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Once water is in the ground after it rains, the soil acts like a sponge, holding the water until it is either taken up by plants or gradually pulled downward by gravity into underground aquifers and springs or above-ground seeps and creeks. Factors affecting the flow of a stream are the rainfall, the timing of the rainy season, the timing of primary plant growth and water usage, watershed size, and bedrock geology. In Poly Canyon, rainfall is typically between 20 and 30 inches, occurring between October and April. Primary plant growth and water usage is generally from April through September. Larger watersheds tend to collect more rain, but smaller ones, like Poly Canyon, are subject to more abrupt changes brought on by natural episodic flooding, drought, or fire or by anthropogenic activities such as overgrazing, mountain biking, hiking, and pesticide runoff. If a stream bed is solid bedrock, there is no chance for water to penetrate, and all of it flows downstream. On the other hand, water may penetrate the stream bed to such a degree that it flows beneath the surface. Brizzolara Creek experiences both of these scenarios. The availability of moisture at the surface affects the nature of the community, and it is the moist banks and shores of fresh water streams, rivers, seeps, springs, lakes, and estuarine marshes that give rise to riparian communities. Riparius stems from ripa, Latin for the "bank" or "shore of a stream or river."

Riparian communities are dominated by one to several species of anemophilous (wind-pollinated), winter-deciduous trees with broad and/or soft-textured leaves. This seems anomalous in the California setting given the primarily evergreen nature of chaparral, coastal scrub, and coastal live oak woodlands. "Deciduous islands in an evergreen sea," our riparian forests are minor refuges for riparian plants that flourished in a very different climate during the Tertiary period millions of years ago. While adjacent dry areas are stressed by drought in summer, productivity does not suffer in the riparian corridor where water and maximum sunlight are available simultaneously. Riparian communities are not restricted by climatic or edaphic conditions. However, their size and species composition vary with altitude, topography, the characteristics of their banks, the amount of water carried by them, and the proximity and size of adjacent underground water resources.

Physiognomically, riparian forests are stratified, not unlike a tropical jungle. Their canopies occur in layers formed by different trees, shrubs, vines and lianas, and herbs. Found in the uppermost canopy may be cottonwoods (Populus spp.), sycamores (Platanus racemosa), and willows (e.g., Salix laevigata.). In the intermediate canopy are younger and/or other willows (e.g., Salix lasiolepis). Western poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) often occurs in this community along with blackberry (Rubus ursinus) as a tangled, impenetrable mass of vines and shrubs. In the understory are found such species as mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana), monkeyflowers (Mimulus spp.), and creeping snowberry (Symphoricarpos mollis).

The deciduous nature of the dominant plant species affects riparian communities in several ways. Seasonal fluctuations occur in the light available to understory species. Some herbaceous plants flower in winter when the trees are dormant and bare, and more sunlight can reach the understory. With the reduction in the direct sunlight available in spring and summer, the temperature is several to many degrees cooler than in adjacent areas in full sun. This effect is enhanced by the presence of flowing water, some of which evaporates, humidifying and further cooling the environment.

In drier areas, for example along intermittent creeks, the riparian community may be quite reduced. Instead of being forested, the area may be vegetated by an assemblage of, for example, a few scattered sycamores (Platanus racemosa) and expanses of treeless zones with sun-tolerant plants such as rushes (Juncus spp.) and sedges (Cyperus spp.). The vegetation in the treeless areas may change seasonally, with herbaceous riparian plants appearing in spring, then dying back when their water supply dwindles. Localized riparian areas may develop as a small community, a monotypic population, or a lone tree, supported by the water available at a spring or seep in an area otherwise too dry.

As mentioned, the seasonality of water availability under the Mediterranean climate has a strong influence on non-riparian communities such as chaparral and coastal scrub. But riparian communities are also affected by the seasonal flux in water availability. Streams and creeks are dynamic, changing seasonally. They may be flooded torrents in winter, their banks scoured, denuded, and undercut. Then, in spring and early summer, gentler waters prevail. In late summer and autumn, creeks may host trickles, stagnant puddles, or completely dried beds. The amount of water present varies from year to year, and in many-year cycles. In years of relatively low rainfall, certain plants may have the opportunity to become established, only to be washed away by the next flood.

