This is Part 2 of my series on native plants of Inland Southern California. For Part 1, go here. Originally I planned to talk about medicinal uses in greater depth in Part 2, but instead I’m going to do that in Part 3.
Last time I mentioned a few native species, but you may be interested in learning about others. This is a sort of annotated bibliography of sites where you can pursue your own research.
USDA Plant Database–You can enter the name of any species, either as the Latin binomial or its common name, in the search box and bring up a range map, images, list of subspecies (if any), and some other basic info. The Related Links tab will take you to even more resources.
California Native Plant Link Exchange (CNPLX)–This database allows you to search by a number of different variables: plant scientific name, plant common name, bioregion, county, plant community, family, and more. I have found this extremely useful because my county covers a variety of different bioregions; I can narrow the search by adding more variables. It will give you a list of all plants matching your criteria, each cross-referenced with other counties and plant communities where it grows, and even nurseries and seed suppliers. The only down side is it doesn’t have pictures.
Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery–There are two physical nurseries, one in Santa Margarita and one in Escondido, and they also ship to customers. But for those doing research, it’s most useful for its images and descriptions of plants.
Calflora is another database where you can search by many variables, including plant type, periodicity (annual/perennial), bioregion, and county, with the added benefit of pictures.
The Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants is dedicated to preserving and propagating native California plants. It operates a nursery in Sun Valley, and also offers classes in botany and native plant gardening.
Now, if you’re reading this you are probably curious about medicinal applications for these plants. So below are some resources on regional ethnobotany that will be of interest.
University of Michigan-Dearborn Native American Ethnobotany allows you to search by plant name. It returns a brief description of how the plant was used medicinally and the bibliographical source for that info. Each different use of a plant has a separate listing.
Medicinal Plants of the Southwest is hosted by New Mexico State University. It’s not an extensive list, but you can find a plant listed by family, or search for one. Click on the link for a plant and you get pictures, a fairly extensive description, and a bibliography.
Luiseño Ethnobotany gives many traditional uses of plants, not only medicinal but those used for tools, weapons, ceremonial, etc. It has a linked bibliography and “Ethnobotanical Master List” organized by family, and some plant names are links to images. The Luiseño people are among the native inhabitants of San Diego and Riverside Counties.
The Malki Museum in Banning hosts the Temalpakh Ethnobotanical Garden. Their website has a brief list of medicinal plants used by the Cahuilla people. The garden is described as a “living illustration” of the book Temalpakh: Cahuilla Indian Knowledge and Usage of Plants by Katherine Siva Saubel with Dr. Lowell J. Bean.
The UC Santa Cruz Arboretum has a pdf on Native American Uses of California Plants. Some of the plants are not found in Southern California, but many are found all over.
Michael Moore has written three books each of which covers some plants that grow in Inland Southern California: Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West, Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West, and Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West.
For modern medicinal uses of plants (California and otherwise), a good resource is the Herbalpedia, which you can purchase here, but much of which you can access without purchasing via HerbMentor. The Herb of the Year for 2014 is Artemisia, the native California species of which happen to be among my very favorite plants.