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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

California Invasive Species Action Week - Aug. 2-10, 2014

Habitat restoration at Heritage Creek Nature Preserve, CSU Dominguez Hills.
Spring, 2014

This week is the very first California Invasive Species Action Week.  To learn more visit:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What does a water-wise garden look like in summer?

Hooker's evening primrose (Oenothera elata ssp. hookeri) in 'Garden of Dreams' on the CSU Dominguez Hills campus.  Garden is watered once a month in summer.

Water-wise gardens have definite seasons.  Right now we're well into the dry season.  The annual spring wildflowers are just a memory; grasses have magically transformed to gold and silver.   Yes, we're in the dry season, which will last until the fall rains.
The dry season is the time of rest for some plants.  In the Garden of Dreams and Heritage Creek, the California encelia (Bush sunflower) and Salvias (native sages) are mostly dormant now.  The Salvias have produced a small second set of leaves to get them through the dry period.
Other plants are evergreen - but still mostly resting.  These include Mulefat (our large hedgerow plant in Garden of Dreams), Coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis) and Lemonadeberry.  Some shrubs have green berries that will ripen in fall: Toyon and the native cherries (Prunus ilicifolia) are among the most prominent.
But even in summer and fall, a surprising number of native plants are blooming.  They range from the larger Laurel sumac (Malosma laurina) and Southern island mallow,  to Annual sunflowers and Hooker's evening primrose (Oenothera elata ssp. hookeri) that brighten our summer with their yellow flowers.  The summer-blooming buckwheats add a touch of pink and white to the summer palette.  In fact, there are many native plants blooming on campus right now (see the 'Blooming Now on Campus' page).
Annual sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) brightens the foreground. Native buckwheats (Eriogonum species) bloom pink and white (left) against a background of green and gold.
So take the time to visit Heritage Creek Preserve or one of the native plant gardens on campus.  If you come from 11:00-3:00, notice the bees, butterflies and other pollinators busily at work.  If you visit earlier or later you'll be surprise by the number of birds you'll see.   Sit a while, relax, unwind.   And then you'll know what a water-wise, life-friendly garden looks and feels like in summer.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Yellow-faced Bumble Bee (Bombus vosnesenskii)

Yellow-faced Bumble Bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) foraging on Dune Lupine (Lupinus chamissonis)

The western United States is home to many unique and useful insects. Regional gardeners are starting to appreciate the importance of native pollinators, in part due to the activities of National Pollinator Week (the 3rd week in June).  To learn more about pollinators in general see our June 2013 posting (

The larger insect pollinators are among the more interesting visitors to S. California gardens.  One of our favorites is the Yellow-faced Bumble Bee (Bombus vosnesenskii).   This large native bee can be seen from spring to fall in west coast gardens from British Columbia, Canada to Baja California, Mexico.   In our gardens and natural areas at CSUDH, we most commonly see them from June through August. 



Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Take a Child Outdoors for Earth Day

If you read this blog, you probably like being out-of-doors.  Chances are, your love of the natural world began early – when someone took you outside and shared their love of gardens, parks or wild places.  Childhood exposure to nature awakens something deep – our sense of connection with the earth and its creatures. 

A true sense of belonging - to a ecosystem greater than family or neighborhood - begins when we are young.  So does the feeling of serenity that many of us experience when out in nature.   Nature completes us, making us whole, centered, compassionate and more human.

So make a pledge this Earth Day: take a child outdoors in the next month.  It can be any child – your child/grandchild, niece or nephew, student, neighbor or some other child you know.  You don’t have to go far: your garden, a nearby park or natural area will do.  The place needn’t be large or fancy; it just needs to be outdoors.

Point out some interesting plants.  Watch birds or insects as they go about their day.   Explore the creatures that live in the soil or fallen leaves.  Watch clouds go by, rain fall or the sun shine.  Notice the patterns of the land.  Share a sense of wonder – of belonging to something bigger than ourselves.   Listen to the sound of the earth singing.

Earth Day reminds us each year to take time for the important things in life.   So, take a child outside for Earth Day.  It’s essential - they are the earth’s future.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mulches : Beautiful, Water-wise and More

CSUDH students and faculty apply mulch to 'Garden of Dreams' native plant garden
The CSUDH Ecology Club and students in BIO 310/311 (Plant Physiology & Lab) classes recently applied a new layer of mulch to the ‘Garden of Dreams’ native plant garden on campus (above).  You can see how much better the garden looks in the pictures below.
'Garden of Dreams' - before new mulch

'Garden of Dreams' - after new mulch

 In addition to their aesthetic appeal, mulches help keep the soils cool in summer, help conserve water,  keep garden vegetables clean and pest-free and much more.  In short, mulches are a good idea.  But you need to know how to apply them, when to apply them and which mulch to choose.  You can read all about mulches at: