San Francisco Department of the Environment

Plants

Among the kingdoms of life – animal, plant, fungi, protist and bacteria – the city’s Plant Kingdom is stunningly diverse for a city that is so comprehensively and densely developed.

Native Plants (California Poppy)
Invasive Plants
Rare and Endangered Plants
Grow the Wild

 

Native Plants

San Francisco still harbors nearly 500 species of plants that are native to the tip of the peninsula. The overwhelming majority of the individuals of these species are found in our natural areas: among the City’s lands, the Golden Gate National Parks, Candlestick State Park and even on some private lands.

Our native plant species assemble themselves in a surprisingly organized way, so that throughout the city, we find several different plant communities remaining from our ancient wild landscape. These native plant communities are represented in our local ecosystems -- natural areas that harbor coastal scrub, coastal prairie, oak woodland and wetland and creek habitats provide a home for many species of insects and birds and other animals. Local native plant nurseries propagate San Francisco's natives for restoration and for wildlife and pollinator-friendly landscaping.

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California Poppy

The state flower is indigenous to every single county in California except for Imperial in the Sonoran desert. Eschscholzia californica is found in many different California ecosystems, including coastal sage scrub and coastal prairie in San Francisco.

Throughout much of the state, the California poppy is a brilliant, deep orange color, such as in the wildflower displays in the Tehachapi Mountains and in the photo above. Here on the coast, however, our California poppy is a beautiful yellow with a small orange center.

Like many California native plants, the California poppy was actually first described by modern science in San Francisco in 1816, and named for a European botanist who was traveling on a Russian circumnavigation of the world.

Today, many people plant and spread packets of California poppy seeds in their gardens, which makes for a beautiful display and consistent ground cover, as well as great pollinator habitat! Due to the proliferation of nursery trade poppies, we need to preserve our special coastal variety. Otherwise, the seed packets could swamp the local gene pools.

 

Invasive Plants

Life in the city can be difficult for native plants and animals. Our local biodiversity crisis consists of pollution, habitat loss, fragmentation and neglect, all of which severely impact local habitats for native wildlife and plants

The number one destructive impact on our local biodiversity is invasive species.

Invasive species are those that are introduced to an area they did not previously inhabit, where they exploit available ecological opportunities to spread rapidly and dominate. Some species were brought to San Francisco deliberately, such as South African iceplant to control erosion. Other stowaways, such as the European species of rat, came over in ships' holds. Of the thousands of introduced species, only some are invasive and destructive to San Francisco's natural heritage. These species take hold, spread rapidly, and if left unchecked, can displace our indigenous plants and animals.

The pesky subset of non-native plants known as invasive weeds are successful because they reproduce rapidly, are adapted toheavy disturbance, and find similar climatic conditions as in their home territories. When they arrive here, they do not come with their predators and pests to keep them in dynamicecological balance and, therefore, can easily take over ourgardens and natural areas.

The SFWMA has specific information about the San Francisco Six worst weeds.

Invasive plants displace native plants and wildlife, increase wildfire and flood danger, clog valuable waterways, degrade recreational opportunities, and destroy productive range and timber lands. Invasive species are one of the greatest threats to biodiversity worldwide, second only to direct habitat destruction.

Community stewardship is the best way to manage invasive weeds in the city sustainably!

  • Ask local nurseries to stop selling invasive plants.
  • Learn to identify invasive plants and which ones your local Weed Management Area is tracking so you can inform land management agencies when you see them.
  • Volunteer with habitat restoration efforts in your area. You’ll get to pull weeds, plant habitat enriching native plants, and meet new friends!

 


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