Tag Archives: native plants

Live Fuel Moisture Findings at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

The Garden is tracking drier than average conditions as we enter high fire season

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department declared May 3 as the start date for the 2021 high fire season for all areas of the county. This year’s severely lower than normal rainfall has resulted in drier fuels, which means the risk of fire ignition and spread have already reached high levels. 

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden has tracked local Live Fuel Moisture conditions since 2013. Live Fuel Moisture, or LFM, is the amount of water in a plant’s tissues, by weight, compared to the weight of plant tissues after they are dried. Plants have high LFM in the winter and early spring, when water is plentiful and the weather is cooler. In summer and fall, LFM drops as plants transpire water and soils dry out. The cycle repeats itself annually, with plants increasing in LFM (and decreasing in flammability) following the first fall rains.

The Garden has collaborated with the University of California Cooperative Extension since 2013 to measure LFM in vegetation at several sites, including along Painted Cave Road, at the top of Tunnel Road, and at St. Mary’s Seminary on Las Canoas Road. Our team collects from two common chaparral species: chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) and bigpod ceanothus (Ceanothus megacarpus). 

“Thankfully, chamise is pretty tough and though it has been drier than usual, there has been new growth on our local plants,” said Dr. Josie Lesage, the Garden’s Applied Ecologist. “However, the lack of rain this year means we should be extra careful about fire ignition as the LFM continues to drop this season”

The Garden’s weather station shows that we have received between 45-50 percent of the normal precipitation in 2021. The Garden’s next LFM data will be published online by May 10, and may show the first noticeable drop for this season. 

With the threat of hotter, drier conditions that prime vegetation to burn, we all must be extra careful about potential fire-causing activities to avoid a devastating wildfire season, as human activities are a common ignition source. Carefully dispose of smoking materials, camp responsibly and never leave a campfire unattended, and incorporate fire-resistant plants into your landscape like California-fuchsia. Read through the Garden’s water wise plant guide to learn more about water wise landscaping.

Founded in 1926, the garden is the first botanic garden focused exclusively on California native plants and currently spans 78 acres with five miles of walking trails, an herbarium, seed bank, research labs, library, and nursery. The Garden is open to the public daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and offers a members-only hour from 9-10 a.m.

For more information about the garden, visit sbbg.org.

Save the Planet With Native Plants

How you can protect and restore mother earth all year round

Over 50 years ago, an oil rig experienced a pressure blowout in the Santa Barbara Channel resulting in up to 3 million gallons of crude oil ripping through the ocean floor — the worst oil spill in the nation’s history up to that point. It took years for Santa Barbara’s ecosystem to recover, but the Earth Day movement took root. Despite our collective efforts that were started on that first Earth Day, globally we are still in the throes of the sixth major mass extinction in planetary history and the first time this has been caused by humans. Today, our global biodiversity is collapsing, resulting in an accelerated rate of species extinction. 

Earth Day, a time to demonstrate support for environmental protection, is an opportunity to bring awareness to the healing power of native plants. The mission of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is to conserve and protect native plants and habitats for the health and well being of people and the planet. That mission has become increasingly urgent as more native plant species face extinction, threatening the foundation of all life on the planet.

Saving plants means saving the planet. 

In honor of Earth Day, the Garden invites the community to restore the earth by  celebrating these critical native plants.

1) Spending time in nature is something we can all do to reconnect with mother earth, and it doesn’t go without healing benefits. Nature can help reduce anxiety, promote creativity and contribute to heart health. Research shows rewards begin accruing with as little as 2 hours a week.

“The Garden provides the community with respite filled with redwood trees, wildflower meadows, and Channel Island views,” said Dr. Steve Windhager, Executive Director of the Garden. “It’s a good opportunity to remind ourselves of the connection between our own health and the health of the planet.”

2) The Garden welcomes the community to take a stroll through our native plant displays on Earth Day to observe the unique beauty of California flora and learn more about what simple seeds of change you can implement that make a huge impact on our environment. Discover our chalkboard signs along the trails with tips on what you can do to protect biodiversity or join our Instagram livestream from 11am – 12:30pm for a Garden stroll with our Director of Education and Engagement.

3) Participate in Earth Day virtually by registering to join in Chumash Earth Day on April 20 at 1pm, hosted by the Santa Ynez Chumash Environmental Office. Windhager will be giving a presentation on how you can heal the earth starting in your own home and neighborhood by planting native plants.

4) Learn more about where climate leaders are stepping up to do the critical work needed to combat the climate crisis by joining in the Community Environmental Council’s 3-Day Virtual Earth Day Festival. The Garden’s Director of Education and Engagement, Scot Pipkin, will be a co-emcee on April 24 from 12pm – 3pm and will share how native plants can be used to lean into climate action at this urgent moment.

5) At the Garden, be sure to visit our nursery, which offers the widest selection of native plants on the central coast. Staffed with knowledgeable and experienced gardeners, there’s no better place to learn more about native plants, find the right selection for your garden, create wildlife habitat, or purchase a plant for a friend.

Protect and restore the earth this year through native plants. Native plants enhance the environment instead of threatening it, provide habitat for wildlife, and are a source of nectar for pollinators. Earth Day began in our own backyard, and can continue to grow there as well. 

 About the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

The Garden serves the public as more than just a pretty place, but as a model for sustainability. Founded in 1926, the Garden is the first botanic garden focused exclusively on California native plants and currently spans 78 acres with five miles of walking trails, an herbarium, seed bank, research labs, library, and Nursery. The Garden welcomes the public every day from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and offers a members-only hour from 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. For more information about the Garden, please visit sbbg.org.   

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Celebrates 95 Years

Santa Barbara’s historical gem invites you to celebrate its 95th birthday

On March 16, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden invites the community to help them celebrate 95 years of history. Pop-up exhibits will share stories, photos, local history, and milestones of the Garden over the decades. Visitors can discover the oldest plants in the Garden, some as old as the Garden itself, as well as other surprises along the way. Birthday twins of the Garden born on March 16th will be welcomed into the Garden free of admission with a valid ID. 

The Garden’s history has deep roots. Founded in 1926, the Garden was the first botanic garden in the United States to focus exclusively on native plants. In 1925, the Carnegie Institution suggested a cooperative effort with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History to create a botanical garden. The plan became a reality when local philanthropist Anna Dorinda Blaksley Bliss purchased 13 acres in Mission Canyon for the museum, with views spanning from the mountains and the ocean. In 1939, the Botanic Garden separated from the Natural History Museum and was named the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. 

The garden was laid out in various plant communities, such as chaparral, desert, and prairie, with an emphasis on plants from the Pacific slope of North America. Experimental groupings of significant genera such as Ceanothus and Eriogonum (buckwheat) were displayed for horticultural research and to educate the public. By 1936, this emphasis had narrowed to plants native to the state of California, and now includes northwestern Baja California and southwestern Oregon, which are part of the California Floristic Province.

“Gardening with native plants is becoming more popular due to the desire to have an eco-friendly and low-maintenance garden,” said Dr. Steve Windhager, Executive Director. “Our founders were ahead of their time and recognized the important role that a garden dedicated to native plants could have in supporting an awareness and conservation of native habitat.” 

In honor of both the Garden’s birthday and Women’s History Month, Dr. Steve Windhager will share stories of the Garden’s “Founding Mothers” in collaboration with Casa Dorinda on March 16 at 2:00 p.m. Join in by visiting our “At Home” portal to be inspired by stories of Santa Barbara’s influential female leaders who have grown the Garden to what it is today. 

Those who aren’t able to join in the Garden’s socially-distant birthday celebration on March 16 can still enjoy pop-up exhibits throughout the week, and of course increasingly beautiful wildflowers throughout the Spring season. 

The Garden’s mission is to conserve California native plants and habitats for the health and well-being of people and the planet. The aim of the founders was to create a garden that would “…unite the aesthetic, educational and scientific.” The Garden currently spans 78 acres with five miles of hiking trails, an herbarium, seed bank, research labs, library, and native plant Nursery. For more information about the Garden, please visit sbbg.org.