Upper Newport Bay is blessed with a wide variety of plant species, each adapted to the particular habitat in which it grows.
The plants found in the saltmarsh are called halophytes – from the Greek words for salt (halo) and lover (phyte). In the lower tidal areas cordgrass predominates. This plant is adapted to grow submerged in saltwater for much of the time. On higher ground that is covered by water only occasionally pickleweed is most abundant. Other halophytes found at or above the high tide mark and adjacent roadside/barren areas are the saltmarsh bird’s beak, fleshy jaumea, sea lavender, brewer’s saltbush, sea blite, and alkali heath.
Saltmarsh bird’s beak (Cordylanthus maritimus) is a federal and state endangered species of plant. This annual herb is so named because its flower is like a bird’s beak pointed towards the sky. At UNB it is found mostly in dredge spoil disposal areas. Growth seems to occur in the vicinity of freshwater sources which appear to be necessary for germination.
In the freshwater marsh cattail, bulrush (tule) and sedge are found. These non-halophytes are adapted to live in standing freshwater. The marsh and pond areas are fed by streams and seeps. Trees and bushes that like the moist soil conditions found on and near stream banks include the native willow, cottonwood, sycamore and mulefat, and the invasive, non-native Brazilian pepper. The term riparian is used to describe steam-side habitat.
Two main plant communities are found in the uplands surrounding the Bay. They are grassland and coastal sage scrub. The characteristic native coastal sage scrub plants include California sagebrush and buckwheat. Non-native plants include wild mustards and pampas grass.
Learn about the problem with Invasive Plants.
The following pictorial guides prepared by two of NBC’s long-time Naturalists provide information on virtually all the plants found at Upper Newport Bay.
This essay by Naturalist Dick Newell will also provide useful information to help you improve your plant identification skills.