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California native plants that tolerate serpentine soils.

Kruckeberg estimates that serpentine regions of California represent only about 1% of the land surface but have about 10% of the endemic species.
For those of you that have soil with serpentine in it you have probably noticed that some plants hate you. The plants fail to thrive. They rot off at the base. They are variegated when they are supposed to be green.

Serpentine soils are usually not pure blue serpentine. They are usually adobe like with serpentine rocks here and there. Sometimes that look like red rock with some blue in it. Jade is a form of serpentine.

One of the few ways that you can keep nasty weeds out of serpentine areas is to limit the fertility.So if you have a hillside of serpentine, plant serpentine tolerant plants and do not amend the soil, nor fertilize. (Huenneke, Laura Foster, et. al, 1990)
Serpentine soils west of New Irdia - grid24_12
In extreme conditions, where the serpentine soils are all serpentine, there is very limited plant life.
Arctostaphylos glauca, Arctostaphylos pungens, Quercus durata, and Coulter pine on serpentine soil  - grid24_12
In the areas where the serpentine has broken down a little, serpentine tolerant and endemic plants can grow. Serpentine tolerant plants can handle excess Magnesium, Nickel, and Iron, and low Calcium. Here is Leather Oak and Big Berried Manzanita
Even serpentine tolerant plants have a great deal of trouble in raw serpentine. - grid24_12
Notice the little mangy looking manzanita in the corner. Even serpentine tolerant plants have trouble in raw serpentine.
Notice there is very little undergrowth under the Coulter Pines and manzanitas. - grid24_12
Plants that can tolerate serpentine do fairly well, others do not. Thus there are only a few species like Coulter Pine in photo. Even the weeds have problems. It's not all bad.

Serpentine tolerate plants.

I've only listed the plants that I've seen in the trade.
These are not always restricted to serpentine, but are commonly associated with serpentine or serpentine based soils.
Do not expect any of these plants to live in raw serpentine. Many of the serpentine soils have asbestos problems for us, heavy metal (nickel, manganese, etc.) and low calcium for plants.

Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple
Achillea millefolium californica Yarrow
Adenostoma fasciculatum Chamise
Adiantum pedatum aleuticum
Aesculus californica Buckeye
Agrostis pallens Bent Grass
Aquilegia eximia Serpentine Columbine
Arbutus menziesii Madrone
Arctostaphylos Baby Bear Manzanita Bush Manzanita
Arctostaphylos canescens Hoary Manzanita
Arctostaphylos columbiana Hairy Manzanita
Arctostaphylos cushingiana Mound Manzanita
Arctostaphylos densiflora Harmony Manzanita
Arctostaphylos densiflora Howard McMinn Manzanita
Arctostaphylos densiflora Sentinel Manzanita
Arctostaphylos glauca Big Berry Manzanita
Arctostaphylos hookeri franciscana Franciscana Manzanita
Arctostaphylos manzanita Real manzanita Manzanita Tree
Arctostaphylos manzanita Dr. Hurd Manzanita
Arctostaphylos mewukka Indian Manzanita
Arctostaphylos obispoensis San Luis Obispo Manzanita Serpentine Manzanita
Arctostaphylos patula Greenleaf Manzanita
Arctostaphylos Sonoma Manzanita Bush Stanford Manzanita
Arctostaphylos stanfordiana bakeri Louis Edmunds Manzanita
Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida Whiteleaf manzanita
Asclepias eriocarpa Monarch Milkweed
Asclepias fascicularis Narrowleaf Milkweed
Asclepias Solanoana
Artemisia californica California Sagebrush
Baccharis pilularis consanguinea Coyote Brush
Baccharis pilularis consanguinea Pozo Surf Lowly Coyote brush
Baccharis pilularis pilularis Pigeon Point Dwarf Coyote Brush
Calycanthus occidentalis Spice Bush
Carex obispoensis Obispo sedge
Carex serratodens Bifid Sedge
Carex subfusca Rusty Sedge
Ceanothus cuneatus Buckbrush
Ceanothus foliosus Wavy Leaf Mountain lilac
Ceanothus jepsonii Musk Brush
Ceanothus lemmonii Trinity Ceanothus
Ceanothus papillosus Wart Stem California Lilac
Ceanothus pumilus Dwarf Ceanothus
Ceanothus purpureus Hollyleaf Ceanothus
Ceanothus roderickii Pine Hill Ceanothus
Cercis occidentalis Western Redbud
Cercocarpus betuloides Mountain Mahogany
Cercocarpus ledifolius Desert mountain mahogany
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana
Chrysothamnus nauseosus Rabbitbrush
Chrysothamnus nauseosus consimilis Nevada Rabbit Brush
Clematis lasiantha Pipestem Clematis
Clematis ligusticifolia Western white clematis
Cornus californica California Dogwood
Cornus glabrata Brown Twig Dogwood
Cupressus macnabiana MacNab cypress
Cupressus sargentii Sargent Cypress
Delphinium nudicaule Canyon delphinium
Dendromecon rigida Bush Poppy
Deschampsia elongata Slender hairgrass
Dicentra formosa Pacific Bleeding Heart
Diplacus aurantiacus Sticky Monkey Flower
Diplacus grandiflorus Slender Monkey Flower
Distichlis spicata Saltgrass
Dudleya abramsii murina San Luis Obispo Live Forever
Dudleya caespitosa Coast Dudleya
Dudleya cymosa Liveforever
Elymus glaucus Blue Wildrye
Epipactis gigantea Stream Orchid
Equisetum hymale
Ericameria arborescens Golden Fleece
Erigeron glaucus Seaside Daisy
Eriodictyon californicum Yerba Santa
Eriogonum nudum pubiflorum Naked buckwheat
Eriogonum ursinum Mat buckwheat
Eriophyllum confertiflorum Golden yarrow
Eriophyllum lanatum arachnoideum Spider Yarrow
Eriophyllum lanatum grandiflorum Common Woolly Sunflower
Eschscholzia californica California Poppy
Fraxinus dipetala Flowering Ash
Fremontodendron californicum decumbens Dwarf Flannel Bush
Fremontodendron californicum napensis
Fritillaria recurva var. recurva
Garrya congdonii
Garrya elliptica James Roof
Garrya fremontii Bear brush
Garrya veatchii Silk Tassel Bush
Gnaphalium californicum California Pearly Everlasting
Grindelia camporum Giant Gum Plant
Grindella hirsutula Hairy gumplant
Hazardia squarrosus Yellow Squirrel Cover
Helenium bigelovii Bigelows Sneezeweed.
Helianthemum scoparium Sun Rose
Heleocharis parishii Parishs Spike Rush
Heteromeles arbutifolia Toyon
Holodiscus discolor Cream Bush
Hordeum brachyantherum Meadow barley
Hordeum brachyantherum californicum California Barley
Juniperus communis montana Dwarf Juniper
Iris douglasiana Douglas Iris
Iris hartwegii Sierra Iris
Iris macrosiphon Ground Iris
Iris missouriensis Western Blue Flag
Juniperus occidentalis Western Juniper
Keckiella cordifolia Heart Leaved Penstemon
Keckiella corymbosa Redwood Penstemon
Koeleria macrantha June Grass
Lepechinia calycina California Pitcher Plant
Lewisia rediviva Bitter Root
Libocedrus decurrens Incense Cedar ( Calocedrus decurrens)
Lilium bolanderi
Lilium kelloggii
Linum lewisii Blue Flax
Lithocarpus densiflorus Tanbark Oak
Lonicera interrupta Chaparral Honeysuckle
Lupinus albifrons Silver Bush Lupine
Mahonia pinnata Shinyleaf Mahonia
Mahonia piperiana
Mahonia pumila
Malacothamnus palmeri
Melica californica California Melica
Melica imperfecta California Melic
Mimulus cardinalis Scarlet Monkey Flower
Mimulus guttatus Seep Monkey Flower
Mimulus moschatus Musk Flower
Monardella palmeri
Monardella villosa obispoensis San Luis Obispo coyote mint
Monardella viridis Green Monardella
Muhlenbergia rigens Deer Grass
Pellaea andromedifolia
Penstemon heterophyllus Foothill Penstemon
Penstemon heterophyllus purdyii
Penstemon parvulus
Penstemon roezlii Roezl's penstemon
Phacelia imbricata Pine Bee Flower
Physocarpus capitatus Ninebark
Picea breweriana
Pickeringia montana Chaparral Pea
Pinus attenuata Knobcone Pine
Pinus balfouriana Foxtail Pine
Pinus coulteri Coulter Pine
Pinus jeffreyiJeffrey Pine
Pinus sabiniana Gray Pine
Pityrogramma triangularis Goldenback Fern
Polypodium californicum California Polypody
Potentilla glandulosa Sticky Cinquefoil
Potentilla glandulosa nevadensis Nevada Cinquefoil
Prunus emarginata Bitter Cherry
Prunus ilicifolia Holly-Leafed Cherry
Psoralea macrostachya Leather Root
Psoralea orbicularis Giant Clover
Quercus agrifolia Coast Live Oak
Quercus berberidifolia Scrub Oak
Quercus chrysolepis Canyon Live Oak
Quercus durata Leather Oak
Quercus garryana White oak
Quercus garryana breweri Brewer's oak
Quercus kelloggii Kellogg Oak
Quercus parvula Santa Cruz Island Oak
Quercus wislizenii Interior Live Oak
Ranunculus californicus Buttercup, Crowfoot
Rhamnus californica Coffeeberry
Rhamnus californica crassifolia
Rhamnus californica Eve Case Eve Case
Rhamnus californica San Bruno San Bruno Coffeeberry
Rhamnus crocea ilicifolia Hollyleaf Redberry
Rhamnus purshiana Chittam Bark
Rhododendron macrophyllum
Rhododendron occidentale Western Azalea
Rhus trilobata Squaw Bush Sumac
Ribes amarum Bitter Gooseberry
Rosa gymnocarpa Wood Rose
Rosa spithamea Ground Rose
Rudbeckia californica California Coneflower
Salix lasiolepis Arroyo Willow
Salvia mellifera Black Sage
Salvia sonomensis Creeping Sage
Salvia spathacea Hummingbird Sage
Sambucus mexicana Tapiro
Sanicula bipinnata Poison Sanicle
Sidalcea hickmanii anomala
Silene californica
Silene hookeri
Sisyrinchium bellum Blue-Eyed Grass
Stachys ajugoides ajugoides Persnickety Pink Pink Hedge Nettle
Stachys ajugoides rigida Bugle Hedgenettle
Stipa pulchra Purple Stipa
Styrax officinalis californica Snowdrop Bush
Styrax officinalis fulvescens Southern Snowdrop bush
Symphoricarpos mollis Southern California Snowberry
Thermopsis macrophylla macrophylla
Umbellularia californica Bay Laurel
Vancouveria planipetala Redwood Ivy
Vitis californica California Grape
Wyethia angustifolia Narrowleaf Mule Ears
Xerophyllum tenax Indian Basket Grass
Yucca whipplei Quixote Plant
Zauschneria californica Bert's Bluff Bert's California Fuchsia
Zauschneria septentrionalis Mattole River White Leaf Fuchsia


