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Plant Communities

In California, we are privileged to live among a diverse mosaic of plant communities. From the low, dry deserts to moist coastal forests, a variety of plants are perfectly adapted to conditions throughout the state. By taking cues from the plant communities in your area, you will be able to select plants best suited to thrive in your garden.

The below plant communities describe a variety of environments that occur naturally in California.  With a little reading and simple investigation, one can easily identify the plant communities in your area.  Or, use the INTERACTIVE PLANT COMMUNITY MAP to get started.

Once you have found the local plant communities that make up your environment, you can then find out what plants grow natively there.  You just might be inspired to restore a lost connection to the land and plant your own regionally appropriate garden.

»What are Native Plants and Why are they Important?

Viewing 1 thru 12 of 19

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    CoCoastal Strand

    Generally located directly adjacent to the sea, this plant community is shaped by the heavy influence of salt-laden sea air and mist...

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    CmCoastal Marsh

    This vital wetland plant community is located in geographically protected marshes, lagoons and estuaries...

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    CpCoastal Prairie

    A coastal grassland plant community found in scattered locations within direct coastal influence. Rich soils...

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    VgValley Grassland

    Low elevation grasslands, extending from the Sierra Nevada foothills in the east to the eastern Coastal Range, historically characterized by sweeping...

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    CsCoastal Scrub

    Coastal (“Sage”) Scrub is found between coastal bluffs to areas far inland and is characterized by low growing drought-deciduous shrubs and perennials...

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    SsSagebrush Scrub / Steppe

    This high elevation desert plant community is found on north and eastern exposures of the Sierra Nevada along the Nevada/Oregon border...

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    ChChaparral

    A wildly varied plant community found from dry rolling hills to acute mountain slopes, chaparral plant communities generally consist of dense, shrubby...

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    MdMojave Desert

    This desert plant community ranges from the low elevations of the Mojave Desert to higher elevations on the rainshadow...

  • SdSonoran Desert

    A main characteristic separating this community from the adjacent Mojave Desert Scrub is rainfall patterns. The Sonoran Desert, also known as the “Colorado Desert”...

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    OwOak Woodland

    Generally dominated by a variety of Oaks, these climax communities provide the greatest species richness of all vegetation types in the state. A dense canopy of broad leaves provides cover for grasslands, shrubs and other understory perennials. Gardening under established oak canopies requires plants that can tolerate dry shade.

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    FwFoothill Woodland

    Also known as the “Gray Pine Belt”, Foothill woodland is characterized by the presence of Blue oak and Foothill pines. This plant community almost stretches entirely around the Great Central Valley’s foothills...

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    JpJuniper Pine Woodland

    This plant community is dominated by sparse stands of Juniper and Pine, intermixed with sagebrush. Rapidly draining soils...