Orange County is home to nearly 1,500 native and naturalized plants and is recognized as one of the most diverse botanical regions in North America. In spite of the county being home to over three million people, much of our open spaces are still well preserved and deserving of plant exploration.
The resources below will help you understand and unjoy our local native plants.
Local Floras and Plant Lists
Identification and Distribution Resources
Other Native Plant Information
Many of you have the new Jepson Manual and have had a chance to thumb through it. You may have noticed that under the grasses (Poaceae), there have been quite a few changes since the first Jepson Manual was published in 1993. If splitting became the theme of the Asteraceae, the Poaceae went the opposite way, with re-unification of traditional genera the main theme. Three genera especially stand out, Stipa, Elymus, and Festuca. Achnatherum and Nasella, the needlegrasses, are once again Stipa. Piptatherum (rice grass) is tossed in for good measure. Leymus is once again folded back into Elymus (wild rye). Not only was the annual genus Vulpia returned to Festuca (fescues) as subgenus, so were plants we’ve long known under the genus Lolium.
For those of you that are interested and not sure you really want to go to the trouble of figuring out what happened to your favorite Orange County grass, I’ve summarized the changes for you below. [ Click here for a PDF version of this document ]
Vascular Plants of Orange County, an Annotated Checklist (Roberts 2008) already reflects many of these changes.
POACEAE – GRASS FAMILY
Achnatherum coronatum (Thurb.) Barkworth =Stipa coronata Thurb.
Agrostis viridis Gouan = Polypogon viridis (Gouan) Breister
Alopecurus pratensis L. NEW ADDITION TO S. CALIF. FLORA. Previously known from farther north.
You might be noticing an orange tint to the hills in Orange County these days. Maybe you, too, have Sticky Monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus) gracing your nearby hills.
In San Juan Capistrano, on May 19, 2011, a hike starting on the Cerro Rebal trail brought us up close and personal with some great displays of monkeyflower in coastal sage scrub habitat. In my experience it is this profuse only in good rain years and when we get rain fairly late in the season.
Some observers might look up into the hills and think mustard is blooming, but monkeyflowers are not the sulphur yellow color of mustard, but have the overall effect of a light apricot/melon color. The individual bushes can vary in flower color quite a bit from a reddish brick all the way to a very pale yellow/almost white.
When Archibald Menzies was born at Stix House, near Aberfeldy, in Perthshire, Scotland, in 1754, his family would have had good reason to expect him to pursue a career involving plants. If the Dictionary of Canadian Biography can be believed, his four brothers were gardeners, and in his youth Archibald himself worked as a gardener for the clan chief on the grounds of Castle Menzies in the village of Weem. But they might not necessarily have predicted that his name would appear so many times in the Linnaean nomenclature of plants—20 times, in fact, as part of the scientific names of California native plants alone.