Robert J. Gustafson, 1981
Robert J. van de Hoek, 2004

A Report from the
Natural History Museum, Los Angeles County
900 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90007


Ballona Institute
322 Culver Boulevard, Suite 317
Playa del Rey, California 90293

The vegetation of the Ballona wetlands has been carefully mapped and discussed in previous reports (Envicom, Army Corps of Engineers, and UCLA). Apart from the plant species list prepared by Envicom and a partial list by Judith Clark for the UCLA report, an actual plant inventory had not been thoroughly undertaken with voucher specimens deposited into a credited institution. The present investigator is a taxonomist, not an ecologist, and it has been his primary purpose to collate a list of plant species over a one-year period beginning in July 1980 through August 1981. About 75 to 100 hours were spent walking over the study units on approximately 15 separate field trips. All the plants collected are deposited in the herbarium of the Natural History Museum, Los Angeles County. In addition, each herbarium sheet has a map of the study areas with an indication of the proximate locality where the plant was collected.

Three designated areas have been extensively surveyed over a one-year period and the results have been plotted on three maps (See Figures Bo-1-3 respectively). Because the boundaries between the plant communities are, or have been subject to topography, urban disturbance or soil type, one does not necessarily find a nice gradational pattern between them. The maps (legend adapted from Envicom report) indicate the major grouping of plants within each of the study areas. These maps correspond closely to the overall findings of the Shapiro report.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service defines wetlands as follows: "... land where the water table is at, or near or above the land surface long enough to promote the formation of hydric soils or to support the growth of hydrophytes. In certain types of wetlands, vegetation is lacking and soils are poorly developed or absent as a result of frequent and drastic fluctuations of surface - water levels, wave action, water flow, turbidity or high concentration of salts or other substances in the water or substrate. Such wetlands can be recognized by the presence of surface water or saturated substrate at some time during each year and their location within adjacent to vegetated wetlands or deep - water habitats."

Three parcels of land (designated as Units 1, 2, & 3, see maps) were carefully surveyed by the museum team for over a one - year period. As a result, the breakdown of wetlands within each of these parcels is defined as follows:

Unit 1 [Area B - north of Culver Boulevard]: approximately 72 acres bounded by the Ballona Channel on the [north], Culver Boulevard on the [south], the dune community on the [west], and the Gas Company entrance on the [east].

Unit 2 [Area B - south of Culver Boulevard]: west of the Gas Company road, approximately 55 acres bounded by the bluffs to the south, Culver Boulevard to the [north]; east of the Gas Company road on property which is bounded by the bluffs on the south, Jefferson Boulevard on the north and Lincoln Boulevard on the east are a freshwater marsh 2-3 acres in size just east of the Gas Company facility, and a riparian community about 4 feet on each side of the Centinela Creek drainage ditch along its entire length. In the western part of the occasionally-flooded agricultural area degraded Salicornia is found.

Unit 3 [Area A] is the dredge spoils from the construction of the Marina in 1961 - 1962. This 139-acre parcel contains approximately 62 acres of dry pickle[plant] (transitional) habitat. The presence of Salicornia has been used as an indicator of wetlands, but the existence of Salicornia, by itself, does not indicate conclusively that this area is wetland biologically. Salicornia on this site is poor in quality, especially by comparison to that found in Units 1 [Area B] and Units 2 [Area B] which are subject to tidal flow. The pickle[plant] community of the is more or less confined to the central, lower portions of the fill which contain salt pans. Whether or not hydric soils are present here seems to be a debatable point: the Shapiro report for the Corps maintaining that there are, while the Fruit Growers Laboratory, Inc., findings indicate the exact opposite. Only further analyses will resolve the issue. Other factors that may play a part in the presence of Salicornia on this site are its hydrophytic as well as halophytic nature, the presence of sea water intrusion and capillary action which could provide sufficient moisturee to maintain the community, or a perched water table. It would appear that successional scrub community that is forming on the higher portions of the spoils is slowly advancing, probably because the winter rainfall has been leaching out the salt and washing them into the central depressions over the past 20 years. That the Salicornia persists is certainly an indication of its halophytic nature, although it has never been proved to be an obligate halophyte. Salt flats may be an important aspect of a salt marsh ecosystem, but this is not the case here because the spoils do not contain a salt marsh habitat, and there is no tidal influx. However, the land has value as open space and the opportunity to watch the development of an upland scrub community.

In addition to the wetland areas, there are 15 to 20 acres of occasionally flooded agricultural lands located east of the Gas Company road in Unit 2 [Area B - just west of Lincoln on both sides of Jefferson Boulevard] (see map).

Three designated areas have been extensively surveyed over a one-year period and the results have been plotted on three maps (see Figures Bo-1-3 respectively). Because the boundaries between the plant communities are, or have been subject to topography, urban disturbance or soil type, one does not necessarily find a nice gradational pattern between them. The maps (legend adapted from Envicom report) indicate the major grouping of plants within each of the study areas. These maps correspond closely to the overall findings in the Shapiro report.

