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pink lady's thumb flower

Downstream, across Harkins Slough Road, I wander into a patch of showy pink lady’s thumb flower, which has slowly expanded over the years from a triangle shape into a diamond. The blooming smartweeds are ripe with seed that shower down, rattling on dead cattail stalks as I pass. Flocks of seed-eating house finches and goldfinches flit to and from willows, and everywhere song sparrows flutter up like grasshoppers. A shrike in the alcove of a willow island surrounded by a sea of bur marigolds. Against the backdrop of taller willows and cattails in the distance, the scene looks like the setting of an Audubon painting. I glance away for a moment and the shrike vanishes.

— From Jerry Busch’s essays on the Watsonville Slough System, from our book Watching the Watsonville Wetlands.

Guide to Common Plants of the Watsonville Wetlands

Native Plants

Non-native Plants

This guide is not intended to provide specific information about the edibility or medicinal qualities of native plants, but rather to provide readers with information to better understand the wild plants of the Pajaro Valley and their traditional uses. No recommendation is expressed or implied regarding the use of the plants described. We recommend always consulting a trained physician or herbalist for food and medicinal uses, and always ensuring that a plant is properly identified before use or consumption.

Many local populations of native plants are relatively small and are suffering from a variety of threats that place them in danger of disappearing altogether. Because of these threats native plants should not be collected from the wild unless the collector is absolutely certain that the plant population that is being collected from is very healthy and will not be harmed by collection. The amount of material collected should never exceed the regenerative capacity of the plant population. Collectors must always obtain permission from the landowner.


Bee plant/
California figwort
Native

Scrophularia californica

Characteristics: The flowers are red and in the shape of a small two-lipped tube. The two main petals look like the wings of a bee. The leaves are arrowhead shaped with toothed edges, and are arranged opposite one another on a squared stem.

Where to find it: Grows in sunlight and shade in grassy areas amidst coyote bush along Struve Slough, Harkins Slough, Gallighan Slough and Watsonville Slough.

Life cycle: Flowers April to September.

Cultural uses: A tea made from the dried stems was used to treat gonorrhea as well as to purify the blood. Please see our statement on the use of plants. Click here.

Interesting Fact: Bees and hummingbirds like its nectar.

Images © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
Bee plant composite of two images
California aster Native

Aster chilensis

Characteristics: Aster grows 30 – 100 cm (6 – 20 inches) tall and is a fast spreading plant. The flowers are light purple and look like a daisy. The leaves are dark green, small, narrow, and pointed.

Where to find it: Asters can be found on sunny slopes.

Life cycle: Flowers August to September.

Cultural uses: A tea made from the dried stems was used to treat gonorrhea as well as to purify the blood. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Interesting Fact: This plant attracts butterflies and moths.

California aster
California Aster
Images © 2007 Neal Kramer. Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
California poppy Native

California PoppyEschscholzia californica

Characteristics: This is a drought-resistant wildflower that grows from 10 – 60 cm (2 – 12 inches) tall. Its leaves are blue-green and waxy. One flower grows per stem.

Where to find it: Common in grasslands and open areas.

Life cycle: Flowers from February to September

Cultural uses: Local Costanoans (Ohlone) would place a poppy flower under their childs bed to help him or her go to sleep. Interesting fact: April 6 is California Poppy Day to honor this official state flower. Contrary to popular belief, there is no law against cutting or damaging a California poppy! According to Wikipedia, California poppy can was traditionally chewed to treat toothache and to decrease lactation as an anti-galactogogue.[4] Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Image: dnnya17 (Danny). Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic . Source.
Dense-flowered boisduvalia Native Image © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.

Dense spike primroseEpilobium densiflorum

Characteristics: This plant is an annual herb that grows upright from 2 - 12 inches tall. Its leaves are long, narrow, and pointed and often have toothed edges, and has clusters of rosy-purple flowers growing in leafy spikes.

Where to find it: Moist slough edges and ditches, Harkins Slough, Grassed waterway.

Life cycle: Flowers in July and August.

Cultural uses: Some Native American tribes made bread from the seeds of this plant. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Interesting Fact: This plant is native to wetland areas all over the Western United States.

Evening Primrose Native

Image Stan Shebs.
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Source.

Evening PrimroseOenothera elata ssp. hookeri

Characteristics: This perennial herb has tall flower stalks with a long succession of pale yellow flowers that age to orangey-red. Can grow 1 – 2 m (3 – 6 ft.) or more tall. It will tolerate both flooding and some drought.

Where to find it: It grows in wet areas and spreads rapidly by reseeding.

Life cycle: The yellow flowers appear late spring through mid summer.

Cultural uses:The plant is grown by gardeners who value the showy cup-shaped flowers whose petals often have a satiny sheen or delicate shading.

Interesting Fact: The flowers attract a wide range of pollinators and the seeds are eagerly eaten by finches and juncos. The plants are also known as Sundrops.

Hayfield tarweed Native

Hayfield tarweedHemizonia congesta spp. luzulifolia

Characteristics: This species grows from 10–80 cm (2–16 inches) tall; and has white ray flowers and yellow disk flowers. The leaves are fuzzy with a sticky sap.

Where to find it: It grows on grassy hillsides along West Struve Slough and Struve Slough.

Life cycle: Blooms June to July.

Interesting Fact: Its fragrance is delicious.

Image © 2007 Neal Kramer. Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents.
All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
Hedge nettle Native

Hedge NettleStachys ajugoides var rigida

Characteristics: This plant grows to about 2.5 feet tall. It has a slender square stem with stiff hairs at the edges. The half-inch pink flowers grow in clusters. The leaves are light green and fuzzy. They smell a bit like lemon.

Where to find it: It grows on cool slopes and moist areas on all fingers of the Watsonville Slough system.

Life cycle: Flowers April to September.

Interesting Fact: Butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to the hedge nettle.

Image: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW.  
Hill morning glory Native
Hill morning glory, Calystegia subacaulis

Calystegia subacaulis

Characteristics: The arrowhead shaped leaves are gray in color and fuzzy with a long rounded tip. The cream-colored flowers grow from the base of the plant.

Where to find it:It grows in grassy fields along West Struve Slough, Struve Slough and Harkins Slough.

Life cycle: Flowers April to July.

Cultural uses: The young shoots were picked and cooked as a vegetable.

Interesting Fact: The flowers of this low-growing vine keep time. They open at about 5 a.m. and close about noon every day.

Image: Eric in SF.
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Source
Bicolor Lupine Native

Lupinus bicolor

Characteristics: Compared to most other lupines the individual flowers of this plant are quite small. The flowers are blue purple and grow in clusters. The leaves have segments that look like a palm frond.

Where to find it: It grows in grassy fields along West Struve Slough and Struve Slough.

Life cycle: Blooms May through June.

Cultural uses: The leaves were boiled and cooled and used as an eye wash. Lupine is very toxic; it should not be used medicinally!

Interesting Fact: Bumble bees collect nectar from the lupine flowers. A member of the pea family, lupines are also legumes and as such have nitrogen-fixing nodules on their roots. These nodules help enrich soils by taking nitrogen (an element that all plants need to grow and flourish) out of the air and “fixing” it in the ground.

