We often think of the early history of California as beginning with the very first colonists and settlers from Europe who established the cities we know and love. In reality, that slice of history from the textbooks represents such a small and recent fragment of time compared with the long-standing natural history of this area. Before the New World was ever called the New World, before California was called California, and before Los Angeles was called Los Angeles, this land where we now reside was once a living, breathing network of native plants, animals, and people, of which only fragmented remnants remain today.
Griffith Park is one such remnant, an urban wilderness within the heart of a major metropolis that still contains evidence of its remarkable natural heritage. Despite high levels of recreational human activity, drought, and the presence of invasive species, the Park is still host to incredible biodiversity, the most essential of which is its indigenous flora. Insects, rabbits, songbirds, lizards, deer, coyotes, and even our beloved P-22 can credit their survival to the plants that provide them with food, or provide their prey with food. Native plants are the building blocks of the entire food web, and it is essential that we protect, as well as augment, the natural wildlife habitat of Griffith Park and that of Los Angeles as a whole through the creation of native landscapes.
I felt especially honored to help in this capacity on the Anza Trail Native Garden project spearheaded by Friends of Griffith Park this spring. Through my work as the propagation specialist for Grown in LA, and with the permission of LA Recreation and Parks, I collected seeds from our local plant species in the Park and grew them at the old Commonwealth Nursery. These plants were then planted by volunteers this April along a stretch of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail near the Crystal Springs Picnic Area and new education signage was erected to teach passersby about the natural history of the area.
The garden is already inviting wildlife back to the site. Hummingbirds are visiting the flowers of the already blooming showy penstemon, black sage, and sticky monkeyflower. Butterflies are alighting on the coast bush sunflower and laying eggs on the coffeeberry shrubs. The California sagebrush, aside from earning its moniker “cowboy cologne” because of its incredible scent, is attracting ladybugs that will prey on insect pests in the landscape. When it is mature, the toyon shrubs at the back of the garden will provide berries for birds during the middle of winter when all other food sources are scarce. And when the flowers have all gone to seed, not only will seed-eating birds get a feast, but I myself will be able to return to the garden to collect seeds for future Grown in LA propagation efforts, so that we may continue to implement these kinds of projects in Griffith Park and beyond.
You, too, can be a part of this concerted effort to revive the vitality and enhance the biodiversity of Los Angeles by supporting Grown in LA’s efforts to produce locally-sourced native plants for public projects such as this.
Katherine Pakradouni is a Propagation Specialist with Grown in LA. Get more information at www.growninla.org