Annuals
Clarkia bottae Farewell-to-spring
Clarkia unguiculata Mountain Garland
Collinsia heterophylla Chinese Houses
Gilia capitata Globe Gilia
Gilia tricolor
Layia platyglossa Tidy Tips
Lupinus nanus Sky Lupine
Madia elegans
Mimulus fremontii
Orthocarpus densiflorus Owl's Clover
Trichostema lanceolatum Vinegar weed

Along the Big Sur coast serpentine soils reach the ocean bluffs. - grid24_12
In California serpentine soils exist from about the Ventura County line and up to the north. Both the coast ranges and the Sierras have some. Baja California, Oregon, Washington and even Alaska have their serpentine areas but California has human population pressure.
Arctostaphylos obispoensis and Ceanothus foliosus on serpentine soil. - grid24_12
Many of the areas that look to be covered with vegetation actually have clusters of plant life with bare soil or rock in between.
Arctostaphylos obispoensis mazanita  and Sargent Cypress tree on serpentine. - grid24_12
Some plants like the Sargent Cypress and Serpentine Manzanita can grow on almost raw serpentine.
Serpentine soil seems to have a red rock component on the edges. - grid24_12
Raw serpentine is commonly blue-green, but the soils associated with it can be red, white, green or blue. This is not meant to be a soils page, so check other sites if your want more on serpentine soils.
Arctostaphylos hookeri franciscana Franciscana Manzanita flowers and stems - grid24_12
There are some really nice manzanitas that tolerate ultrabasic soils, even thrive in them.
A side view of the flower and leaves of Calycanthus occidentalis, Spice Bush, in our Santa Margarita garden. - grid24_12
In wetter spots plants like Calycanthus occidentalis, Spice Bush will do fine.
This Fritilary was on Monardella villosa obispoensis above Big Sur - grid24_12
In heavy serpentine San Luis Obispo coyote mint gets real fuzzy and flat.
Black Sage flowers can be blue or white. Sometimes the white ones are blue on cold years. Here they are along a coastal trail in coastal sage scrub. - grid24_12
Black Sage tolerates serpentine based soils in the central part of the state. The areas above the Bay area are probably too wet.
Sisyrinchium bellum, Blue-Eyed Grass flowers are lavender blue. - grid24_12
Blue Eyed Grass makes almost a lawn in nearly all serpentine rock.

Tips about growing plants in serpentine.

I read somewhere that serpentine soils contain up to 70% moisture, when dry. Plants seldom die of drought in serpentine soils.

Drip irrigation increases the salts and heavy metals in the soil next to plant. Drip dramatically shortens the lives of most native plants.

Be careful with mulch on these soils. Mulch can drive the salts away from the plant, but the soil may be wet for months, drowning your plants.

NO soil amending. The drainage is pretty bad in serpentine soils, an amended hole turns into a mud hole as there is no where else for the surface water to go. Your plant drowns in winter, but doesn't die until summer, when it needs the roots.
Plants that are always associated with serpentine can commonly be grown in a conventional garden. But they do not tolerate weeds well, need regular water and need high fertility. But serpentine plants will usually hate you if you have a high calcium soil.
This was compiled from our observations, Kruckenberg's "California Serpentines", Safford, Vieras and Harrison, "Serpentine Endemism in the California Flora: A database of Serpentine Affinity". the "Consortium of California Herbaria", and several serpentine plant list of different serpentine soil areas.