Bicolor lupine
Bicolor LupineBicolor Lupine leaves
Images copyright © 1995-2011 UC Regents. All rights reserved. Top: © 2004 Carol W. Witham. Source.
Bottom left: © 2005 Steve Matson. Source. Bottom right: © 2004 Carol W. Witham. Source. Used by permission.
Bur marigold/Tickseed Native
 

Bidens laevis

Characteristics:The marsh marigold has dark long leaves. When this plant is blooming it has bright yellow flowers that look like miniature sunflowers. Often grows in masses that provide one of our most spectacular wildflower displays.

Where to find it: This plant is an annual and grows in areas that were flooded during the winter and dry out in the spring and summer.

Life cycle: Flowers from August to October.

Cultural uses: A tea was made from the flowers to reduce fever. The leaves were chewed to ease stomach aches. Marsh Marigold juice was believed to remove warts.

Marsh MarigoldInteresting Fact: The seeds look somewhat like ticks and cling tightly to fur and clothing; that is why it is called tickseed.

Images: Laura Kummerer or
Maggie Caldwell, WWW.

Marsh Marigold
 
Mugwort/Douglas’ sagewort Native

Artemesia douglasiana

Characteristics: Mugwort grows 50–250 cm (10–50 inches) tall. The stems are slender and straight, and the leaves are gray-green, coarse and smell like incense. The underside of the leaf is gray and slightly fuzzy. The flowers are small but not too hard to see, since they grow in clusters at the top of the plant.

Where to find it: Found on sunny slopes adjacent to West Struve Slough, Struve Slough and Harkins Slough.

Life cycle: Flowers June to October.

Cultural uses: It was used for washing itchy sores such as from poison oak. Some say a bundle under your pillow brings vivid dreams. According to Wikipedia, Douglas’ sagewort was traditionally used to induce dreaming, as well as an antibacterial. Leaves and stems under a pillow at night are said to help sleep as well as induce dreams. Claimed anti-microbial action comes from: camphor (29%), artemisia ketone (26%), artemisia alcohol (13%), α-thujone (10%), 1,8-cineole (8%), and hexanal (5%). The plant contains many fragrant monoterpenoids that some claim may help with dreaming.[5][6][7][8] Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Artemisia douglasiana Mugwort, Douglas sagewort, Artemesia douglasiana
mugwort, Artemesia douglasiana
Images © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved.
Used by permission. Source.
Pacific cinquefoil/Silverweed Native

Potentilla anserina ssp. pacifica

Potentilla anserina ssp. pacifica

Characteristics: This low-growing plant is known for the silvery-white undersides of its leaves, which are made up of many featherlike leaflets arranged around the stem. Its flowers are golden yellow and have five petals.

Where to find it: Wetlands, Grassed Waterway.

Life cycle: Flowers June to August.

Cultural uses: The root of this plant was used to tan leather. Some people put a sprig of this plant in their shoe to help prevent blisters.

From Wikipedia: Herbal tea from roots were used medicinally. Formerly used to treat epilepsy and to ward off personified evil.[2] Has been cultivated for edible roots but wild form can’t be so used. Has been reportedly cooked in butter and sugar for celebratory use in Lhasa, Tibet. [3]

Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Pacific Cinquefoil, Silverweed, Potentilla anserina ssp. pacifica
Pacific Cinquefoil Pacific Cinquefoil
Images © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
Soaproot Native

Chlorogalum pomeridianum

Characteristics:This plant has long, thin, wavy-edged leaves that grow only from the base of the stem. The stem is long, slender, and bare, and it is branched at the top with many individual flower stalks. It grows to 50–250 cm (10–50 inches) in height. Flowers are white and open only in the evening.

Where to find it: Grassland, coastal scrub and openings in oak woodland. Prairie Plots.

Life cycle: Flowers May through August.

Cultural uses: This plant had many uses for local Native Americans and Spanish settlers: a raw bulb could be crushed and used as soap, shampoo, and laundry detergent, or it could be roasted and eaten. The sticky juice from the baking bulbs was used as glue for attaching feathers to arrows. Acorn bread was wrapped in the leaves of this plant before it was baked, and new shoots were picked and eaten raw.

Native Americans also used this plant to catch fish by tossing crushed soaproot bulb into a stream. The plant contains a toxin that would temporarily knock the fish out, making them easy to gather!

Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
Image: randomtruth. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. Source.
Sun cup Native

Suncup, Camissonia ovataCamissonia ovata

Characteristics: This plant is one of the first to bloom in the spring. Its bright yellow flowers make it look like sunshine on the grass. Its flat green leaves push the grasses out of the way, allowing for this short plant to receive all the sun it needs to flower.

Where to find it: This plant grows on open grassy hills along West Struve Slough and Struve Slough.

Life cycle: Flowers March to June.

Interesting Fact: The small seeds of this plant are carried by ants.

Image: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW.

Santa Cruz Tarplant Native Image © Dylan Neubauer. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Santa Cruz Tarplant, Holocarpha macradeniaHolocarpha macradenia

Characteristics: The tarplant is an aromatic, glandular annual herb in the sunflower family (Asteraceae), growing 10–50 cm (4–20 inches) tall. Small plants may produce a single yellow daisy-like flower head on a single stem, while larger plants have a rigid main stem and lateral branches that grow to the height of the main stem and produce many flowers. It is coated with a sticky, resinous material that helps to retard water loss during the heat of the day and may also help to repel potential predators.*

Where to find it: It typically grows on deep loam and sandy loam soils with a subsurface clay component, which hold moisture longer into the growing season compared to the surrounding sandy soils. It is frequently associated with non-native grasses such as wild oat, barley, rattlesnake grass, vulpia, and bromes. Native associates include rushes, California oatgrass, and other tarplants. The species is often found where disturbances maintain a short vegetation canopy through the growing season.*

Life cycle:

Interesting Fact: Its beautiful flower heads color the otherwise dry fields of mid summer, attracting an interesting array of pollinators.*

*Text from http://www.elkhornsloughctp.org/uploads/1108408439CDFGreport.pdf.

Western goldenrod Native

Western Goldenrod, Euthamia occidentalisEuthamia occidentalis

Characteristics:This is a perennial wildflower that grows upright in bunches 60–200 cm (12–40 inches) tall. It has slender leaves, 2 to 4 inches long, and bright yellow flowers that grow in small, flat clusters.

Where to find it: Moist areas. Grassed Waterway.

Life cycle: Flowers in late summer..

Cultural uses: Goldenrod is an important plant to our enjoyment of the wetlands because it serves as a home and source of food for different butterflies and skippers.

Interesting Fact: The Western goldenrod is fire tolerant.

Image: stonebird. Source.
Willow herb Native

Willow herb, pilobium brachycarpumEpilobium brachycarpum

Characteristics: This is an annual herb that grows from 8 to 40 inches tall. It has smooth leaves that are long and narrow. The flowers of this plant are small and pink-purple.

Where to find it: Widespread in moist areas.

Life cycle: Flowers June through September.

Cultural uses: This plant was used by some Native Americans as hair conditioner and to help control dandruff.

Interesting Fact: The willow herb can survive at elevations up to 7000 feet!

Image: Richard Old. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Source: Forestry Images.
Yarrow Native

Yarrow, Achillea millefoliumAchillea millefolium

Characteristics: This plant is a perennial herb that grows upright in stems between 8 and 16 inches tall. Its leaves are green, feathery, and arranged evenly distributed along the stem. Flower heads are made up of a cluster of tiny white or yellowish-white flowers arranged into a flattened dome shape.

