Fire Resistant Plants

Choose Native Plants to Resist Fire

By Becky Wells

Drought, high temperatures, and wind have created a smoldering environment in California. Here in West Sonoma County we’ve been relatively lucky so far, but low a water winter means a high-fire summer.

The Thomas Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants, Inc. has compiled a list of moisture-retentive native plants to help us with resisting fire. The plants in the list are acceptable to use in Fuel Modification Zones regulated by the Los Angeles County Fire Department (and they mean business!)

The ground covers, shrubs and trees are all important to wild life and are valuable in resisting fires when planted in barren areas. Saltbush, Dwarf Coyote Bush, and Willowy Coyote Mint are ground covers providing erosion control, wildlife nutrition and cover.

Some shrubs listed are Snowberry, Ribes, Mahonia, Laurel Sumac and Monkeyflower, specifically “La Tuna” variety which is colorful and likes summer heat. Of the native trees in our area, Coast Live Oak has been found to suppress fire and Toyon, a smaller tree with red berries is drought tolerant. For botanical names of the plants and a complete list go to www.theodorepayne.org.

Many of the plants on the list are abundant in Sonoma Countyʼs natural environment like Coyote Bush, Live Oak and Monkeyflower. Others are found in dry, mountainous areas such as the Verdugo Mountains and La Tuna Canyon which are Open Space areas in LA County.

The City of Oakland Watershed Program has also compiled a list of fire resistant plants native to California. A few of the trees and shrubs on their list include: Cottonwood, California Buckeye, Western Redbud, California Wax Myrtle, and California Lilac, the Blueblossom variety. Found in many areas of Sonoma County, they thrive in our conditions.

An excellent source of photos for these and other fire-resistant plants can be found at www.bewaterwise.com. Also, California Flora Nursery in Fulton is an excellent source for perusing and purchasing many of the Sonoma County natives like Snowberry, Ribes, and Monkeyflower. Let your favorite nursery know about these plants and they can order them for you.

Lets help Sonoma County be Fire Proof during the smoldering summer!

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