Plants at the Beach-San Onofre

Boy, was I excited to finally go to the beach on May 24, 2020? Anyone else happy to get out of their houses, too? Well, I was so happy that I actually went to San Onofre State Beach twice in one week. You see, because of the lockdown in California, I could not witness the beginning of wildflower season. So my main objective on this first day back to the beach was to see as many plants as I could! The first time we headed to Trestles, and the following Friday, I explored the southern section, just under San Onofre Campground at Bluffs Beach (or Trails Beach). Below, I would love to share with you what I saw, in other words, all of the plants at the beach that I encountered.

Previous to this beach adventure, I had just finished a post on Southern California Native Plants. Within this post, I have documented all of the plants and wildflowers I encountered in the chaparral and Southern Oak Woodland behind my neighborhood during Quarantine 2020.  After hours and hours of research, I sure learned a tremendous amount!

Table of Contents

Plant Names Given by San Diego Native Inhabitants 

I have recently been fascinated with Native American uses of the native plants in the area (Ethnobotany), so I thought I would continue with the same format I followed for my previous native plant post.

The Kumeyaay people were the first known original inhabitants of San Diego. Kumeyaay translates to ‘those who face the water from a cliff.” (Click on the link to hear the correct way to pronounce Kumeyaay)

In this post, all plants are separated at the Family level. I will keep things simple by only providing alternative names and the native Kumeyaay name if available. If you would like a more in-depth look at each Family, please click on the link above.

If any Southern California tribe traditionally utilizes the plant (in the past or present), it will be included.

For fun, I will also be adding any plants that have been photographed here throughout the year 2020. (I came seven times in one year!)

Though there are many nonnative plants at San Onofre State Beach, I have decided to showcase native plants.

#Click on any photo to see a larger version

San Onofre State Beach Native Plants

Coastal sage scrub middles trestles san onofre
Coastal Sage Scrub near Church Beach-Trestles

San Onofre State Beach is located in North County San Diego, bordering Orange County to the north and Marine Base Camp Pendleton to the east and south.  As noted above, I explored both the northern section (Trestles) and the southern section of the park (San Onofre Bluffs Beach)- over three miles total.

I absolutely love San Onofre State Beach.  Down below, at the end of the post, I will include all of the articles that I have written about this beach.


Family Adoxaceae

Blue Elderberry- Sambucus Mexicana

Blue Elderberry Tree trestles beach trail

The Moschatel Family

Location- The Blue elderberry tree is seen off of the Trestles Beach trail.

Other Names-tree of medicine,  Canada elderberry, American black elderberry, common elderberry, blue elderberry, American elder, Mexican elder, tapiro, fever tree, blood elder

Kumeyaay-kepally

Traditional Uses-

  • very versatile- every part of the tree was used
  • berries are consumed via jams, jellies, wine, and syrups, where the fruit is cooked down with the seeds strained.
  • boil and brew thin pieces of bark and stems and apply to diabetic sores
  • leaves and the inner bark is used as an insecticide and dye
  • berries turned into wine

Interesting Facts-

  • Edible flowers and berries (if ripe and cooked), but other parts of the plant are toxic, so it is not advisable to eat raw berries.
  • The genus name comes from the Greek word Sambuca after the ancient wind instrument. If you remove the pith from twigs, you can create a whistle.

Family Amaranthaceae

Big Salt Bush- Atriplex lentiformis

The Amaranth Family

The big saltbush is seen everywhere next to the water at San Onofre State Beach.

Other Names- quail bush, quailbush, lenscale,  len-scale saltbush, white thistle

Traditional Uses-

  • dried leaves were smoked, and fresh leaves were chewed for a head cold
  • crushed flowers, leaves, and stems were boiled, and the steam was inhaled for a head cold
  • seeds were ground into flour and used to make small cakes or a mush
  • crushed leaves and roots were used as a soap and applied to clothing

Interesting Information-

  • grows in habitats with high salinity or alkaline habitats
  • plants can change from monecious to dioecious and from male to female and vice versa
  • a popular plant for restoration projects

Family Anacardiaceae

Lemonade Berry- Rhus integrifolia

The Sumac Family

Location- On the bluffs at San Onofre Bluffs Campground

Other Names– lemonade sumac, lemonadeberry

Kumeyaay –huutat

Traditional Uses

  • used for colds, coughs and to ease childbirth
  • fruit used as a sweetener, eaten cooked or raw