I. Estuarine Habitats
1. Pickle[Plant] Saltmarsh (Figure 4)
Pickle[plant] (Salicornia) is the dominant plant of this community. Two species occur at Ballona with S. virginica being the most abundant and found in all three units. S. subterminalis [Arthrocnemum subterminale] is locally common only in Unit 1. Salicornia is the most widespread halophyte in California saltmarshes.

2. Mudflats and Saltflats (Figure 5)
The vegetation of these areas is practically non-existent except for the presence of green algae which becomes abundant during the spring-summer months. Since these areas are slightly lower than the pickle[plant] communities, the salt crusts associated with them undoubtedly have a strong influence in limiting the vegetation. A thin layer of water often persists on these flats depending on the rainfall from the previous winter - spring months.

II. Freshwater Habitats
1. Willow Community (Figure 6)
A unique community of willows (Salix lasiolepis and Salix laevigata), Populus fremontii, Juncus, Carex, and Eleocharis occurs in the southwestern section of Unit 1 [Area B], just [east] of the sand dune community and immediately south and [west] of the Distichlis-Salicornia marsh, a curious association and juxtaposition of plant communities not know elsewhere in the county. Around the periphery of this community are several plants of an introduced Australian [New Zealand] shrub, Myoporum laetum, which appears to be naturalizing. [Aerial photographs taken in successive decades from the 1920s to 2004 show that the willows first appeared in the 1950s, apparently as a result of residential neighbors planting them as documented from interviews with local residents. The willows consequently spread quickly due to freshwater seepage from septics and street runoff from Playa del Rey community (on Vista del Mar), combined with lowering salinity due to ocean cutoff with the late 1930s construction of levees for Ballona Creek. At about the same time in the 1960s and 1970s, a wetland - indicator plant from New Zealand marshes invaded upper wetland - lower dune transition adjacent to the willows. In the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, Mary Thompson vice-president of Friends of Ballona Wetlands, planted many additional willows, ash, sycamore, cottonwood, mule-fat, and sand-bar willow in the dune habitat as feel-good early restoration effort. Many of these planting have established, some failed fortunately, but now we have pseudo-native plants that have invaded much of the sand dune habitat with an ecological cost to our rare dune ecosystem. Genuine restoration is needed to recognize this error of planting the incorrect native plants and to begin all over again by removing the planted riparian trees, which are out-of-place in a coastal sand dune habitat.].

Another type of willow community occurs in Unit 2 [Area B - southeast corner] along the base of the bluffs above or south of Centinela Creek. Here the willows, Salix lasiolepis, grow in close association with castorbean, Ricinus communis, forming rather dense stands. The water supplied to this area largely from urban runoff. [Additional research in the rainy season of late 2004 indicates that the high water table is, in fact, a result of natural rainfall precipitation in conjunction with urban runoff. This willow community is a genuine unique willow forest that an extremely rare raptorial bird, the White-tailed Kite, nested in from 1998 to 2003, when the willows were bulldozed for a man-made retention basin and residential development project began construction with associated disturbance from noise and vehicular activity displaced the White-tailed Kites in the southeatern portion of Area B].

2. Freshwater Marsh (Figure 7)
Along the drainage ditch of Centinela Creek, west of Lincoln Boulevard, a freshwater habitat prevails for most of its length to the Gas Company facility. Here the water becomes increasingly brackish with Salicornia prevailing along the ditch. In addition to introduced weeds like Paspalum, Polygonum, Chenopodium, etc., which comprise about 15% of the freshwater marsh flora, there are several aquatics (Scirpus robustus, S. californicus, S. olneyi, Eleocharis, Sagittaria, Typha, etc.). Ruppia maritima, a submerged aquatic, is relatively common in the more western part of the creek. A large stand of Scirpus olneyi occurs close to the Gas Company facility about 10 yards south of the ditch proper. Typha latlifolia, Urtica holosericea, Eleocharis, Cyperus, and Salix are also to be found here.

III. Terrestrial Habitats
1. Coastal Dune (Figure 8)
Three areas of coastal dune community are found on the study sites. The most extensive is along the southwest boundary of Unit 1 [Area B] where the dominants include Lupinus chamissonis, Erysimum suffrutescens, Camissonia cheiranthifolia, Phacelia ramosissima and Abronia umbellata. Parts of this are being invaded by Carpobrotus. A small strip of land near the southeastern corner of Unit 3 [Area A] also supports a coastal dune vegetation with Croton californicus, Camissonia cheiranthifolia, Eriogonum parvifolium as the most conspicuous elements. Invading this community are Erodium botrys, Bromus rubens, and Chrysanthemum coronarium. This community probably arose subsequent to the building of the flood control channel during the 1930s or it could be a vestige of what was once a more extensive system. Remnants of a coastal dune community occur on the bluffs above Centinela Creeek in Unit 2, now largely colonized by Salix and Ricinus.

