Saddest Loss of a Native Plant in Your Garden

Gardener’s Corner

“What was the saddest loss of a native plant you have experienced in your garden?”

2019 September-October

By Dan Songster


Pam Vallot: “I had a beautiful full grown Sentinal Manzanita that died due to me putting too thick a layer of gorilla mulch, and too close to the trunk. Dieback set in and kept going! Nowadays I often take up a lot of the mulch in a rainy season and am way more careful with it.”

Alan Lindsay: “I have planted several Santa Cruz Island Ironwoods (L. floribundus ssp. aspleniifolius) over the years and none have lasted long enough to bloom. Finally, one lasted long enough to bloom two years in a row. I thought I had found the secret but then it started to die. I tried everything to keep it alive; nothing worked. It was a sad day when I conceded that it wouldn’t survive so with chainsaw and loppers I removed it.”

Celia Kutcher: “The saddest loss in my garden is of a 12×12-feet Frangula ‘Eve Case’ in late spring 2018.  It was at least 15 years old, had been slowly looking poorly for a couple years, which I thought was due to the drought.  Then it rather suddenly dropped its leaves, struggled to put out a few new ones, then just dried up.  When we dug it out, there were lots of root mealies on the underground trunk and major roots. Now there is a great big hole in my landscape, that will only slowly, partially, be filled by a Prunus ilicifolia planted fall 2018.”

John Gossett: “For the second time I’ve killed an innocent Toyon. I will not buy another. All are safer for it.”

Ed Kimball: “We had a beautiful Ceonothus “Concha” which was located on a side of our front yard near our neighbor’s picket fence. It died after a very short life and our neighbor admitted, too late, he watered it at least once per week.

Susan Krzywicki: “I love Tecate Cypress. A couple of years ago, one of mine, growing along the edge of a cliff, blew over in a storm and for days dangled horizontally over the cliff face. Not only was it dramatic, but heartbreaking. This specimen was about 20 feet tall, smelled wonderful and made a beautiful habitat plant. I dug it out, and kept the big chunk of the trunk. A year later, my friend Julie Serences (Xerces Society expert) and her husband, carted off the piece, and returned to me a beautiful pen whose body is made of the clear pale wood. What a treasure!”

Stephanie Pacheco: “My saddest loss was when my coast oak tree (about 14 years old) died this year. I had great plans for sitting under that oak tree to watch wildlife in the shade when I was older. The oak consultant I hired said it had an oak canker that might have come in when I originally bought the tree. I didn’t have the heart to pull the tree down, especially since the dead oak still shaded my San Diego Yerba Buena and that Yerba would have probably died in full sun. The birds are fine with the perch, live or dead. I hope to attract a woodpecker once the insects take over (though I doubt I will be so lucky). Over time, perhaps all that will be left is a mid-size stump, but so far the native plants are quite happy growing below. I also saved eleven oak seedlings that the “mother” oak left behind, which in time, will be reduced to one oak (which is all I have the room for).

Rama Nayeri: I experimented with growing various Dudleya’s, Coyote Mint and Japatul Cleveland Sage indoors. The Dudleyas did well and most are at the kitchen window sill.  The Japatul C. Sage did not live more than a month or so.  The Coyote Mint was a big hit with my two cats. I had no clue that cats love eating Coyote Mint.

Dan Songster: “At the Golden West College Native Garden, so far it has been the loss of a valley oak (Quercus lobata) that was removed because it was dying from the Polyphagus shot hole borer (and so providing a nursery for the larvae, etc). We have also lost a mature Cercocarpus traskii and a mature redbud. Currently we are treating our large sycamore and several oaks for the borer and the fungus it inoculates the trees with, including our original coast live oak planted by myself in 1975. If we lose that beautiful and well-structured tree it would be more than sad, nearly tragic.”