Interesting Information-

  • plants have bisexual flowers
  • closely related to poison oak
    • touching the sap with sensitive skin may cause a rash
  • leaves do not wilt
  • the genus ‘Rhus’ ancient from Greek word for sumac

Laurel Sumac- Malosma laurina

Location- Off of the Trestles Beach Trail, on Trestles Beach, on the bluffs of San Onofre Bluffs Campground

Other Names- taco plant, California sumac

Kumeyaay- ektii

Traditional Uses

  • dry out the fruit and ground into a flour
    • used in bathing ritual after birth as well as the puberty ceremony for girls
    • treats venereal diseases

Interesting Information-

  • one of the first plants to sprout after a fire
  • North facing
  • used as a sentinel plant
    • early settlers in California would use the laurel sumac plant as an indicator of where to plant their citrus crops- laurel sumac can not tolerate freezing weather

Family Asteraceae

Silver Beachweed- Ambrosia chamissonis

The Aster, Sunflower, or Composite Family

Location-Seen on the beach at Trestles

Other Names- silver burr ragweed, (silver) beach bur(r)

Interesting Information-

  • ragweed
  • wooly, green silver leaves

California Everlasting- Pseudognaphalium californicum

Location- Beginning of the Trestles Beach Trail and on the beach, next to the bluffs at San Onofre Bluffs Beach

Other names-Ladies tobacco, California cudweed, California pearly everlasting, California rabbit tobacco, gnaphalium californicum

Traditional Uses-

  • sleeping on a pillow filled with the flowers and leaves of the California everlasting helps relieve swollen mucus membranes (catarrh)
  • used to treat colds and stomach pains
  • modern medicine has found that Pseudognaphalium ssp. helps with sciatica and numbness

Dwarf Coastweed-Amblyopappus pusillus

Location- On the beach at San Onofre Bluffs Beach

Other Names- Pineapple weed

Interesting Facts

  • only one species within this Genus
  • native to Southern California and Baja California, but also found on the west coast of Peru and Chile in South America

Coast Goldenbush- Isocoma menziesii

Other Names- Goldenbush, Menzie’s goldenbush

Interesting Information-

  • though very common, it doesn’t seem as if the Natives utilized this plant
  • stays green all summer long

 

Bush Sunflower- Encelia californica

Other Names- California encelia, California brittlebush

Kumeyaay- Nahekwi

Traditional Uses

  • boiled all parts of the plant and produced a thick paste which was used to relieve toothaches and pains
  • chewed the stem as a breath freshener

Interesting Information

  • flowers year-long

Salty Susan- Jaumea carnosa

Location– San Mateo wetlands at Trestles

Other Names- marsh jaumea, saltmarsh daisy, fleshy jaumea, salt marsh daisy

Traditional Uses-

  • the plant was boiled and drank as tea to treat fevers
  • prepared, cooked, and eaten as a vegetable

Interesting Information-

  • looks similar to an ice plant
  • found in wetlands and saltmarshes
  • spreads horizontally from an underground rhizome
  • only two species in the Genus, Jaumea

Coyote Bush- Baccharis pilularis

Location- On the bluffs at San Onofre’s Bluffs Campground: on the beach at Trestles as well as right next to the water at Uppers (at the Orange County border)

Other Names-  chaparral broom,  coyote bush, bush baccharis

Kumeyaay- Samaall Kwsiyaay (for the desert variety– Baccharis sarothroides)

Traditional Uses-

  • branches were made into brooms
  • used to make toothbrushes
  • boiled the leaves and applied to relieve poison oak

Interesting Information

  • the coyote bush is the only species in the Family Asteraceae that has separate male and female plants (dioecious)
  • only the male plant is used in residential landscaping due to the dislike of the large amounts of white ‘fluff’ produced by the female flowers

California Sagebrush-Artemisia californica

Location- Beginning of the Trestles Beach Trail, on the beach at Trestles, on the bluffs at San Onofre Bluffs Campground