2. Coastal Scrub (Figures 9a & b)
The scrub community is is present along the bluffs in the southern part of Unit 2 [Area B] with Haplopappus species, Corethrogyne filaginifolia, Elymus condensatus, Galium angustifolium, and Lotus scoparius as examples of typical plants found here. A successional coastal scrub community appears to be developing on the dredge spoils of Unit 3 [Area A] characterized by the presence of Rhus laurina, Rhus integrifolia, Artemisia californica, Gnaphalium microcephalum, and Ricinus communis. Many weedy annuals are also present, but Chrysanthemum coronarium becomes dominant in the late spring months. This community occupies less than 20% of Unit 3 [Area A] and occurs along the southern boundary of the site just north of the channel.

3. Transitional pickle[plant] and Salt Pan (Figure 10)
During the construction of Marina del Rey in the early 1960s, the dredged earth was dumped into Unit 3 [Area A] considerably altering the composition of the previous vegetation. The central section is salt pans and flats surrounded by Salicornia. Because the pans and flats are lower than the surrounding areas, rainwater is leaching out the salts in elevated portions of the spoils and concentrating them into this central depression. This dry pickleplant habitat is for the most part monotypic, but Frankenia, Gasoul and Polypogon are sometimes associated with it; Salicornia covers approximately 62 acres of the site.

4. Coyote Brush and Pampas Grass (Figure 11)
On the higher elevations in the eastern part of Unit 3 [Area A], a brushy scrub comprised of Baccharis pilularis conssanguinea and Cortaderia atacamensis has become established. Neither of the plants mix to form a single plant community. Baccharis is also dominant in the northwestern section. Smaller herbaceous perennials are also found associated with them, such as Gnaphalium chilense, Malephora crocea, Carpobrotus edulis, Sida leprosa [Malvella leprosa], Centaurea repens and Verbascum virgatum.

5. Agricultural Areas and Weedy Fields (Figure 12)
Because of extensive urban activity and filling and diking of the Ballona wetlands, several areas have become colonized by mostly introduced species, largely weedy in nature, wind-pollinated and annal in growth form. Several grasses... A few ornamentals (such as Phoenix, Eucalyptus, Ceratonia, Acacia) occur scattered throughout the parcels. Some were undoubtedly planted at some time in the past while others are probably adventive.

There were a total of 235 plant species recorded from the primary study sites representing 50 plant families. Of these 235 species, 130 are introduced or naturalized, and 105 indigenous to California. Because of the continued disturbance at Ballona over the years, the weedy components cover approximately 40% of the total land under investigation. Approximately 15% of this figure can be attributed to the spread of Carpobrotus alone which if unchecked will continue to encroach not only on the salt marsh community but in the upland habitats where it is becoming established as well. The dredge spoils, Unit 3, contain a high percentage of introduced weeds (by volume), although a coastal scrub community comprised of primarily native shrubs has established itself. Even though this unit is comparatively new vegetatively speaking, at least 50% of the plant cover represents indigenous species (including the 62 acres of Salicornia). The weedy cover includes primarily annual grasses, composites, mustards and patches of iceplant (Carpobrotus and Malephora).

Unit 1 [Area B - north of Culver Boulevard] is covered by approximately 70% native plants (mostly Salicornia, Frankenia, Distichlis and Atriplex). The weedy elements are confined to disturbed areas, berms, bridal paths,; at least 15% of this parcel is covered in iceplant. Unit 2 [south of Culver Boulevard] west of the Gas Company road is largely Salicornia, although weedier than Unit 1 [Area B-north of Culver Boulevard] and covers about 65% of the property. The rest is largely iceplant and eucalyptus. East of the Gas Company facility the land has largely been given over to agriculture and less than 20% of the parcel contains native plants (including the occasionally flooded areas where Salicornia and Cressa are growing). [Since 1981 when Gustafson observed 20% of the parcel had native plants, this percentage grew to 71% as Salicornia, Cressa, Seaside Heliotrope, and other native plants expanded into the abandoned fields. At about the same time as Gustafson's report, agriculture was completely phased out as Howard Hughes' the concomitant changes in his Summa Corporation began to change management at their Ballona land holdings]. By comparison the Point Mugu salt marsh which was surveyed in 1977 contained 222 species of which 101 were introduced or naturalized. Since Mugu Lagoon contains one of the best preserved salt marshes in Southern California, the weedy elements in this instance contribute little in overall plant cover. Such is not the case of Ballona.

Unit 1 [Area B -north of Culver Boulevard and south of Ballona Creek]
Lycium ferocissimum (Figure 13, erroneously identified as L. halmifolium in some previous reports) is one of the great curiosities at Ballona in Unit 1. This South African saltmarsh shrub (identified by Fuller) consists of perhaps a half dozen plants, some of them apparently quite old. Whether it was planted deliberately or appeared as an adventive from cultivation at some time in the past is not known. This plant does not seem to be currently in cultivation in Southern California, which makes its appearance in the marsh even more surprising. Although it is said to form dense thickets in its native habitats, the plants at Ballona do not appear to be spreading. During the rainy season the shrubs were covered by a dense flush of new leavess but by mid-summer they appeared to be half-dead.