Where to find it: Grasslands and openings in oak woodland. Prairie plots.

Life cycle: Yarrow blooms in early summer.

Cultural uses: This plant was used as a remedy to treat colds and fevers.

Interesting Fact: The name achillea is for Achilles, the legendary ancient Greek warrior, who used yarrow to treat the battle wounds of his warriors. According to Wikipedia, Yarrow is used for various ailments including cramps, fevers, and toothache.[13]

Image: H. Zell. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Source.

Blue-eyed grass Native

Sisyrinchium bellum

Blue-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium bellum
Image © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved.
Used by permission. Source.

Characteristics: This flower is often abundant in grassy meadows. Each plant is covered with as many as 10-15 blue to violet flowers. The "eye" of the plant is a yellow spot in the center. The leaves are shorter than the stem and are grass-like.

Where to find it: It can found on grassy slopes, hills and ridges, located next to Struve Slough and West Struve Slough.

Cultural uses: A medicinal liquid extracted from blue-eyed grass was used to treat stomach trouble, heartburn, ulcers and asthma.

Interesting Fact: If you look closely at this plant you will see that it is not a grass at all. It has leaves like an iris and is in the same family.

Blue-eyed grass, Sisyrinchium bellum
Image © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved.
Used by permission. Source.
Blue wildrye Native

Blue WildryeElymus glaucus

Characteristics: This is a perennial grass that grows in dense bunches 3 to 6 feet high. Its leaf blades are thin, flat, green or blue green, and they have a white waxy coating. After flowering, the green stems turn straw colored. This plant has small seeds that are arranged in a spike around the top of the stem.

Where to find it: Grasslands and oak woodland. Grassed Waterway

Life cycle: Flowers in early summer.

Cultural uses: The sap of this tree was used as a sweetener.

Interesting fact: Seeds of this plant can survive fire.

 

Image: Paul Redfearn, the Ozarks Regional Herbarium at Missouri State University. By permission of L. Michelle Bowe, Curator. Source
Brown-headed rush, Juncus phaeocephalusbrown-headed rush
California brome flowers and spikelets

Brown-headed rush Native

Juncus phaeocephalus

Characteristics: This plant has erect straight blades with stout roots. It grows 4-15 inches tall. The stems and leaves are flattened. The flowers are densely packed, small, and a reddish-brown color.

Where to find it: This rush grows on moist, open, sunlit areas along West Struve Slough and Harkins Slough.

Life cycle: Flowers May to June.

Interesting Fact: Run your fingers along the leaf blades and you will feel little bumps. These bumps are air pockets that bring oxygen to the water-logged roots.

Image credits: Top left: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW.

Top right: © 2005 Steve Matson. Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source

Bottom: Copyright © Avis Boutell. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Image is rotated 90° clockwise. . Source.

California brome, Bromus carinatusCalifornia brome
California brome flowers and spikelets

California brome Native

Bromus carinatus

Characteristics: This short-lived bunchgrass has a deep, fibrous root system that makes it valuable for erosion control. The large, open seed head is soft and somewhat droopy, and grows from 4 to 12 inches long.

Where to find it: Grasslands.

Life cycle: Blooms in early spring.

Cultural uses: Some Native Americans ground the seeds of this plant to use to make bread.

Interesting fact: The seeds from this plant are especially tasty to many different small mammals and game birds. Geese also enjoy eating the foliage.

Image credits. Top left: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW.

Top right: Barbara Tokarska-Guzik, University of Silesia. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Source.

Bottom: Joseph M. DiTomaso, University of California — Davis. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Source.

California oat grass Native

Danthonia californica

Blue-eyed Grass, Danthonia californica
Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW.
California oat grass
Susan Eisenberg
Blue-eyed grass
Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW.

Characteristics: This plant is a bunchgrass that forms small mounds. Look for the small fine hairs where the flat dark green blade leaves the stem. If you see the hair you will know it is a California oat grass.

Where to find it: Grows best in moist soils along the grassy hillsides of Struve Slough, West Struve Slough, Watsonville Slough and Harkins Slough.

Life cycle: Flowers in April and seeds are ripe May-June.

Cultural uses: Seeds from this plant were harvested and roasted to make into crackers.

Interesting Fact: In late spring when the plants are making seed, one can pull back the leaf blade from the stem to find small seeds.

Return to Native Plants Table

Common rush Native

Juncus patens

Characteristics:This rush has a rounded stem and grows in clumps. It grows about 40–90 cm (8–18 inches) tall. The flower clusters are brown to tannish and are about 7 cm (1.5 inches) long.

Where to find it:It can be found on moist slopes along every finger of the Watsonville Slough system.

Life cycle: Flowers April to May.

Interesting Fact: The main part of the plant you see is the round stem. The leaves are small and grow at the base of the plant.

Common rush, Juncus patensImages: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW.

Common rush, Juncus patens
Creeping wildrye Native

Leymus triticoides

Characteristics:A grass with smooth silver/blue, and sometimes green, leaf blades. It forms dense colonies that can be 60–120 cm (12–24 inches) tall.Creeping wildrye drawing, Leymus triticoides

Where to find it: It can be found in moist areas.

Life cycle: Flowers in June to July.

Cultural uses: Seeds were used to make pinole or flour.

Interesting fact: The plant spreads by rhizomes (underground stems).

Creeping wildrye, Leymus triticoides
Illustration: Otto Wilhelm Thomé: Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz (1885)—Permission granted to use under GFDL by Kurt Stueber. Source: www.biolib.de. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this image under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. Illustration location.
Right: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW.
Little hill dweller sedge Native

Little hill dweller sedge, Carex tumulicolaCarex tumulicola

Characteristics: This sedge grows 1–2 feet tall and wide with luscious deep green thin blades. Little hill dweller sedge, Carex tumulicolaThe blades arch out from a clumped base. There are clustered brown flowers at the tips of the sedge.

Where to find it: It can be found in moist grasslands along West Struve Slough, Struve Slough and Harkins Slough.

Life cycle: Flowers in April.

Left: © 2003 Steve Matson. Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
Right: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW.
Meadow barley Native

Hordeum brachyantherum

Characteristics: This is a perennial bunchgrass that grows to about 2 feet. Its leaves are green or bluish green, turning brown in the summer. The flower heads are narrow, flattened spikes that are bristly looking and purplish in color. Meadow barely forms slender bunches often in dense stands such that the bunched habit* is not readily evident.

Where to find it: Moist meadows. Grassed waterway. Moist Meadow barleyunderstory, meadow, and riparian settings are likely habitats for this species.

Life cycle: This plant flowers in early summer.

Interesting fact: When this grass is available, it is always the first choice of grazing cattle.

 

Meadow barley
*The habit is the characteristic appearance of a plant, stem, leaves or other organ (including size, shape, color, pattern of growth, etc. Images. Left: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW. Right: Matt Lavin.
Attribution Share Alike license. Some rights reserved by Matt Lavin. Source.
Return to Native Plants Table

Purple needlegrass Native

Purple needlegrassNassella pulchra

Characteristics: This green perennial grass grows upright in clumps 2–3 feet high and 2-3 feet wide. Its purple, torpedo-shaped seeds have long awns and sharp tips, and its roots can reach up to 20 feet down in the soil. It has been estimated that purple needlegrass can live for at least 100-200 years and possibly as long as 1000 years.

Where to find it: Grassland. Prairie plots.

Life cycle: Flowers in the spring.

Cultural uses: This plant was part of our native grassland that helped support the foraging of Native American communities as well as cattle grazing on the first ranchos established by early Spanish settlers.

Interesting fact: Purple needlegrass became the official California State Grass in 2004.Purple needlegrass

Images. Left: © 2008 Zoya Akulova Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
Right: © 2004 Carol W. Witham. Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
Schott’s sedge Native

Schott's sedgeCarex schottii

Characteristics: The stems of this plant are 3-sided and have sharp edges. They grow in dense colonies. Each plant sends up a stalk with a series of rounded spokes that have hundreds of flowers.

Where to find it: It grows in sunny areas.

Schott's sedgeLife cycle: Flowers April to July.

Interesting fact: The Watsonville Sloughs are the northernmost point on the California coast where this sedge grows.

Images: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW
Tule Native
Tule, Scirpus californicus

Scirpus californicus

Characteristics: These plants grow in calm water. They have a tall stem that can grow up to 12 feet. The seeds grow at the tips of the stems. The stems are filled with white spongy tissue.

Where to find it: This plant can be found in year-round fresh water in West Struve Slough and Watsonville Slough.

Life cycle: Blooms April to June. Stays green all year long.

Cultural uses: Baskets, blankets, clothes, and rafts were made out of tules. Tules were used for food wrapping, just like plastic-wrap is used today.

Image: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW 
Western rush Native

Western rushJuncus occidentalis

Characteristics: Characteristics: This is a wiry rush (grass-like plant) that grows near water. Western rush has hollow slender stems and flat leaves. The stems grow to 1.5 feet tall. The leaves are shorter, and several brown flowers bloom at the tip of the stalk.

Where to find it: This plant can be found on grassy hillsides along Struve Slough.

Life cycle: Flowers April to May.
Western Rush

Left: © 2005 Steve Matson. Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
Right: © 2009 Neal Kramer. Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
Bur-reed Native

Bur-reedSparganium eurycarpum

Characteristics: Bur-Reed grows 1.5-6 feet tall, and has straight branched stems. Leaves are flat and are as long as or shorter than the stem. Flowers grow on the side of the stems and have heads that look like spiny balls.

Where to find it: Bur-reed grows in freshwater along every finger of the Watsonville Slough system.

Life cycle: Flowers April to June. The leaves dry up at the end of the summer.

Bur-reedThe roots were eaten in the late summer as a vegetable. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Left: Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. 1995. Northeast wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. Northeast National Technical Center, Chester. Source.

Right: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW.

Cattail Native
Cattail Typha latifolia

Typha latifolia

Characteristics: This plant is one of the most common plants growing in freshwater wetlands. It has long, flat light-green leaves and creeping roots. The flowers are at the end of a long stalk that looks like a hot dog on a stick. The fuzzy down that hangs on the cattails carries the seeds in the wind.

Where to find it: Cattails grow in fresh water in every finger of the Watsonville Slough system.

Life cycle: It flowers from June to July

Cultural uses: The leaves were used for weaving mats for houses. Native Americans made toy cattail dolls. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Interesting fact: Look closely when you walk by a colony of cattails. Cattails provide habitat and food for many nesting birds, muskrats and other animals.

Image: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW. 
Duckweed Native

Lemna spp.

Characteristics: This water plant forms floating mats and looks like algae. The shoe-shaped leaves are small (1/16-1/18 inches) and float on top of the water. They have thread-like roots that dangle down below the surface of the water.

Where to find it: As the winter rains come to an end, and the water in the sloughDuckweedbecomes still, duckweed begins to carpet the water in all branches of the Watsonville Slough system.

Life cycle: Flowers in October.

Interesting fact: It is one of the smallest known flowering plants.

Duckweed
Images. Left: Tropica Aquarium Plants. Right: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW.
Floating marsh pennywort Native

Floating Marsh Pennywort, Hydrocotyle ranunculoidesHydrocotyle ranunculoides

Characteristics: This plant is a perennial herb with creeping stems that spread across moist soil or form a floating mat on the surface of water. It has round, toothed leaves up to 2 1-2 inches in diameter. Tiny white or greenish-white flowers grow on stalks separate from and higher than the leaves. Many aquatic invertebrates depend on this plant for habitat.

Where to find it: Widespread in wetlands.

Life cycle: Flowers in the spring.

Cultural uses: Native American ate the greens of this plant. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Interesting fact: This plant is a member of the carrot family.

All images except inset at lower right: © Gerald D. Carr. All rights. reserved. Used by permission. Inset image at lower right: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW.
Tall cyperus/golden nutsedge/western goldentop Native
Tall cyperusTall cyperus
Images. Right: copyright © 2007 Steve Matson. Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
Left: copyright © 2001 Arthur Lee Jacobson. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.

Cyperus eragrostis

Characteristics: This is a perennial herb with triangular stems and slender, grass-like leaves. Its flowers spread out like an umbrella with feathery spikes on the ends. This plant grows from 4 to 36 inches tall.

Where to find it: Common in wet areas and ditches.

Life cycle: Flowers in late summer.

Cultural uses: Native Americans wove the leaves of this plant into baskets and seats and ate the tubers, either raw, cooked as cereal, or ground to use as flour. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Interesting fact: The tubers taste like a cross between fresh coconut and raisins.


Swamp knotweed Native

Swamp knotweed, Persicaria amphibiaPersicaria amphibia

Characteristics: This plant grows at the edge of the wetland. Its stems have large joints and it has clusters of pink flowers.

Where to find it: It grows along the water's edge in every finger of the Watsonville Slough system.

Life cycle: Flowers in July.

Cultural uses: The roots can be eaten. They taste like nuts when cooked. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Interesting fact: Smartweed oils can be an irritant to the eyes.

Svdmolen. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Source.
Blue elderberry Native

Blue elderberry composite imageSambucus mexicana

Characteristics: Blue Elderberry is a small tree or shrub with dense clusters of cream-colored flowers. The edges of the leaves are finetoothed. The branches are smooth and straight. When the fruits are ripe they are bluish in color.

Where to find it: It grows on moist slopes along Harkins Slough, Struve Slough, Gallighan Slough and Watsonville Slough.

Life cycle: Flowers April to August.

Cultural uses: The straight branches for a fire-making drill.

Interesting fact: This sweet fruit can be used to make great jelly, ketchup, and chutney. Also, birds love to perch in these trees, so look closely and you might see one. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Images. Upper right: Contributed and © by Curtis Clark. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license. Source.
Lower right: © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
Left: Contributed and © by Curtis Clark. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license. Source.
California blackberry Native

Rubus ursinus

Characteristics: It grows as a prickly bush with hair-like thorns. These stems can be several feet long. There are 3 leaves to one stem, and the edges of the leaves are jagged. The flowers are white, and the ripe berries are purplish black.

Where to find it: Large mounds can be seen on damp slopes adjacent to all fingers of the Watsonville Slough system.

Life cycle: Flowers March to June.