Other Names- Old Man, coastal sagebrush, California sagewort, California mugwort

Kumeyaaykwechash

Traditional Uses-

  • ground up the leave to make a poultice to help relieve ant bites
  • boil the leaves into a tea; inhale smoke for respiratory tract infections
  • used in puberty rituals
  • dried leaves were smoked like tobacco
  • early California miners would make a spray to help keep fleas out of their beds

Saw Toothed Goldenbush- Hazardia squarrosa

Location- Off Trail #4 at San Onofre Bluffs Campground

Other Names- saw-toothed bristleweed, common hazardia, Hazard’s goldenbush, goldenbush

Traditional Uses

  • boiled the plant and then) bathed in the water to aches and pains within the body

Interesting Information-

  • flower in the late Fall
  • the species name, squarrosa, is Latin which translates to ‘scaly’ or ‘rough’ and refers to the texture of herbage

Family Boraginaceae

Salt Heliotrope- Heliotropium curassavicum

The Forget-Me-Not Family

Location- San Mateo wetlands at Trestles

Other Names- wild heliotrope, alkali heliotrope, quail plant, seaside heliotrope,  Chinese purslane, Chinese pusley, monkey tail

Traditional Uses-

  • boil the entire plant to make tea to help menstruation
  • create a purple dye

Interesting Information-

  • early Chinese immigrants in the 1800’s would harvest the plant to supplement their diets; thus, the common name, Chinese purslane

Branching Phacelia- Phacelia ramosissima

Location- Off of the Trestles Beach Trail

Other Names- wild heliotrope, scorpion weed, caterpillar phacelia

Traditional Uses-

  • greens were eaten before flowering

Interesting Information-

  • the thick hairs (trichomes) surrounding the plant prevents insects from chewing or sucking as well as deter grazers

Family Cactaceae

Coast Prickly Pear- Opuntia littoralis

The Cactus Family

Location- On the bluffs above Trestles

Other Names- Western prickly pear, nopal

Kumeyaayehpaa

Traditional Uses

  • tea was made to help with diabetes
  • used as a dressing for wounds
  • long spines used to apply tattoos with charcoal
  • young cactus leaves-scape off all of the thorns, boil, drain and then fry with eggs or add to a salad
  • the fruit is edible

Interesting Information-

  • spines were knocked off the pads by using a coyote bush branch

Cholla Cactus- Cylindropuntia fulgida

Location- On the bluffs above Trestles

Other Names- choya, cholla costera, coast cholla cactus, jumping cactus

Kumeyaay- etat’kwilly

Traditional Uses-

  • the roots were used as a water source
  • seed used for food
  • the meat (called Tuna) was roasted and then applied to wounds
    • Tuna of the stem is very high in protein

Family Cleomaceae

Bladderpod-Peritoma arborea

The Spider Flower of Bee Plant Family

Location- On the beach at the end of Trestles Beach Trail,  on the bluffs of San Onofre Bluffs Beach

Other Names- stinkweed, burro fat, bladder pod, California cleome

Kumeyaay- ‘epshash

Traditional Uses

  • flowers were used as a vegetable
    • boiled several times to remove the bitterness

Interesting Information

  • a smelly plant (strong resin with a pungent odor) that attracts a wide variety of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds
  • the oddest and weirdest looking insects are attracted to this plant

Family Crassulaceae

Lady Fingers- Dudleya edulis

The Stonecrop or Orpine Family

Location- On the bluffs above Trestles Beach

Other Names- San Diego Dudleya, coast live-forever, live-forever, Nuttal’s live-forever, fingertips, tapertip liveforever, string bean plant, Ladies’-fingers, dead man fingers, mission lettuce, chalk lettuce

Traditional Uses-

  • eat the leaves, and young flower shoots raw
  • chew on the stems to relieve thirst
  • used internally as well as externally
    • mashed leaves applied to burns
    • cut leaves applied to corns, calluses, insect bite and cuts
    • crushed leaves were added to wine to help rid of intestinal parasites
  • known to its anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties

Interesting Information-

  • grows in bluffs and rocky soils
  • found widely in Mexico but extremely rare in Southern California
  • a huge problem with poaching of these plants

Family Cucurbitaceae

Wild Cucumber- Echinocystis lobata

The Gourd Family

Location- Found on the middle of the Trestles Beach Trail

Other Names- prickly cucumber, bur cucumber, manroot, Cucamonga manroot, chilicothe (Spanish), cucumber gourds

