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California Native Plant Resources

There are thousands of books and online resources regarding native plants. Some of the most helpful identification resources are focused on particular local communities, counties, state or national parks. These whittle down the possibilities from over several thousand plants to much fewer. Below are a few books and online resources that we use to identify California native plants:

Annotated Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Santa Cruz Co., California; Morgan, Randall, 2005
California Desert Flowers, Morhardt, S. & E., 2004
Flowering Plants and Ferns of Mt. Diablo, California; Ertter, B. & Bowerman, M., 2002
Illustrated Field Guide to the Flowering Plants of Monterey County; Matthews, Mary Ann, 2006
Jepson Desert Manual; Baldwin, Bruce et al., 2002
Jepson Manual, 2nd edition; Baldwin, Bruce et al., 2012
Key to Trees & Shrubs of the Deserts of S. California; Collins, Barbara, 1976
Plants of the San Francisco Bay Region; Beidleman, L. & Kozloff, E., 2003
San Diego County Native Plants; Lightner, James, 2006
Sierra Nevada Flora; Weeden, Norman, 2005
Wildflowers of the Eastern Sierra & Adjoining Mojave Desert & Great Basin; Blackwell, Laird, 2002 CalPhotos has a searchable database that includes nearly 200,000 photos of (mostly) California plants. Although many knowledgeable native plant photographers regularly contribute to CalPhotos, not all photos are verified and there are occasional misidentifications. Also, most photos only show a plant’s flower (hence our developing Total-Plant). CalFlora has comprehensive habitat and distribution information for wild plants in California -- over 10,000 native and introduced species. We’ve found CalFlora’s "What Grows Here?" particularly helpful for scrolling through photos of all the plants that have been reported from a particular area. A note of caution – not every plant that grows in a site is listed. The Jepson eFlora contains taxonomic treatments for native and naturalized plants occurring in wildlands of California. A note of caution from our botany experts: although eFlora maps out each plant’s known geographic distribution, it’s possible to find a plant growing where it’s not expected to be.


The California Native Plant Society has local chapters throughout California. Many have information on their chapter websites, suggested places to see native plants, plant lists for specific locations, organized hikes and lectures.

There are also national and international resources that include California natives. Listed below are ones we’ve used in our exploits:

Flora of North America. has nearly 1.3 million scientific names and over 4.4 million specimen records.

ITIS ITIS (Integrated Taxonomic Information System) has taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world. There are no photos associated with this site.

The Plant List is a working list of all known plant species throughout the world. It can provide photos of a particular plant, but you need to know the plant’s scientific name.