Of all the plant communities, the riparian occupies the least amount of area in California. However, its varied habitats support one of the most abundant and diverse animal populations. Forty percent of the mammals and reptiles, fifty percent of the birds, and more than eighty percent of the amphibians in an area use the riparian corridor for some or all of their needs. Nearly thirty-five percent of our endangered species depend on wetland habitats. Migrating birds use these areas in spring and fall for shelter, food, and water; insectivorous ones do so even in summer when insect populations peak.

Riparian vegetation provides food and shelter to organisms. Organic matter or detritus (leaf litter, dead insects, etc.) that falls into the stream also provides food and shelter. Minerals are provided via runoff and erosion of the stream bed and banks. Autotrophic organisms thrive on this before becoming themselves a rich nutrient base for aquatic insects and other invertebrates. Living or dead, riparian vegetation forms the foundation of the stream's food web. The shelter provided by overhanging vegetation also moderates the temperature of the water, enabling the growth and development of aquatic invertebrates and the young fish who eat them. Submerged vegetation and roots are habitat to many organisms and also collect sediments that have been eroded upstream. This helps keep the water clear enough for fish and other aquatic species. It also builds up the stream bank, creating new habitat for terrestrial species. This ecological web is diagrammed in Figure 14.

The physical parameters whose variation most affects aquatic organisms are stream depth, current velocity, substrate composition, cover, water temperature, and pH. Disturbances to riparian vegetation directly affect these characteristics. Therefore, although fish and aquatic invertebrates are considered to inhabit a strictly aquatic community, their survival is, in no small part, dependent on the good health of the adjoining riparian community. The two environments, aquatic and terrestrial, are inexorably linked.

Many aquatic insects use terrestrial vegetation for food, shelter, and reproduction. Insect orders in which nearly all members have an aquatic stage (usually the younger stages) include Ephemeroptera (mayflies), Odonata (dragonflies), Plecoptera (stoneflies), and Trichoptera (caddisflies). Other orders have at least some families that are aquatic: Hemiptera (true bugs), Neuroptera (alderflies, hellgramites, dobsonflies, and fishflies), Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), Coleoptera (beetles), and Diptera (flies, craneflies, and mosquitoes). See Table 11. Some species live on partially immersed vegetation, others on decaying grasses at the edge of the stream, others in seeps, springs, or in ephemeral streams. The larvae of many aquatic and semiaquatic Lepidoptera, Diptera, and Coleoptera feed on vascular hydrophytes such as cattails (Typha spp.) and bulrushes (Scirpus spp.) Plecopteran adults live on streamside vegetation and feed on epiphytic algae, young leaves, and buds.

Table 11























































A1: All members are aquatic.
T2: All members are terrestrial.
A/t3: Most members are aquatic; some are terrestrial.
T/a4: Most members are terrestrial; some are aquatic.
A/T5: Many members are aquatic; many others are terrestrial.
A/T6: Insects live on surface film, adjacent banks, and at aquatic margins.
A7/T: Insects may leave water to migrate.

All aquatic Neuroptera leave the water to pupate on land, close to water: alderflies burrow in the soil along the bank; dobsonflies and fishflies pupate in damp soil or in decaying shoreline trees and stumps. Nearly all aquatic Diptera pupate in moist streamside soil, moss, or leaf litter. Mayfly eggs and numphs are aquatic, then emerge as subimagoes (winged, but sexually immature individuals) and perch on streamside vegetation for minutes or days before molting to the imago (adult) stage. Many aquatic insects oviposit on vegetation in or above water. When the nymphs hatch, they wriggle or fall into the water where they find food and shelter. Many aquatic insects are omnivorous, their food requirements changing with their instars (sexually immature developmental stages).

California has about 120 native amphibians and reptiles, many of which are important ecological elements in the riparian community. All amphibians (except lungless salamanders, Plethodontidae) require aquatic environments to complete their life cycles. Many herpetofaunal species utilize the riparian zone thoughout their lives: frogs (Rana spp.), salamanders (some Batrachoseps spp.), turtles (Clemmys spp.), and most garter snakes (Thamnophis spp.). Others use it primarily for breeding: salamanders and newts (Ambystoma spp. and Taricha spp.) and some toads (Bufo spp.). Salamanders (Ensatina spp.) and lizards (Gerrhonotus spp.), that have fairly generalized habits in mesic environments (further north), are closely associated with the riparian community in more xeric environments such as Poly Canyon. Whiptails (Cnemidophorous spp.), gopher snakes (Pituophis spp. ), and kingsnakes (Lampropeltis spp.) have fairly generalized habitat requirements, but frequent riparian communities and their ecotones. Some use the riparian system as a corridor for dispersal and as islands of habitat in areas where the otherwise arid ecological conditions would not permit. Among these is the ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus). See Tables 12 and 13.

