are eaten for stomach or toothache issues – although they are sour. The leaves are smoked. (wiki)

Leaves:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Fruit:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Smooth Sumac

Scientific Name:

Rhus glabra

Plant Family:

Sumac

Rhus glabra, the smooth sumac (also known as white sumac, upland sumac, or scarlet sumac) is a species of sumac in the family  Anacardiaceae , native to North America, from southern Quebec west to southern British Columbia in Canada, and south to northern Florida and Arizona in the United States and Tamaulipas in northeastern Mexico.

One of the easiest shrubs to identify throughout the year (unless mistaken for poison sumac, in the absence of mature fruit), smooth sumac has a spreading, open habit, growing up to 3 m (9.8 ft) tall, rarely to 5 m (16 ft). The leaves are alternate, 30–50 cm (12–20 in) long, compound with 11–31 oppositely paired leaflets, each leaflet 5–11 cm (2–4+ 1 ⁄ 4  in) long, with a serrated margin. The leaves turn scarlet in the fall. The flowers are tiny, green, produced in dense erect panicles 10–25 cm (4–10 in) tall, in the spring, later followed by large panicles of edible crimson berries that remain throughout the winter. The buds are small, covered with brown hair and borne on fat, hairless twigs. The bark on older wood is smooth and grey to brown.

In late summer it sometimes forms galls on the underside of leaves, caused by the parasitic sumac leaf gall aphid,  Melaphis rhois . The galls are not harmful to the tree.

Native Americans ate the young sprouts as a salad. The fruit is sour and contains a large seed, but can be chewed (to alleviate thirst) and made into a lemonade-like drink. Deers forage the twigs and fruit. In 2020, archaeologists unearthed a pipe at a dig in Central Washington state, showing chemical evidence that a Native American tribe had smoked Rhus glabra either alone or in a blend with tobacco, perhaps "for its medicinal qualities and to improve the flavor of smoke. (Wikipedia)

Leaves:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Fruit:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Sugar Bush

Scientific Name:

walqwaqsh

Scientific Name:

Rhus ovata

Plant Family:

Sumac

An evergreen shrub that grows from 6-25 feet tall with 2-3-inch shiny green ovate leaves. (Gaspar) It blooms in April and May, and its inflorescences which occur at the ends of branches consist of small, 5-petaled, flowers that appear to be pink, but upon closer examination actually have white to pink petals with red sepals.

The fruit is a reddish, sticky drupe (a fleshy fruit with thin skin and a central stone containing the seed, e.g., a plum, cherry, almond, or olive), and is small, about 6 – 8 mm in diameter. (Wiki) The berries can be used to make a lemonade-like drink. (Gaspar)

Fruit of sugar bush may have been eaten in the same way as berries of laurel sumac; pounded, dried in the sun, and eaten without cooking.  (Timbrook)

Plant type: Shrub; Size: 6-32′ tall, 3′ wide; Upright, mounding; Fast, moderate growth; Evergreen; Pleasant fragrance; Flower: white, pink; flowering season: Spring, Winter

Leaves:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Fruit:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Image Source: smmtc.org

Sticky Monkey Flower

Scientific Name:

Diplacus aurantiacus

Plant Family:

Lopseed

A perennial with narrow leaves and orange flowers that grows in rocky soil. Formerly known as Mimulus aurantiacus. The distinctive enduring flower suggests the face of a monkey. (Gaspar) The Miwok and Pomo Native Americans used the plant to treat minor ailments such as sores, burns, diarrhea, and eye irritation. They used the colorful flowers for decorative purposes (Wiki)

Plant type: Shrub; Size: 3-5′ tall, 5′ wide; Mounding, spreading; Moderate growth rate; Evergreen; No fragrance; Flower: orange, yellow, Flowering season: Winter, Spring, Summer

Leaves & Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught
Father and child holding a fish they caught

Sweet Yellow Clover

Scientific Name:

Melilotus officinalis

Plant Family:

Pea

Yellow and White Sweet clover are biennial Eurasian imports. They grow to the height of 2-6 feet. (Gaspar) Like white sweet clover, yellow sweet clover is erect, tall, and branching, but is distinguished by yellow rather than white flowers. (Wiki) Clovers make great ground covers in gardens and lawns. They are also Nitrogen Fixers, meaning that they fertilize soil.

Leaves:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Toyon

Scientific Name:

Heteromeles arbutifolia

Plant Family:

Rose

A small, evergreen tree growing to a height of 25 feet. The leaves are 2-4 inches long, narrow, and shallow-toothed. Flowers are small and white. Fruit is bright red and berry-like. (Gaspar) Berries were roasted and eaten or made into cakes and stored. (tag)

Plant type: Shrub; Size: 6-30′ tall, 10-15′ wide; Rounded; Moderate growth; Evergreen; Slight fragrance, Flower: white, Flowering season: Summer

Leaves & Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Berries:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Tree Tobacco

Scientific Name:

Nicotiana glauca

Plant Family:

Nightshade

A species of wild tobacco. Tree tobacco is a native of South America and Mesoamerica an area in North America that extends from approximately central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica. It is now widespread, as an introduced species, on other continents.

