California Native Plant Week Takes a Different Turn This Year

Alogodones sunflower (Helianthus niveus ssp. tephrodes) Photo: Raphaela Floreani Buzbee

Contact: Liv O’Keeffe
916-447-2677, ext. 202

Native plants can offer hope, fun, and healthy distraction during stay-at-home orders.

California Native Plant Week is this week, but it feels different than years past.

“I think people are appreciating our natural world more than ever, but it’s a more solitary or virtual enjoyment right now,” said Liv O’Keeffe, senior director of communications and engagement for the California Native Plant Society.

In 2010, the California Assembly adopted Assembly Concurrent Resolution 173 declaring the third week of April to be California Native Plant Week. Usually, the California Native Plant Society’s 35 local chapters would be hosting event-filled weeks of botanical field trips, wildflower shows, garden tours and educational talks. But stay-at-home measures to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 changed the trajectory of this year’s celebrations.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to adapt,” O’Keeffe said. “We’ve got thousands of volunteers and partners who work to put these events together, but everyone understands and appreciates the need to be careful. Now, it’s just inspiring to see all the creativity that’s emerging.”

A number of CNPS chapters are now offering Zoom presentations for the public, posting online garden tour photo galleries, and fulfilling native plant orders remotely. Next Wednesday, the CNPS North Coast Chapter will host botany professor and author Matt Ritter on Zoom for a free visual tour of “California’s Iconic Flora.”

Meanwhile, partners like the Theodore Payne Foundation, a non-profit native plant nursery and education organization hosted a live virtual garden tour, broadcasted on Instagram and YouTube. The event was so popular, the Foundation launched a new Poppy Hour broadcast, now airing from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. on Fridays. CNPS staff will be joining Theodore Payne Foundation’s Executive Director Evan Meyer on this Friday’s episode to talk about how the natural world can be a bigger part of the everyday lives of all Californians.

“We’re very happy to share something that is positive and beautiful during a challenging time, and to reach new audiences through this platform” Meyer said. “There’s tremendous opportunity for people to find comfort and joy connecting with their local environment.”

David Bryant, director of visitor experience for the California Botanic Garden, recently launched the Forever California podcast to introduce more people to stories about the garden and California’s native plants. This Friday, CNPS will be joining Bryant on the podcast to talk about “Native Plants Next Door” in celebration of the California native plants that surround us all the time.

“We may be constrained to our neighborhoods, but the beautiful thing is that nearly all of us can experience a native plant on a short walk or even looking out our windows,” Bryant said. “You just need to know what to look for.”

Depending on where you live in the state, a wide variety of native plants are often growing nearby, including oaks, sycamore, redwoods, bay trees, California sagebrush, coyote bush, succulents, native grasses, and many types of wildflowers.

“California’s native plants are what makes California look like California,” Dan Gluesenkamp, CNPS executive director said. “They define place: When you smell the chaparral, you know you’re in California. When you squint to see the top of a redwood tree, you know you’re in California. They’ve survived for millennia, and if we give them room in our gardens and protect them in the wild, they will survive for many more.”

This year, CNPS is celebrating that resilience in a social media campaign called #RootedinResilience. It’s a nod to the adaptability of native plants but also to life that depends on native plants. Local birds, insects, watersheds, and ultimately people all depend on native plants to support the food chain and preserve the integrity and resilience of the entire ecosystem.

“They give us life, and right now, I think they give us hope,” O’Keeffe said. “On my morning runs, I see the cottonwoods leafing out, the bright yellow of the tidy tips, and elderberry flowering. It gives me hope that even in challenging times, life goes on, spring is here.”

Tips for Native Plant Fun While Social Distancing  

  1. Listen the Forever California podcast this Friday to learn about native plants near you.
  2. Tune in to the Theodore Payne Internet broadcast of Poppy Hour this Friday at 5:30 p.m. for a lively discussion about California native plants. Bring your favorite drink and settle in!
  3. Discover which plants are native to your neighborhood. Go to and enter your address.
  4. Spot a California wildflower in your neighborhood. Download this quick CNPS Wildflower Guide.
  5. Kids! Try one of these wildflower activities or download our botanical word puzzles.
  6. Shop for California native plants. A number of native plant nurseries are offering online sales and curbside pickup. Go to to look up a native plant nursery near you.
  7. Garden! Now is a great time to enjoy your native garden or kill your lawn in preparation for fall planting season. Get instructions, tips, and inspiration at
  8. Tour native gardens online. See CNPS garden ambassador gardens, user-submitted San Diego garden profiles, and a library of photos from Santa Clara Valley area native gardens.
  9. Check-Out a live virtual garden tour series starting April 26 featuring special guest ecologist and author Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home.
  10. Walk through an East Bay trail virtually with CNPS Plant Science Director, Andrea Williams.

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