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Celebrate California native plants this week and all year

Test your knowledge with a quiz

The California poppy of course is the state flower. It's an important plant for pollinators, including this ligated furrow bee, a type of sweat bee.

The California poppy of course is the state flower. It's an important plant for pollinators, including this ligated furrow bee, a type of sweat bee. Kathy Morrison

Through Saturday, it’s California Native Plant Week, and I can’t think of a better time to plant two or 12 or 222 California natives. 

These are the plants that grew here before suburbs and urbs, before gardeners from other areas began importing their favorites from other parts of the country or the world. Our native plants are uniquely adapted to our climate and to our native pollinators (including birds). 

In the spirit of celebration, I put together a quick (and fun, I hope) quiz on California natives. See how much you already know about them:

1. Which was the first native plant to receive an “official” state designation?
a) California redwood, state tree
b) Purple needle grass, state grass
c) California poppy, state flower

2. The California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), by the way, beat out which other native(s) to win the title of state flower? Choose any that apply:
a) Windpoppy (Papaver heterophyllum
b) Coulter's matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri
c) Mariposa lily (Calochortus sp.)
d) Red ribbons (Clarkia concinna
e) California sunflower (Helianthis californicus)

3. Which of these natives is NOT a ceanothus?
a) Buck brush
b) Coyote bush
c) Deerbrush
d) Oregon tea tree

4. Which native plant has been endangered by poachers in the wild?
a) Bluff lettuce (Dudleya farinosa)
b) Black sage (Salvia mellifera)
c) Desert agave (Agave deserti)
d) Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis)

5. Oak trees (Quercus sp.) are considered a keystone species for California wildlife – important especially for native birds. Which of these oaks is not a native?
a) Blue oak (Q. douglasii)
b) Garry’s oak (Q. garryana)
c) Engelmann oak (Q. engelmannii)
d) Pin oak (Q. palustris)
e) Black oak (Q. kelloggii)

6. California has how many types of native plants, according to the California Native Plant Society?

a) 1,000
b) 2,500
c) 5,000
d) 6,000

Bonus: How can gardeners celebrate California Native Plant Week?

a) Join CNPS or a local chapter (Sacramento Valley for our region)

b) Sign up for the free Gardens Gone Native tour, to be held April 29 in Sacramento and Yolo counties. The self-guided tour will include about two dozen gardens planted primarily with natives.

c) Plant California natives! See the list of suggested plants and participating nurseries at Bloom! California.

d) Visit the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden to see its many native plantings. Or shop at the next Arboretum Nursery plant sale, which always includes a variety of natives.


1. c) The California poppy became the official state flower in 1903. The redwood was designated in 1937 and the needle grass in 2004.
2. b) and c) They finished far behind in the legislative vote total.
3. b) Coyote bush. Its Latin name is Baccharis pilularis.
4. a) Dudleya farinosa and many other coast Dudleyas are in such danger from succulent poachers that in 2021 Gov. Newsom signed a bill specifically making Dudleya poaching illegal.
5. d) The pin oak is a popular landscape tree in California but it’s an import from the eastern and central United States.
6. d) It’s at least 6,000 and probably higher -- more than any other state. And roughly 40 percent of California’s native plants are found only within its borders.

Bonus: All of the above, of course!


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Garden Checklist for week of April 21

This week there’s plenty to keep gardeners busy. With no rain in the immediate forecast, remember to irrigate any new transplants.

* Weed, weed, weed! Get them before they flower and go to seed.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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