In Poly Canyon, a single, uniform riparian community does not line the creek. Rather the vegetation varies along its course and in the moist areas of the adjacent hillsides both in the cover and species composition. The headwaters of Brizzolara Creek consist of varied springs, seeps, and intermittent rivulets and trickles occurring from the ridge above the railroad tracks to the steeper hillsides above Peterson Ranch. Some of these are deep draws treed with coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia). Some are exposed rocky places vegetated by a few sycamores (Platanus racemosa), bay-laurel (Umbellularia californica), and shrubby and herbaceous associates such as hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea), western poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum), and bedstraw (Galium spp.). In some areas, water surfaces in a grassy depression between steep slopes where one finds sedges (Carex spp.), rushes (Juncus effusus, J. patens, and J. phaeocephalus), watercress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum), seep monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), fleabane daisy (Erigeron philadelphicus), curly dock (Rumex crispus), and willows (Salix spp.). In many places water flows seasonally, but creates no obvious changes in the chaparral, coastal scrub, or grassland vegetation growing there.

At lower elevations (from the base of the grade below the tracks and down the valley floor to the area adjacent to the Botanic Garden), the creek appears more consolidated. Its banks are intermittently vegetated by sycamores (Platanus racemosa), coast live oaks (Quercus agrifolia), and understory associates - the ubiquitous western poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum), some coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica), blackberry (Rubus ursinus), and herbaceous forbs and grasses. Cattle fences cross the creek in several spots, as does the dirt road. Cattle feed, drink, and laze about in the creek at several points.

Table 12.





Red-legged frog
Rana aurora

California newt
Taricha torosa

Ensatina eschscholtzi

Foothill yellow-legged frog
Rana boylii

Western toad
Bufo boreas

Pacific slender salamander
Batrachoseps pacificus


Pacific treefrog
Hyla (Pseudacris) regilla

Arboreal salamander
Aneides lugubris

Table 13.





Western pond turtle
Clemmys marmorata

Western skink
Eumeces skiltonianus

Western fence lizard
Sceloporus occidentalis

Common garter snake
Thamnophis sirtalis

Ringneck snake
Diadophis punctatus

Western whiptail
Cnemidophorus tigris


Western terrestrial garter snake
Thamnophis (Nerodia) elegans

Southern alligator lizard
Gerrhonotus multicarinatus


California legless lizard
Anniella pulchra


Coluber constrictor


Striped racer
Masticophis lateralis


Gopher snake
Pituophis melanoleucus


Common kingsnake
Lampropeltis getulus


Western rattlesnake
Crotalus viridis

Near the Botanic Garden, the creek bed and banks are bedrock. The banks rise steeply from the creek and the vegetation forms a riparian forest over the water with dominant elements such as coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia), bay-laurel (Umbellularia californica), western poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum), and a coast redwood (Sequoia semprevirens) that was planted west of the road bridge. The understory includes creeping snowberry (Symphoricarpos mollis), mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana), horsetails (Equisetum spp.), seep monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), coffee fern (Pellaea andromedifolia), goldback fern (Pentagramma triangularis), California polypody (Polypodium californicum), hedge-nettle (Stachys bullata), and miner's lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata). Wildflowers common along the trail just west of the creek include blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum), blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum), Chinese houses (Collinsia heterophylla), California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), Phacelia (Phacelia distans), and Dudleya (Dudleya lanceolata).

As the creek reaches the lower elevations within the narrow part of Poly Canyon, the bed material consists of more eroded sands, gravels, and occasional boulders. The water disappears intermittently below the surface, particularly in the warmer months. Sycamores (Platanus racemosa) and willows (Salix spp.), bay-laurels (Umbellularia californica), an occasional eucaplyptus (Eucalyptus globulus, introduced), and coast live oaks (Quercus agrifolia) take turns in dominance. There are numerous areas with little tree cover where ruderal communities and grasslands reach the creek. The creek is crossed in several spots by barbed wire and old wooden fencing. Cattle use the creek bed. Where the road's retaining wall has broken, the cement slab remains partly in the creek and on its bank. There has been effluent and runoff reported from the feed lot and seepage from the dump. Several sites along the road are noted to be undercut and in danger of collapse into the creek. Several springs are reported in the dump.

