The University of California, Irvine's Arboretum has evolved and will see many exciting improvements during the coming months. The new role in the Ayala School of Biological Sciences and mission emphasis will be upon encouraging and assisting teaching and research. Although the facility will be closed to unscheduled public visitation, there will be an open house each quarter at which there will be public Arboretum and Marsh Tours, and during which researchers using the Arboretum will showcase their studies and research sites for the public. These events will be well publicized, posted on our website, and will be held during times of peak flowering in various of our exhibits, particularly the South African Bulb Garden and aloe exhibits.

California Native Grassland & Wildflower Field

Grasslands interface with coastal sage scrub and chaparral in California. Grasslands may be the most severely altered of all California communities. Formerly consisting of perennial bunchgrasses, grassland communities have been greatly altered by the introduction of grazing animals and the annual grasses favored by grazing. An alien species that now occurs commonly in grasslands is wild oats. Nassella pulchra (the purple needle grass) is an example of a native perennial bunchgrass. The golden hills of California weren't so golden before replacement of these bunchgrasses, which stayed green much longer than the annual grasses. Grasslands were formerly widely distributed throughout other parts of the state at low elevations. Most of these areas have been converted to agricultural land or other development.

The grassland community at the Arboretum is represented in the Athalie Smith Clarke Garden, at the top of the knoll bordering the marsh. This garden has an abundance of native California poppies in the spring. Intermixed with the poppies are species typical of grasslands. In particular, Nassella pulchra, the purple-needle grass, is well represented. Several patches of golden stars (Bloomeria crocea) flower in the spring. As this garden matures, we expect to see a rich assortment of plants native to grasslands, similar to those that occurred in the past in grasslands throughout southern California.