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Southern California Indigenous Plant Collection

Created by:
Mark Gammell 
Capistrano Unified School District 



THE PLANT COLLECTION:  The purpose of this plant collection is to learn about the native plants in Southern Orange County.  There are many native plants in your area that you now call "weeds."  These plants actually have names and medicinal uses or are edible.  Your task will to be to use your outdoor skills to find, collect, and press these illusive indigenous plants.

You will need a total of 20 plants for your collection.  The first 15 are from the required list below and must be displayed in the proper order.  The remaining 5 plants (#16-#20)
may be any other plant indigenous to Southern California.  Extra credit may be earned by collecting extra indigenous plants (2 points for each extra, but no more than 5 extra plants).

You will need to list the common name, genus and species name, and collection location for each displayed plant on the poster board page next to the plant.

For every plant you collect, you will need to do some research about the edible or medicinal uses.  This information needs to be included on the poster board page with the displayed plant.

Required Plants:  They must be in the following order.

1.  Anise (Sweet Fennel)
2.  Buckwheat
3.  Chaparral Broom (Coyote Bush)
4.  Cheeseweed
5.  Coastal Sage
6.  Cucumber Gourd
7.  Filaree
8.  Horehound
9.  Lemonade Berry
10.  Lupine
11.  Mustard
12.  Sunflower
13.  Tree Tobacco
14.  Wild Artichoke
15.  Wild Oats

Here are some useful web sites that will give you common names, scientific names, and pictures of most of the plants you will find in this area:

Plant Identification

Site #1
Site #2
Site #3
Site #4

Poisonous Plants

Site #5
Site #6

Medicinal Uses and Edible Plants

Site #7
Site #8


THE FOOD WEB:  The next part of your project is to make a food web including all of the animals in the typical coastal desert or chaparral biome where you found your plants.  You need to include the following:


If you need help figuring out how to organize your food web, all you have to do is click here or here.


Materials Needed:
1.  Scissors (or pruning shears) and a bag for the actual plant collecting. 
2.  For the plant press you will need plenty of cardboard, newspaper, and two large pieces of
     wood (18"x24").
3.  California native plant identification books.
4.  A computer and Internet access (you will have class time and the use of the classroom 
     computer if you do not have access at home).
5.  Poster board for plant display (I will laminate them at school before the project is due). 
     It will cost you $1.00 for the lamination material.

1.  Collecting Plants - There are serveral different places where you can collect native plants in  
     this area.  Click here for directions to Chaparossa Park.  
     You can find some of  the plants along the bike path off of Del Avion (the Crown Valley  

     direction) below "The Bluffs" apartments. Another good place to find plants is at the end of 
     the Strands Beach parking lot  toward the Dana Point Headlands.

    Select an average sized plant with flowers if possible.  Cut the part of the plant stem or
    branch off including the flower (maybe 3" to 6").

    Put the spread out plants in the press as soon as you get home.  The plants will curl up if it
    is left for any length of time.  They need to be left in the press for roughly three weeks.

    DO NOT collect Toyon or California Poppies.  There is a fine because Toyon is on the
    endangered list and the California Poppy is the state flower.  DO NOT collect from the canyon
    behind the high school.

    2.  Pressing the Plants - After collecting the plant, place it on the newspaper of the planting
    press.  It is a good idea to write the name of the plant or a number next to the plant so you
    can remember the name of the plant and where you collected it.  Make sure the plant is 
    spread out and the leaves or flowers are displayed in the correct positions.  Place another 
    layer of newspaper on top of the plants and then lay a piece of cardboard on top of the
    newspaper.  Repeat this layering with new plants until all of the plants are in the press.  Now
    that the press is full of your collected plants, place the wood board on top with pressure.  It is
    probably a good idea to check your press after one week for mold.  The plants should be in the
    press for three weeks.

    3.  Mounting the Plants - After the plants have dried completely, around three weeks, you are
    ready to mount them on the poster board and laminate them.  This should be done all on the
    same day so the plants do not absorb moisture and curl up.  It is probably a good idea to have 
    your written information about the plant already on the poster board.  The size of the poster
    board pages should be roughly 8 1/2" by 11" with one or two plants displayed on each page. 
    You can collate the poster board pages in a notebook or any other creative way that is 


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Last Updated 
August 16, 2000