Exploring California Flora at UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens

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If you have ever been to the U.C. Berkeley Botanical Gardens, you would probably know that they span over 30 acres of land and house over 10,000 types of plants. Opened in 1890, this facility has supported teaching, research, and conservation in relation to plant biology and diversity. Our team from Richmond High had the chance to visit this vast garden earlier this week and they were amazed at the huge variety of flora.

Upon the team’s arrival, they were split into two groups, each of which was given a docent led “tree tour” of the garden. The docents explained that the grounds were split into 8 geographical regions with species native to those areas. In addition to these regions, they also have an extensive collection of California native plants, which were of the most relevance for this group and their urban forestry project.

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One of the more interesting tree species the interns saw that day was the dawn redwood. Although once thought to be extinct, this tree has now been widely planted. It does particularly well in California along with the native coast redwood and giant sequoias – our climate is perfect for these trees. The largest difference between the dawn redwood and the coast redwood is that the former is deciduous – it loses its leaves in the fall. In the spring, it grows stunning bright neon green leaves.

The docents also explained how you can use the garden to get a good idea of how large different species of plants can get when mature. This information is important to know when trying to decide what types of trees to plant for a specific location. For example, if you want a pine tree but don’t want it to get very big, you can plant a pygmy pine. These pines are adapted to grow in poor soil by limiting their own growth and will stay quite small when planted correctly and in the right conditions.

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The interns had a fun time touring the gardens and learned a lot. To see what they had to say about their trip, please read below. And a big thank you to our docents!

“I really love the atmosphere and our guide Susan. I got to learn a lot about different plants like dogwood trees, dawn redwoods, and old man cactus. I got to be out of the classroom and learn all about the botanical garden in Berkeley.”

Mariana Mendez, Richmond High School intern

“I found out a lot about different trees and plants. One of the trees we saw the bottom of the trunk grew outward so it can be balanced since it grows near water. We also saw different types of plants that are used for medicine.”

Erika Gonzalez, Richmond High School intern

“It was cool. I didn’t know this was here. It was cool seeing all the trees because I thought there weren’t any places like this in Berkeley.”

Kevin Hernandez, Richmond High School intern

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