Cultural uses: The root was boiled and made into a tea and used to stop diarrhea.

Interesting fact: The blackberry fruit is sweet and delicious to eat, but you have to eat them before the birds do. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Images: © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.

California blackberry composite image
California wild rose Native

Rosa californica

Characteristics: The California wild rose bush grows 3-9 feet tall with tiny curved thorns. It has many branches, each with 5-7 leaflets per leaf. The flowers are smaller than cultivated roses, and are a pink-rose color. The fruit is oval and red and is called a rose hip.

Where to find it: Clusters of roses can be found growing on sunny, moist hillsides adjacent to West Struve Slough, Struve Slough and Harkins Slough.

Life cycle: Flowers May to August.

Cultural uses: The buds were both picked and eaten raw, and the flowers were soaked in water to make a drink. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Interesting fact: The fruit of the wild rose has a higher concentration of vitamin C than an orange.

Left: Copyright by Curtis Clark. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license. Source.
Right: © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
California wild rose composite of two images
Coffee berry Native

Rhamnus californica

Characteristics: The mature coffee berry bush is about 5 meters (16 feet) tall. The bark of the twigs has a reddish color. The shiny leaves are 1-3 inches long and oval with a rounded to pointed tip. The small white flowers are about 1/2 inch long. The round berries are red and turn blackish-blue when ripe.

Where to find it: It grows in the oak understory along Harkins Slough and Gallighan Slough and can be found amidst coyote bushes on West Struve Slough.

Life cycle: Flowers June to July.

Cultural uses: The berries were eaten as a laxative.

Interesting fact: This plant is very toxic if eaten.

Bottom right: Image: Arvind Kumar, Loma Prieta Chapter, Sierra Club. Source.
Others: © Oregon State University. By permission of Patrick Breen.
Coffee berry composite of three images
Coyote brush/Chaparral broom Native
Coyote Brush composite image
Left: Miguel Vieira. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Source.
Upper right: © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
Lower right: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW.

Baccharis pilularis

Characteristics: The coyote brush or bush is a shrub that is green all year long. It can grow 8-10 feet tall. The leaves are dark green, oval, and glossy. Male flowers are a cream color and female flowers are a whitish color that become fluffy when seeds are ripe and look like coyotes' fur. Flowers are tiny and tightly packed together; the male and female flowers grow on different shrubs.

Where to find it: This plant grows in low hills near coast and grows in oak woodlands.

Life cycle: Blooms September to November.

Cultural uses: The leaves were applied to swellings on the body.

Interesting fact: The leaves smell like sweet incense. The oil on the leaves make the bush combustible.

Poison oak Native

Toxicodendron diversilobum

Characteristics: This adaptable plant grows as a creeping vine, or as a bush that is usually 3-6 feet tall. There are 3 leaflets per leaf, with white flowers. Its leaves are shiny green in the spring and deep red in the fall. It loses its leaves in the winter.

Where to find it: Poison Oak grows in moist sunny spots and cooler shady spots amidst blackberry and coyote brush on all fingers of the Watsonville Slough system.

Life cycle: Flowers April to May.

Cultural uses: The plant was used to make a black dye that was used in basketry.

Interesting fact: Poison oak is not an oak at all! Do not touch the poison oak! Humans can develop a red itchy rash from handling it.

Poison oak
Images: © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved.
Used by permission. Source.
Poison oak composite image

 

Seep monkeyflower/ Common monkeyflower Native

Seep monkeyflower compositeMimulus guttatus

Characteristics: This is an annual or perennial herb that grows to 3 feet. It grows long, slender stalks with oval, toothed leaves that grow in clusters and have a sticky residue. The flowers of this plant are golden yellow and tubular and are distinguished by their red dots.

Where to find it: Seeps and springs. Grassed waterway.

Life cycle: Flowers from spring to fall.

Cultural uses: Native Americans used the leaves of the seep monkeyflower to help heal skin sores.

Interesting fact: This water-loving monkeyflower is a favorite of hummingbirds.

Top left: Christophermluna. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Source.
Lower left: Shirley Sekarajasingham. Used by permission. Source.
Right: H. Zell. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Source.
Toyon/Christmas berry Native

Heteromeles arbutifolia

Characteristics: This plant is an evergreen shrub that can grow to over 30 feet tall. Its toothed leaves are oval shaped and glossy green in color. The white flowers of this plant ripen into large clusters of bright red berries.

Where to find it: Coastal scrub and oak woodland.

Life cycle: Flowers in early summer.

Cultural uses: Native American and Spanish settlers would hang branches of ripe toyon berries over hot coals to toast before eating them. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Interesting fact: Toyon is the official shrub of the State of California.

Toyon with berriesToyon Leaves
Left: Stan Shebs. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Source.
Right: First Light. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Source.

Western dogwood Native

Western Dogwood composite imageCornus sericea ssp. occidentalis

Characteristics: This plant is a woody deciduous shrub that grows to 1.5 – 4 m (5 – 13 ft). Its blooms are a flat-topped cluster of white flowers. The bark changes color during the year - from late spring through the summer the bark is bright green, then from autumn to early spring it becomes a deep reddish-purple.

Where to find it: West Struve Slough, Buena Vista Road

Life cycle: Flowers from June to August.

Cultural uses: Native Americans used peeled dogwood twigs as toothbrushes and to help whiten their teeth.

Interesting fact: Over 50 different species of birds and mammals eat the fruit or foliage of this plant.

Images © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
California Boxelder Native

California boxelderCalifornia Boxelder leavesAcer negundo ssp. californicum

Characteristics: This is a fast-growing deciduous tree that reaches between 35 and 60 feet tall. It is a member of the maple family, and each leaf consists of three leaflets with have toothed edges. In the spring, yellow male and female flowers appear on separate trees.

Where to find it: Creeks and rivers.

Life cycle: Flowers in early spring.

Cultural uses: The sap of this tree was used as a sweetener.

California Boxelder whole treeInteresting fact: The wood of this tree is very soft and is not good to use for building.

Right: Image used with permission of laspilitas.com. Source.

Lower left: Thumbnail from CalPhotos, © 2007 Dr. Mark S. Brunell. Source.
Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved.

Top left: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW.

Coast Live Oak Native

Quercus agrifolia

Coast Live OakCoast Life Oak
Left: Eric in SF. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License. Source. Right: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW.

Characteristics: This large tree has leaves that are green and stay on thetree year-round. The leaves are oval with sharp prickly edges. The fruit of the Live Oak are acorns which are about 1 inch long.

Where to find it: Grows on the hillsides surrounding Harkins Slough and Gallighan Slough in sunny areas.

Life cycle: New leaves grow in the spring.

Cultural uses: Acorns were gathered, the tannin leached out by soaking the acorns in water for a long time, and then the acorns were mashed and used as dough for bread. Native Americans allowed the ground acorns to sit and become moldy. Then the mold was scraped off and used to treat sores, boils, and inflammation. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Cottonwood/Black cottonwood Native

CottonwoodPopulus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa

Characteristics: This is a deciduous tree that you can recognize by its grayish, striped bark. It has oval-shaped leaves with pointed ends and grows to between 40 and 100 feet tall.

Where to find it: Creeks and rivers.

Life cycle: Flowers in mid-spring.

