Native Plants and Gardens

eur botanists and garden lovers will discover a hidden gem tucked away in south Fontana at the foot of the Jurupa Hills. There is something blooming year ‘round in the center’s gardens. An easy stroll around the pond through the park offers many seasonal delights. For a more adventurous walk, follow the trail up into the hills behind the center and enjoy one of Southern California’s natural inland landscapes. 

Nature Center Gardens

Gardens in the park feature California native plants, and other selections adapted or cultivated to a Mediterranean life zone. Special attention is given to planting host species for native insects and birds. Monarchs can be found throughout the year fluttering among clusters of milkweed. Anna’s and Allen’s hummingbirds dart in and out of the sage gardens. Bees congregate in the tops of the palo verde after their yellow blossoms open in spring. Seed-loving chaparral birds turn over leaf litter and hop from branch to branch in low-growing drought-tolerant bushes.  

A large variety of oak species (Quercus), both live and deciduous, growing within a short walking distance in the park offers a special treat for the amateur botanist with particular interest in this unique group of plants.

Jurupa Hills

The Jurupa Hills

At first glance the preponderance of brown tones coloring the hills from late spring until after the winter rains make the landscape appear as if it is largely lifeless. Summer dormancy is a strategy or mechanism of plants in this coastal sage scrub community. Generally occupying areas below 3,000 feet in elevation coastal sage scrub is composed of grasses, wildflowers, and shrubs able to tolerate drier conditions than the chaparral plant community. The germination, growth and fruiting of grasses and wildflowers are timed to coincide with winter rains. Bushes have adapted to long hot summers by shedding or producing smaller leaves. 

Streaks of green Western sycamore (Platanus racemosa) lining the bottoms of canyons, linger through summer. Drought-resistant shrubs, green splotches in a sea of brown, dot the hill sides. Some of the more common include: laurel sumac (Malosma laurina), lemonadeberry (Rhus integrifolia), Mexican elderberry (Sambucus mexicana), currant (Ribes indecorum), brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), and California sagebrush (Artemesia californica).

A short hike into the hills behind the Nature Center opens up a grand vista across the San Gabriel Valley, over to the chaparral-covered foothills and rugged peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains.  

The Jurupa Oak

Not long ago, botanists from UC Davis and UC Riverside discovered that the Jurupa Hills is home to a living relic of the last ice age. Surviving from a period when the climate was considerably wetter and cooler, a Palmer’s Oak (Quercus palmeri) was found to be living along a ridge tucked between granitic boulders. Studying features associated with its growth, scientists estimated its age conservatively at 13,000 years, among the oldest living things on earth. It is believed that the oak, a low-growing bushy cluster of stems, grows by regenerating itself clonally. New growth is added at less than an inch a year. With no others of its kind within miles to provide fertilization, it is a living reminder of a period in California’s history thousands of years ago.

A Native American Garden

Long before European groups arrived in Southern California, Native Americans called this region home. Evidence points to an aboriginal presence extending back thousands of years. At a later period, the mild climate and abundant resources attracted the Gabrielino and Serrano people who visited the hills seasonally to harvest food, fiber, and other goods. Bedrock mortars and grinding slicks near the Nature Center were used to process acorns and other nutritious seeds. 

Honeybee on Encelia
Various native plants

Water-wise plant links and nurseries