The Griffith Park Rare Plant Survey, a collaborative effort between the Griffith Park Natural History Survey and the California Native Plant Society was completed in October, 2010. GPNHS scientific advisor Dan Cooper conducted the study, and has produced a remarkable report that exceeded expectations.
This is the first time that the flora of Griffith Park has been formally described.Ten species known from the park are considered “rare” by the California Native Plant Society (CNPS). Of these, seven had been documented as occurring in Griffith Park since 2007. A big question was what happened to the other three, and were there even rarer plants still undiscovered. Some of the seven already observed have been found to be relatively common here, making Griffith Park important for their survival both in the Los Angeles area and in California as a whole.
The flora of Griffith Park may be treated as two components, the planted and the un-planted. The developed areas of the park, as well as most roadsides, have been landscaped with a wide variety of plants from all corners of the globe (practically anything will grow here in southern California).
The majority of the park, however, is a wild landscape of chaparral and canyons, full of interesting native plants that are typical of the rest of the Santa Monica Mountains, which extend west from Griffith Park to near Oxnard, Ventura County. This range includes many natural areas familiar to Angelenos, like Topanga Canyon and Malibu Creek State Park. Most of the same species and habitats found in these areas also occur in Griffith Park, though some natural communities have been degraded through decades of over-use.
Several rare plant communities occur at Griffith Park, notably Southern California Black Walnut Woodland, which is best-developed on shady hillsides scattered around the perimeter of the park. Sycamore Riparian Woodland is found in most of the canyons that drain the park (esp. Brush Cyn., above Ferndell, and Spring Cyn. near the Old Zoo), and most of the picnic areas were built on former sycamore woodland (the original trees remain). Coastal Sage Scrub extends in a band around the lower elevations of the park, and is best observed around the “Bronson Caves” in lower Brush Cyn. and on the south-facing slopes of Mt. Hollywood (recently-burned).
A few native plant species that occur in Griffith Park are of great conservation concern, including Humboldt Lily and Catalina Mariposa-Lily. Other rare wildflowers are known from historical (pre-1950) collections in the park. Small patches of Bigberry Manzanita (Arctostaphylos glandulosa ssp. mollis), mainly a foothill species, occur at the higher ridges in the park from Mt. Hollywood to Mt. Lee. Though not rare on a global scale, these are the only plants left in the eastern Santa Monica Mtns. Similarly, a small population of Parry’s Cholla, a locally-rare native cactus, was recently found near the Old Zoo site.
The Nevin’s Barberry (photo above) is one of the rarest plants in the U.S., and though there is debate about whether its occurrence at Griffith is natural or the result of early plantings, it is nonetheless worth keeping track of. The map of shows the locations of some of these rarities.
In 2007, Rick Fisher with the City of Los Angeles initiated an effort to document the flora of Griffith Park, in response to a major fire that occurred in May of that year. The Griffith Park Natural History Survey and others are assisting in this effort to search for old records of plant species from the park, and to check to see if they are still persisting.
Click on the following list to see a printable report:
Flora of Griffith Park, a PDF file (Preliminary, Cooper, Fisher, 2007)
Historic plant collections from Griffith Park, a PDF file (Preliminary, Cooper, Fisher, 2007)
Flora of the Santa Monica Mtns. a pdf file (Wishner 1997)
Link to Dan Cooper / Rick Fisher Illustrated Plant List