CottonwoodCultural uses: This tree has been used in many different ways by people in the Western U. S.; as firewood, food, medicine, even as material for making fishing lines.

Some California Native Americans used the leaf buds as glue to stick feathers to their arrows.

Images: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW.
Western sycamore Native

Western sycamorePlatanus racemosa

Characteristics: This deciduous tree has smooth, white-colored bark that looks like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Its leaves are covered on both sides with small hairs. Its flowers ripen into small, round, spiky balls of fruit that hang from the tree. It grows slowly up to 100' tall.

Where to find it: Creeks and rivers.

Life cycle: Flowers in mid spring.

Cultural uses: Costanoans from our area used the leaves of this tree to wrap their bread during baking.

Interesting fact: The wood from this tree is so hard and tough to split that it is only used as a fuel source.

Eugene Zelenko. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Source.
Willow Native

Salix spp.

Arroyo Willow Composite Image Pacific Willow composite image
Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepsis.
All images © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
Pacific Willow, Salix Lasiandra.
All images © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.

Characteristics: The willow is a tree that can grow to heights of 45 feet. The leaves are narrow and usually green on top and greyish below. They are 1-4 inches long. When the tree is blooming the flowers are at the tips of the branches. Male and female flowers grow on different trees.

Where to find it: This rough-barked tree grows in or next to water on all fingers of the Watsonville Slough system.

Life cycle: Flowers January to February.

Cultural uses: The chemicals from the willow bark are a major ingredient in aspirin. Willow bark was used for treating colds and fever, and the inner bark was used to make rope. The wood was used for making poles, basket making, and arrows. According to Wikipedia, Willow Salix spp. was traditionally used to treat headache and as an antipyretic due to its salicylic acid.[12]

Interesting facts: The flowers are called catkins.

We do not recommend medicinal use of plants. Efficacy and safety of “medicinal” plants is typically unproven. Please do not remove native plants in the wild.
Birdsfoot trefoil Non-native

Lotus corniculatus

Characteristics: This is a low growing perennial herb that spreads 10 – 50 cm (4 – 20 in) wide. Each leaf is made up of 5 leaflets, 2 attached to the base and 3 at the tip. It has bright yellow flowers fading to orange and red. The flowers are arranged in the shape of a whorl at the end of the stem. It got its name from the arrangement the seedpods, which resemble a bird's foot.

Where to find it: Widespread.

Life cycle: Blooms in early spring.

Cultural uses: Birdsfoot trefoil is sometimes planted along roadsides for wind and erosion control.

Interesting Fact: Canada geese and deer both love to eat this plant.

Birdsfoot treefoil composite image
Left: ©2009 Walter Siegmund. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.
Upper middle: © 2005 Steve Matson Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved..Used by permission.
Upper right
: © 2008 Neal Kramer Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Lower right
: ©2009 Walter Siegmund. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.
Black mustard Non-native

Brassica nigra

Characteristics: This annual plant grows 40 – 200 cm (16 – 80 in) tall. The yellow flowers have four petals and are arranged along tall-branched stems. The ripe seeds are black.

Where to find it: It grows in sunny, disturbed hillsides along every finger of the Watsonville Slough system.

Life cycle: Flowers May to June.

Cultural uses: It was used to relieve congestion. Today the seeds of black and white mustard are mixed together to make the mustard used on hamburgers.

Interesting Fact: It is said that rubbing mustard oil on your head will help more hair grow.

Black mustard, Brassica nigra Black mustard
Valter Jacinto. Attribution Noncommercial Share Alike License. Copyright © 2002-2009 by Dr. John Hilty. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Bur-clover Non-native

Bur Clover Composite ImageMedicago polymorpha

Characteristics: This is a low-growing, trailing herb with small, pea-like yellow flowers and a small, prickly bur that sticks to animals' fur. Like a clover, its leaves are made up of three heart-shaped leaflets.

Where to find it: Widespread in disturbed areas.

Life cycle: Flowers in the winter

Cultural uses: Bur-clover is sometimes planted in orchards to help add nitrogen to the soil or planted in pastures for cows to graze.

Interesting fact: This plant came to California from southern Europe.

Containing image: Eigene Arbeit, selbst fotografiert. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License
Inset: Forest & Kim Starr. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Chicory Non-native

Chicory composite imageCichorium intybus

Characteristics: This is a perennial herb that grows to about 100 cm (40 in) tall. It has long, slender, pointed, and notched leaves and blue flowers.

Where to find it: Grassland. West Struve Slough uplands.

Life cycle: Flowers in the middle of summer.

Cultural uses: The root of this plant was used by Native Americans to help heal chancre sores and fever blisters.

Interesting Fact: Ground, roasted chicory root is a coffee substitute that is popular in New Orleans. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Illustration. Derivative work by Wilfredo Rodríguez. Original: Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé, Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz, 1885, Gera, Germany. Public Domain.
Images. Top: Alvesgaspar. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Bottom: © 2009 Zoya Akulova Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved.

Curly Dock Non-native

Curly Dock composite imageRumex crispus

Characteristics:Curly dock can grow up to 150 cm (60 in) tall. The edges of the leaves are ruffled (hence their name “curly.”) The greenish flowers are arranged on tall branched stalks. As the seeds ripen they turn a rich rusty-red color. Its root is thick and fleshy. This plant is considered invasive.

Where to find it: It grows in moist grasslands along every finger of the Watsonville Slough system.

Life cycle: Flowers most of the year.

Cultural uses: The leaves were crushed, mixed with salt, and placed on the forehead to relieve headaches. The leaves also were used to calm the nerves.

Interesting Fact: One plant can produce 40,000 seeds.

Upper/lower left: © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Upper right: © 2009 Zoya Akulova. Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Lower right: © 2008 Margo Bors. Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Field Bindweed Non-native

Convolvulus arvensis

Characteristics: This hardy perennial is sometimes called morning glory or creeping jenny. It has trailing vines that can cover the ground or climb over other plants. It has deep roots that constantly sprout news stems. The flowers are white and sometimes tinged with pink, and they are shaped like wide, shallow funnels. Unlike our native morning glories this one is considered a noxious weed.

Where to find it: Widspread.

Life cycle: Flowers between May and October.

Cultural uses: Some Native American tribes would drink a tea made from this plant after accidentally swallowing a spider.

Interesting Fact: Mule deer will eat field bindweed, which has been found in California since 1838.

Field Bindweed, Convolvuus arvensis
Field Bindweed flowerField Bindweed
Images © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
Hoary Cress Non-native

Cardaria draba

Characteristics: Hoary Cress grows 20 – 50 cm (8 – 10 in) tall. The leaves clasp the stem and are toothed with pointed tips. The white flowers are clumped in flat, tight clusters. It spreads from deep roots that make this plant difficult to control. This plant is considered a noxious weed.

Where to find it: It grows in disturbed hillsides along every finger of the Watsonville Slough system.

Life cycle: Blooms April to May.

Cultural uses: The seeds were used to make a poison for fish.

Interesting fact: Ground hoary cress leaves can be used as a pepper substitute. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Hoary Cress Hoary Cress
Richard Old, www.xidservices.com. Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0. Source. Jerry Friedman. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported. Source.
Plantain Non-native

Plantago lanceolata

Characteristics: Plantain grows low to the ground and has a stout taproot. It has long, narrow leaves with toothed margins. It sends up small stalks with many tiny hairy flowers clumped together.

