Buckwheat Brings Butterflies is a forum to discuss gardening with California native plants. I live in Southern California and I install plants that make their home in the California wild. The photos below are images I took of my home landscape.

When I moved to Southern California 35 years ago, I was curious about plants that are native to this area. I saw beautiful pristine oak woodlands and riparian areas that were protected, but I also saw mature Coast Live Oak trees bulldozed on hillsides to make room for development. It broke my heart to see the ancient trees vanish.

After spending time here, I knew that I wanted to recreate the wild beauty I saw growing in the protected areas of Southern California in my home landscape. What began as a large grassy lawn became a native plant sanctuary with the help of landscape architect Alison Terry. Terry laid out swales to capture water, and created raised beds that native plants thrive in. She planted poppies and hundreds of species of California native plants suited to their location. She was instrumental in teaching me how to install a beautiful and thriving California native plant landscape.

Later, I joined the board of the California Native Plant Society Orange County Chapter (OCCNPS), and asked them, “Why plant California natives?”

The answer came from scientist Douglas Tallamy, who published Bringing Nature Home in 2007–a book that describes how birds are dependent upon insects and caterpillars as the primary food source for their offspring. His research showed that baby birds cannot digest berries and bird food. Baby birds must have thousands of caterpillars, spiders, and insects to grow and develop.

I learned that when we install plants that are NOT native to where we live, native insects cannot survive. And birds rely on insects for protein. Without insects, birds cannot support their offspring.

Our thirst for the exotic trees and shrubs is starving our wildlife.

A 2019 Science study showed that the United States and Canada have lost more than 3 billion birds in the past 50 years.

What can we do? How can we fill the air with bird song once again?

Plant native plants in our home landscapes, in pots on our patios, in our cityscapes and parkland.

Start at home. My home landscape hosts about 100 different species of California native plants including Coast Live Oaks, California sycamores, California lilacs, manzanitas, sages, mallows, and buckwheats. These plants support endangered bumblebees, monarch butterflies, Cedar waxwings, hermit thrushes, and more.

I have branched out now beyond my own home landscape. For the past four years, I have been working with volunteers to design and install a 12-acre native plant sanctuary in Trabuco Canyon called Vera’s Gardens. This project transformed an abandoned, weed-infested landscape, into a healing oasis for people, pollinators, and wildlife.

You can help nature too. Start at home. Look at gardening as an opportunity to learn how to grow native plants. Let’s explore the world of California native plant gardening together. If you have native plants in your yard, feel free to share your successes and failures with me. I love hearing from you.

Nature is resilient. When we help nature, we help each other thrive. Let’s welcome plants that are native to where we live into our lives.

5 responses to “About”

  1. I live in Wildomar, kind of out in the country. I pulled up a buckwheat plant from a field and planted it in my very large yard. It seems to be very invasive. I don’t mind a few plants, but I don’t want it all over my yard!


    1. Hi Karen, Thanks for your comment. Black mustard (Brassica nigra from N. Africa, Asia and Europe) fits the definition of an invasive species: a plant that will invade, establish and perpetuate itself in a wild land environment. Buckwheat, on the other hand, is a native to California, and yes it is a hardy plant that grows well in a garden environment.

      The California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) growing my yard creates its own mulch, then sets down roots to grow in the mulch. I find it easy to contain my buckwheat to a small area in my yard by reducing the amount of supplemental water it receives, and by cutting it back once a year in late fall. I have another buckwheat plant on a small hillside that hasn’t grown much for five years and never needs pruning.

      It sounds like your buckwheat plant has ideal conditions for growth in your yard! Have you pruned it? Have you tried pulling up the roots the buckwheat sends out to grow in its mulch? I have done this too in years past.

      I also wanted to add that the ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat that OCCNPS is giving away as part of its Buckwheat in Every Garden campaign is a smaller plant, selected because it generally grows from one- to three-feet wide, making it quite compatible with most people’s gardens.

      Write back and let me know how you take care of the buckwheat you planted. It is interesting to hear your experience.


  2. Great article. We just moved to SoCal from MD last year and gardening here is quite different from back East. We removed all the birds of paradise “trees”, two CA pepper trees and some other non native shrubbery from our small patio garden space. We have been planting natives with mostly luck but some did not survive. We r learning what will do well here and find it fascinating. We buy most of our plants from Tree of Life nursery in SJC.


    1. Hi! Great job removing the non-natives. When you plant California natives in your cultivated garden, you will learn a lot and help pollinators, wildlife, and birds. Keep trying! Gardening with native plants can be experimental, but also lots of fun. If you love gardening, you will enjoy the change of seasons, and also trying new plants where others may have failed. Tree of Life is a great resource for native plants. I am glad you are here in SoCal. Keep up the good work.


      1. Thanks! Will keep trying to make this place not just a human home but a small-scale landscape for our feathered and winged friends!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: