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photo courtesy of the City of Malibu
Photo courtesy of City of Malibu

Use native plants in your garden. Native plants provide vital food and shelter for local wildlife. The Santa Monica Mountains Watersheds have a highly localized plant palette evolved over millennia to suit the local geology and hydrology. If you put native plants back into the landscape, the creatures that depend upon them will return to the scene. Even if you have a garden with non-native plants, adding a native plants perimeter around the garden can provide habitat for many key species, including bees, butterflies, birds, lizards, and frogs.

Learn about the most commonly found habitats in the Santa Monica Mountains and try to recreating them in your own yard.

Riparian Habitat
Do you live near a creek, river, or lake?

Growing native plants within 50 yards of a creek, lake or shoreline is vital to maintaining habitat in riparian and near-shore environments. The portions of our landscape that are adjacent to natural water systems are the most critical building blocks of the entire ecosystem. Almost all of our birds, mammals, and reptiles need flowing water to survive – and they often use the creeks as trails to move throughout an ecosystem.

Top plant choices can include arroyo willow, mulefat, California blackberry, California wild rose, sedge, and cattail.

Trees can include California black walnut, cottonwood, aspen, California Valley oaks, coastal live oak, and sycamores.

Coastal Scrub
Coastal Sage Scrub is one of the more endangered habitats in our region because these plants like the same dramatic hilltops we choose for stunning home locations.

The coast horned lizard is a federal species of concern that lives in this habitat only. Want to keep them going strong? Plant to please: white sage, black sage, cowboy perfume, deerweed, Manzanita, sticky monkeyflower, gooseberry, currant and the ever popular yucca.

The trees are the easy part – if you’ve got the right terrain, sycamores, coastal live oaks, black walnuts all want to be here.

The art is in planting the understory. Start with wild rose, wild blackberry and hummingbird sage.

The Resource Conservation District provides on-site landscape consultations for homeowners and businesses. Contact for more information.

Valley Oak Savanna
Valley Oak Savanna contains a mixture of native grasses and oaks, especially California valley oaks. Historically, this habitat starts a few miles from the ocean and goes up and down the state of California, including the Central Valley.  Valley Oak Savannas are among our most endangered habitats, because in the nineteenth century those oaks were used for everything – building, firewood, carts, and railway ties. The landscapes were used for farming and for suburbs. Want to see what it is supposed to look like? Go see the  Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve.

Are you planning on restoring some Valley Oak Savanna habitat? Selecting the right grass species is an art form. Ask the biologist at the RCDSMM at

Beach Plants
Beaches in the Santa Monica Bay were once dune habitat, abundant with native plants. Want to see what our beaches should look like? In Oxnard, check out Hollywood Beach on the north side of the Channel Islands Harbor – just keep walking towards the beach. Once there, you may see several beach dunes with native plants on them – representing a habitat that once ranged from San Diego to Northern California.

Protecting current dunes and planting native vegetation on beach properties restores these busted ecosystems, bringing back affiliated creatures along with the plants and flowers.

Does it work? Dr. Travis Longcore put in a number of beach dune habitats in Los Angeles and as a result, the endangered El Segundo Blue Butterfly returned.

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