In the News
Many previously “welcomed” urban tree species have outlived their stay, becoming invasive and crowding out other plants in our Southern California landscapes. You can help by avoiding planting these trees identified by various sources (including the California Invasive Plant Council) to be too aggressive and habitat/resource-depleting for further planting.
Invasive Trees to Avoid Planting
Athel (Tamarix aphylla)
Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
Blackwood Acacia (Acacia melanoxylon)
Brazilian Pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius)
Chinaberry (Melia azedarach)
Chinese Tallow Tree (Triadica sebifera)
English Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
Peruvian Pepper Tree (Schinus molle)
Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis)
Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia)
Saltcedar (Tamarix ramosissima, T. gallica, T. chinensis)
Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata)
Smallflower Tamarisk (Tamarix parviflora)
Tasmanian Bluegum (Eucalyptus globulus)
Plant These Instead
They are drought/heat resistant, low maintenance, and have no known significant pest or disease problems and are not currently overplanted). Find other suggestions here: https://www.cal-ipc.org/solutions/prevention/landscaping/dpp/?region=socal
African Fern Pine (Afrocarpus falcatus) (formerly Podocarpus elatior)
Cascolote (Caesalpinia cacalaco Smoothie®)
Desert Willow ‘Bubba' (Chilopsis linearis)
Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus)
Island Oak (Quercus tomentella)
‘Maverick' Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa)
Mulga (Acacia aneura)
Netleaf Hackberry (Celtis reticulata)
Pink Chitalpa (x Chitalpa tashkentensis 'Pink Dawn')
‘Red Push' Pistache (Pistacia x ‘Red Push')
Thornless South American Mesquite (Prosopis x Phoenix)/span>
During the holiday season many plants, cut flowers and flowering bulbs are used as decoration and given as gifts. Many of these items can be poisonous to both humans and pets with long-term negative effects to one's health. Plant poisoning can range from simple rashes and blisters all the way to organ damage and in severe cases death. Be safe this holiday season by being mindful of what plants and flowers you are either giving, receiving or decorating with. Common holiday plants that pose a toxic risk are; Amaryllis (bulb portion), Chrysanthemums, Holly (berries), Mistletoe (berries and leaves) and Poinsettia.
Simple steps can be taken to help minimize the risk that poisonous or toxic plants cause when brought into the home:
- Know what plants you have in your home and the health risks they pose
- Place poisonous plants out of reach of children and pets
- Teach children not to put any part of a plant in their mouth
- Discard plant leaves and flowers in a safe way so that children and pets cannot get to them
- Use protective gloves and clothing when handling plants that may be irritating to the skin
- Wash your hands after handling plants
- Don't garnish food trays or tables with poisonous plants
Signs of poisoning range from dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or stomach cramps. Some plants cause irritation to the skin, mouth and tongue and immediate burning pain. The signs of poisoning may not appear immediately so if you suspect that someone has been poisoned by a plant, telephone your doctor of the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. If you are advised to go to an emergency room, take the plant or a part of it with you (take more than a single leaf or berry). Take the label, too, if you have it. The correct name can result in the proper treatment if the plant is poisonous. If the plant is not dangerous, knowing the name can prevent needless treatment and worry.
To view a list of safe and toxic plants for humans please visit: http://ucanr.edu/sites/poisonous_safe_plants/
To view a list of safe and toxic plants for animals please visit: http://ucanr.edu/sites/poisonous_safe_plants/Plant_Toxicity_Levels_523/
Pittenger, Dennis. California Master Gardener Handbook--2nd Ed, Davis, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, 2015.
Learn and celebrate Healthy Soils Week with the UC Master Gardener Program and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Dec. 6-10! Healthy Soils Week is full of resources, virtual activities, and at-home projects to check out.
Soil quality is critical to healthy plants and is a vital part of our living ecosystem. Soil is alive with organisms that slowly grow or change depending on what is added, how the soil is used, and environmental conditions. Soil health, much like our own, is best improved gradually over time so focusing on regular or constant improvement helps achieve and sustain soil health. Adding certain practices into your gardening routine, such as incorporating organic matter, can be a great place to start.
For more UC ANR information about healthy soils for a healthy California visit: ucanr.edu/sites/soils.
2021 Healthy Soils Week Event Highlights
The California Department of Food and Agriculture and its many partners have teamed up to highlight healthy soils activities on the farm and at home. Find a full list of partners participating in Healthy Soils Week and a calendar of this year's online activities at: cdfa.ca.gov/healthysoilsweek.
Monday, Dec. 6:
- NRCS Rainfall Simulator Demonstration - Hosted by California Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS). The Rainfall Simulator provides a demonstration of how practices such as no-till farming, cover crops, and prescribed grazing benefit soil health and improve the water cycle on cropland and rangeland. Presented by Dr. Kabir Zahangir, NRCS Regional Soil Health Specialist. This demonstration includes discussion of topics such as soil structure, aggregate stability, and infiltration.
Tuesday, Dec. 7:
- Soil Health Connection – Topic of the Day: The Soil Health Connection is a collection of videos on soil health and related topics. Liz Harper from Colusa County Resource Conservation District and Sarah Light, a UC ANR Farm Advisor, have put together a series of interviews with individuals who are actively involved in improving soil in the Sacramento Valley and beyond. A new video will be featured each day of Healthy Soils Week.
Weds., Dec. 8:
- A Walk Through the Soil Tunnel: Hosted by California NRCS. The Soil Tunnel is an educational tool designed to teach and promote the importance of soils and soil health. It illustrates through the use of images, the important functions of the soil. Through this interactive soil exhibit, audience of all ages can view the world below the ground by walking through the Tunnel. Presented by Luis Alvarez, California NRCS Soil Scientist. This video takes the audience on a walk through the soil tunnel to “unlock the secrets in the soil”.
Thurs., Dec. 9:
- Composting for At-Home Gardeners: Here's a tip for gardeners! By using compost and organic matter, you can reduce plant water needs by as much as 30 percent. Learn more about what compost can do for urban and home soils with the Save Our Water campaign.
Friday, Dec. 10:
- Soil Ribboning with Mikie McDonnell: California Rangeland Trust Stewardship Specialist, Mikie McDonnell leads us in a soil ribboning activity. This kid-friendly activity will teach participants more about what makes up the soil around them. Grab a cup of soil and get ready to get your hands dirty!
Ask your local UC Master Gardener
Growing and supporting soil health is something all of us can contribute to whether we have a full landscape to work in, a small patio, or a community garden plot. For more gardening help and local county resources, click here to Find a Program. You will be redirected to your local county website and contact information. UC Master Gardener volunteers are available to help answer questions for FREE about your gardening zone, pests, composting, and the soil in your area.
Today is #Giving Tuesday! The UC Master Gardener Program is once again participating in Giving Tuesday's 24-hour global giving challenge, a movement about ordinary people coming together to do extraordinary things.
Celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday kicks off the charitable season. With so many digging into gardening for the first time, there is a surge in demand for resources and trusted home gardening information. Giving to the UC Master Gardener Program helps create gardening resources, virtual workshops and empowers gardeners to support food banks, schools, and community gardens.
How can you help? Here are a few simple ideas:
- Join us and donate. Your gift can be applied directly to support your local county program.
- Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for exciting updates. Tag @UCMasterGarden and include the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #GiveBack.
- Please share this message with friends and family and encourage them to join the movement!
We're asking you to join us in supporting the UC Master Gardener Program by helping spread the word to friends and family who want to support you in making an impact. Thank you for all you do for the UC Master Gardener Program and for joining the #GivingTuesday movement! For more information visit: mg.ucanr.edu/GivingTuesday.
Back in January of this year, we outlined UC Master Gardener Program priorities for the upcoming year, focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Throughout the year, we have shared a four-part, Celebrating California Gardens blog series highlighting plants, gardening practices, and vibrant traditions sometimes missing from the UC Master Gardener Program curriculum. While this is our fourth contribution to the blog series, we look forward to continuing this effort by amplifying the voices of black, indigenous and gardeners of color in 2022. If you have a story to contribute, please reach out to Melissa Womack at email@example.com. We hope you will join us in continuing our effort to deepen our knowledge and build our skills.
As a California transplant, I can genuinely say that the biodiversity in this incredible state is awe-inspiring. Whether appreciating spring blooms in the rolling hills around our state, studying bee diversity in the garden, or birding along the Pacific Flyway, I have never been disappointed. We truly have an abundance of nature surrounding us.
In learning about the history of our state, it is clear this rich biodiversity has been key to the success of California and its people. Before European colonization, California contained the largest Native American population density north of what is now Mexico. Five hundred distinct groups of Native Californians stewarded this land, working with native flora, fauna and climate to support thriving ecosystems.
Life in early California darkened with colonization that introduced invasive plant species, disease epidemics, and the forced removal of Native Californians from their ancestral lands. As residents of California today, it is important for us to learn about these atrocities and honor the people, cultures, and Indigenous territories of California. I respectfully submit this blog post from my home, which sits on the border of ancestral lands of the Nisean and Patwin peoples. You can also learn about territories, languages, and treaties that are the history of where you live.
