Research at SBBG

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is dedicated to the goal of "securing the conservation of California's native plants."

To this end, our research programs create new understandings and encourage the dissemination of knowledge of our native flora in support of assuring its future.

Inventory and monitoring programs are the basis of understanding threats to California’s native flora.  The Garden’s monitoring programs began in the 1950s when C. F. (Clif) Smith and E. R. (Jim) Blakley conducted inventories and provided information on endangered plants of the Central Coast Region and the California Channel Islands.  More recently, our efforts have included surveys and monitoring on San Clemente and San Nicolas islands.  In El Centro, our surveys recorded the exact location of the only population of sand food (Pholisma sonorae) on Naval Air Facility El Centro. 

Rare Plant Monitoring and Research

Improved ecological understanding of threatened species is often required to establish successful recovery programs.

image of Hoffmann's rock cress, Santa Cruz Island, photo by Dieter Wilkenimage of Chlorogalum purpureum var. purpureum, photo by Dieter WilkenGarden research programs have determined life history parameters and ecological requirements of several species, including Ventura marsh milk vetch (Astragalus pycnostachyus var. lanosissimus), purple amole (Chlorogalum purpureum var. purpureum), slender Pentachaeta (Pentachaeta exilis var. aeolica), Santa Cruz Island live forever (Dudleya nesiotica), Santa Cruz Island bush mallow (Malacothamnus fasciculatus var. nesioticus), and Hoffmann’s rock cress (Arabis hofmannii).

image of Malacothamnus clementinus, San Clemente Island, photo by Tricia Wardlawimage of Castilleja grisea, San Clemente Island, photo by Tricia WardlawLong-term population monitoring protocols have been established for San Clemente Island bush mallow (Malacothamnus clementinus) and San Clemente Island indian paintbrush (Castilleja grisea) as part of an effort to determine conservation status of these federally listed species.

Learn more about SBBG's rare plant recovery efforts

Learn more about SBBG's pollinator diversity research

The Garden’s herbarium houses over 150,000 specimens of California native taxa, including vascular plants, mosses, and lichens.  In recent years, over 80 plant systematists from around the world have consulted the Garden’s collections in support of their work.  Additionally, these collections have supported conservation efforts related to several threatened taxa.  For instance, SBBG specimens of the Vandenberg monkeyflower (Mimulus fremontii var. vandenbergensis) have enabled the US Fish and Wildlife Service to determine the original distribution of the species in Santa Barbara County, which in turn expedited field surveys, and initiated a process of identifying critical habitat for this species.

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden fosters the conservation of California's native plants through our gardens, research and education, and serves as a role model of sustainable practices.