Several cultivated plants are present here, which include Agave attenuata, Crassula argentea, Schinus molle, Ceratonia sliqua, and Chasmanthe aethiopica. Ordinarily, the Schinus and Ceratonia are trees but in the marsh they appear as stunted shrubs. Myoporum laetum, which is reasonably common along the southwestern boundary of the site, appears to be naturalizing and thriving near the borders of the salt marsh. Suaeda californica has been reported from nearly every list of plants at Ballona no matter how incomplete. Interestingly enough, this salt marsh native is sparingly represented at Ballona and is by no means common, confined primarily to the berm below the channel. Bassia hyssopifolia, one of the most abundant weeds, closely resembles Suaeda in its juvenile stages. This plant has either been overlooked or misidentified by past reviewers. In the same vicinity are located shrubs of Malacothamnus fasciculatus and Eriogonum fasciculatum, usually associated with a coastal sage scrub or chaparral community. A small population of hemlock, Conium maculatum, grows in a depression near the base of theh berm. Close by milk thistle, Silybum marianum, and Bassia are the dominant weeds. Jaumea carnosa, a common saltmarsh composite prevalent in other California marshes, is represented by only a few centrally located populations, mostly along the sloughs. [My surveys from 1996 to 2004 show that there is abundance of Jaumea still in the central portion but that it also occurs in Area A's tidal slough adjacent to Fiji Way. Jaumea favors salt marshes with lower salinity.] Monanthochloe littoralis and Juncus acutus, reported by the Army Corps of Engineers as occurring at Balalona, were not found by this investigator. [My field investigations support the Robert Gustafson as I also cannot find these two native plants at Ballona. However, approximately 25 Juncus acutus have been planted on the northside of the Marina harbor in the Ballona Lagoon Marine Preserve in the late 1990s. These plants aree surviving and growing in size as individuals, but there is no reproduction of young plants, and once these planted Juncus die of old-age, there will not be Juncus in Ballona Lagoon. It is clearly evident that this was a landscaping effort rather than restoration in that the consultant biologist was not educated in proper plants to use in Ballona Lagoon. The salinity is too high and the soil is too sandy where they planted the Juncus, so the seeds of these plants will not germinate and grow new plants. If these Juncus were now moved and transplanted in the tidal slough of of Area A along Fiji Way, they would thrive better and new seedling would slowly expand the population in this tidal slough. The soils found at the Fiji Way tidal slough are clay soils and the salinity of the soil is less saline due to the larger freshwater influx that mixes with the salt water in this slough].

Unit 2 [Area B - south of Culver Boulevard and west of Lincoln Boulevard]
A large population of Anemopsis californica is found just south of the Eucalyptus grove growing intermixed with Carpobrotus. .....East of the Gas Company road the land has largely been given over to agricultural use. During the rainy season, occasional flooding occurs throughout the western part of this section (in addition, some ponding occurs near LIncoln Boulevard) with Cotula coronopifolia, Lythrum hyssopifolia, and Spergularia marina becoming dominants (Figures 15 & 16). Some Salicornia, Cressa truxillensis, Atriplex patula hastata, Sida leprosa, Juncus bufonius are also prevalent. ..... The freshwater marsh just east of the Gas Company plant is largely dominated by Scirpus olneyi, which reaches 6' or more in height. Native plants like Heliotropium curassavicum, Scirpus californicus, Scirpus robustus, Aster exilis, Typha domingensis, etc., are frequent along the ditch. In the southeastern section of Unit 2 just west of Lincoln Boulevard are several Canary Island Palms, Phoenix canariensis. Near the palms, a dense stand of willows persists intermixed with Oenothera hookeri grisea and Conium maculatum. The size and vigor of the willow community would seem to indicate the presence of subsurface water. Gnaphalium, Digitaria, Amaranthus, and Ricinus are the more common weedy elements. Several acres of wheat, Triticum vulgare, were planted in the agricultural areas in spring. During the summer this land has been largely given over to lima bean culture (Phaseolus limensis). Sporadic plants of watermelon, Citrullus lanatus, were found throughout the agricultural fields indicating that perhaps this has been grown as a crop plant at some time in the past.

Unit 3 [Area A - north of Ballona Creek and west of Lincoln Boulevard]
The dredge spoils of Unit 3 [Area A] present a curious amalgam of plant species occupying a variety of habitats. The fill ranges from 10-16' above mean high tide. The most interesting assemblage of native plants in this area occur along the small strip of sand dune toward the southeast corner of the property. Two plants of Lupinus excubitus hallii are found here and associated with Croton californicus, Camissonia cheiranthifolia and a few plants of Eriogonum parvifolium. ... Along the drainage ditch immediately south of Fiji Way, Salicornia virginica occurs along with several weeds.

