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Blooming with purpose: UCLA students and staff cultivate native plants on campus

Flowers blooming by Janss steps are pictured. (Grace Wilson/Daily Bruin)

By Felicia Keller

April 25, 2023 10:21 p.m.

Native and drought resistant plants around campus are coming into bloom this spring with the support of UCLA students and staff.

With spring in full swing and the weather recently reaching over 80 degrees, students have begun to frequent outdoor spaces on campus surrounded by plants and flowers. Beyond serving to decorate the campus, however, many of the growing flora are also unique to California and important to their surrounding ecosystems.

Recent rainfall in Los Angeles has been unusually high recently, resulting in the bloom of native plants rarer than the usual flowers seen around campus, said Wayne Dollase, a professor emeritus of geology. Dollase, who spent nearly two decades cataloging hundreds of UCLA plant species, publishes a list of these plants on the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden website.

“This year is extremely unusual, and there is an enormous number of plants in bloom, including a lot of California native annuals which probably haven’t been seen for 10 years,” Dollase said. “And now suddenly, they are there, for instance, lupins and just a number of really lovely plants.”

Some students said they have been paying attention to native plants for a few years. In the student-run Hummingbird Canyon garden, which is located between Franz Hall and the Geology Building, members of the Bruin Birding Club cultivate and take care of plants native to the region while creating a habitat for the campus’ hummingbirds.

A focus of the garden is to promote native plants on campus, said Yuka Wu, the club’s conservation director and a second-year ecology, behavior and evolution student. Club members are currently working on a sign for the garden that will educate visitors on the importance of native plants as well as general life on campus, Wu said.

The garden includes California fuchsia, red monkeyflower, California wild rose, creeping snowberry, showy penstemon, multiple types of sage and other plants that the club members planted themselves and now maintain.

“It creates an environment where a lot of birds can hang out and eat and grow,” Wu said. “The hummingbird sage provides a nice area for hummingbirds to come.”

To maintain the campus grounds, Suzanne Gagliano, one of four ground supervisors, said a team of about 50 to 60 staff work to care for all of the plants on campus. She said one project she oversees is adding new native plants to the areas surrounding Moore Hall and Kerckhoff Hall.

(Grace Wilson/Daily Bruin)
A flower sits in the Hummingbird Canyon garden. (Grace Wilson/Daily Bruin)

These changes represent UCLA’s new landscaping plan coming to fruition, with the explicit goal of supporting local pollinators by bringing back more native species, according to UCLA’s Landscape Plan released in September. Gagliano said they will be adding more drought tolerant plants.

“It’s very exciting that we will be able to show the campus community and the community at large that you can have a beautiful landscape but not have it be so water dependent,” Gagliano said.

Gagliano added that the various fauna on campus would greatly benefit from these native plants. Adding the change would also help local pollinators, which prefer the drought tolerant and native species that Gagliano’s team is adding.

Dollase said, in the process of identifying and cataloging all of the plants, he loved getting to take in all of the campus beauty.

“They’re just simply so beautiful in one part, and in another aspect, there is a great deal of order and system in botany, in plants,” Dollase said. “It’s not just random beauty. There is a great deal of regularity of science.”

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Felicia Keller
Keller is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men’s soccer, swim and dive, women’s water polo, and softball beats. She was previously a contributor on the swim and dive and women’s water polo beats and a contributor in the News and Photo sections. She is also a second-year sociology student.
Keller is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men’s soccer, swim and dive, women’s water polo, and softball beats. She was previously a contributor on the swim and dive and women’s water polo beats and a contributor in the News and Photo sections. She is also a second-year sociology student.
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