1. Getting to Know Your Land: Identifying Native and Non-native Species

Every property possesses its own set of unique conditions.  Some of the first steps in habitat restoration include discovering and understanding the plant species that exist on your land, your soil, and the light conditions.  Plants grow in a variety of ways. Refer to the plant guides (link) for tips on how to deal with individual species and their root masses. The following is a step-by-step method for species identification. 

Mark the location of plant species with 3 different colored flags:

White flags for the native plant species

Use the native plant guide to become familiar with SLV native plant species at their various stages during the year. Always assume anything you do not recognize as a non-native is a native until proven otherwise. While some plants, such as redwood sorrel (Oxalis oregana), California blackberry, (Rubus ursinus) and native ferns (Western sword fern) remain similar throughout the year, others such as tiny flowering Hooker’s fairy bells,(Disporum hookeri), milkmaids (Dentaria californica), and baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) will be easier to identify in the springtime.

Orange flags for the poison oak

While poison oak may cause humans to have an allergic reaction when touched, this abundant San Lorenzo Valley plant is a critical food source for native animals throughout the year. Insects and butterflies depend on nectar from the poison oak flowers during the spring blooming time. In the fall, migrating birds feed on the nutritious, ripe berries growing vertically up tree trunks. Also, deer regularly graze on the leaves and berries. Poison oak should not be feared but rather respected in the landscape while managing it away from commonly used areas of the property. For more detail, refer to this article on poison oak written by AmeriCorps team member Justin Potentis.

Yellow flags for the invasive, non-native species

Learn to identify the invasive species of concern.  Common invasive species such as English ivy, Vinca (aka periwinkle) and Himalayan blackberry become dense mats quickly. Scotch broom is also a common yellow-flowered invasive here in the valley. The rapid growth of these plants physically overwhelms native plants as they usurp moisture and nutrients sending natives into severe decline.

The San Lorenzo Valley Native Habitat Restoration Program integrates environmental and community needs to restore the riparian habitat and ensure the ongoing health and beauty of the watershed.

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