Robert J. Gustafson, 1981
Robert J. van de Hoek, 2005
The Plant Species List was originally compiled by Robert J. Gustafson (1981) and is now an important historical scientific document, but it has been revised and annotated by Robert J. van de Hoek (2005). Four of the habitat categories need a slightly revised explanation and elaboration for this 2005 edition: (1. Weedy Field, 2. Dredge Spoil, 3. Bluffs, and 4. Freshwater Marsh). The four definitions are largely still those of Robert J. Gustafson with text within brackets being annotations by Robert J. van de Hoek:
1. "WF [Weedy Field] - Plants found in weedy situations, agricultural land, along berms or elevated areas in the salt marsh, along roadsides bordering the area, open fields, etc. (This category refers to Units 1 [Area B] and Unit 2 [Area B] only)."
2. "DS [Dredge Spoil] - Plants found in the dredge spoils area north of the [Ballona Creek] channel only (Unit 3 [Area A]).
3. "B [Bluffs] - Plants found growing near the base of the bluffs along the southern boundaries of Unit 2 [Area B] (the bluffs proper were not surveyed for this report).
4. FW [Freshwater Marsh] - Plants growing in freshwater marsh situations. [In 2002, "Friends" and Playa Vista developers altered the natural westerly flow of the freshwater from Centinela Creek at the base of the bluffs to the northerly flow up to Jefferson Boulevard where they established a high-elevation (10 feet) berm atop Salicornia habitat and dredged out within the new berm Salicornia habitat that was a home to unique wildlife including many California Kingsnake individuals, so as to create an artificial man-made freshwater marsh. Interestingly, however, the soils below the dredging are salt-laden and concomitant to this factor, some high tide waters enter via the outlet channel from Ballona Creek, which has maintained the salinity and pH at a level that qualifies it as slightly brackish salt-marsh estuary. All the plant indicators of estuarine conditions are colonizing amidst the "Friends/Playa Vista" freshwater plant-landscaping. For purposes of historical integrity of this 1981 (2005 revised) report, the pseudo-freshwater-retention basin is not included here. Therefore, the Freshwater Marsh designation by Robert Gustafson in 1981 remains current and historically accurate in the present Gustafson/van de Hoek report and again, refers only to the original freshwater marsh that Gustafson reported upon, that is still extant, in part, but is starved by much of the freshwater aspect that it once had from 1938 to 1981 to 2002].

A1. Agave attenuata ... Weedy Field. [Only two plants in 2004; Ballona Institute removed one.]

N1. Sagittaria calycina ... Freshwater Marsh.

N2. Amaranthus californicus ... Weedy Field.

N3. Rhus integrifolia ... Dredge Spoil [now planted by "Friends" in Area B on a Seaside Heliotrope populations.
N4. Rhus laurina ... Dredge Spoil, Bluffs, [rare Slender Salamander is found in the leaf litter under this shrub in Area A at edge of bicycle path on north side of Ballona Creek levee].

N5. Ambrosia chamissonis ... Coastal Dune [Area B]; Dredge Spoils [Area C coastal dune]
N6. Haplopappus [Ericamerica] ericoides ... Coastal Dune [extremely rare-just 6 bushes]
N7. Grindelia robusta ... Weedy Field [Area B]
N8. Jaumea carnosa ... Salt Marsh [Area B]; Dredge Spoils Area C in tidal slough]

N9. Cryptantha intermedia ... Coastal Dune.
N10. Heliotropium curassavicum ... Salt Marsh, Freshwater Marsh, Weedy Fields, Dredge Spoils [Area A].

N ... Erysimum [insulare] suffrutescens ... Native ... Coastal Dune
N ... Lepidium virginicum pubescens ... Native ... Weedy fields

N ... Spergularia marcrotheca ... Native ... Saltmarsh.
N ... Spergularia marina ... Native ... Saltmarsh, Freshwater Marsh, Weedy Field.

N ... Atriplex californica ... Native ... Salt Marh
N ... Atriplex lentiformis breweri ... Native ... Salt Marsh
N ... Atriplex patula hastata ... Native ... Salt Marsh
N ... Salicornia virginica ... Native ... Salt Marsh, Dredge Spoil
N ... Arthrocnemum (Salicornia) subterminale ... Native ... Salt Marsh
N ... Suaeda californica ... Native ... Salt Marsh
N ... Suaeda depressa erecta ... Native ... Salt Marsh

Calystegia macrostegia cyclostegia ... Native ... Dredge Spoils [Area A]
Cuscuta californica ... Native ... Coastal Dune
Cuscuta campestris ... Native ... Weedy Field

Crassula arentea ... Alien ... Weedy Field
Crassula erecta ... Native ... Salt Marsh, Weedy Field, Dredge Spoil

A ... Citrullus lanatus ... Weedy Field
N ... Cucurbita foetidissima ... Native ... Weedy Field, Dredge Spoil

N ... Carex praegracilis... Native ...Freshwater Marsh.
N ... Cyperus exculentus ... Native ... Freshwater Marsh.
N ... Eleocharis macrostachya ... Native ... Freshwater Marsh.
N ... Eleocharis montevidensis ... Native ... Freshwater Marsh.
N ... Scirpus californicus ... Native ... Freshwater Marsh.
N ... Scirpus olneyi ... Native ... Freshwater Marsh.
N ... Scirpus robustus ... Native ... Freshwater Marsh.

