What is the Big Deal About Natives?

LA really is a special place, and so is its ecology. Our region’s Mediterranean climate brings dry, hot summers and cool, wet winters. This unique climate and landscape is what creates the special conditions that support our city’s animal and plant biodiversity.

Native plants use anywhere from 30 to 90 percent less water than other non-native plant species, and also provide animals with a habitat to call home.  Our native plants are beautiful, resilient and useful, and we should celebrate them!

Nature knows best!

Did you know that LA’s native plants are specially adapted to long periods (6-9 months) of dry weather? Plants use all kinds of tricks to survive our dry, hot summers like:

  • Oils to help relieve them from heat, like sage
  • Grey-green leaves that act as sunscreen (we slather on zinc oxide, plants make greyer leaves!)
  • Thick, leathery leaves to protect them from the sun’s heat and from drying out
  • Deep root systems to drink every sip of water that soaks into the ground
  • Cupped or folded leaves to shield from extreme sunlight 
  • Dropping their leaves in the summer AKA “drought-deciduousness” (why bother keeping your leaves in the hottest and driest time of the year?)

What’s really remarkable is how life comes roaring back after laying dormant in the summer months. Think about it– we all marvel at Griffith Park’s lush green hills after our first rains. One of our greatest joys is seeing the wildflowers emerge– like sages perking up, and the oaks sending out new growth.

On the other hand, introduced plants that are used to different climates don’t thrive the same way our local native plants do. Have you noticed some of LA’s most common garden plants can hardly go more than a few days without water before showing signs of stress? They can’t handle the heat like our natives do.

LA is facing not only a changing climate that brings cycles of severe drought, but a booming population that strains our water resources, and storm drains that send water out into the ocean instead of down into our soil. We need to take steps to conserve water wherever possible– ditch the turf, plant natives instead.

Excited to learn more? Visit treepeople.org/yards!

By Caitlin Dunham

After graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in Forestry and Natural Resource Management, Caitlin discovered a passion for working in social media and marketing and eventually found her way to TreePeople. With her unique forestry and marketing background, Caitlin is now growing and thriving within TreePeople’s Yurt Village. She loves that she can bridge the gap between science and marketing and is at the frontlines of educating Angelenos on trees and how they can save LA.