Where to find it: It can be found on moist banks and hillsides along every finger of the Watsonville Slough system.

Life cycle: Flowers May to September.

Cultural uses: The leaves were soaked in hot water to make a healing tea for sore eyes. The leaves were also heated and used for wound dressings.

Interesting Fact: The seeds can be ground into flour. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Images © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
Plantain, Plantago lanceolata Plantain, Plantago lanceolata
Plantain
Poison Hemlock Non-native

Conium maculatum

Characteristics:This plant is an annual or biennial. It grows 50 – 300 cm (20 – 120 in) tall. It has many fine lacy leaves on tall stalks. The tiny white flowers grow in umbrella-like clusters. On the lower stems there are irregular purple splotches. In the fall the hollow stalks die leaving large stands of dead hemlock. This plant is considered invasive.

Where to find it: It forms a ring around the moist slopes of the Watsonville Slough system.

Cultural uses: Used as a poison.

Interesting Fact: Poison hemlock has killed animals. Do not eat any part of the plant.

Lower left: brewbooks Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. Source.
Other images © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
Poison Hemlock
Poison Hemlock
Poison Hemlock Poison Hemlock
Poison Hemlock
Salsify Non-native

Composite of Salsify imagesTragopogon porrifolius

Characteristics: This plant grows 40 – 100 cm (16 – 40 in) tall. The flowers are pale purple. The seed head is very large and looks like a white, fluffy plume when the seeds are ready to be dispersed.

Where to find it: It grows on sunny hillsides along every finger of the Watsonville Slough system.

Cultural uses: Juice from this plant was collected and drunk for indigestion. Also, the Native Americans used the milky juice as chewing gum.

Interesting Fact: The shoots, roots and leaves are all edible. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Middle left: Demmel. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License. Source.

Other images © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.

Spring vetch Non-native

Vicia sativa

Characteristics: This plant is a trailing or climbing annual. Its leaves are pinnate, consisting of 5-6 pairs of leaflets arranged evenly next to each other on a leaf stem with a tendril at the end. Spring vetch produces bright pink-purple flowers and a small pea pod.

Where to find it: Widespread.

Life cycle: Flowers April to August.

Cultural uses: In Europe, where this plant is native, the seed was cooked, dried, ground into a powder and mixed with other flours to make a nutritious bread.

Interesting Fact: Spring vetch can fix nitrogen in the soil.

Spring Vetch LeavesSpring Vetch Seed Pods
Spring VetchSpring Vetch Spring Vetch
Upper left: Fornax. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Source.
Upper right: Kristian Peters. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Source.
Other images © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
Sweet Fennel Non-native
Fennel Fennel
Fennel Fennel
Fennel Fennel Fennel

Foeniculum vulgare

Characteristics: This perennial plant is sometimes called anise or licorice plant. It grows in clumps from a large taproo and is 90 – 200 cm (36 – 80 in) tall. The leaves are feathery and divided into hair-like segments. The flowers are small and yellow and grow in an umbrella-like structure. This plant is considered invasive.

Where to find it: It grows in grassy areas along every finger of the Watsonville Slough system.

Life cycle: Flowers May to September.

Cultural uses: Fennel was used for digestive problems and sore throats.

Interesting Fact: Its largest root (taproot) can be as long as 10 feet. All parts of this plant are edible, with a licorice flavor. The seeds can be used as flavoring in some licorice candies.

Upper left: Carsten Niehaus, source. Upper right: H. Zell, source. Middle left: Forest & Kim Starr, source. Middle right: H. Zell, source. Lower left: Howcheng, source. Lower center: Kristian Peters, source. Lower right: Wouter Hagens, source. See sources for licenses.
Wild Garlic Non-native
Wild GarlicWild Garlic Wild Garlic
Wild Garlic FlowerWild Garlic Wild Garlic
Wild GarlicWildGarlic

Allium vineale

Characteristics: You may recognize this plant by its oniony smell. It has long, narrow, grass-like leaves, and it has purplish-white flowers on a stalk that grows from 30 – 100 cm (12 – 40 in) tall. Often the flowers are replaced by bulblets that scatter and sprout new plants. Unlike our native Alliums, this one is a noxious weed.

Where to find it: Grassland, West Branch Struve Slough uplands.

Life cycle: Flowers from March to May.

Cultural uses: Wild onions have been used as a food all over the world for thousands of years. Local Costanoans sometimes fried the bulbs before eating them, otherwise they ate them raw. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Interesting Fact: Traditionally, oil from this family of plants was used to help repel snakes and insects.

Top row, left to right: Conrad Nutschan, source. Dan Tenaglia, source. Jason Sturner, source.
Middle row, left: fair-use thumbnail. Center: Pethan Utrecht, source. Right: © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission, source.
Bottom row:both Jason Sturner, source, source. See sources for Creative Commons licenses.
Wild Radish Non-native
Wild Radish FlowerWild Radish Flower
Wild Radish Wild Radish Leaves Wild Radish

Raphanus sativus

Characteristics:This annual plant can grow as tall as 180 cm (72 in). The flowers have four petals, and the color can vary from white to purple and sometimes pale yellow, not to be confused with black mustard which has bright yellow flowers.

Where to find it: Wild Radish grows in highly disturbed moist places along every finger of the Watsonville Slough system.

Life cycle: Blooms February to July.

Interesting Fact: The flowers and young leaves are good in salads, soup and dips. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Upper left: Franco Folini, source. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Upper right, lower left, lower right: © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. source. Used by permission.

Lower center: Digigalos, source. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Harding Grass Non-native
Harding Grass SeedsHarding Grass Seed-Bearing Part Harding Grass
Harding Grass Harding Grass

Phalaris aquatica

Characteristics: This perennial grass spreads from rhizomes to colonize large areas. The seed heads are at the tip of a stalk from 40 – 150 cm (16 – 60 in) in height. Leaves are bluish-green, the roots are streaked with red. This plant is considered invasive.

Where to find it: Harding grass grows in dense islands on nearly every grassy slope of the Watsonville Slough system. The largest colonies can be found on West Struve Slough. It spreads quickly through its underground root system.

Life cycle: This grass flowers in April and is one of the few grasses in Watsonville that stays green year-round.

Cultural uses: The ability of this plant to stay green year-round attracted ranchers to plant it as food for their cattle.

Interesting Fact: Despite its effect on native grasslands, Harding grass is still commonly planted as forage for grazing animals.

Top left: Steve Hurst @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database, source. Public domain. Top center: Peripitus, source. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Top right: Peripitus, source. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Bottom left: Eurobodalla Shire Council, Australia, source. Bottom right: Forest & Kim Starr, source. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Italian rye grass Non-native
Italian rye grass Italian rye grass Italian rye grass
Italian rye grass Italian rye grass

Lolium perenne ssp. multiflorum

Characteristics: This annual grass grows in bunches 40 – 80 cm (16 – 32 in) tall, and it has narrow, stiff leaves that are glossy and smooth. The seed are arranged on either side of a flattened spike.

Where to find it: Widespread.

Life cycle: Flowers in early spring.

Cultural uses: Italian rye grass is used as livestock feed, and it is also planted for erosion control.

