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Friends of the Regional Parks Botanic Garden
Native Plant Sale

Every Thursday





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The garden is located at the intersection of Wildcat Canyon Road and South Park Drive in Tilden Regional Park near Berkeley, CA


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August 2014


Beach and marine terrace at the start of the Jug Handle Ecological Staircase Trail


Towering sea cliffs, jungle-like coastal canyons, stunted pygmy forests, and giant redwoods all meet in a diverse jumble on the Mendocino coast of Northern California. For the lover of the rugged and wild, for the aficionado of amazing trees, for the seeker of unusual plants, this place has it all.

This picturesque topography starts in northern Sonoma County, crossing over at Gualala, then continues well north of Fort Bragg. Once the heartland of vast logging operations, the Mendocino coast was originally isolated from the rest of California and only accessible by sea, so the first huge logs were rolled to the sea, then transported on ships to San Francisco and other points south. Today, a network of highways crisscrosses the land, but even now the roads are narrow and windy, giving the feel of a remote retreat.

Rosebay (Rhododendron macrophyllum) in full flower at Van Damme State Park


Botanical areas abound, and for the less adventurous, beautiful Mendocino Botanical Gardens furnishes glimpses into what the moist, cool climate excels at the growing of ericaceous plants such as rhododendrons. Starting with Hwy 128—a twisting route from Cloverdale in northern Sonoma County to the mouth of the Navarro River and crossing the wine country of Anderson Valley—I’ll provide snapshots of beautiful places to visit.

Hendy Woods State Park lies to the west of Boonville near the headwaters of the Navarro River. This is an easily accessible place to start in the redwood country, featuring gentle loop trails through pristine redwood forest and riparian woodland lining the river.

The Navarro River State Park farther west forms a narrow snakelike necklace between the Navarro River and Hwy 128, with beautiful campsites in more excellent redwood forest.

hendyCarpet of redwood sorrel (Oxalis oregana) at Hendy Woods



Van Damme State Park. Just a few miles north of the junction of Hwy 128 and Hwy 1, this state park merits a day’s exploration. From a seaside beach through a lush mixed conifer forest and bogs with skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanum), the grand firs, Douglas firs, and coast redwoods follow Fern Canyon, terminating in an uphill climb above the heart of the forest into ancient, leached marine terraces supporting the famed pygmy forest. (More on this a bit farther on.) Besides lush banks of ferns, you can discover a variety of saxifrage relatives and the beautiful coast lily (Lilium maritimum) en route.

Branches of grand fir (Abies grandis) with seed cones

skunk Cabbage
The curious flower of skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanum)
Coast lily (Lilium maritimum), at Van Damme


The Mendocino Headlands. The tiny town of Mendocino lies perched on rugged cliffs just north of Van Damme. Besides charming shops and gourmet restaurants, the headlands overlook crashing waves and matted coastal bluff plants. At low tide, a wonderland of tide pools lies between the cliffs and arches here, a paradise for the explorer of algae and intertidal wildlife.


ribes bracteosum
Stink currant (Ribes bracteosum) at Russian Gulch


Five-finger fern (Adiantum aleuticum) and deer fern (Blechnum spicant) in Fern Canyon at Van Damme


Russian Gulch State Park. Just to the north of Mendocino, this narrow strip of land starts at a beach, backed by a narrow canyon with picturesque campsites and a trail leading up-canyon into a jungle-like land bordered by soaring firs and redwoods. Look for several important shrubs like the California hazelnut (Corylus cornuta californica), which reaches tree size; the creek dogwood (Cornus sericea) with its bright red twigs; the “berry-iferous” thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus); the medicinal cascara sagrada (Frangula purshiana; relative to the dry-growing coffeeberry); and the pretty maple-like leaves of the little-known stink currant (Ribes bracteosum), near its southern limits.

Jug Handle Ecological Staircase Trail. Just north of the tiny town of Caspar, a six-mile round-trip hike is one of the best for showcasing changes in vegetation related to the age of old marine terraces. From coastal prairie lined with wind-pruned grand fir and Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), cross a creek, then climb three terraces, each with its own mix of trees and varying degrees of sandy and rocky soils, culminating at the top in ancient podzols underlain by a hardpan. These white ashy soils are nutrient deficient and drain poorly because of the underlying hardpans, resulting in conditions inimical to the growth of trees and shrubs. Here reside old pygmy cypresses (Hesperocyparis pygmaea) that only reach a few feet high and are mixed with the dwarf Bolander form of the beach pine (Pinus contorta bolanderi), and rosebay rhododendrons, salal, huckleberries, and Fort Bragg manzanita (Arctostaphylos nummularia).


MacKerricher State Park and Inglenook Fen. Located just a few miles north of Fort Bragg, this park hosts pristine coastal prairie habitat, coastal forests, and a series of wetland habitats, including marshes, ponds, and bogs with skunk cabbage. To the north of the main park area lie several miles of coastal dunes and the unusual Inglenook Fen, where a pond is ringed by willows with pockets of quicksand and sphagnum bogs. This fen is one of the very few coastal areas for the buck- or bog-bean (Menyanthes trifoliata), an unusual relative of the gentians with trifoliate, beanlike leaves and clusters of hairy, fringed, pale purple flowers. Look here also for the handsome yellow pond-lily (Nuphar polysepala), the only California native water-lily relative.

—Glenn Keator


buckbean, Menyanthes trifoliataBuckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) flowers

Waxy yellow flower of yellow pond-lily (Nuphar polysepala)


Weekend on the Mendocino Coast
Join the Friends of the Regional Parks Botanic Garden for a visit to the spectacular Mendocino coast area with Dr. Glenn Keator. Fall is a quiet time to learn ferns, conifers, and late bloomers in this most scenic part of the northern California coastline. Friday and Saturday, we'll visit the forests, headlands, and riparian areas of the Fort Bragg-Mendocino area, including the pygmy forest, a skunk-cabbage bog, and wetlands at MacKerricher State Park.

Friday, October 3 – Sunday, October 5
$90 members / $100 nonmembers

Visit the Friends’ Events and Classes page for more information and to register.


Sale Hours:    
9 am–3 pm    Friends of the Regional Parks Botanic Garden

For early admission, arrive 8:30-9 am on the day to become a member, or join before August 20, 2014: or 510-544-2220 (M-F 8:30 am – 4 pm).


Upcoming Classes
A click here will take you to a full description of the class as well as the class registration form
Sunday, September 28, 9:30 am-4 pm

Modern Textile Design with California Native Plant Dyes

Space Available
Friday-Sunday, October 3-5

Weekend on the Mendocino Coast

Space Available

Sunday mornings, October 12-December 7

Learning to Identify Plants by Key

Space Available
Illustration/Photo Credits

©Glenn Keator

Mendocino Coast photos