Not a comprehensive list
Black sage is part of the mint family. It is the most widespread in the valley. It is a shrubby species with narrow, dark gray green leaves. The leaves have been used as treatment for heart complaints, gas pains, earaches, sore throats, and chronic bronchial coughs. It is highly aromatic.
Photo 33329686, (c) bcobble, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)
The Bladderpod is drought-tolerant. It has a strong, pungent odor. The name comes from the inflated bladder-like pods. It flowers throughout the year. It attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. You will almost always find a black and orange bug called the Harlequin bug on a pod. The bladderpod has been valued by the Kumeyaay for centuries. The flowers were hand-picked and stewed with vegetables. Personal photo.
Flowers can be seen in the spring and summer months. The name comes from the two-lipped flowers that look like small faces. The Kumeyaay used the monkeyflower for burns and wounds. They were also used as treatment for cough, colds, and stomach disorders. They would also put the flowers in their salad greens.
Photo 7740220, (c) Zack Abbey, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)
This plant seems to disappear for most of the year then suddenly comes to life in the summer. The leaves have scalloped edges. The flower head gives off a nice fragrance at night. It has a long history of use for medicinal purposes. Its leaves have been used for coughs, fevers and skin sores.
Photo 431935, (c) Michele Roman, all rights reserved
This plant has dense heads of tiny pinkish flowers. It is important for bees. Native Americans used it to treat headaches, stomacheaches, diahhrea and wounds. People use it for coughs, colds and pre-menstrual bloating. Personal photo.
This is a beautiful plant that has been observed along the trails between the Lower Otay Lake and the 125 bridge. Its flower and leaves have been used by the Kumeyaay to make tea to reduce fevers. Personal photo.
The croton has been observed on the east side of Lower Otay Lake. The Kumeyaay people made tea from the entire plant and used it as eye wash to cure pink eye. Important food source for butterflies and caterpillars.
Photo 48737, (c) stonebird, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA)
It is part of the sunflower family. It can be seen in the Otay river valley in dense populations. They color the slopes of this valley in the early spring. It is an important host plant to the checkerspot butterfly which is threatened. The Kumeyaay used this plant to treat toothaches and chest pains. Other names are “California Brittlebush” and “California Bush Sunflower.”
This plant can be observed up and down the valley and is the state flower of California. This pretty flower is important for butterflies and moths. For humans, it is used for insomnia, aches, nervous agitation, bladder and liver issues. It is also used to promote relaxation.
This plant is in the sunflower family. It has a distinctive pungent odor. Sagebrush teas and salves have been used for almost every ailment.
This succulent has chalky white leaves. It was a target of a smuggling operations, where they were smuggled to Korea and China. If you see anyone harvesting this plant, please notify a park ranger or the police.
Photo 99592, (c) Tony Rodd, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA)
This tall prickly pear has been observed near the Otay Lakes area and near canyons near Donovan State Prison and near Dennery Canyon close to Aquatica. It is also known as the Chaparral Prickly-pear. Just like the Coast prickly pear, this cactus was and continues to be an important source of food for the Kumeyaay and Mexicans. Photo 248449, (c) BJ Stacey, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)
This yucca is also known as “Our Lord’s Candle.” It is a relative of the century plants or agaves. The rosette grows into a tall flowering stalk 8-10 feet high. During this period, the stalk may grow 4-6 inches in length per day! It was an important fiber plant. Native Americans used the fibers for sandals and for fishing lines. Split leaves were used for tying of bundles of firewood house frames and basketry. Photo 12869, (c) The Ruth Bancroft Garden, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)
The Coast Cholla can be seen up and down the river valley. It blooms April through June. The Kumeyaay called it “Etat’kwilly. They would eat the fruit raw, the branches were boiled, and the seed eaten as pinole. Photo 35986240, (c) sorco, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)
This plant has yellow flowers along a coiled neck. It has been observed on Otay river valley near Poggi Creek and near Heritage Road. It is a favorite for the Lawrence’s Goldfinch. Native Americans would grind and toast the seeds to make into a pinole. Photo 13160, (c) Dawn Endico, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA)
Coast goldenbush is similar to the Sawtooth Goldenbush except it does not have the sharp leaves. It favors sandy soils. It is an important source of nectar for insects. It was not known to be used by people. Photo 57351000, (c) Andrea Kreuzhage, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)
The flower’s color changes from white to a pale pink as it ages. No documented uses by humans have been found. The Native Americans called it “s’epsu’i’ashk’a” which mean’s “coyote’s basket hat.” Photo 33059171, (c) Lindsey Handley, all rights reserved
It is the most common of the cactus species in the Otay river valley. They are a host to many insects and spiders. The blades and fruit were and continue to be an important food source to Native Americans and Mexicans. They love the juicy red fruits, which they call “tunas.” The Kumeyaay used the long spines for applying tattoos. Early settlers used them to apply on a black eye after a fist fight. Personal photo.
It is covered in white in the fall releasing thousands of seeds from the wind. Native Americans used this plant to brush away the small spines of the cactus. Early settlers used them as toothbrushes. Some used this plant as a remedy for poison oak. One theory about its name is that the leaves resemble the paw of a coyote. Another theory is that this plant is adaptable like the coyote. Photo 197819, (c) NatureShutterbug, all rights reserved, uploaded by Lynn Watson
Field Bindweed is in the morning glory family. It is not a native species. People have made a tea from the flowers and used it as a laxative and for fevers and wounds. It has also been used to treat spider bits. Women have taken it to reduce menstrual flow. Photo 39756008, (c) David Foster, all rights reserved
Part of the sunflower family. The golden flower clusters make Otay the scenic landscape that it is. The blossom of the Golden yarrow is actually a flower within a flower within a flower! It can be seen along trails and covering hills. This species thrives after a fire. The fires provide a stimulus for the seeds to germinate. The Kumeyaay boiled the whole plant and used the water as a face wash. It is a nectar source for a lot of insects. Photo 3067259, (c) drewboy,some rights reserved(CC BY-NC)
The Kumeyaay had many uses from this tree. Flowers were roasted on pits of heated stone and eaten. Blossoms were used for tea. Seeds were fermented to make into an intoxicating drink. Leaves were used to neutralize stomach acidity. Bark for wrapping material. The smaller branches for bow making. Excellent firewood. The large branches were used for construction. Thorns as needles for tattoo-making. Important food source for wildlife.Photo 2422434,(c)Joe Decruyenaere,some rights reserved(CC BY-SA)
Jepson’s Button Celery is also known as California Eryngo. It is a species in the carrot family. It is in the federal endangered list. It can be seen in the canyons between Ocean View Hills Corporate Center and California Terraces. Photo 139829, no rights reserved
The Laurel Sumac can be seen throughout the coastal sage scrub habitat. It has large leaves that tend to fold up. Sometimes people call it the “taco plant” because the leaves resemble a crunchy taco. The reason the leaves fold up is to reduce exposure to the sun thereby conserving water in the dry habitat. The Kumeyaay called it “ektii.” They used the wood for construction. They also used the leaves as tea after childbirth. Photo 2121812, (c) James Bailey, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)
It is an important shrub of the Otay river valley. The common name comes from the sticky pulp on the mature fruits, which have a lemony flavor. This pulp can be used for making a refreshing beverage. People add berries to water and make a lemony drink. Sometimes they seep a cup of berries in hot water to make a strong, lemonade-like drink. People also suck on them right after picking, however, they are pretty sour. The seeds can also be ground and roasted. Personal photo.
The Otay Tarplant is a rare species found in the Otay area. Another common name is the Otay Tarweed. It is on the federal list of threatened species. It has been seen at the base of the Otay Mountains. Photo 304079, USFWS, Gjon Hazard, no known copyright restrictions (public domain)
Palmer’s Goldenbush is a plant that produces small yellow flowers. It is in the state list of plants that are of concern. It has been observed in the valley below the lakes. Photo 2101043, (c) James Bailey, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)
Purple sage is a shrub with broad, whitish gray leaves covered with short wooly hairs. A noticeable difference between this and black sage is it has long stamens that extend far beyond the petals. It is very attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. California quails like to eat its seeds. They have been used by people to treat coughs and colds. Photo 31346, (c) randomtruth, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA)
Rock-rose can be seen close to the coast. It flourishes after a wildfire. The Kumeyaay often boiled the flowers for a tea to help mothers who were going through a difficult childbirth. Helios is the Greek word for sun. Anthemum is the word for flower. The name come from the fact that the flower opens in the sun.
The San Diego Barrel Cactus is a rare species. It was named “Telku” by the Kumeyaay. The flesh, flowers, flower buds, and fruit are used for food. Photo 16868923, (c) patmc9, all rights reserved
Sawtooth Goldenbush has sharply pointed leaves and small flowers that look like pine cones. The Kumeyaay boiled this flower and bathed in the water to soothe their body aches and pains. Photo 2179072, (c) Jerry Oldenettel, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA)
Snake cholla is a succulent found in the Otay valley that is on the state species concerned list. It has been observed between the river and Main Street. Photo 1767632, (c) Valtierra, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND)
Sweet acacia is a thorny, small tree and a non-native. It can be seen on several trails, especially between Heritage Road and the 805 freeway. The gummy roots have been used to treat sore throats. The gum from the trunk has been used to treat diarrhea. It has also been used to treat rheahumatic pains and bleeding gums. Flowering branches are used as cut flowers. Perfume is distilled from the flowers. It is attractive to birds. Photo 33528355, (c) yukioz, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)
Tecate cypress is a relic from when the region was much cooler and wetter than it is today. It is on the state list of species of concern. This tree relies on fire for reproduction. A low intensity fire can cause thousands of seedlings to germinate. The rare Thorne’s Hairstreak relies on the leaves. Without it, it will not survive. Several sightings have been documented on Inaturalist.com in and around the Otay River watershed. Photo 375870, (c) BJ Stacey, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)
Thick-leaf Yerba Santa is found in rocky soils in the coastal sage scrub. A leaf added to a cup of boiling water will make a soothing tea. The name (yerba santa means “holy plant”) was given by the mission padres when the Native Americans demonstrated its medicinal value in treating respiratory infections, fevers and sores. Leaves were smoked or chewed to relieve asthma, coughs, colds, headaches, and stomachaches. Photo 16617677, (c) rangerwild, all rights reserved
It is also known as Variegated Liveforever. It is on the state list of species of concern. Photo 399892, (c) snakeinmypocket, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC), uploaded by snakeinmypocket
It is distinguished from the other sages by the wooly white hairs that cover both the leaves and the stems. It is an herb that has been held sacred by Native Americans used in rituals and ceremonies for centuries. It has been used to make incense. Medicinally, it has been used to treat excess sweating, colds, sinus infections and indigestion. The compounds in white sage tea are antibiotic and anti-allergenic. The tea can also be used to treat wounds and rashes. Personal photo.
The wishbone bush is beautiful when it is flowering. The common name is easy to understand in the late summer when the foilage dies, leaving forked branches appearing like turkey wishbones. It is pollinated by night-flying insects. Diurnal insects and hummingbirds also pollinate it. The Kumeyaay made tea from the roots, stems, and flowers to treat stomachaches. Photo 39221, (c) Wayfinder_73, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND)
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