Las Pilitas Nursery

California Native Plants are all we grow!

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3232 Las Pilitas Rd
Santa Margarita, CA 93453

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This website is dedicated to Bert Wilson. His genius continues to inspire us.

Native plants

A native plant is a plant that evolved in an area before modern humans or their animals wandered through....

In California that's somewhere between 1400 and 1500. It's really hard to be site specific about the time or what plants were there in much of California as native plants in some areas were completely replaced by weeds, fire, and other activities of man.

All we grow are California native plants. Have for almost 4 decades. That means we grow plants that grew within the boundaries of the state line in the year 1400 A.D. The Native Americans didn't move plants about much; a little, but not much. The first Europeans brought wild oats, filaree and other weeds and contaminated vast areas of the state in a few decades. The hillsides could then burn much easier. Many of the images of California taken by the first cameras show that in the late 1800"s the hillsides were nothing but black from fires. No trees or shrubs left. It's hard to figure how anything has survived our onslaught on nature.

From the California Cactus book, E. M. Baxter, 1935, Bakersfield cactus, Opuntia treleasei. The weedy grasses came in and cactus burned, no cactus. Now it is rare and endangered. Many weeds, no native plants. What  have we done? - grid24_12
California has already lost many, if not most of the square miles of native habitat that was here 10,000 years ago.

Plants like some of the Ceanothus (mountain lilac), Arctostaphylos(manzanita),and  Quercus (oaks) range into neighboring states, and although the genetics are not a perfect match and the plants may not do as well as plants from your area, they are still closer than plants from other areas that never grew there. That is, a Black Oak (Quercus kelloggii) from Eugene, Oregon is going to have different tolerances and requirements than one found in Mesa Grande in San Diego County. But if you want to plant a Black Oak on a north slope in Redlands and you can't find a nursery that grows any in your area, either the Oregon or San Diego tree would be better than a Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra) from Michigan.
In your garden, the closer you can get to what should grow there, the less problems you'll have with , soil conditions, rainfall, temperature, humidity, and herbivores like deer, etc. Even though Redwood trees, (Sequoia sempervirens) are native to California, they can only exist without water in the areas where they historically grew. Now that is much of the coastal areas of California from about San Luis Obispo north, but it is not Bakersfield, Barstow or even Los Angeles. It gets even more ridiculous when planting a native plant from Michigan in your California garden and declaring it native. No, it's not. It's a Michigan native plant, not a California native plant.
There are a lot of little things that depend on the native plants that are supposed to be in your area. There are bacteria, fungi, bees, butterflies, ants and birds that depend on the native flora of your area to survive. Remove the natives and you remove the birds and butterflies. The common replacements are flies, rats and roaches.
Buckeye trees are used as a nectar source for many native butterflies. Spring Azure/ Echo blue uses Aesculus californica as a larval food source.  Native plant equals native insect or bird. - grid24_12
Native insects and birds have adapted to native plants.

Native plants attract native birds and butterflies.

Even if the plant is native from your area, it still could be the wrong plant for the site. A creekside plant will not live up on the hill without extra water, and an upland plant will not usually live in the creek. A plant that grows in shade will probably fail in sun and vice versa. It could still be native on the site, but, not appropriate for the spot, in time or place.
The wildlife are much better supported if you use plants from your flyway or area. An example is the Buckeye (Aesculus californica). Many of the native bees, bumblebees, flies and butterflies use the nectar and develop protection from the nectar, where the European honey bees die from the nectar. AND, Buckeyes have a reputation for poisoning animals and people, but that rarely happens, as in almost never (once?), but alien filaree, though introduced as a major forage plant for cattle, has been documented as responsible for killing 60 head of cattle (McClintock, 1998).
California native plants have been accused of being highly flammable, but most of the watered plants that Californians replace the natives with are easier to burn than the native species.

Native plants are commonly misunderstood and have all sorts of misinformation applied to them. Think about when you walked through a truly wild area with no weeds, wasn't it nice?

Science is not absolute; it is the best description of the facts. "The only things certain in life are death and taxes" (Benjamin Franklin), and they're now beginning to question what is death.

Get out and discover California. Walk around your neighborhood and look for spots that still have native plants. Take a vacation to your neighboring county or another area of your state.
You do not have to go far to be completely surprised by the natives.

If the weeds are not there, California is amazing! When an annual native plant is done flowering it almost disappears and is nearly fire proof. Large areas of California used to look like this in spring. Can you imagine what inner Los Angeles could look like if it was still natural? - grid24_12
An area where we're controlling the weeds. The wildflowers are so beautiful. These are native plants. This is what California looked like before our weeds came along.
If weeds cover the site, native plants have a hard time coming back. Deerweed is trying here, but with very limited success. Got a match? Weeds burn very easily, and come back as even more weeds, less native plants. What a mess. - grid24_12
These are not native plants. This is what California looks like after weeds replace almost all of the native plants. (The only green things are native Deerweed, which is not a weed.)