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-dependent 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. The Tijuana Estuary is home for one endangered plant called the Salt Marsh Bird’s Beak (Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. maritimus). It is an annual that grows in the upper marsh of the Tijuana Estuary, one of only 10 locations where the Salt Marsh Bird’s Beak is found. Salt Marsh Bird’s Beak (below) is a hemiparasite, it uses Shoregrass (Distichlis littoralis) and Salt Grass (Distichlis spicata) as a host plant.

Plants of the Reserve can be divided into sections according to habitat:

  • Salt Marsh
  • Coastal Sage Scrub (upland)
  • Martime Succulent Scrub
  • Dunes
  • Riparian

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

More Information

Endangered Species Listing Program or to view the Federal Register of endangered species visit:

Non-Native Plants

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