SoCal Indigenous Plants

Southern California Indigenous Plant Collection

Created by: Mark Gammell
Capistrano Unified School District 




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.

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

Poisonous Plants

Medicinal Uses and Edible Plants


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.  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 presentable. 

A Few Internet Resources:


Created August 14, 2000
Last Revised August 16, 2000

Teacher Notes

Suggested Grade Level: 9 through 12 

Science Content Standards: 

Grades 9-12 Life Sciences Content Standards  (6a, 6b, 6e, 6f)
Investigation and Experimentation Standards  (1a, 1d, 1i)

S.C.O.R.E. Lessons Standards Search by Grade and Subject
S.C.O.R.E. Standards and Framework
California Content Standards Grades K-12
California Content Standards Grades K-12 - Science - PDF Format


It is a good idea to bring in many of the common plants the students will encounter in the collection areas and have them draw and identify the plants from a dichotomous key.


The students need to be able to use a dichotomous key to identify the plants, use the Internet (or have a friend who knows how to use it), and organize a notebook.


The students should hand in a completed notebook with 20 plants (and extra credit), the common and scientific names, medicinal uses or edible plant explanation, and a food web with all of the animals from the collected area.


As a possible alternative, the students could possibly complete the project by taking photographs of the plants or making a movie (VCR tape) of themselves with the plants out in the collection areas.