N ... Croton californicus ... Coastal Dune, Dredge Spoil, [Area C on old Pacific Electric trolley berm].
N ... Euphorbia albomarginata ... Dredge Spoil
A ... Euphorbia peplus ... Weedy Field
N ... Euphorbia polycarpa ... Weedy Field
N ... Euphorbia serpens ... Weedy Field, Dredge Spoil
A ... Euphorbia supina ... Weedy Field
A ... Ricinus communis ... Coastal Dune, Weedy Field, Dredge Spoil, Bluff, [Area C]

A ... Acacia decurrens dealbata ... Dredge Spoil
N ... Lotus purshianus ... Coastal Dune
N ... Lotus scoparius ... Coastal Dune, Weedy Field, Dredge Spoil, [also in Area C]
N ... Lotus strigosus ... Weedy Field
N ... Lupinus bicolor microphyllus ... Weedy Field
N ... Lupinus chamissonis ... Coastal Dune
N ... Lupinus exubitus hallii ... Dredge Spoil, Bluff
N ... Lupinus succulentus ... Weedy Field
A ... Medicago polymorpha ... Weedy Field, Dredge Spoil, Bluff
A ... Melilotus albus ... Salt Marsh, Weedy Field, Dredge Spoil, Bluff
A ... Melilotus indicus ... Weedy Field, Bluff
A ... Phaseolus limensis ... Weedy Field

N ... Frankenia salina [Frankenia grandiflora] ... Salt Marsh, Dredge Spoil

A ... Erodium botrys ... Coastal Dune, Dredge Spoil
A ... Erodium cicutarium ... Coastal Dune, Weedy Field, Dredge Spoil, Bluff

Phacelia ramosissima var. austrolitoralis ... Native ... Coastal Dune

A ... Chasmanthe aethiopica ... Weedy Field, Dredge Spoil
A ... Iris pseudacorus alba ... Dredge Spoil

N ... Junucs balticus ... Native ... Freshwater Marsh
N ... Juncus bufonius ... Native ...Freshwater Marsh, Weedy Field

A ... Marrubium vulgare ... Weedy Field Dredge Spoil

A ... Lythrum hyssopifolia ... Freshwater Marsh, Weedy Field

N ... Malacothamnus fasciculatus ... Weedy Field
A ... Malva nicaeensis ... Weedy Field
A ... Malva parviflora ... Weedy Field, Dredge Spoil
N ... Malvella (Sida) leprosa ... Weedy Field, Dredge Spoil ... [Area A & B]

A ... Myoporum laetum ... Salt Marsh, Coastal Dune, Weedy Field [Area A & B]

A ... Eucalyptus camaldulensis ... Weed Field [Area B]
A ... Eucalyptus tereticornis ... Weed Field [Area B]
A ... Eucalyptus viminalis ... Weed Field [Area B]

N ... Abronia umbellata ... Coastal Dune [Area B]

A/N ... Fraxinus velutina ... Weed Field [Area B]

N ... Camissonia bistorta ... Native ... Coastal Dune, Bluff [Area B]
N ... Camissonia cheiranthifolia suffrutescens ... Coastal Dune, Dredge Spoil [Area A & B]
N ... Camissonia micrantha ... Native ... Coastal Dune, Weed Field [Area B]
N ... Oenothera hookeri grisea ... Native ... Weed Field, Bluff [Area B]

A ... Oxalis pes-carpae ... Weedy Field, Dredge Spoil

A ... Plantago lanceolata ... Weedy Field, Dredge Spoil
A ... Plantago major ... Weedy Field, Dredge Spoil

A ... Agrostis stolonifera major ... Freshwater Marsh [Area B]
A ... Arundo donax ... Dredge spoils [Area A] ... [Now also in Area B and Area C]
A ... Avena fatua ... Weed Field, Dredge Spoil, Bluff [Area A & B]
A ... Bromus diandrus ... Weed Field, Dredge Spoil, Bluff [Area A & B]
N ... Bromus marginatus Native ... Weed Field [Area B]
A ... Bromus mollis Weed Field, Dredge Spoil [Area A & B]
A ... Bromus rubens ... Coastal Dune, Weed Field, Dredge Spoil, Bluff [Area A & B]
A ... Bromus wildenovii ... Weed Field [Area B]
A ... Cortaderia atacamnesis ... Dredge Spoil [Area A] ... Now in Area B and C]
A ... Cynodon dactylon ... Freshwater Marsh, Coastal Dune, Weed Field, Dredge Spoil, Bluff
N ... Distichlis spicata ... Native ... Salt Marsh [Area A & B]
N ... Festuca megalura ... Native ... Weed Field, Dredge Spoil [Area A & B]
N ... Leptochloa uninervia ... Native ... Freshwater Marsh [Area B]
N ... Melica imperfecta ... Native ... Dredge Spoil [Area A]
A ... Parapholis incurva ... Salt Marsh [Area B]
A ... Pasapalum dilatatum ... Freshwater Marsh, Weed Field, Dredge Spoil [Area A & B]
N ...[Paspalum distichum ... In Ballona Creek at Centinela Storm Channel Delta in Area C]
A ... Polypogon monspeliensis ... Salt Marsh, Freshwater Marsh, Weed Field, Dredge Spoil [Area A & B]
A ...Stenotaphrum secundatum ... Salt Marsh [Area B]

