It’s a Unique Botanical Garden

All of the plants in this collage grow in Cesar Chavez Park. This is only a small sample of the park’s botanical diversity. In late 2018, two trained botanists — Jutta Burger and Bob Huttar — set out to identify and photograph everything that grows in the park. The results have appeared online weekly in the “Flora Friday” column on chavezpark.org. Almost a year later, the botanical census has surpassed 135 species, and the end is not in sight. Jutta estimates that the final count will surpass 150 and could approach 200.

How did these plants get here? Professional gardeners with City contracts planted some of them. The forested grove that horticulturist Charli Danielsen constructed on the west side of the park in the early 1980s is a rich botanical treasury all by itself. A few other plants, like the Dutch iris and the narcissus, are donations by park visitors. For the largest number, there’s no apparent human intention behind their presence. Some of them came in the soil. Birds dropped the seeds of others. Tractors and mowers brought them in from other locations. Dogs carried them in on their fur. People dragged them in on their shoes. And the wind, the everpresent changing wind, undoubtedly swept in a great many.

Whatever the source, they have made the park a unique botanical garden. We have at least 13 kinds of grasses. There are 19 members of the sunflower family (Asteraceae), ranging from the little Brass Buttons to the globe-like Wild Cardoon. There are 13 members of the Legume family (Fabaceae), including five kinds of clover. Five kinds of geranium have been identified so far, six kinds of eucalyptus, seven members of the Rose family (Rosaceae), four kinds of plantain, and many others.

As a member of the Conservancy, you may walk the park with an enhanced appreciation and a sharper eye for the things that grow here. Yes, there are many weeds, and some day a flash mob may rise to uproot the worst of them. But even weeds have flowers. Amidst the green chaos lie plants with fascinating qualities and histories. Some you can eat. Some can kill you. Every one of them can give you a connection with the earth, the sun, the oceans, the atmosphere — with life itself.

If you love plants, become a Conservancy Member.

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