Learn some of the fascinating ethnobotanical uses of the native plants in our 7-acre park. How many of these did you spot?
It’s estimated that the Valley Oaks here could be up to 300 years old. The prevalence of these trees was an important feature in Ohlone life: they gathered acorns and processed them for a variety of foods.
While these acorns aren’t the most appetizing, the Valley Oaks could always be counted on to provide when the Black Oaks did not produce its tastier acorns in abundance.
Oak bark was used in treating infections and internal disorders amongst many tribes.
Can you spot a yellowish/brown ball growing in the oak trees? These are called galls, which is a swelling of the oak tree as a result of insects or mites, such as cynipids (also known as gallwasps).
Oak galls were used by Native Americans for pigments, and Spanish explorers used them to make ink for maps and other documents.
Oak galls decoctions were used to treat eye maladies.
With its fragrant leaves, the Ohlone Native Americans use California Bay Laurel not only for cooking, but as an insect repellant, room freshener, while an infusion of its leaves can bring relief from head, stomach, and ear aches. Also known as "pepperwood", bay nuts should be roasted before ingestion. The Ohlone traditionally ground the nuts and added them to their pinole seed cakes.
First introduced to the Californian landscape by Spanish missionaries in 1520, it was used in both culinary and medicinal applications. Figs were often used to sweeten food before refined sugar became commonplace. Figs are high in potassium, iron, fiber and calcium. The large and deeply-lobed fingerlike leaves have been used as a digestive aid, a remedy for ulcers, bronchitis, and high blood pressure, as well as a cardiovascular aid.
The Olive tree is another example of a tree introduced by the Spanish missionaries, who planted orchids of these plants around their missions. The bitter Olive fruits are eaten once cured or fermented, while the oil is extracted and used for cooking. Olive oil is beneficial in lowering cholesterol and reducing blood sugar, treating stomach and intestinal diseases, and reducing inflammation.
The state of California's official flower, the orange California poppy is ubiquitous in spring and early summer, whereafter the plant becomes dormant until the following spring. During pre-colonial times, Ohlone Native Americans boiled or roasted leaves for food. The boiled-down flowers were also used to treat scalp lice, by mixing it into a hair dressing with bear fat. Poppy leaves were also used to soothe sore teeth, and the root's juice was cooked into potent tea that cured insomnia and headaches, stomach aches and to clean sores.
Leafy Reedgrass is a native perennial bunchgrass that produces a tuft of stems up to two feet in height. It is listed as rare and is endemic north of Mendocino. The flower cluster is a narrow spikelet and is in the family Poaceae.
The Mexican Bush Marigold was first introduced to the state by the Californios during the period of Mexican rule over the territory between 1821 and 1848. This drought tolerant plant has long stems and thin leaves with bright yellow daisy-like flowers. Their heavy scent has with hints of citrus and mint, and butterflies and bees are attracted to the flowers, which can appear year-round but are most abundant in fall.
Look at Toyon's characteristic tough, shiny and serrated leaves. This foliage is also a characteristic of the Rose-family, and its red berries (also called pomes) are distinct in fall and winter. The Ohlone Native Americans cook the berries to make a sweet cider, while dried or roasted berries were eaten. An infusion from the bark and leaves was used to address digestive problems, and to treat infected wounds.
The fruit of the wild rose is known as the hip. Fruits stay on through winter and into spring, providing continuous forage for wildlife. The rose hips can be crushed and made into a jelly, or steeped in tea. The rose flowers can also be prepared in a tea. A root tea could be prepared as a cold remedy. The hips are known as a good source of vitamin C. Pre-colonial Ohlone used this plant to cure colds, sore throats, bronchial infections, depression and lethargy. It also soothes eye irritations, minor injuries and skin problems.
This deciduous tree's nuts are best harvested in early fall, and the walnuts are sweeter, if smaller, than its European counterpart. Many parts of this tree were useful to the pre-colonial Ohlone Native Americans.
The nuts are edible raw or cooked, while an edible oil can be extracted from the nut. The bark could be used in basketry, while medicinally, it can be prepared in tonics for aches and pains. The nut's tough green husk for cleaning wounds, while also useful as a brown dye.
California Black Walnut trees are useful to birds, rodents, and deer for food and as shelter for nesting, burrows and shade cover.
The milky white substance from the gum plant's yellow flowers has medicinal properties, as it soothes irritation on the skin. Ohlone Native Americans used this to their advantage to treat rashes from contact with poison oak. The chemical component that is used in the modern poison oak remedy, Tecnu, is derived from this plant.
Can you spot our two varieties of yarrow? The plant with yellow flowers is called Moonshine Yarrow, while its pink counterpart is called Salmon Beauty. Ohlone Native Americans used a poultice of its leaves as an anti-inflammatory for wounds, while the dried stems and leaves helped stop bleeding. Leaves were held in the mouth for toothaches. And infusion of the plant also aided digestion.
Black Sage was used for a variety of reasons by the Ohlone Native Americans. Prepared as a poultice, the plant could treat earaches, while an infusion was helpful in treating coughs and sore throats. Leaves can also be chewed as a digestive aid. The fragrant leaves of sage could be used in cooking, while dried bundles were helpful to deter insects, for its aroma, or even burned during ceremonial practices.