Scientific name: Arctostaphylos rudis
Plant type: Evergreen shrub
Environment: Full sun, well-drained, sandy soil
Bloom: Clusters of urn shaped white to pink flowers
Uses: Scree or foundation planting
California Native Garden – 31C, 33B, 35A, 36A
The sand mesa manzanita (Arctostaphylos rudis Jeps. & Wiesl.) is a large shrub endemic to California. Arctostaphylos rudis has a limited range within California, only occurring in sandy soils in the maritime chaparral of southern San Louis Obispo County and northern Santa Barbara County.
The maritime chaparral habitat is found between the central and northern California coast. It is dominated by manzanita (Arctostaphylos) and Ceanothus and, given its location, is affected by coastal fog and higher humidity. This is in addition to the warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters typical of California’s Mediterranean climate. One significant stand of this habitat is found on the Burton Mesa Ecological Reserve in Santa Barbara County, where A. rudis can be found. Some of the individuals of Arctostaphylos rudis in the Garden were collected from the wild in both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties.
The California Native Plant Society has determined that the sand mesa manzanita is rare or endangered and anywhere from 20% to 80% of natural occurrences of the species are threatened. This threat is largely due to human activity including oil extraction, road work, and agricultural work. Though statistics like this can be alarming, it also reinforces the importance of conservation and the work of botanical gardens and arboreta in the goal of protecting and maintaining global biodiversity.
The sand mesa manzanita is a large, evergreen shrub and can grow up to 7 ft tall and about as wide. Another common name for the sand mesa manzanita is shagbark manzanita. The old stem bark remains on the plant and becomes shredded, giving the stems a shaggy appearance. Like most manzanitas, A. rudis has small urn shaped white to pink flowers, and in the Bay Area typically beings to flower in November. Given its native habitat, the sand mesa manzanita does best in well drained, sandy soils in full sun.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS: Text by Victoria Stewart. Photos by Saxon Holt and Victoria Stewart.