It is a common roadside weed in the southwestern United States, and an invasive plant species in California native plant habitats. (Wiki) The plant is used for a variety of medicinal purposes and smoked by Native American groups. The Cahuilla people used leaves interchangeably with other tobacco species in hunting rituals and as a poultice to treat swellings, bruises, cuts, wounds, boils, sores, inflamed throat, and swollen glands.

It contains the toxic alkaloid anabasine and ingestion of the leaves can be fatal. (Wiki) Introduced from its native South America during mission times, it has become widespread along roadsides. Chumash plant uses did not mention use of tree tobacco. (Timbrook)

Leaves & Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Tule

Chumash Name:

swow

Scientific Name:

Schoenoplectus acutus

Plant Family:

Sedge

A native perennial growing in colonies to 12 feet in shallow water or marshes. During the summer, brown flowers grow in clusters at the ends of the stems. Tule was the most common material that Chumash people used for thatching houses. Inside, the house was divided into rooms by hanging tule mats as partitions. People also slept and sat on tule mats. Tule mats were used for shade.

Plant type: grasses; Size: 13′ tall, Flower: brown

Leaves & Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Valley Oak

Chumash Name:

ta’

Scientific Name:

Quercis lobata

Plant Family:

Oak

Valley Oak is a type of White Oak. It can grow to over 100 feet and live hundreds of years.  It is a deciduous tree with leaves that are lobed, 2-4 inches and velvety. Acorns are large, often 2 inches long and 3/4-inch diameter.  Woodpeckers peck holes to store the acorns in the bark for later consumption. (Gaspar)

The acorns were also important for the Chumash, they were not as preferred as those of the Live Oak. (Gaspar)

The species was noted in William Brewer’s first geological survey of California in 1861. Since then it was given various names like roble, mush oak, california white oak, swamp oak, and bottom oak over the years by botanists, spanish explorers and early settlers.

Before many of California’s forests were cleared for Agriculture in the late 1800s, valley oak forests extended for miles along the Sacramento River and San Joaquin River.

Plant type: Tree; Size: 60-100′ tall, up to 50′; wide; Rounded, upright columnar; Fast, moderate growth; Winter deciduous, Pleasant fragrance; Flower: yellow, cream, green; Flowering season: Spring, Winter

Leaves:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Acorn:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Tree:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Western Elderberry

Chumash Name:

qayas

Scientific Name:

Sambucus mexicana

Plant Family:

Muskroot

Also called Blue Elderberry, this perennial shrub or small tree grows to about 20 feet in height. The fruit are shiny or frosted purple-blue color and range from bitter to sweet. (Gaspar) The fruit and flowers are said to have medicinal benefits for the treatment of bronchial ailments but the green fruit and leaves are slightly toxic.

Chumash people used the wood for bowls and tools. The hollow stems for flutes. (Gaspar) The plant produces edible berries but was more important as a source of wood for tools and musical instruments, and as a medicinal plant. Wood was used for bows in hunting small game. Small tobacco containers and pipes. Dance wands had handles of elderberry with a feathered foreshaft of willow inserted into the hollow center. The feathered pole erected at the Winter Solstice might also be made from a thick piece of Elderberry wood.

Several kinds of musical instruments were made from the stems including flutes, a split-stick rattle or clapper stick, a bullroarer and musical bows. A decoration of the flowers was used to treat colds and fevers. Hollow stems used as syringes. A poultice of Elderberry buds on the head for sunstroke, and incense of Elderberry flower or ashes from the young branches as a treatment for wounds. Soaking in boiled flowers to treat injuries (and more) (Timbrook) Ripe berries were eaten, flowers used in tea for colds; leaves for black dye; wood for bows, flutes, clapper sticks and bullroarers. (tag)

Leaves & Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Berries:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Image Source: biology.sjsu.edu

White Sage

Chumash Name:

khapshikh

Scientific Name:

Salvia apiana

Plant Family:

Sage

A perennial, evergreen shrub that grows 3 -8 feet in height. Plants can have several white to pale purple flowering stalks. The leaves are lanceolate, 2-4 inches long, tapered, and light green to gray. (Gaspar)

The Chumash people utilized White Sage in acorn granaries by lining them with the Sage leaves to ward off insects. They also consumed the peeled young stems and employed the plant for addressing headaches and inducing vomiting. In contemporary times, they incorporate dried bundles of white sage, burning them as a purifying incense during ceremonies. (sbnature.org) Seeds were eaten. Leaves and stems used in medicinal tea and hair rinse. (tag)

White Sage is native to the coastal foothills of Southern California is threatened as a result of overharvesting and the habitat destruction. Its use in new age spiritual practice is considered by some to be cultural appropriation. Various Indigenous communities advocate against the commercial sale of aromatic plant bundles, emphasizing the importance of trading, gifting, or crafting them instead. (jstor.org)

Plant type: Shrub; Size: 3-5′ tall, 3-8′ wide; Mounding; Moderate, Fast; Summer semi-deciduous; Pleasant fragrance; Flower: white; Flowering season: Winter, Spring, Summer.

Leaves:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Flowers:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

Seeds:

Father and child holding a fish they caught

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