Plant Field Guide

NPS Arrowhead with the title Cabrillo National Monument  Native Plant Field Guide
This native plant guide can be printed and folded to use on a self guided trip at Cabrillo. It was created through the support of the Cabrillo National Monument Conservancy. I

Download the Native Plant Field Guide


Our Role

The core mission of the National Park Service is to protect and preserve natural resources, processes, systems, and values of the parks they manage. Our philosophy is protect, and restore when necessary, native ecosystems and let natural processes play out. Park Rangers and Volunteers document their observations of flora and fauna. Scientists conduct research to try to understand the status and trends of the species and systems they protect. This information is vital to advising park management and philosophy.
Cabrillo Vista

Our Mediterranean Ecosystem

The Mediterranean ecosystem at Cabrillo is made up of plants that have adapted to warm, dry summers and cool winters with a few storms lasting a few days at a time. To survive through the dry season, some plants found in the habitats have large roots, or bodies, where they store water to use when needed. Other plants have leaf adaptations that prevent the loss of water.

These adaptations include leaves that fall off during dry seasons, leaves that curl up and make a small moisture chamber within the leaf, leaves with a waxy coating that protects them from evaporation, leaves with hairs that reflect light penetrating the plant, or leaves that are small in size so there is not a lot of area for evaporation.
Sea Dahlia
Native Plant Communities
Native Plant Communities
The power of sunlight plays a huge role in the plant communities here at Cabrillo National Monument. The park can be divided into two main plant communities.
The first community, called Coastal Sage Scrub, is populated by small plants only growing to a height of three (3) feet. The plants tend to be spread out and brown dirt is often seen in these areas. This community is usually found on southern facing slopes. Here the sun shines directly on everything for most of the day.

Chaparral, the second community, is categorized by woody shrubs that can grow to eight (8) feet. These shrubs grow close together with little bare ground between plants. This community is usually found on northern facing slopes where the sun does not shine directly and there is more shade. As you look around the park try to notice the differences. Where the plants are tall and it would be close to impossible to walk through them, this is the Chaparral.

The Coastal Sage Scrub is our most sensitive habitat. The plants here are fighting to stay alive and you can help them most, by staying on the paths and letting these special plants have a chance of survival.

Bladder Pod (Peritoma arborea)
Flowers Present: All Year With Rain
Spreading shrub <6’tall, 3 gray-green odorous leaflets, yellow tubular 4 petal flowers, bladder shaped seed pods

Broom Baccharis
Broom Baccharis (Baccharis sarothroides)
Flowers Present: August-December
Woody shrub <7’, leaves often not evident, twiggy-broomlike in appearance, small white yellowish male flowers, small white fluffy female flowers
California Flattop Buckwheat

California Flattop Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum)
Flowers Present: All Year With Rain
Woody brittle shrub <5’ tall, small slender bundled leaves, white pom-pom like flowers, dry rust colored flower heads retained

California Sagebrush
California Sagebrush (Artemisia califonica)
Flowers Present: August-December
Erect or spreading many branched <4’ tall, soft aromatic gray-blue linear leaves, small discoid yellow-green flowers
California Sunflower
California Sunflower (Encelia californica)
Flowers Present: February-June
Branched <4’tall, ovate gray-green smooth edged alternate leaves, yellow ray petals surrounding brown-black disk flowers
Chalk Dudleya
Chalk Dudleya (Dudleya pulverulenta)
Flowers Present: May-July
Basal rosette of wide fleshy green leaves with white “chalk”, tall branched stalks with many red flowers <3’ tall
Cliff Spurge
Cliff Spurge (Euphorbia misera)
Flowers Present: January-August
Gray twiggy looking in drought <3’tall, small green leaves, tiny white with maroon center flowers after rain
Coast Cholla Cactus
Coast Cholla Cactus (Cylindropuntia prolifera)
Flowers Present: April-June
<6’ tall, 2” diameter <12” green segment with many spines, magenta flowers with green filaments
Coast Loco Weed
Coast Loco Weed (Astragalus trichopodus)
Flowers Present: February-June
<2’ tall, gray-green with 15-39 leaflets, cream-white flower heads, rounded seed pods
Coast Prickly Pear
Coast Prickly Pear (Opuntia littoralis)
Flowers Present: May-June
Green flat rounded pads (nopalitos) with 4-10 spines from areole, yellow flowers and red fruits (tuna)
Coastal Bushmallow
Coastal Bushmallow (Malacothamnus fasciculatus)
Flowers Present: April-July
Shrub <6’ tall, softly lobed felty leaves, pink with orangish center flowers bundled along stalk
Coyote Brush
Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis)
Flowers Present: August-December
Woody shrub <7’ tall, small narrow toothed ovate light green leaves, small yellowish male flowers, small white fluffy female flowers
Deer Weed
Deer Weed (Acmispon glaber)
Flowers Present: March-August
Gray-green twigs <4’ tall, 3-6 inconspicuous leaflets, small yellow turning to orange flowers with “deer’s ears”
Giant Wild Rye
Giant Wild Rye (Elymus condensatus)
Flowers Present: June-August
Green fading to brown long wide erect leafed grass <8’ tall, spiked slender noded flower (seeds)
Lady's Fingers
Lady’s Fingers (Dudleya edulis)
Flowers Present: May-June
Basal rosette of gray-green fleshy cylindrical “finger” leaves , creamy-white 5 petal star shaped flowers atop branched stalks <18” tall
Lemonade Berry
Lemonade Berry (Rhus integrifolia)
Flowers Present: February-May
Woody gray barked bush <15’ tall, dark green leathery serrated leaves, flowers white or pink, red waxy berries
Mojave Yucca
Mojave Yucca (Yucca schidigera)
Flowers Present: April-May
Large rosette of pointed stiff gray-green leaves with “threads” along edge, <8’ tall stalk with white waxy flowers
San Diego Sunflower
San Diego Sunflower (Bahiopsis laciniata)
Flowers Present: March-July
Gray green thick puckered lance shaped leaves, yellow ray and disk flowers
Shaw's Agave
Shaw’s Agave (Agave shawii)
Flowers Present: September-May
Basal rosette of sharp pointed toothed thick stiff leaves, golden flowers on thick branched stalk to 8’ tall (only flowers once, every 20-40 years)
Wart-stem Ceanothus
Wart-stem Ceanothus (Ceanothus verrucosus)
Flowers Present: January-April
Brown woody “warted” stems, shrub <8’ tall, small thick rounded ribbed toothed evergreen leaves, tiny white clumped flowers

Last updated: October 6, 2020

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1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive
San Diego, CA 92106


619 523-4285

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