Traditional Uses-

  • boil leaves to treat hemorrhoids
  • ground seeds and mix with water to create black face paint
  • applied leaves topically to relieve pain and inflammation

Interesting Information-

  • relative to the cucumber, squash, and watermelon
  • roots were pulverized and thrown into a small pond which would stun the fish, making fishing much easier
    • the roots contain the chemical megharrhin
  • the nickname Manroot is due to the fact the huge tuberous root looks like a man in the fetal position and weigh up to 100 pounds

Family Fabaceae

Nuttall’s Lotus- Syrmatium prostratum

The Pea Family

Location- Found on the beach in between Trails 5 and Trail 6 underneath the San Onofre Bluffs Campground

Other Names- beach lotus, wire bird’s-foot trefoil,

Interesting Information-

  • rare and threatened species
  • annual species, which is unusual for dune plants

Bicolor Lupine- Lupinus bicolor

Location- On the bluffs over at San Onofre Bluffs Campground

Other Names- dove lupine, pigmy-leaved lupine, miniature lupine, annual lupine, Lindley’s annual lupine,

Traditional Uses-

  • eaten as a green

Interesting Information-

  • colonize burned and disturbed areas
  • very small being less than 12 inches tall
  • all parts of the plant are covered with hairs

Family Gentianaceae

California Centaury- Zeltnera venusta

The Gentian Family

Location- Found on a secret trail in between Trail 1 and Trail 2 over at the San Onofre Bluffs Campground

Other Names- charming centaury, canchalagua, beautiful centaury

Traditional Uses-

  • was used to treat fevers by making a tea from the leaves

Interesting Information

  • the name canchalagua comes from two Spanish words, “chancal’ which means rocky-place and ‘agua’ or water- prefers rocks and wet soil

Family Grossulariaceae

Fuchsia-Flowered Gooseberry- Ribes speciosum

The Gooseberry Family

Location- Found off of the Trestles Beach Trail

Other Names- California fuchsia, fuchsia-flowered gooseberry

Traditional Uses-

  • fruits were eaten, but due to high levels of tannins it is very bitter

Interesting Information-

  • pollinated only by hummingbirds-their migration is synchronistic to the plants’ bloom period
  • the red color is invisible to bees, and there is no smell that insects rely on
  • open only during the day

Family Lamiaceae

Black Sage-Salvia mellifera

The Mint Family

Other Names honey sage, Jade carpet

Kumeyaay- ha’anya yul

Traditional Uses-

  • would eat the seed raw as well as ground-up the seeds into a mush
  • boil the leaves and stems to create bathing water to alieve the flu, arthritis,  and rheumatism
  • used as a spice

Interesting Information-

  • most common sage in California
  • co-dominant species in the coastal sage scrub community

White Sage- Salvia apiana

white sage beach trail trestles san onofre

Other Names- sacred sage, bee sage

Kumeyaay- pellytaay, pestaay

Traditional Uses-

  • the toasted seed was ground into a type of porridge (pinole)
  • young stalks may be eaten raw
  • burning of leaves used as a type of fumigation
    • used within a sweathouse when sick to purify out the toxins
  • smudge sticks
  • leaves were smoked or chewed as a decongestant

Interesting Information-

  • sacred plant
  • a bit of white sage was carried within the mouth or under the arm when hunting to mask the human scent
  • Eucalyptol is the main component that gives white sage its smell
    • research suggests that Eucalypol helps with skin diseases
  • flowers are white with a hint of lavender
  • the species name ‘apiana’ means bee
  • bumblebees and carpenter bees are the main pollinators

Family Montiaceae

Miner’s Lettuce- Claytonia perfoliata

The Montia Family

Location- Found off of the Trestles Beach Trail

Other Names- winter purslane, spring beauty, Indian lettuce

Traditional Uses-

  • leaves, seeds, and flowers were eaten raw as food

Interesting Information-

  • early California miners would eat to prevent scurvy

Family Nyctaginaceae

Wishbone Bush- Mirabilis laevis

Location- Found on a secret trail in between Trail 1 and Trail 2 over at the San Onofre Bluffs Campground

