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Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

"Located on 65 acres in the foothills just above the city, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden features more than 1,000 species of native California plants, many of which are rare, illustrating natural plant communities or landscape applications. Walk along a meadow, through a canyon and redwood forest, across a historic dam, and along ridge tops that offer sweeping views of the Channel Islands."
description from Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Vistors Map

Mediterranean climate
Mediterranean Climates Around the World
Mediterranean climates occur between 30 and 45 degrees latitude north and south of the equator. California, the Mediterranean region, and small parts of South Africa, Chile and Australia have Mediterranean climates. Just 2% of the world's land area has these climates with mild, wet winters and warm, dry summers. Plants that are native to these areas have adaptations that enable them to survive the long summer drought.

California's Mediterranean Climate

California's native plants are adapted to a Mediterranean climate. In a Mediterranean climate there is a moderate amount of rain in the winter (generally 10" to 40") followed by about 6 months of warm, dry summer weather. Plants in a Mediterranean climate must be able to survive without rain for half the year.

Many adaptations have evolved. For example, some plants have waxy or leathery leaves which retard the evaporation of moisture. Other plants become dormant, and the arrival or rain in the fall and winter months stimulates these plants to produce new growth and flowers. Even November can look like spring in California.

The northernmost coastal regions of California may receive as much as 80" of rain. However, even there, summers are rainless (though foggy), and so again, special adaptations allow plants to survive the dry period. Fog droplets collect on the upper surfaces of the mostly horizontal leaves of the Coast Redwood. The moisture then drips to the ground and provides additional water.

Desert Garden

Desert garden Desert garden Desert flowers

California desert display
What is a desert?
  • less than 10 inches of rain annually
  • evaporation is much greater than precipitation

3 great North American deserts are found in California

Great Basin Desert

Mojave Desert

Sonoran Desert

  • winter cold
  • winter wet
  • rarely freezes
  • 5-10 inches of precipitation, mostly as winter snow
  • 3-10 inches of precipitation in winter
  • 2-7 inches of precipitation; significant rainfall in summer
  • mostly above 5500 feet, often called the "high desert"
  • mostly above 3000 feet
  • below 3000 feet elevation, often called "low desert"
  • dominated by Great Basin Sagebrush Scrub
  • dominated by Creosote Bush Scrub, and, at higher elevations, Joshua Tree Woodland
  • diverse Sonoran Desert Scrub, with succulents and annuals

Desert garden Desert garden Desert garden

Redwood Section

Redwood section Redwood section

Growing Up and Growing Out
Every year, a redwood tree adds two new layers of wood just under its bark: one in the warm season and the other in the cool season. Together, the two layers form one annual growth ring.

Division of Labor
Look at this redwood cross section. Can you see how the seasonal layers alternate between light and dark? This color difference is a clue that two kinds of wood have different "jobs".

In the warm season, a redwood tree grows rapidly. It forms large cells that, when magnified in cross section, look like wide-diameter pipes. In fact, they are pipes; water and minerals move easily through these spacious, open structures. Warm-season cells make up the light bands you see in this wood.

During the cool season, the tree grows slowly, producing cells that are narrower and very thick-walled. These compact cells lack the space to carry fluids efficiently. Instead, their bulk acts to strengthen the tree. As you can guess, these dense cool-season cells form the dark bands.

Together, these two types of wood allow a redwood tree to grow big and tall. This tree once lived in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park near Big Sur. It lived more than 900 years before dying of natural causes.

The redwood is one of the fastest growing trees in the world.
By age 20, the tree will add several feet to its height each year. A 50-year old redwood can reach a height of 100'. A 200-year old redwood can reach a height between 200 and 350'.

Redwood section Redwood section Redwood section

The Mission Waterworks System

Soon after the establishment of Mission Santa Barbara in 1786, an expanding population resulted in increasing demands for water for domestic and agricultural use, as well as milling and tanning. The severe droughts of 1794 and 1795 prompted creation of a water transport and storage system.

Construction of the Mission Waterworks system was the first major effort to bring an adundant and reliable supply of water to the Santa Barbara community. Utilizing an ingenious design created by Franciscan Padres, Native American laborers from the Barbareño Chumash crafted a water system that incorporated several technologies. Nearby streams with year-round water were chosen to divert water for the waterworks. The first reservoir at the Mission was constructed in 1806, followed by the Mission Dam in 1807 and a second dam in Rattlesnake Canyon in 1808.

Mission Waterworks Mission Dam Mission aqueduct

Mission Dam

  • Mission Dam measures 110 feet across, 23 feet tall on the downstream side, and 18 feet thick.

  • The Padres selected stable, protruding sandstone bedrock for placement of the dam. A look at the surrounding slopes gives testimony to their wisdom, as most of the canyon walls consist of loose boulders, rocks and soil. The dam has never been damaged in an earthquake.

  • The surface of the dam is covered with fired red clay tiles (ladrillos).

  • A 60-foot by 10-foot masonry extension of the dam to the northwest wass designed to prevent water from cutting too deeply into the hillside at the end of the dam.

  • Water was transported through the dam by means of an internal flume, which is thought to be hidden by the cement intake box installed by the Mission Water Company.

  • Archaeological studies indicate that water probably traveled from the dam to the aqueduct by means of a cobble bridge, which later washed out.
  • The Mission era ended in the 1830s. The waterworks remained in good repair into the 1840s, but had deteriorated by the 1870s.
The Mission Water Company purchased the Santa Barbara Mission water system in 1872. They made several "improvements" that bypassed the aqueduct entirely, including the installation of a cement intake box, filter box, and an 8-inch steel pipe.
  • Water entering the intake box was filtered by a series of wire mesh screens.

  • A pipe transported water from the intake box to the filter box, where sediment was removed.

  • Water then entered the 8-inch pipeline and flowed to the storage reservoir at the Mission.
  • Use of most of the Mission Waterworks system was discontinued after the floods of 1913-14.

  • In 1940, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden acquired the property on which Mission Dam and portions of the aqueduct are located.

Other Garden Sections

There are other sections of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden that are not shown in detail on this website. The following pictures are just a sample of what you can see when you visit.

boulders in stream hillside trail garden

Display garden section wildflowers swaying tree

lily pond wildflowers stream

Santa Barbar Botanic Garden

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is located at 1212 Mission Canyon Road, in Santa Barbara. See map.

Items of Interest...

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