Introduction to TRNERR Plant Communities

As much as 70% of the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve is made up of wetland area. This Reserve contains a variety of unique habitats, including dune, salt panne, salt marsh, mudflat, brackish pond, riparian, coastal sage scrub, and vernal pool. Unique characteristics distinguish one habitat from another. Changes in elevation of a few inches, the presence or absence of salt water or soil type are variables that determine which plants or animals can live in each distinct habitat. Each habitat maintains its own world of inter-dependant life forms.

In an attempt to protect native vegetation and disappearing habitat, Reserve and Refuge staff along with volunteers constantly battle non-native plants while continuing to plant native ones. These native plants provide vital habitat, nesting area and food for native animals, which is desperately needed in Southern California where over 90% of its coastal wetland habitat has been lost to development.

Many people are unaware that plants can be on the endangered species list too. In 1977, the first plant species were listed as endangered – San Clemente Island Indian paintbrush, San Clemente Island larkspur, San Clemente Island broom and San Clemente Island bush-mallow. The Tijuana Estuary is home for one endangered plant called the Salt Marsh Bird’s Beak (Cordylanthus maritimus). It is an annual that grows in the upper marsh and the Tijuana Estuary is one of only 10 locations where the Salt Marsh Bird’s Beak is found. Salt Marsh Bird’s Beak (below) uses Shoregrass (Monanthochloe littoralis) as a host plant.


Plants of the Tijuana River NERR can be divided into sections according to habitat:

  • Salt Marsh
  • Upland
  • Cacti and Succulents
  • Beaches and Dunes
  • Riparian

The plants are listed by their common name, in English and Spanish, and their scientific name.

For more information on the Endangered Species Listing Program or to view the Federal Register of endangered species visit:

Non-Native Plants

  • Why are invasive non-native plants so problamatic?
  • Monthly Community Stewardship Events
  • Native Plant Propagation
  • Invasive plant removal
  • Sources and contacts for native plants and seeds

Learn More: