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Native Trees and Plants You Will See Everywhere in the Bay Area

The San Francisco Bay Area has unforgettable attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge and nearby Alcatraz Island, but the natural beauty of the Bay Area comes from native trees and plants growing just about everywhere. When you’re checking out the Golden City’s tourist attractions, like Fisherman's Wharf and the Coit Tower, don’t forget to appreciate all the natural landscaping in and around the Bay Area. 

Greenery is “native” to a region if it has developed and adapted to local soil conditions, climate, and geography on its own – without being introduced by people. Growing native plants helps stabilize the soil, feed wildlife, and encourage pollinating birds and bees to get busy. Wherever you go in San Francisco, you’re bound to see the Bay Area’s beautiful green scenery.


Bay Area trees


Check out the California Buckeye tree with its bright yellow-green palm leaves and white flowery spikes.

Redwood trees are a longtime staple of the Bay Area, with more than 100 redwood parks along the coast. If you don’t have the time to visit each park, San Francisco has its own California Redwood grove in Golden Gate Park.

Arroyo willow trees are deciduous and fast-growing, especially when sprouting soft and fuzzy willow buds. 

Unlike many other species of oak, the coast live oak is an evergreen that reaches up to 100 feet tall. Mature trees have large spreading branches that grow crookedly as they age.


Bay Area flowers


Take a walk through the Gardens of Golden Gate Park. Here are some of the flowers and shrubs flowers you’ll see along the way.

Sticky Monkey Flowers, with their bright yellow-orange fused petals, have sticky undersides growing on shrubby stems.

California Tiger Lilies are deciduous bulbs mostly found in swampy areas and woodlands. Stems have orange, red, or yellow flowers with maroon spots. 

Douglas Iris flowers derive from rhizomes. They have narrow leaves and tall stems with two or three flowers. Douglas iris blooms in colors of purple, lilac, dark blue, and creamy yellow from January to May. 

Ithuriel’s Spear is a member of the lily family, growing from a rhizome, bulb, or corm. You’ll see these blue, blue-purple, and white star-shaped blooms in woodlands, grasslands, open forests, and coastal sage scrub.


Bay Area succulents


Green leaves and colorful blooms go together with these native shrubs and succulents you’ll see around the Bay Area.

Red Elderberry grows in moist, cool places like the banks of riverbeds and creeks. Tiny white elderberry flowers bloom in May and June, with small red berries ripening in late summer. Elderberries are great fodder for birds, but because the seeds have a cyanide-producing compound, people can get very sick from eating them raw. (Cooking elderberries releases the toxin, making them safe for wines and preserves).  

California Coffeeberry shrubs are thorny and erect, often with clusters of berries that ripen from orange to red to black by the middle of autumn. This compact evergreen, with its shrubby tree-like stems, grows up to 6 feet tall.

Coastal Prickly Pear is a succulent that grows in tall thorny clumps of flat oval disk-like branches. Prickly pears sprout bright yellow or red flowers.

Live-Forever is one of many juicy Dudleya succulents so named because they may last up to 100 years in the wild. These perennials have branching or non-branching stems and green or silvery-white leaves.

California Cholla is a cactus that grows in long snaky cylinders with spiny spikes. Yellowish-green flowers with red accents help this plant stand out among its neighbors.

Bay Area homeowners have a lot to admire with California’s native plants and unique topography. If you want to recreate that same natural beauty in your own yard, it may not be as easy as you think. Choosing a professional landscaping and design service for your San Francisco property will make the process effortless for you.

Author: Teri Silver is a journalist and outdoor enthusiast. She and her husband live on 5 acres with a vast lawn, three gardens, a farm, a pond, many trees, and a lot of yard work! The best parts of the year are summer and fall when home-grown veggies are on the dinner table.

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