Plants which dominate riparian areas in Poly Canyon include:
Blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus, Myrtaceae)
Western sycamore (Platanus racemosa, Platanaceae)
Black cottonwood (Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa, Salicaceae)
*Coast live oak, encina (Quercus agrifolia, Fagaceae)
Arroyo willow (Salix lasiolepis, Salicaceae)
*California bay, California laurel, pepperwood, bay-laurel (Umbellularia californica, Lauraceae)
Associate species include:
*Mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana, Asteraceae)
*Chaparral broom, coyote bush, coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis, Asteraceae)
Sedges (Carex senta and C. spissa, Cyperaceae)
Umbrella sedge, nutsedge, galingale (Cyperus eragrostis, Cyperaceae)
Spikerush (Eleocharis macrostachya, Cyperaceae)
Giant horsetail (Equisetum telmateia, Equisetaceae)
Rush (Juncus effusus, Juncaceae)
Spreading rush (Juncus patens, Juncaceae)
Brown-headed rush (Juncus phaeocephalus, Juncaceae)
Seep or common monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus, Scrophulariaceae)
Water cress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum, Brassicaceae)
Ground rose (Rosa spithamea, Rosaceae)
*California blackberry (Rubus ursinus, Rosaceae)
Curly dock (Rumex crispus, Polygonaceae)
*Blue elderberry (Sambucus mexicana, Caprifoliaceae)
Small-headed bulrush (Scirpus microcarpus, Cyperaceae)
*Western poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum, Anacardiaceae)
Broad-leaved cattail (Typha latifolia, Typhaceae)

Descriptions of plants dominant in Poly Canyon's riparian communities follow.

Charles Webber

*Blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus, Myrtaceae) This evergreen tree grows to about 45 m. (150 feet) tall. Its bark peels off in irregular patches seasonally. The glaucous green leaves of the older branches are 10- to 20 cm. (4 to 8 inches) long, lanceolate, somewhat sickle-shaped. They are very aromatic. The sepals and petals are fused into a warty-textured bud cap from which a profusion of cream-colored stamens emerges. Bloom is from December through May. The 2-cm. (1-inch) fruit is a warty, woody capsule. Blue gum is found in disturbed areas.

Eucalyptus comes from the Greek and means "well covered," referring to the bud cap. Globulus means "small ball" or "small sphere." This species is native to Australia. The Californian environment is similar to that of its native Australia, and it was brought here to be farmed for wood for the furniture industry. However, it turned out not to be suitable for that. It has proven to be extremely invasive. Here there are no animals that eat blue gum and keep its growth in check, and it is very prolific. Also, because of the oils it exudes, most other plants cannot grow in its immediate vicinity. One might consider a blue gum woodland as a blue gum barrens.

Western sycamore

Western sycamore (Platanus racemosa, Platanaceae) This is a 10- to 35-m. (30- to 115-foot) deciduous tree. Its bark peels off giving its trunk and main branches a puzzle-like appearance. The tree looks gnarled and it grows at seemingly odd angles. This is due to anthracnose (Gnomonia platani), a fungal infection. In years of cool, wet spring weather, trees can be completely defoliated by the disease. A new crop of leaves later forms in the drier summer months. The tree has 13- to 33-cm. (5- to 13-inch) palmate, five-lobed, tomentose leaves. It has 1-cm. (1/2") heads of yellow-green male flowers and red female flowers from February through August. The bloom is followed by a 2- to 3-cm. (1-inch), dense, globose head of achenes. Western sycamore is found in canyon and streamside habitats.

Platanus comes from the Greek platys "broad," referring to the size of the leaves. Racemosa comes from the Latin racem "a cluster," referring to the chains of fruiting heads.

Early Californians fashioned the burl-like growths of the aliso into bowls.