Other Names- Coastal wishbone plant, coast four-o’clock, desert four o’clock

Traditional Uses-

  • a tea was made from the roots, flower, and whole plant to ease stomach aches

Interesting Information-

  • flowers open up mid-afternoon
  • one study found that the seeds and roots are toxic

Beach Sand Verbena- Abronia umbellata

Location- On the beach at the end of Trestles Beach Trail

Other Names- Pink sand verbena, Beach sand-verbena, Purple sand verbena

Interesting Information-

  • green leaves may be present year-round

Family Onagraceae

Beach Evening Primrose- Camissionopsis cheiranthifolia

The Willowherb of Evening Primrose Family

Location- Found all up and down the beach at San Onofre State Beach

Other Names- Beach suncup, beach primrose, shrubby beach primrose

Interesting Information-

  • thrive in the coastal strand environment
  • dormant during summer
  • used in restoration projects

Family Phrymaceae

Orange Bush Monkey Flower- Diplacus aurantiacus

The Lopseed Family

Location- San Onofre Bluffs Campground bluffs and on the trails within the bluffs

Other Names- Southern monkey flower, sticky monkey flower, bush monkey flower

Traditional Uses-

  • create poultices for treatment of colds, coughs, and flu; burns and wounds as well as for heart ailments
  • a hot infusion of the roots was used to help with stomach ailments
  • boiling of the whole plant and drinking the tea helped to regulate menstruation
  • flowers were used as decorative

Interesting Information-

  • thrives in many different types of soil as well as serpentine

Family Plantaginaceae

Nuttall’s Snapdragon-Antirrhinum nuttallianum ssp. nuttallianum

The Plantain Family

Location- The trails within the bluffs over at the San Onofre Bluffs Campground

Other Names- violet snapdragon

Kumeyaay- pullaay

Traditional Uses-

  • a tea was made for colds by boiling the flowers and adding a bit of oil

Interesting Information-

  • primarily pollinated by bumblebees; a white spot and the stripes on the center of the lower lip on the flower is a visual guide as to where to land

Family Platanaceae

California Sycamore- Platanus racemosa

The Plane-Tree of Sycamore Family

Location- Off of the Trestles Beach Trail and all along the San Mateo River below the Trestles Beach Trail

Other Names- Western sycamore, California plane tree, aliso (Spanish)

Traditional Uses-

  • the wood used in the construction of houses
  • made a coffee-like drink by boiling pieces of the bark and roots

Interesting Information-

  • beautiful white bark
  • found in very diverse habitats-anywhere that there is a freshwater source

Family Polygonaceae

California Buckwheat- Eriogonum fasciculatum

The Knotweed or Smartweed-Buckwheat Family

Location- Found on the Trestles Beach Trail, at the end of the Trestles Beach Trail, up on the bluffs above Trestles, and on the bluffs over at San Onofre Bluffs Campground

Other Names- flat-top buckwheat, wild buckwheat, Antelope sage, skeleton weed, eastern Mojave buckwheat, sulfur flower, Colita de Raton

Kumeyaay- hamill

Traditional Uses-

  • flowers were boiled to help relieve stomach issues, bladder infections; as an eyewash and mouthwash
  • a decoction of flowers was given to infants as a remedy for diarrhea; to adults to help with cardiovascular disease
  • buckwheat has a high amount of the bioflavinoid, rutin which has been shown to help to strengthen capillaries
    • used to treat varicose veins, water retention, and tissue swelling

Interesting Information-

  • dominant species in the coastal sage scrub community
  • clusters of white and pink flowers which turn a rust color when dried
  • an extensive shallow root system

Family Rosaceae

Wild Rose- Rosa californica

The Rose Family

Location- Found at the beginning of the Trestles Beach Trail

Kumeyaay- kwa”ak

Traditional Uses-

  • flower petals and rose hips were made into a tea
  • an infusion of petals was given to infants to relieve fevers

Interesting Information-

  • native to Oregon, California, and Baja California
  • may go dormant in the Summer if there is not enough water available
  • pollinated by bumblebees, butterflies, and birds

Toyon- Heteromeles arbutifolia

Location- Found on the Trestles Beach Trail and the bluffs of San Onofre Bluffs Campground

Other Names- California holly, Christmas berry, holly berry

Kumeyaay- hosiill

Traditional Uses-

  • would pound the leaves to produce a pulp used to clean sores
  • the fruit is eaten

Interesting Information-

  • a large amount of Toyon grows in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles; thus, the name ‘Hollywood.’

