Chino Hills State Park Interpretive Association Providing interpretive programs for the public


CALIFORNIA SAGEBRUSH (Artemisia californica)
California has many unique plant species due to its climate and a lot of the plants have adapted well to our lack of rain and many months of direct sunlight. One species that has done particularly well is California sagebrush. With its needle like leaves, the sagebrush does not lose nearly the amount of water through evapotranspiration as plants with broader leaves like the sycamore. Sagebrush is a shrub that is indicative of several habitat types, including coastal sage scrub and chaparral. This plant tends to grow in dry foothill communities, like Chino Hills State Park. It is common to see this plant growing on north and western slope in the Park. Additionally, when lands have been disturbed, sagebrush is often one of the first plants to be used for rehabilitation of sites.

Sagebrush is also a very fragrant plant and if you gently rub the leaves between your finger tips — it smells like one of the spices you may add to your spaghetti sauce! In fact, before Native Americans went on a hunt they would use sagebrush to camouflage their own smell and the animals being hunted would not smell them coming. Though not a true sage, this plant is also used historically to cure coughs and colds. Do not ingest this plant, all resources found in the Park are protected.

BLACK SAGE (Salvia mellifera)
This perennial shrub grows to about 7 feet tall and is another predominant plant of the coastal sage scrub community, but is also found in lower chaparral communities as well. Black sage is dark in appearance especially during droughts and is found throughout California and Baja Mexico. As with the other sages, it is often times used in native garden displays as it is well adapted to our hot and dry climate. This sage is well adapted to a variety of soil types from sandstone to gabbro to basalt.

This shallow rooted plant, during times of drought, will curl up its leaves to retain water instead of dropping its leaves. Many birds and small animals use black sage for nesting or as cover from predators. Often times black sage is used to revegetate disturbed areas as it is drought tolerant and grows rapidly. Like the other sages, black sage is susceptible to air pollution and is a good biological indicator of air pollution in Southern California.

Native Americans used portions of this plant to ground it into a meal for baking. Its crushed leaves were often used as a spice to flavor some of their meals. Do not ingest this plant, all resources found in the Park are protected.

PURPLE SAGE (Salvia leucophylla)
Chino Hills State Park also has its fair share of other fragrant sages as well. Purple sage, which is normally found throughout Southern California down to Baja California, are generally found in elevations from 100 feet to 2600 feet above sea level. As a shrub, it tends to reach a maximum height of 5 feet and prefers dry open hillsides.

Called purple sage, for its purple aromatic flowers, these flowers draw insects and birds to feed on the nectar. Purple sage blooms several times a year and is a very hardy plant which is drought tolerant. For that reason, purple sage is one of the favored xeroscaping plants, since it requires minimal maintenance and very little water.

Native Americans used this plant during ceremonies and rituals.

WHITE SAGE (Salvia apiana)
White sage is an evergreen perennial shrub found throughout southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico. It is one of the predominant plants in the coastal sage scrub habitat. It, like other sages, is well adapted to our hot, dry climate. A few of its unique adaptations include small hairs on its leaves. These hairs act the same way our own head of hair acts in the sunlight, it protects us from the sun, thereby limiting its loss of water by keeping the leaves cooler. In addition, its white colored leaves reflect the sunlight, which also limits the plant’s loss of water.

This plant requires well drained soil, full sun, and very little water. Like the other sages mentioned on this page, white sage is also used widely in native garden displays. White sage is common throughout the Park and is often times found on the hillsides and along trails.

Native Americans used the seeds of white sage as a component to creating flour. Other uses of the plant were to cleanse the eye, shampoo the hair, and was also used as a tea. This plant is sacred to Native Americans and even today smudge wands are created to ward off evil spirits when the leaves are bundled and burned. Do not pick or ingest this plant, all resources found in the Park are protected.

LEMONADE BERRY (Rhus integrifolia)
Another member of the chaparral community is lemonade berry. Its normal range is from Santa Barbara to Baja California and has an extensive range throughout western Riverside County, including Chino Hills State Park. Lemonade berry tends to grow in canyon bottoms on north facing slopes. Its round shape can grow as tall as 24 feet but is normally around 10 feet.

Its leaves are also quite well adapted to Southern California’s climate. Two adaptations include the curved shape of its dark green leaves. This shape provides shade of sorts and therefore the plant doesn’t lose as much water through its leaves via evapotranspiration as some plants. Its second adaptation is the waxy feel to the leaves. This waxy coating also helps hold moisture in, just like chapstick holds moisture in on our own lips.

Native Americans used this plant to flavor drinks, unfortunately this plant is a diuretic. Do not ingest this plant, all resources found in the Park are protected.

TOYON (Heteromeles arbutifolia)
Also known as California Holly or Christmas Berry, toyon has bright red berries and dark green leaves. This plant is a predominant plant found in both chaparral and coastal sage scrub habitats. It can also be found in mixed oak woodland habitats.

Toyon is an evergreen tree that can quickly grow up to 12 feet tall and 8 feet wide. It tends to take on a rounded or irregular shape. Toyon is found on hillsides and is highly adaptable. It blooms in summer and includes beautiful red berries. These red berries are TOXIC. Do NOT ingest the berries.

This colorful plant has many beneficial uses for other wildlife. Many animals, including songbirds rely on the berries to survive. Collecting toyon branches near the Christmas holidays became so popular the plants population and range was decreasing. In the 1920s the California legislature then made it illegal to pick the branches if the plant was growing on public lands.

ELDERBERRY (Sambucus mexicana)
Another member of the coastal sage scrub, chaparral, and southern oak woodland community is the Elderberry (also known as the Mexican Elderberry). It grows below 4500 feet and is a large deciduous shrub that grows to 20 feet tall by 20 feet wide!

It is known for its beautiful display of white lacy clustered flowers that bloom in late spring and summer. If it doesn’t receive enough water it tends to lose its leaves in summer and fall.

CALIFORNIA BUCKWHEAT (Eriogonum fasciculatum)
A prominent member of the coastal sage scrub, chaparral and scrub communities, the California Buckwheat is found below 7,000 feet. It is known for its minimal water requirements and full sun preference. It grows to roughly 3′ tall and 5′ wide. The dark leaves preserve water due to their small, narrow size, meaning less water can leave via evapotranspiration.

Buckwheat does beautifully on banks and slopes and in dry places. During the summer its flowers bloom white and dry in fall to a dark rust color. It is often times used in drought tolerant native gardens.

Beneficial uses of this plant include providing nectar for butterflies, bees, and other insects. It is a great pollinator plant!

LAUREL SUMAC (Malosma laurina)
Laurel sumac is a large evergreen shrub that ranges in size from 10 to 15 feet in height. One particular trait that helps identify this plant is that its leaves have a red vein and its stems are also red in color. Its leaves are well adapted to our hot climate and are taco shaped. This shape helps keep portions of the leave in the shade, to limit the amount of water lost through evapotranspiration.

This plant produces a cluster of white flowers that remain on the plant long after they have dried out. Laurel sumac is commonly found in coastal sage scrub and chaparral ecosystems. It also prefers dry ridges and canyons below 3000 feet. When settlers first arrived in the area, they would use the presence or absence of laurel sumac as an indicator of the temperature. Laurel sumac is very susceptible to frost and therefore citrus growers used it to determine if their crops would do well in the area or not.

Native Americans used portions of this plant to ground it into a meal for baking. Its crushed leaves were often used as a spice to flavor some of their meals. Do not attempt this yourself, plants found in the Park are protected.

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