Following the Guiton Trail

Native Plant Garden, Pismo Beach Park, Oceano, Coastal Shrub, Photo by Kathy Vilim

After leaving the Dunes, my head still full of endless drifts of sand and the sound of waves pounding relentlessly, I yearned for a place with more plant life to explore.  Less than a mile away, I found the perfect spot:  Pismo Beach State Park, Oceano Campground, home to a nature center with an Interpretive Native Plant Walk as mentioned in my last post. Here I was able to walk on garden paths that wound their way through plantings of natives from all over San Luis Obispo County.

Pismo State Beach, Oceano, Trails around the Lagoon, photo by Kathy Vilim

Whenever I travel to a new place, I like to look at the plants that grow there and imagine: What would I plant if I had a garden here? In this case, what I would plant in my Central Coast garden would be determined by the ecosystem my garden was in.  There are five different ecosystems in this Central Coast area: Bare Dunes, Woody Scrub of Chaparral, Coastal Soft Scrub, Riparian, & Woodland.  The walk-through garden area contained specimens from each of these regions. The garden volunteers here made sure to separate the plants into regions, and to label them…  very helpful to the travelling native gardener. At the entrance is a map displaying the gardens with a list of the plants that can be found throughout the park. Benches are placed such that you can sit and enjoy the bees, butterflies & blooms .. or watch the ducks in the Lagoon.

The Oceano campground is unique in that not only is it adjacent to the Dunes on the west, but a freshwater lagoon runs through it on its east end, as well.

The Riparian Ecosystem includes plants growing close to water such as the Arroyo Willow bushes.  Follow the one mile Guiton Trail around the lagoon. Here ducks can be found and many other birds that overwinter here. The Guiton Trail is a pleasant walk through a willow woodland which local birders know as a great place to find migrating warblers in the fall, as well as many year round resident species.

Freshwater Lagoon, Riparian Ecosystem, Pismo State Beach, Oceano, Photo by Kathy Vilim

The Dune Ecosystem: A walk along the lovely Grand Dune Trail in the park’s Dune Interpretive Garden will give native gardeners a chance to see some of these plants in their native setting. Shorebirds also can be observed as they come to forage along the beaches during the winter. One of them is the snowy plover, which nests along the shores here where they are protected.

Coastal Scrub and Chaparral Ecosystems: Many of the plants I photographed were in these two ecosystems. Here are some of the photos:

Coastal Sagewort, Artemesia pycnocephala, Pismo Beach, Photo by Kathy Vilim,

Mock Heather, Ericameria ericoides, Pismo Beach, Coastal Sage Scrub, Tolerates Salt & Sandy Soil, Photo by Kathy Vilim

Coast Silk Tassel, Garrya Eliptica, Pismo Beach, Photo by Kathy Vilim

The Pismo Beach State Park, Oceano is also close to the Monarch Grove, where many West Coast Monarchs overwinter.  I was lucky to photograph some of the monarchs right from my campsite. Here they are enjoying the pink flowers of (a non-native) Wild Radish. Instantly, I knew what I would HAVE to plant if I lived near this place:  I would plant nectar-rich plants for the overwintering Monarchs!  Even though the tall  groves of Eucalyptus trees provide good protection in the winter, food is still scarce as habitat dwindles.  Some suggestions I got from a local native plant nursery for butterfly gardens were: Asclepias fascicularis, Erigon glaucus, Erigon foliosus blochmasihe, Aster chilensis, and Coast Goldenrod, Solidago Confinis.

Monarch butterfly enjoys flowers on Wild Radish, Pismo Beach, Photo by Kathy Vilim


Resources for Central Coast Native Gardeners:

Cal Native Plant Society of San Luis Obispo –– Good source of information for the Central Coast Native Gardener. Lots of activities and a chance to meet other native gardeners!Resources for the Central Coast native gardener incl:

San Louis Obispo Botanical Gardens – Devoted to the display and study of the plants and ecosystems of the world’s five Mediterranean climate zones. Natives can be viewed in the preview garden for free every day.  Natives are sold on Saturday Garden Days. 3450 Dairy Creek Road  San Luis Obispo, CA 93405 (805) 541-1400

Las Pilitas Nursery, – Informative website and extensive native plant nursery. Visit Santa Margarita store or shop on-line.

Native Sons Nursery, –  Good website also. They are wholesale only but their stock can be ordered from most nurseries.


Thanks for sharing in my travels across the Central Coast of Golden California~

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  1. says

    I have loved touring with you Kathy. The plant selection in this post is particularly stunning and informative and that lagoon is sure inviting.

    At first I read it as “gLuton” and was excited by a trail that overindulged :-D

    Now I’m just excited because you shared so much of it’s beauty with us.
    Loret T. Setters recently posted..Army Lives!


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