Family Saururuceae

Yerba Mansa- Amenmopsis californica

The Lizard’s Tail Family

Location- San Mateo wetlands on the beach at Trestles

Other Names- swamp root, lizard’s tail, bear root

Traditional Uses-

  • historically one of the most utilized plants in the world
  • applied externally to sore, cuts, and rheumatism
  • taken internally for kidney issues, asthma, and coughs
  • used as a blood purifier

Interesting Information-

  • throughout history, many cultures would move this plant around to have as a convenience

Family Solanaceae

Black Nightshade- Solanum nigrum

The Nightshade, Potato, and Tobacco Family

Location- Off of the Trestles Beach Trail

Other Names- European nightshade, blackberry nightshade

Traditional Uses-

  • a long history of worldwide use medicinally
    • antitumorigenic (counteracts tumors), antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic (fever reducer), diuretic, hepatoprotective (protects the liver)
  • infusions were made for stomach ailments, fever, and dysentery
  • the juice of the plant was used for ulcers and other skin diseases
  • ripe berries and boiled leaves are edible (avoid eating unless a known edible strain)

Interesting Information-

  • known to poison livestock
  • unripe berries toxic
  • toxins are variable to growing conditions

Sacred Datura- Datura wrightii

 

Location- On the bluffs over at San Onofre Bluffs Beach Campground

Other Names- angel trumpet, western jimsonweed, thorn apple, devil’s trumpet, toloache, moonflower, toluaca

Traditional Uses-

  • used medicinally and ceremonially
    • shamans would use for hallucinations for puberty rite ceremonies
    • antispasmodic and anesthetic properties
    • smoked and inhaled to relieve rheumatism and earaches
    • topically applied over wounds

Interesting Information-

  • prefers open and disturbed areas
  • native from Central California down to Mexico
  • all parts of the plant are highly toxic
  • Datura is derived from the Hindu word ‘Dhatura,’ which translates to thorn apple

Family Typhaceae

Southern Cattail- Typha domingensis

Cattails lower trestles beach san onofre

The Cattail Family

Location- On the edge of the San Mateo River/Lagoon

Kumeyaay-

Traditional Uses-

  • stalks and leaves were used as a building material for homes
    • leaves made into mats
    • baskets
  • the roots are edible
  • pollen used in flour
  • turn the roots into a paste and apply to soothe poison ivy and burns

Family Utitaceae

Stinging Nettle- Urtica dioica

The Nettle Family

Location- On the edge of the San Mateo River, underneath the Trestles Beach Trail

Other Names- common nettle

Traditional Uses-

  • would be used as a source of food in Spring if food plants were scarce
  • young plants were harvested and soaked or cooked in water which removes the stinging nettles
  • leaves and flowers were made into a tea
    • provides silica
    • helps with bladder infections
    • treats colds and flu, diabetes, joint pains, and cancer

Family Verbenaceae

Western Vervain- Verbena lasiostachys var. lasiostachys

The Verbena or Vervain Family

Location- Within the bluffs over at the San Onofre Bluffs Campground

Traditional Uses-

  • an infusion of the plant was used to treat fevers and gastrointestinal problems

Interesting Information-

  • likes to grow in disturbed areas, similar to a weed
  • hairy leaves

San Onofre Coastal Habitats

Before I leave you, I wanted to share a few more photos to get a better idea of what the coastal habitat looks like over at San Onofre State Beach.

As I have noted previously, the beach here is very wild and natural and has had very little human disturbance over the last couple of decades. This is the main draw for coming here for me! I love to be alone with nature, and San Onofre State Beach is the best beach for solitude in San Diego, by far!

If your interest is piqued, please check out all of the previous posts down below!

Also, make sure to check out all of the fabulous resources that I used. There is some fabulous information down there!

Until next time!


Other Posts Showcasing San Onofre State Beach-

coastal strand trestles middles san onofre state beach
A view from up above Trestles looking South towards Old Man’s Beach
Trail 2 December San Onofre Bluffs Campground
A view from Trail 2 at San Onofre Bluffs Campground

References

 

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