Brother Alfred Brousseau

Black cottonwood (Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa, Salicaceae) This dioecious, deciduous tree reaches 30 m. (100 feet) tall. It has grayish, furrowed bark. Its 3- to 7-cm. (11/4-to 23/4-inch) finely toothed, ovate leaves are dark green above and paler green beneath. Its inconspicuous flowers bloom in 3- to 8-cm. (11/4- to 31/4-inch) catkins from February through April. The 3- to 12-mm. (1/8- to 1/2-inch) fruit is a dry capsule with hairy seeds. Black cottonwoods are found at streamside places.

The name Populus may be derived from pal "to shake," referring to the way leaves of some species, such as the quaking aspen, quiver in a breeze. Balsamifera refers to the fragrant gum covering the buds of this tree. Trichocarpa means "hairy fruit."

The alamo was used in a number of ways by native Californians: housing, culinary implements and containers, and clothing. Its bark made a tea used to bathe broken or bruised limbs. The leaves and bark were made into a poultice to treat bruises and cuts. In Chumash oral tradition, Old Man Sun carries a torch made of the inner bark of cottonwood.

*Coast live oak, encina
(Quercus agrifolia, Fagaceae)
click here for description

Arroyo willow

Arroyo willow (Salix lasiolepis, Salicaceae) This deciduous dioecious willow can grow to be a 10-m. (30-foot) shrub or tree. It spreads underground to form extensive clonal groups. It has 4- to 12-cm. (11/2- to 5-inch) long, narrow leaves on yellowish twigs. Its inconspicuous flowers bloom in 15- to 70-mm. (1/2- to 23/4-inch) catkins from March through May. Arroyo willows are common in meadows and at springs.

Salix is the classical Celtic name for the willow: sal means "near," lis means "water." Lasio means "shaggy/hairy," lepis means "scale."

The Spanish name for willow is sauce. The leafy branches of willows were spread out for a feverish person to lie on. A decoction of its bark and leaves was used to bathe hemorrhoids. The tea was also used to treat sore throats (as a gargle) and to cure fevers and malaria. Today, salicylic acid (from Salix) is the active ingredient in aspirin. Chumash chewed the bark to strengthen their teeth. They used branches as fishing poles, switches, whips, and firewood.

*California bay, California laurel, pepperwood, bay-laurel
(Umbellularia californica, Lauraceae)
click here for description

Associate species include:

(Artemisia douglasiana, Asteraceae)
click here for description

*Chaparral broom, coyote bush, coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis, Asteraceae)
click here for description

image unavailable

Sedge (Carex senta, Cyperaceae) This sedge has up to 1-m. (40-inch) stems that are solid and usually triangular. It grows in large, dense, raised clumps connected by rhizomes. Leaf blades are 3 to 5 mm. (1/8 to 1/6 inch) wide. Spikelets measure approximately 21/2 to 5 cm. (1 to 2 inches). They have male flowers toward the tip and 25 to 100 sessile perigynia below. Perigynia are sac-like structures that house the female flowers. Female flowers have two stigmas each. The 3- to 4-mm. (1/8- to 1/6-inch) fruit is a two-sided achene. This sedge is found along streambanks, among rocks in stream channels, and among rocks in stream channels.

Carex comes from the Latin and means "cutter," in reference to the sharp edges of the leaf and stem. Senta is Latin for "rough, foul, uncared-for."


Charles Webber

Sedge (Carex spissa, Cyperaceae) This sedge has 1- to 2-m. (3- to 61/2-foot) stems that are solid and usually sharply triangular. It grows in large, dense clumps connected by rhizomes. The inflorescence is at least 4 cm. (11/2 inch) long. The top one to five spikelets are male, and there are at least two female spikelets below, each with 150 to 300 perigynia. Perigynia are sac-like structures that house the female flowers. Each female flower has three stigmas. The fruit is a three-sided, beaked achene. This sedge occurs along waterways and hillside seeps. It may occur in serpentinitic areas.

Carex comes from the Latin and means "cutter," in reference to the sharp edges of the leaf and stem. Spissa means "compact, thickened."

Charles Webber

Umbrella sedge, nutsedge, galingale (Cyperus eragrostis, Cyperaceae) Umbrella sedge is a perennial with 10- to 90-cm. (4- to 36-inch) stems. The stems are solid and triangular. The terminal inflorescence contains 20 to 70 flat spikelets. Flowers are bisexual with three stigmas. The fruit is a tiny brown, three-sided, beaked achene. Umbrella sedge is found along streambanks and in ditches.