The California native plants that we prize in our landscapes today also have rich history of use and value to Native Californians. Many of our landscapes include these plants such as deergrass, California lilac, and silktassel. As a gardener, it is fascinating to understand these plants by seeking information about their uses. For me, it has deepened my appreciation of the plants around me.
Deergrass (Muhlenbergia sp.) is a large and showy California native bunchgrass. Today, we commonly see deergrass used as an ornamental landscape staple not only in home landscapes but also in medians and public plantings. This low-maintenance grass only needs to be cut to the ground every three years to refresh its appearance and is a showy display in the landscape year-round. Large planting beds and landscapes can accommodate Muhlenbergia rigens (approx. 4.5'x4.5') but for those looking for something smaller with the same affect, there is Muhlenbergia dubia (approx. 3'x3').
Many Indigenous Californians, including but not limited to the Cahuilla, Mono, and Yokut People, used this dense bunchgrass for weaving baskets. Stands of deergrass were carefully managed to produce prolific, long, straight flower stalks prized for their strength and flexibility. The flower stalks were cut, clustered into groups and then coiled to create baskets. When submerged in water, deergrass stalks expand, thereby creating watertight vessels for transporting liquids and for cooking.
A second important native plant, and one of my spring and summer favorites, is California lilac (Ceanothus sp.), this floriferous native perennial comes in a variety of shapes and sizes from low growing groundcovers to tall and stately shrubs. Personal favorites include Ceanothus ‘Concha' for its prolific blooms and Ceanothus ‘Gentian Plume' for its incredibly large flower racemes. These beautiful bloomers also attract a myriad of honeybees, native bees, and butterflies.
California lilac is used by Native Californians for a number of purposes, from food to medicine and fabric dye. One unexpected use is as a soap. Flowers can be harvested and when rubbed vigorously between wet hands, they produce a lovely fragranced lather. The flowers can be used fresh or dried to create this effect. The Nuwa People of the Tehachapi Mountains call California lilac matambu (ma-TAM-buh).
Another one of California's unique show-stopping perennials is the silktassel (Garrya eliptica). If you have never seen this tree in bloom, I encourage you to seek it out December-January as it is truly remarkable. The male trees produce dramatic light-colored catkins against dark leathery green leaves. When not in bloom, this small evergreen tree can also function as a large shrub and is gaining popularity with gardeners around the state.
Silktassel is native to the coastal areas of California and Oregon, and Native Californians harvested and used the wood of this tree to make tools. One example is from the Yurok People, stewards of land in and around the Klamath River and Klamath River estuary. Wood harvested from the silktassel was used to create scraping tools to remove mussels from rocks within the estuary. Additional food harvesting tools like fishing weirs and spears used wood from silktassel and other California native trees.
As a gardener, I feel responsible for understanding the plants that I tend in my landscape, from attributes and water needs to their pollinator value. I've also enjoyed scratching the surface of the rich history of these plants but have so much to learn. I've benefited from the robust web presence of many Tribal Communities where I have found information about historical and current plant uses, environmental restoration, and stewardship efforts. I encourage other gardeners to join me in this effort.
There are also gardens and heritage centers to visit to learn and show respect for the cultures and communities of Native Californians. Best yet, we can seek out events that celebrate and educate about traditions of the past, present and future of the original people of California. As reparation, we must also learn about and unveil the atrocities that happened to Native Californians and how non-native people like myself have benefitted from the displacement and marginalization of native people, cultures and traditions.
Would you like to learn more about the University of California and recommended actions regarding accountability to Native Californians? A report was recently published summarizing a 2020 forum, The University of California Land Grab: A Legacy of Profit from indigenous Lands.
Anderson, M. K. (2013). Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources. University of California Press.
Armstrong, W. P. (2015, April 10). Deergrass: A Native Bunchgrass Planted at Palomar College. Arboretum Newsletter Number 9. https://www2.palomar.edu/users/warmstrong/DeerGrass1.htm
Atkins, D. B., & Bauer, W. J. (2021). We are the Land: A History of Native California. University of California Press.
Parsons, M. E. (1966). The Wild Flowers of California. Dover Publications.
Native Land Digital (2021). https://native-land.ca/
Pearlstein, E., de Brer, C., Gleeson, M., Lewis, A. (2008). An Examination of Plant Elements Used for Cahuilla Baskets from Southern California. Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 47(3): 183-200.
The Yurok Tribe (2021). https://www.yuroktribe.org/