Research, Science & environment

Calscape website helps Californians bring back native plants

By Public Affairs

Sticky cinquefoil flower

Sticky Cinquefoil ( Drymocallis glandulosa ) is a perennial herb native to California. (Walter Siegmund, CNPS)

UC Berkeley’s Jepson Herbarium has teamed up with the California Native Plant Society to help homeowners across the state replace lawns and other water-thirsty plants with native California plant species.

The new online tool, Calscape , helps Californians save water and bring back native flora, along with the birds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators that evolved with them.

“Small changes have the potential to make a big impact on the landscape and can help combat the effects of global climate change and degradation of natural systems,” notes Staci Markos, assistant director of the Jepson. Calscape “will inspire more Californians to include native plants in their gardens” and make it easy to purchase them from local nurseries, she says.

Often, native species die when planted in a different area than the one in which they evolved. Now, individuals can enter a California address, city or GPS location online to find out which native plants — shrubs, trees, grasses, vines, succulents and others — are native to their specific area. The tool includes a planting guide and a list of local plant nurseries.

Berkeley alum Dennis Mudd ’84, founder of Slacker radio, was instrumental in the creation of the native-plant website. A San Diego resident now semi-retired from the digital-music business, Mudd wanted to surround his home with native plants. Making nursery purchases “based on the prettiest flowers,” he said, did not not work out, however. His natives were “dying like crazy,” he recalls.

Once Mudd realized the importance of planting species indigenous to a specific latitude and longitude, he bought accordingly and his garden flourished — creating a habitat, in turn, for animals that had evolved alongside the plant species. “The bird life became so amazing,” he marvels.

Creating an online tool on California natives was a natural for Mudd, given his digital-music expertise: “I know how to organize data.”

As for the rich botanical information needed for the site, he admits, “There was only so much I could do by myself.”

Mudd partnered with the California Native Plant Society to improve on the tool, and with the Jepson Herbarium, which “runs the database of plant observations developed over the past hundred years. “We needed their expertise,” he notes, “to create maps showing geographical ranges” of the state’s native-plant species.

Read more about Calscape here .