Glossary for Las Pilitas

(a work in progress, email us if we're missing something)


Lives in a oxygen based environment


Chemicals released by an organism that limit other organisms. These chemicals are usually part of the plant community strategies and are muted for native plants by other associated chemicals and mycorrhizal activity. A number of the original claims were found to be rabbit dens, not chemicals.


Lives without oxygen; for example if I say, “ your soil is in an anaerobic condition, I mean that there is no oxygen in the soil, and most plants can't grow under these conditions because most roots need oxygen just like we do. Many riparian plants have adapted roots to pump air into the muck and can live under anaerobic conditions.

associated plants

These are plants that grow with other particular plants and are also called associates. These associated plants can be understory plants or plants that grow beside other plants, not under them. For example, here in the central California coast ranges, Johnny Jump-Up (Viola pedunculata) is an associate of Valley Oak (Quercus lobata). This violet is also mostly an understory plant that grows under Valley Oak (Quercus lobata).


An artificial basin created by mounding up earth around a plant, usually to hold water for irrigation.


An artificial levee or mound of earth, used in landscape design, one purpose being to add dimension to a flat site.

common name

This is a name commonly used by the people of an area for a particular plant. It is notoriously unreliable because everyone has a different name in a different language, etc. For example, I have heard Pinus sabiniana referred to as Bull Pine, Digger Pine, and Gray Pine. The common name index is sorted by Linux that is case sensitive and often the sorting is kinda backwards. Use the Google search at the bottom of the front page to find your item.


All plants live with other plants in certain areas with specific climates and certain soils and these groupings are termed plant communities. Take a look at the communities page.

A plant that avoids stress by shutting down, going partially or totally deciduous (looks dead in extreme cases) at the first sign of stress. A fruit tree does this in winter, and many circumventors in mild winter areas of California go partially deciduous in summer.

Cultivar A Cultivar is a selection of an individual within the species. If you dragged all the white males out of an office building, separated out all the Bob's, and then picked the tallest Bob and used tissue culture to make a whole bunch of tall Bob's, you'd have to call them something to separate them from the other Bob's, not to mention the other white males, so they'd be Tall Bob's. They're still Bob's, and they're all white males.
Ok, that wasn't good. The way that it works with native plants is someone from somewhere else drives along a road much traveled and sees a locally common plant. Freaks out, stops the car, takes a few cuttings, thinks his/her plant is special and gives it a name like 'Dick's Pick'/ Dick-Anne's Pick. It still is a wild plant, and it isn't a hybrid as it was from a wild stand of plants. To say it is a cultivar rather than just a species you have to clone it (a clone for plants is a plant grown from a cutting). BUT, the advantage for gardeners is all of the 'Dick's Picks/ Dick-Anne's Pick' plants are the same. They should be all three foot across and three feet tall, not varying from two feet to ten feet like the species does. They are genetically identical.


A watering system that delivers water slowly, a drip at a time, or a slow stream, that flows vertically.

drought tolerance

The plant has adapted to dry climates, or long dry seasons. This varies with each plant but in most cases it means it can go without water for an extended period of time.

drip emitter

The doohicky that drips out the water in a drip system. They can have a rating of 1/2 to 4 gallons per hour. Some are pressure compensating.

drip line

Completely around the tree (or shrub or perennial), as far as the branches and leaves extend, at that distance from the trunk, is the drip line. Within this circle the tree exerts an influence upon plants that may emerge. As you go past the drip line, the influence of the tree upon other plants decreases.
Fog drip(see below) under the tree raises the rainfall to multiple times more than areas outside the drip line. So plants that get along with the tree are favored under the tree.


A form of mycorrhiza commonly associated with manzanitas and some conifers. This form of mycorrhiza turns the roots a different color and shape and forms mats.


The old meaning is a plant that lives within a plant. The new broader meaning is an organism that lives within a plant.It's common form native plants to have these living in all their tissues . many provide defenses from herbivores.

fog drip

Fog that condenses on the foliage of trees and shrubs, then runs down onto and into the ground. This fog drip adds a significant amount of water to the ground in areas that receive daily fog in the summer, such as coastal California.In the San Joaquin Vally, fog drip and be the main form of rainfall. No bushes, no rain.

full sun

At least 6 hours of direct sunlight


A group of closely related species.


This is the range in height that a plant will attain, usually in meters. In dry, conditions, plants will be shorter.


A state where there is a deficiency of oxygen; the plant will then suffer from oxygen deprivation.

A species, that, by virtue of its size or biomass, is key to the functioning of that  community, so many other species depend upon it, and if it is lost, the  community effectively collapses. Controversial, many claim that plants cannot be a keystone.


A type of irrigation, using tiny perforated pieces of plastic, that produces a small spray of water in a circle, semicircle, etc.


A material placed on the surface of the soil. Some plants like conifers like pine or redwood mulch, some plants like chaparral plants like redwood/pine mixed with boulders, desert plants like boulders. (See the mulch table under soils)


The body, composed of many threads of tissue (each thread called a hypha), of a fungus.


A fungus that forms a symbiotic relationship with a plant, by connecting to,and living outside or inside the plant's roots. The fungus provides nutrients and water to the plant and the plant provides carbohydrates to the fungus. The fungus will also connect plants to each other, by way of its hyphae.


One spelling, meaning the plural of mycorrhiza.


Pertaining to mycorrhiza

part sun

Filtered sunlight or less than 6 hours of direct sunlight, but more than enough light  to take a  photo with a cell phone.


This refers to the range of acidity or alkalinity in the soil that a plant will tolerate. Generally, high pH soils will be higher in lime and/or salts and lower in rainfall, and lower pH soils are faster draining and higher in rainfall and/or iron.


The guy in the covered wagon; or alternately, on a site scraped bare of most vegetation, or a cleared area in a forest, etc., the first plants that germinate and grow there are the pioneer plants.


A herbicide applied before you see any emerging plants above the ground, that inhibits the development of young roots, usually in the top ¼ inch of soil.


This entry means the range of rainfall in which a particular plant will grow without irrigation, measured in centimeters (around 3/8 inch). We've also included in this the possible irrigation tolerance to compensate for lost fog drip. A plant that grows in Los Osos or Fort Bragg may have numbers much higher than the 'real' rainfall because fog amounts to half or more of it's moisture intake.

root rot

Pathogens attacking the plants roots resulting in dead tissue. Usually caused by dumb humans putting plant in wrong spot and treating it badly.


A plant with weak or no plant community affinities, lives a very short life, just long enough to produce seeds, and grows best in disturbed, fertile sites (the weeds of the world are usually ruderal plants).

scientific name

The scientific name is the generic and the specific name together, with the generic name always first and capitalized and the specific name always second (and uncapitalized). Everywhere in the world you may go, the scientific name is (supposed to be) exactly the same. Every plant has two names, the name of the genus it belongs to (the generic name), and a specific name, referring to the species to which it belongs; but, and this is the confusing part, all the names are in Latin! The genus is the name of the little related group that the plant belongs to. For example, take maple trees; there are lots of different kinds of maples, but they all have the generic name Acer, which means maples in Latin, and so the Silver maple, Japanese maple, Big Leaf Maple, Vine Maple, and Norway Maple all have the first (generic) name of Acer, but different specific names. Japanese Maple is Acer (again, the generic name) palmatum (the specific name of the species ), Big leaf Maple is Acer (the generic name) macrophyllum(the specific name meaning big leaf ), Vine Maple is Acer circinatum, etc. For example, the specific name for Japanese Maple, as stated above, is palmatum. But that name palmatum, by itself means nothing, because there are more plants than one with the name palmatum. Also, the name Acer means nothing by itself. Acer what? To what maple are you referring? See the problem? Only when you use the scientific name; the generic and the specific name together, does the name have meaning .

Secondary pioneers

Plants that commonly come up in the second wave of seedlings after a fire or massive disturbance. These are plants like sages, Baccharis, monkey flowers and Ceanothus.


Classically, a group of very closely related individuals that will only breed with each other.

spot spray

A type of irrigation, using tiny perforated pieces of plastic, that produces a small spray of water in a full circle, semicircle, etc.


This abbreviation means several species, while sp. means one species. So, if I say Acer spp., I mean several species of maples.


Plants use dormancy to control seed germination and spring growth. Stratification is the practice of breaking dormancy by chilling.

stress tolerant

A plant with certain characteristics that allows it to tolerate stress and keep growing, and looking normal. These plants are usually evergreen, long-lived and very drought tolerant in California.

The progression of changes that naturally occur in a community. In nature this goes from R to C to S, man screws this  up and hangs it at R.


tolerates seaside- This plant will tolerate salt spray, constant wind (laden with salt), fog, shifting sand, etc.

tolerates alkaline- This plant will tolerate alkaline soil, with a high pH,

tolerates salt- this plant will tolerate higher amounts of sodium in the soil

tolerates sand- This plant will grow in very sandy soil

tolerates clay- this plant will grow in heavy clay soil.

tolerates serpentine- This plant will grow in high serpentine soil, which has an imbalance of minerals.

tolerates no drainage- This plant will grow in bogs, marshes, wetlands, waterlogged soil, etc. There are different levels of this tolerance.

tolerates seasonal flooding-this plant will grow under conditions where for several months it is standing in water and then for several months it is in dried out soil.

tolerates high traffic- This plant will grow even when it is stepped on every so often by large animals!

tolerates deer- This plant will tolerate being munched on by deer, or deer do not even munch on it at all.


The plants that grow under taller plants, usually in the shade of, and within the drip line of, the taller plants.


This is a map which divides the U.S. Into different zones (each with their own number and color) based on the climate, the length of the growing season and the lowest winter temperatures.


A variation of a species, where the individuals have different flower color, or leaf color, or leaf shape, etc. In this manual we are also referring to it as a cultivar name which is a cultivated variety, grown by man or a hybrid name, a hybrid being a cross between two species.


This is the range in width that has been seen for this plant, usually in meters (3 feet)

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Edited on Jan 06, 2013. Authors:
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