Settling Into My New Bioregion (Coastal California)

ojai landscaping

A great (and beautiful) example of xeriscaping (needing little to no irrigation) in Ojai, CA

In April, my small family moved to Santa Barbara, CA for my husband’s work.  Thankfully, my work with plants and people is pretty portable (another p-word please?).  Considering that my work with plants really began in CA, it feels good to bring it back home after about 9 years in Appalachia and the Deep South.

oak krishnamurti

One champion oak that is fighting to recover from oak root rot…

Since my little one is fond of napping on the go, I strap her on to me in an Ergo carrier and explore.  Although I’m used to walking under a canopy of trees to protect me from on-going sun exposure, like I did in the mountains of Appalachia and the red hills of the Deep South, I am renewing my appreciation for this coastal bioregion with its hillsides dappled with oaks and aromatic and resinous plants…with an umbrella in hand.

It’s raining sunlight, y’all.

It seems that Santa Barbara is nestled right between the Central Coast and Desert bioregions.  If you don’t know about bioregionalism, check out this article.

ca bioregion

One version of CA’s bioregions

A quote from the article I linked to above:

“More generally, a bioregion is a place that has commonalities of soil, surface water source, landforms, wildlife, climate and culture. The bioregionalism movement, which is still active today, calls for defining areas based not on ecologically meaningless political boundaries but instead on natural geographic boundaries and characteristics. The border between California and Oregon, for example, is a straight line that cuts straight across watersheds. A bioregional boundary would meander, tracing the dividing line between watersheds.”

Since living in San Francisco in the 2000’s, where I learned of this term (and where it was coined), I’ve always thought that grouping areas by natural features and ecosystems made more sense than the disconnected political boundaries that have been drawn.  If you think about it, it’s a very practical way to group areas AND have political representation based on your bioregion.


I’ve been admiring many plants since I’ve been here.  I found this website of flowering plants and it has been useful for my recent walks in Ojai.

Another thing that I just forgot about California is the many fruit and nut trees that adorn gardens and yards.  So then, I’m going to share pictures below of native, invasive, naturalized, and cultivated plants and trees.

As you may know, I closed my beloved apothecary this past year and am a practicing herbalist.  I am eager to begin making medicine again, but I need to make relationships with land-owners and farmers so that I can harvest plants.  It will take time.

As well, I need to form a relationship with the land here before taking from it.  I think I’ll start making medicine again later on this year or early next year.  We’ll see…

For the time being, I’ll continue to teach and write…well, and grow this very special little plant of mine…my daughter.  Enjoy the plant ponderings below (scroll over images to read the common name if you already don’t know it)!

Here are some great herbal allies that I see on a walk I go on almost every day.  Vervain is a favorite plant of mine.  I used an invasive Brazilian Vervain while in Mississippi where it grew readily and wild (I love when invasives can be used as medicine…a great way to cull them back and, oddly enough, appreciate their presence).  I plan to use Western Vervain in a similar way:  relaxing nervine, lowers blood pressure, bitter digestive, menstrual tension/pain, cold/flu season herb, etc.

Horehound was interesting to find…an invasive that looks like it has naturalized quite well.  It’s commonly used to expectorate lodged, hardened phlegm in the lungs…a common herb used in lozenges (and cough syrups).

Violets can be used similarly anywhere you find them, a gentle lymphagogue with an affinity for the breast tissue.  Generally, the leaves make a moistening and rejuvenating spring tonic (fresh leaves, brewed as a tea or infusion).

It was great to see plenty of wild oats.  I use the green, fresh seed heads (see pic) to make a restorative preparation for a person with a worn-out nervous system.  Milky oats are great to nourish the nerves and buffer from further stress damage.  Read more about milky oats here.

And then, there’s the amazing fruit and nut crops adorning the landscape.  If it’s not fruiting right now, it is preparing to…  Even with the drought conditions in this area right now, the trees still offer up their bounty.  Amazing.

I’ve been seeing a lot of fruit on the ground, as well.  This reminds me of my years in the mountains of western NC where there were acres and acres of abandoned, old apple trees, folded in forgotten hollers, with tasty apples lying all around them on the ground.  We have yet create an elegant and effective system of getting food to people and giving people time in their life to prepare food.

Supermarkets make you feel there is a limited supply of food.  There is not.  Check out the documentary Dive! if you haven’t seen it.

12 thoughts on “Settling Into My New Bioregion (Coastal California)

  1. The valley oak is not damaged by sudden oak death syndrome. That one looks more like it is having difficulty with oak root rot, which is quite common in both the valley oak and the coast live oak, as well as other oaks. There are not many trees that are not susceptible to it, although valley oaks can live with it for decades or centuries. Sudden oak death syndrome kills coast live oaks and tan oaks very suddenly.

    • Thanks for clarifying Tony… With oak root rot, do the limbs turn a blackish color and fall off? That’s what I see a lot around here and I thought it was sudden oak death. I’ll correct that in my blog post…

      • That can be caused by a few diseases, including oak root rot. However, if you see it in an ash or camphor, it is more likely verticillium wilt. Camphor has those distinctively green stems that turn so distinctively black. When oak stems turn black, they do not contrast as much. The just turn darker gray and eventualy decay.

  2. I am so glad for you and your family.
    Please note that California has at least 3 wild species of rose and they grow all over the state. I hope you find some serendipitously.
    Please, also, remember the first two commandments are to make babies, and, eat your herbs. First chapter, first page.
    You have to grow some to eat some.
    Ha, ha!

    • Well, we are one and done in terms of babies (smile). However, the at your herbs part is something practiced regularly…

  3. Yes bioregions would be a much better way to make ‘countries’ than the forced lines of the imperialist powers. Great pictures.

  4. So happy for your Lindsey! I am glad all is working out for you just as it should. I miss having you here to get my “fix” from!! 😉

    • Aw, great to hear from you Carrie! Yes…one step at a time… We are staying with friends in Ojai until we find a rental in SB…so we’re not fully settled in yet…

  5. Lindsay! I’ve been meaning to contact you for like a year or more! Every time I start to write or call something comes up. Robin Whitfield gave me Borys’ number, but I feel like I would be bothering you guys by calling. I wanted to tell you that Seleigh is pregnant and she we’ll be having a little girl on June 21! Solstice! I’m trying to cram as much info in as possible. Do you have any reference or books or anything that is absolutely essential in your opinion? You can feel free to call me if you would like at 662-643-3452. I hope to hear from you soon and I hope that Borys and Zoe are doing great! Blessing to you, Ethan

    Sent from my iPhone


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