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Native Plant Garden Restoration

A partnership with the San Diego Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, this garden features California native plants that were essential to the life of the Kumeyaay people, and in general, California Indians residing in and around the historic village of Kosii (Cosoy) located on the south and east bank of the San Diego River. 

The project is located at the park's northwest entrance, adjacent to the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park's McCoy House Interpretive Center, and the site of a future restoration of the Machado-Smith adobe - between Taylor St on the north, Congress St/Garden St. on the west and Calhoun St. on the east.  This area  included the historic San Diego River and portions of its south and east bank. 

The Project will add more than 285 native plants plus seeds and bulbs from 25 new species to the existing stock of approximately 50 native plants from about 15 species.  The new plants have been chosen in consultation with Kumeyaay and Luiseno ethnobotanists, researched in materials provided by Mission Trails Regional Park, the San Diego Natural History Museum, Museum of Man, and the San Diego Historical Society, and in consultation with State Parks’ resource ecologist, historian, archaeologist, interpretation and education manger, landscape architect, landscape maintenance technician.  

The plantings along Taylor St. and Congress Ave. will include those that research show were present along the historic San Diego River—including tule (rush), cattail, willow, cottonwood, sycamore, juncus, rose, wild grape, artemesia, and others.  Of great importance to California Indians of San Diego, these plants were used for food, shelter and clothing, tools, medicine and ceremonies.

The location of the historic San Diego River south bank will be marked with an inlay of cobble and colored cement, inscribed , “1780 San Diego River Edge” or something similar, to draw attention to the historic river course.  This inlay will cross a heavily trafficked path linking Taylor St. and the Old Town Transit Center with the State Historic Park's McCoy House Interpretive Center. 

The Project will include, in its third phase, interpretive information including signs, plant identification brochures (Kumeyaay, Spanish, English and Latin names as well as California Indian uses), other brochures, elementary and high-school, community and tribal programming and related elements.

Objectives of the project include:

1.  To describe the way of life, particularly the use of native plants along the San Diego River and in the village of Kosii (Cosoy) prior to Spanish, Mexican and American colonization, as well as during each successive historic period, including California Indian life and use of plants, along the river, today.
2.  To identify key native plants used by California Indians.  Show how these plants remain an integral part of San Diego’s natural landscape, and can be used in urban landscape, private and public.  Water conservation, fire resistance, erosion control, wildlife habitat and other environmental benefits of using native plants will be discussed along with the role of the California Native Plant Society in conservation and scientific study.
3.  To bring to life the original relationship of the San Diego River and early San Diego and describe the importance of the San Diego River to California Indians, subsequent early San Diego residents, and today’s community.

Further information and images available on the California Native Plant Society site.