Cyperus is the ancient Greek name for "rush" or "sedge." Er means "spring" and agrostis means "grass."

Spikerush (Eleocharis macrostachya, Cyperaceae) This is a 1/2- to 1-m. (11/2- to 3-foot) perennial that spreads by rhizomes. Stems are round and solid. The inflorescence is a single, terminal spikelet of bisexual flowers with two-branched styles. The fruit is a two-sided or round whitish-brown achene. Spikerush is found in marshy areas, along pond margins, and in ditches.

Eleocharis is Greek for "marsh grace." Macro is Latin for "large," stachus is Greek for "point."

Giant horsetail

Giant horsetail (Equisetum telmateia, Equisetaceae) This ia a perennial that spreads via rhizomes. Its stems are hollow (except at the nodes). They are ridged lengthwise. Sterile green stems are 30 to 100 cm. (1 to 3 feet) tall and have many slender, whorled branches. The sterile stems form in late winter and persist through the growing season. Fertile, fleshy, brown, unbranched stems are 15 to 45 cm. (6 to18 inches) tall and are tipped by cone-like strobili that produce masses of green spores. The fertile stems are ephemeral, produced in winter and withering soon afterward. Giant horsetails are found along streambanks, in ditches, and in seepage areas.

Equus is Latin for "horse," seta means "bristle," and telma means "pond."

Canutillo and caņutillo are Spanish words derived from the Mozarabic cannut. They are the diminutive forms of canuto and caņuto, meaning small tube or container or, botanically, internode. Horsetails were used by Chumash as sandpaper, for gray dye, as a purgative, and as a cure for venereal disease.


Rush (Juncus effusus, Juncaceae) This is a perennial species. Its 6- to 130-cm. (21/2- to 51-inch), round stems grow in clumps and spread by stout, branched rhizomes. Leaves are basal and have no blade. The terminal inflorescence appears to be lateral; each has many flowers. Each flower has three stamens. The fruit is a somewhat truncate obovoid capsule with 1/2-cm. (1/4-inch) seeds that have a single minute appendage. This rush is found in wet places.

Juncus comes from the Latin, "to join" or "to bind." Effusus means "spread out, extensive, loose, unrestrained."

Juncos, in Spanish, were used extensively by Chumash in basketry and other weaving projects (clothing, beading, mats). They were also used to string up abalone to dry.

Spreading Rush (Juncus patens, Juncaceae) This is a perennial species. The 30- to 90-cm. (12- to 36-inch) stems form clumps and spread by stout branched rhizomes. The bluish-gray-green stems are distinctively grooved lengthwise. The leaves are basal and bear no blades. The terminal inflorescence appears to be lateral. Each has many flowers, these with six stamens each. The fruit is a spheric capsule with a soft beak. Seeds are 1/2 cm. (1/4 inch) long. They are asymmetric and bear minute appendages. Spreading rush occurs in marshy places.

Juncus comes from the Latin, "to join" or "to bind." Patens means "spreading" or "open."

Juncos, in Spanish, were used extensively by Chumash in basketry and other weaving projects (clothing, beading, mats). They were also used to string up abalone to dry.

Brown-headed rush (Juncus phaeocephalus, Juncaceae) This is a perennial species. It has 10- to 50-cm. (4- to 20-inch) stems spreading from stout rhizomes. The stems and leaf blades are flat. The inflorescence has a one to many flower clusters. Each flower has six stamens and stigmas that are long-exserted. The fruit, a capsule, has a long, tapered beak. The ovoid seeds are 1/2 cm. (1/4 inch) long. This rush is found in moist places.

Juncus comes from the Latin, "to join" or "to bind." Phaeo means "brown" or "dark," cephalus means "head."

Juncos, in Spanish, were used extensively by Chumash in basketry and other weaving projects (clothing, beading, mats). They were also used to string up abalone to dry.

Seep or common monkeyflower 1 Seep or common monkeyflower 2
Seep or common monkeyflower 3

Seep or common monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus, Scrophulariaceae) The seep monkeyflower is usually a perennial. It is 5 to 100 cm. (2 to 40 inches) tall. It spreads by stolons. It is herbaceous and has fleshy, green, opposite, toothed, rounded-ovate leaves. It has bright yellow flowers with red spots in their hairy throats. They bloom from March through September. The fruit is an oval capsule. Seep monkeyflower is found along streambanks and wet places.

