Introducing Contributing Writer: Mieko Alley
As summer temperatures rise, you may be inclined to spend more time inside or drink more water as a response to the heat. Your dog may dig under the house to escape the sun or you may find that your cat has given up his perch on the windowsill. You may even find that your plants are behaving differently!
While nonnative plants require special attention during the summer months, one of the many benefits of planting California natives is that they are well adapted to hot, dry summers. There are more than six thousand documented native species and subspecies in California – all of which have grown with our beautiful climate, creating an ecosystem that operates like an efficient, water-saving machine. Here are just a couple examples of Mother Nature’s clever designs.
Have you ever dug a hole in your yard and noticed that even when the top soil is dry, deeper soil is moist? Native chaparral species, like Manzanita and Toyon, take advantage of this by sending roots deep into the ground to find water during dry months. These roots act like straws trying to get the last sips from the bottom of a cup. When a rare rain does pass over, chaparral species also have shallow roots adept at quickly soaking up water from the upper layers of soil. While chaparral species have dynamic root systems, our native flowering perennials have developed another approach.
If you hike in the Santa Clarita Valley or have a native plant garden, you may have noticed that many native plants appear dry, or even dead, during the summer. As shriveled and droopy as the leaves may be, the plant is actually surviving the dry summer by going dormant. Deciduous species, such as Purple Sage and California Sagebrush, do all of their growing and blooming during the cooler, wetter months of winter and spring. Once our Southern California sun starts blazing down, they conserve energy and resources by dropping their leaves and turning brown.
[Photo: Vista Sage. Caption: Purple sage blooming in spring.]
Interesting science, perhaps, but how will knowing about the weather-wise adaptations of plants help you to protect the environment? By incorporating native plants that are adapted to our Mediterranean climate into your garden, you can reduce the amount of water you use on your lawn and help California through the drought.
Saving water saves you money, too. According to California Native Plant Society’s estimates, replacing your lawn with low-water shrubs and perennials can reduce water use up to 75%. Plant natives in your garden this fall to keep the green in your pockets next summer.
Living things, including plants, animals, and even people, have adaptations that help us to live efficiently during weather extremes. Understanding which strategies plants in your garden use can lead to informed decision about care and maintenance.
Find local hikes featuring native plants at LAMountains.com
Learn about native plants.
Learn more water saving tips.
Source: Santa Clarita News