The California Native Plant Society’s (CNPS) mission statement reads, “To save California’s native plants and places using both head and heart.” Let’s revisit the definition of native plants, as specified on the CNPS website:

lovely path through wild native plants

“California native plants grew here prior to European contact. California’s native plants evolved here over a very long period, and are the plants which the first Californians knew and depended on for their livelihood. These plants have co-evolved with animals, fungi and microbes, to form a complex network of relationships. They are the foundation of our native ecosystems, or natural communities.”

The California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC), on the other hand, works to stop the spread of invasive plants, which are classified as follows: 

“Invasive plants are not native to an environment, and once introduced, they establish, quickly reproduce and spread, and cause harm to the environment, economy, or human health.”

It is important to restate the above. I, for one, had suffered a not-so-accurate perception for years. Another indispensable resource is the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Forest Service’s wildflower knowledge base.

Theodore Payne Foundation

Theodore Payne (1872 – 1963), an English horticulturist, opened a Southern California nursery in 1903 and tirelessly advocated the conservation and cultivation of California native plants. Mr. Payne’s supporters established a foundation in 1960 honoring and preserving his legacy.

Encompassing 22 acres of canyon land in an unassuming Sun Valley neighborhood, the foundation and garden center foster and safeguard a vast collection of native plants, available for study and purchase. Plants for sale are placed in zones: Perennials, buckwheats, sages, dry shade, monkeyflowers & penstemons, groundcovers, desert, trees, baja plants & grasses, riparian, and chaparral. Undoubtedly the loveliest nursery I have ever visited, the organization also sponsors an annual garden tour spotlighting SoCal gardens, which in 2022 will be held from April 23rd to 24th. There is plenty of time to purchase a ticket.

Theodore Payne Foundation sign at entrance
Plants in pots for sale spread in a large outdoor area

Tisane-Worthy Herbs

For the quest of beverage ingredients, the knowledgeable associate suggested herbs yerba buena and California yerba santa, neither of which I purchased. (I should master homemade potpourri prior to intake of anything I grow myself.) Ideal for garnishing salads and sandwiches, yerba buena—an aromatic plant of the mint family—is known to alleviate abdominal discomfort.  California yerba santa serves as more of a medicinal remedy—especially for respiratory illnesses—than a culinary ingredient. Based on the appearance it most likely could not be consumed raw.

Information sign for Yerba Buena
Information sign for Yerba Santa
Liveforever succulents in pots

Cedros Island Liveforever

Succulents and Calla Lilies

The cute and somewhat familiar-looking Cedros Island Liveforever captured my attention. After misreading the labels I asked, “Six pots for $40? Can’t I just buy one?” The associate replied, “It’s one six-inch pot for $40. Liveforever is endangered.” And how did it become endangered?  Poaching!

Regarding invasive plants, who could believe that the elegant calla lily, frequently found at mega garden stores, is deemed invasive?! (My infatuation originated from Georgia O’Keeffe’s artwork Calla Lily Turned Away (1923).)  I searched Cal-IPC’s database and other websites – glad to learn my favorite succulent rock purslane suppresses weeds.

Images provided and copyright held by author