Mimulus comes from the Latin mimus "a comic actor" because of the "monkey-face" markings on the flowers of some species of Mimulus. Gutta means "drop," referring to the red droplet-like markings on flowers in this species.

Brother Alfred Brousseau

Water cress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum, Brassicaceae) This perennial herb is often prostrate in standing water or slow-running streams. The stems root at the nodes. Its shiny green leaves are pinnately divided with leaflets measuring to 10 cm. (4 inches) long. The 3-mm. (1/8-inch) flowers have four white petals each and bloom from March through November. The long, slender pod-like fruits are called siliques. Water cress is found along streams and at springs.

Rorippen is an old Saxon word. Nasturtium means "twisted nose" because of the pungency of the plants. Aquaticum means "found in the water."

, in Spanish, were introduced from Europe and reportBerrosed from Price Canyon as early as 1769. They were eaten raw (for liver ailments) and cooked (as tea for hangovers).

Brother Alfred Brousseau

Ground rose (Rosa spithamea, Rosaceae) This is a 50-cm. (20-inch) dwarf shrub with rhizomes and prickly stems. It has two to four double-toothed leaflets per leaf. Each inflorescence has one to ten pale pink flowers. Fruits are achenes enclosed in the hip. Ground rose is found in open woodlands, as well as chaparral, especially after fire.

The etymology of rosa is unknown. It may be either the ancient Latin name for rose or derived from the Celtic rhod meaning "red." Spithamea derives from spithama meaning "a span, measure equal to the distance between the first and last fingers of an outstretched hand, approximately seven inches."

The fruit of rosa de Castilla, in Spanish, was used by Chumash. It was eaten raw or strung for necklaces or earrings. The petals were dried and used as a tea to cure colic, as an eyewash, to soothe teething babies, and, powdered, as talc.

*California blackberry
(Rubus ursinus, Rosaceae)
click here for description

Curly dock 1
Curly dock 2

Curly dock (Rumex crispus, Polygonaceae) This is a 30-cm to 120-cm. (1- to 4-foot) introduced perennial species. It has a taproot. Its 50-cm. (20-inch) lanceolate leaves have curled margins. Dense, leafy panicles of green flowers bloom most of the year; then shiny brown fruits, achenes, develop. Curly dock occurs in disturbed places.

Rumex is Latin for "sorrel." Crispus means "curled."

Lengua de buey ("bull's tongue" in Spanish) was brought from Eurasia, but it is suspected that the native Rumex salicifolius was used by Chumash in the same manner. Its leaves were eaten as greens; the peeled, raw stem resembles a sour version of celery; the seeds were pounded into a mush; and the root was boiled into a tea to cure stomach ailments.

*Blue elderberry
(Sambucus mexicana, Caprifoliaceae)
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Charles Webber

Small-headed bulrush (Scirpus microcarpus, Cyperaceae) This is a 30- to 150-cm. to (1- to 5-foot) perennial with hollow triangular stems. Its inflorescence is panicle-like and consists of fifty or more spikelets in head-like clusters of four to twelve at branch tips. This bulrush occurs along streambanks, in wet meadows and marshy areas.

Scirpus is the classical name for "bulrush." Microcarpus means "tiny fruit."

*Western poison oak
(Toxicodendron diversilobum, Anacardiaceae)
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Broad-leaved cattail

Broad-leaved cattail (Typha latifolia, Typhaceae) This is a perennial that spreads by rhizomes. It grows in water (not underwater) or in drier soil. It has a spike-like, terminal, cylindrical inflorescence of a thousand or more flowers. The male flowers grow toward the tip of the inflorescence; the female flowers below. Flowers bloom from June to July. This cattail is common in marshy areas and ponds.

Typha is the ancient Greek name for "cattail." Latifolia means "broad leaf."

Tule ancho means broad, wide tule, in Spanish. Tules were used by Chumash for thatching, weaving mats and canoes, and occasionally in basketry, and for splinting broken limbs. The ashes were used to massage the skin for relief from rheumatism. Stems were made into "straws" used for sucking liquid tobacco. Tule was used for archery targets and in rituals. Two other types of tules were recognized by the Chumash: tule redondo (round, the shape of the stems): Scirpus acutus and S. californicus; and tule esquineado (probably an aberration of esquinado meaning having corners, referring to the triangular stems): Scirpus americanus.