Interesting Fact: This is a member of the same family of grass that is planted on the tennis courts at Wimbledon.

Top row: Rasbak. Source. Source. Source. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Bottom left: © 2008 Neal Kramer Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.

Bottom right: © 2004 Carol W. Witham Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.

Rabbit's foot grass Non-native

Polypogon monspeliensis

Characteristics: This fast-growing annual bunch grass grows to 20 – 100 cm (8 – 40 in) tall. It has rough, flat leaf blades, and is characterized by the soft, light-colored, bushy-looking flower head on the stem that resembles a rabbit’s foot.

Where to find it: Moist areas and ditches.

Life cycle: Blooms in late spring.

Cultural uses: The Navaho of New Mexico made a lotion of this grass to wash snake figurines before painting them.

Interesting Fact: The name polypogon, from the Latin words meaning “much beard,” comes from the big, bushy look of this grass's flower.

Rabbit's foot grass
Rabbit's foot grass
Images © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.
Rip gut brome Non-native
Rip gut brome Rip gut brome
Rip gut brome

Bromus diandrus

Characteristics: This annual grass grows from 20 – 90 cm (8 – 36 in) tall, and it has soft, hairy leaves. It is characterized by its long, spiny spikelets, each ending in a 1 – 3 inch long awn. When the seeds are dry they break off and will burrow into your shoes and socks. This plant is considered invasive.

Where to find it: Widespread.

Life cycle: Flowers April to June.

Cultural uses: The seeds of this plant were sometimes used for food.

Interesting Fact: This grass has such needle-sharp awns on its spikelets that it was called "rip gut," warning people to keep their animals from grazing on it.

Top left: © 2008 Zoya Akulova. Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved. Source. By permission of photographer.

Top right: Forest & Kim Starr. Source. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Bottom: © 2004 Carol W. Witham. Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved. Source. By permission of photographer.

Velvet grass Non-native

Velvet GrassVelvet GrassHolcus lanatus

Characteristics: Velvet grass is characterized by its flower spikes, which are purple-tinted and very soft. The leaves are gray-green, soft, and hairy. Velvet grass produces numerous seeds, which are dispersed by the wind. This plant is considered invasive.

Where to find it: Grasslands.

Life cycle: Flowers between May and July.

Interesting Fact: This plant is poisonous to mammals, but nourishing to many caterpillars and insects.

Left: Rasbak. Source. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Right: James Lindsey. Source. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

Wild Oat Non-native
Wild OatWild Oat
Wild OatWild Oat

Avena fatua

Characteristics: This grass can grow to be 30 – 120 cm (12 – 48 in) tall. The seeds are carried on a long branched stalk. The awns (hair-like structures attached to the flower or seed) are bent and twisted.

Where to find it: This oat grows on disturbed grassy hills along every finger of the Watsonville Slough system.

Life cycle: Blooms April to June.

Cultural uses: The seed was crushed and used as flour.

Interesting Fact: Water birds and songbirds eat the grain.

Top left: Vega. Source. Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.

Top right: Christian Fischer. Source. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Bottom left: Alvesgaspar Source. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Bottom right: Image © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved.
Used by permission. Source.

Bull Thistle Non-native
Bull Thistle Bull Thistle Flower Bull Thistle Stem
Bull Thistle Bull Thistle seeds Bull Thistle in profile

Cirsium vulgare

Characteristics: This is a spiky, hairy biennial herb, 30 – 200 cm (12 – 80 in) tall. Its stems and leaves are armed with spines. Similar to milk thistle, but the leaves are fuzzy and deep green. The seed are covered with a fluffy pappus.

Where to find it: Disturbed areas.

Life cycle: Flowers from March through September.

Cultural uses: Some Native Americans used the root of this plant to help cure a stomachache.

Interesting Fact: This plant came to the United States in colonial times, and was found in California by 1800.

Top row. Left: © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source. Center: Jonas Bergsten. Public domain. Source. Right: Copyright © A-P-H-O-T-O Wildlife Image Libraries, www.aphotoflora.com. Source. Used by permission. Bottom row. Left: Anders Bjurnemark. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Source. Center: Rasbak. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Source. Right: Vera Buhl. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Source.

Bristly ox-tongue Non-native
Bristly ox-tongue Bristly ox-tongue
Bristly ox-tongueBristly ox-tongue

Helminthotheca echioides

Characteristics: The height of this plant varies from 30 – 80 cm (12 – 32 in) tall. The tongue-shaped leaves are covered with spine-tipped bumps, the stem is also covered with spines. The seeds are covered with a fluffy pappus. This plant is considered invasive.

Where to find it: It grows in disturbed meadows along every finger of the Watsonville Slough system.

Life cycle: Flowers April to December.

Interesting Fact: Its leaves can stick to your clothes like velcro.

Top left: Thomas Meyer. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Source.

Top right: Valter Jacinto | Portugal. Attribution Noncommercial Share Alike license. Source.

Bottom left: Stemonitis. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Source.

Bottom right: Thomas Meyer. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Source.

Italian Thistle Non-native
Italian Thistle Italian Thistle
Italian Thistle Flower Italian Thistle

Carduus pycnocephalus

Characteristics: This annual plant grows 20 – 200 cm (8 – 80 in) tall. It is slightly wooly, gray-green in color and covered with spines. The flowers are pink and the seeds are covered with a fluffy pappus. This plant is considered a noxious weed.

Where to find it: It grows in grassy areas.

Cultural uses: The young shoots were peeled and eaten in salad. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Interesting Fact: Each plant sends out thousands of seeds.

Top right :© 2004 Carol W. Witham, Copyright © 1995-2010 UC Regents. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.

Other images: © Gerald D. Carr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Source.

Milk Thistle Non-native
Milk Thistle
Milk Thistle Milk Thistle

Silybum marianum

Characteristics:This thistle has large spiny leaves with many white patches that look like spilled milk. It can grow to 20 – 300 cm (8 – 120 in) tall. The flower is pink-purple, the seeds are covered with a fluffy pappus.

Where to find it: Milk thistle grows in moist sunny grassy areas along every finger of the Watsonville Slough system.

Life cycle: Flowers May to July.

Interesting Fact: It is in the same family as the artichoke and can be eaten as well. Please see our statement on the use of plants.

Top: Giancarlo Dessì. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Source.

Bottom: H. Zell. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Source. Source.

Himalayan Blackberry Non-native
Himalayan Blackberry Himalayan Blackberry dead stem
Himalayan Blackberry Himalayan Blackberry Himalayan Blackberry

Rubus discolor

Characteristics: This blackberry has 3-5 dark green leaflets per leaf. The flowers are white to pinkish and are in clusters of 5 to 20. When the berries are black they are delicious. The stem is deep red, with rose-like thorns.

Where to find it: This blackberry has 3-5 dark green leaflets per leaf. The flowers are white to pinkish and are in clusters of 5 to 20. When the berries are black they are delicious. The stem is deep red, with rose-like thorns.

Interesting Fact: This plant has larger thorns than the native blackberry and often grows in larger clumps.

Top left: Ryan Cousineau. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license. Source. Top right: Laura Kummerer or Maggie Caldwell, WWW. Bottom left: Dawn Endico. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. Source. Bottom center: Stan Shebs. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Source. Bottom right: Rasbak. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Source.

More about plants in the Pajaro Valley