Palm-lined streets and perfectly manicured lush lawns are becoming a look that is no longer en vogue as many California communities move towards planting environmentally appropriate, drought tolerant native plants. It seemed like a good idea in the 1920s to plant palm trees all over our state, but now they look out of place.
Non-native plants use much more water, don’t provide natural habitat for animals and birds, many require fertilizers, are more susceptible to pests than natives, and aren’t sustainable.
Mountain View has something similar happening along Shoreline Boulevard. It’s some 200 redwood and cedar trees that are at the center of a controversy, as Google plans on expanding their campus. The grove of redwoods was planted in the 80s, when that land was being transformed from marshland, into usable space for city growth. Many of the non-native trees are dying or dead, more of them will be most likely be unhealthy in the future, considering the fact that California’s climate is changing. They use much more water than native trees and they don’t provide natural habitat for birds and local marshland critters.
Yes, it’s beautiful to stroll through a little redwood forrest, but they seem out-of-place, much like those tall, skinny palm trees that are sprinkled throughout our city, they don’t belong here. I recently went on a tour of the delta by the Santa Clara Valley Water District and I was shocked and horrified by the amount of invasive water hyacinth in our Bay Area water supply. They told us that there was no know method of eradicating the highly invasive plant. The redwoods along Shoreline are not anything like the disastrous floating water hyacinth, but neither plant belongs in those respective areas. The Sierra Club and the Audubon Society agree that the trees should be replaced with native species.
Our community is booming and we need more real estate devoted to bike and pedestrian trails. I think that right now is the right time to rethink the decision that was made back in the 80s to plant non-native trees. Google’s plan to replace the trees with native species has been approved by the city and will be moving forward. The local Audubon Society told me that Google has already added native trees in another area of Mountain View and that the birds have returned. Google has plans of offering bird-watching tours to the public in the near future. I’ll definitely find out the details and share with the community (add a story to this website).
This is a hot topic in our community and now is a good time to take a look for yourself. These are some photos that I took of the area last weekend. You can see that the area looks like an enchanted forrest at first, but then you start to notice how many of the redwoods are brown and dying.
Are you a gardener? Here are some places that sell native plants in our area:
Yerba Buena Nursery in Half Moon Bay. My favorite plant in my yard is a manzanita bush that I bought from them a few years ago and it is thriving and looks wonderful.
Los Altos Nursery is amazing, but they’re closed for the winter, so you have to wait until March to visit them.
Summer Winds has a small selection of native plants too, as does any local Lowes or Home Depot.
Here are some definitions (from the EPA) that we should be using as we discuss this issue in our community:
Non native species: This term, along with the terms introduced species and nonindigenous species, is one of the most commonly used terms to describe a plant or animal species that is not originally from the area in which it occurs.
Native species: Indigenous species, one that occurs naturally in an area, and has not been introduced by humans either intentionally or unintentionally. In North America, a species established before the year 500.
And please remember that it’s not enough to plant native California plants, we need to plant the ones that belong in our hardiness zone. Here’s a link to the USDA website and you can find out what your zone is, but I think that Sunset magazine does a better job at describing Bay Area hardiness zones and offering gardening advice than the USDA website does. If you look around at those two websites, you’ll see that those redwood trees actually belong in the Santa Cruz mountains, but not so much along the bay in our little city. I love Mountain View.
Please tell me what you think about the plan to replace the dying redwoods.