N ... Eriogonum fasciculaltum ... Weedy Field
N ... Eriogonum gracile ... Bluff
N ... Eriogonum parvifolium ... Coastal Dune, Dredge Spoil, Bluffs ... Area C on RR Berm
N ... Polygonum lapathifolium ... Freshwater Marsh
A ...Rumex crispus ... Salt Marsh, Weedy Field, Dredge Spoil
N ... Rumex salicifolius ... Salt Marsh, Freshwater Marsh, Weedy Field, Bluffs

A ... Anagallis arvensis ... Freshwater Marsh, Weedy Field, Dredge Spoil

N ... Clematis ligusticifolia ... Bluff

N ... Galium angustifolium ... Bluff

N ... Ruppia maritima ... Salt Marsh [Area B]; [Dredge Spoils in tidal slough]

A ... Populus fremontii ... Freshwater Marsh [one tree planted by local resident in sand dune]!
A/N ... Salix laevigata ... Freshwater Marsh [All willows at base of bluffs are genuinely native]! [A Willows in sand dune were planted.]
A/N ... Salix lasiolepis ... Freshwater Marsh [All willows at base of bluffs are genuinely native!] [All Willows in sand dune were landscaped by Mary Thompson, deceased vice-president of "Friends," beginning in the 1960s and 1970s and continuing through 1990s to 2001. The willows and the single Frement Cottonwood, which is not sexually reproducing, are not genuinely native, but instead are considered invasive and occupy valuable sand dune habitat].

Anemopsis californica ... Native ... Weedy Field [Area B south of Culver Boulevard]

N ... Ribes malvaceum ... Dredge Spoil

A ... Verbascum virgatum ... Dredge Spoil

A ... Datura meteloides ... Weedy Field [Area B]; Dredge Spoils [Area A]; bluffs
A ... Lycium ferocissimum ... Salt Marsh
A ... Lycopersicum esculentum ... Bluff
A ... Nicotiana glauca ... Weedy Field, Dredge Spoil, Bluff
A ... Solanum douglasii ... Weedy Field, Dredge Spoil, Bluff
A ... Solanum nigrum ... Weedy Field
A ... Solanum sarrachoides ... Coastal Dune

N ... Typha domingensis ... Freshwater Marsh
N ... Typha latifiolia ... Freshwater Marsh

N ... Urtica holoericea ... Freshwater Marsh
A ... Urtica urens ... Coastal Dune, Weedy Field

N ... Verbena lasiostachys ... Dredge spoils [Area A sandy soils]; bluffs [south of Area B]

A ... Tribulus terrestris ... Weedy Field

Plants previoiusly recorded as occurring at Ballona by the Envicom report for Summa but not collectred during the LACM survey of the study sites during the 1980-81 season are listed below. Since the Envicom report covered a much larger area than the three study sites undertaken by the museum, it is quite possible that several of these plants occur on parts of the property not within the purview of this report. Unfortunately no plant material was kept as voucher specimens by the Envicom people.
Haplopappus squarrosus (present on the bluffs, but not in Units 1,2, or 3)
Haplopappus venetus (present on the bluffs, but not in Units 1,2, or 3)
Hoffmanseggia densiflora
Lippia nodiflora
Lotus corniculatus
Lycium halmifolium (a misdetermination for L. ferocissimum)
Salix hindsiana
Sesuvium verrucosum

Plant collected at Ballona prior to 1905 (old herbarium records) no longer occuring on the site.
Amsinckia spectabilis
Chenopodium macrosperumum farinosum
Cuscuta salina
Lasthenia glabrata coulteri

Envicom Corporation. 1979. Ecological Investigation for Playa Vista Master Plan. In Supplemental Information Playa Vista Masterplan presented to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Summa Corporation.

Henrickson, J. 1976. Ecology of Southern California Coastal Salt Marshes. In Plant Communities of Southern California, June Latting, Editor, Special Publication #2, California Native Plant Society.

Pierce, D. 1981. Final Wetlands Maps: Los Cerritos, Ballona. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

(Worthy Goal to Strive for as a Unit of the California State Parks)

Robert J. 'Roy' van de Hoek
Field Biologist & Geographer
December 31, 2004

A little "natural" history, mixed in with politics and a tinge of environmental awareness can sometimes lead to revisionist thinking. We are fortunate for several reasons that Robert Gustafson, a county employee, was chosen to write this report 22 years ago about the Ballona wetlands. First, he provides insight into what the vegetation was like 22 years ago in three ways: (A)Maps; (B)Plant List; (C) narrative text. In addition, since he was biased and directed to include and omit certain statements in his report due to his higher-up superiors, he made some false statements. Lastly, his report gives perspective into how ecological restoration was in its infancy 22 years ago.

It is important to note that Robert Gustafson is a taxonomist and not an ecologist as he states in his own words. Also, he did not record plants collected by previous collectors, such as LeRoy Abrams and Samuel Parish, who both collected plants in the 1880s through 1916 at the Ballona wetlands. Very important to note is that all the plants collected by Robert Gustafson are now at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and no longer are any voucher specimens at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. There are many plants found at Ballona that Robert Gustafson did not find because his study area did not include Area C and Area D. For example, Leymus triticoides is found along Culver Boulevard in Area C. However, this same grass grows in the marshy habitat and electric railroad raised-ground in Area B near the the junction of Jefferson and Culver Boulevard. A few plants that were not found by Robert Gustafson because the survey did not include Area C are on the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) rare species list. These include Camissonia lewisii and Centromadia parryi australis. Robert Gustafson cannot be blamed for not surveying Area C (east of Lincoln Boulevard) because the biological team of investigators had their limits by contract agreement which stated that they would inventory only lands west of Lincoln Boulevard.

Robert Gustafson is to be commended for the excellent voucher specimens which includes a map on each sheet, thereby allowing the researcher to have a grasp of where he found the particular plant in question. It is noted that Gustafson found Heliotropium curassavicum (Seaside Helitrope) and it still does occur there today. This native wetland marsh plant which also occurs in wetland transition areas is fast declining in the Ballona wetlands as several of its former haunts have been bulldozed and filled with buildings and roads of the Playa Vista development. I have had great success at growing it from cutting in the garden, and then transplanting it to the Ballona wetlands, so there is hope for this important wetland native plant indicator species.


I would like to thank County-employed scientist, Robert Gustafson, for writing this report and for his field work on the Ballona vegetation. Let us begin by removing the weedy bushes and then replanting some gorgeous marsh plants such as Seaside Heliotrope, Sea Rosemary, Marsh Jaumea, California Batis, Shore Grass, Salt Marsh Dodder, and Sealite.

Appendix: Gustafson Vouchers at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (RSA)
Fifteen field trips were made to the Ballona wetlands by Robert Gustafson from July (1980) to August (1981), covering a total of 13 months, according to Robert Gustafson's own words in his introduction. Six of these 15 trips are listed here in Table 1, followed by four concluding notes with his quotes. Thus far in this research, it seems that he may have collected approximately 430 plant specimens. Ongoing research at the Rancho Santa Botanic Garden will enlighten us further as to the additional field explorations by Robert Gustafson, but it will also lead to the greater knowedge of the Ballona ecosystem, both from a historical and scientific standpoint. The focus on the important field work of Robert Gustafson, now nearly one-quarter century ago, needs to continue and is important if genuine restoration and recovery is going to be realized. Additionally, other early botanical explorers, including LeRoy Abrams (1899-1903), Samuel Parish (1881 to 1917), Ernest Braunton (1890s to 1902), and others will be important to accomplish genuine restoration and recovery of the Ballona wetlands ecoystem including the upland habitats of coastal prairie (meadows), sand dune, coastal strand, bluff slopes, and terrace bluff tops at the Gas Company (SEMPRA Energy) site. Saving the remaining open spaces within the Venice Canals and Marina del Rey harbor will also be important for genuine ecological restoration and genuine recovery, but also to make the whole system work as a functional ecological reserve and natural preserve with dynamic ecological processes for this unique natural area in a geography of hope.

Table 1. Calendar Dates and Collection Numbers of Plants Collected by Robert Gustafson at Ballona Wetlands.
07-07-1980 ... #1787 (RSA _______)
07-07-1980 ... #1788 (RSA 530235) ... Erysimum insulare suffrutescens ... Unit 1 [Area B].
__ -__ -1980 ... #1789 (RSA _______)

07-09-1980 ... #1809 (RSA _______)
07-09-1980 ... #1810 (RSA 394750) ... Cressa truxillensis ... Unit 3 [Area A].
07-09-1980 ... #1811 (RSA _______)

08-29-1980 ... #1880 (RSA _______)
08-29-1980 ... #1881 (RSA 016395) ... Ambrosia chamissonis ... Unit 3 [Area A].
08-29-1980 ... #1882 (RSA _______)

02-04-1981 ... #2096 (RSA _______)
02-04-1981 ... #2097 (RSA 530236) ... Erysimum insulare suffrutescens ... Unit 1.
02-04-1981 ... #2098 (RSA _______)

04-14-1981 ... #2175 (RSA _______)
04-14-1981 ... #2176 (RSA 416937) ... Ambrosia chamissonis ... Unit 1.
04-14-1981 ... #2177 (RSA _______)

05-27-1981 ... #2228 (RSA _______)
05-27-1981 ... #2229 (RSA 503873) ... Anemopsis californica ... Unit 1.
05-27-1981 ... #2230 (RSA _______)

Note 1. Regarding A. chamissonis Robert Gustafson wrote the following quote on the voucher specimen #1881: "Confined to a small relict strip of coastal strand near junction of Lincoln Boulevard and Ballona Creek channel. Regarding voucher #2176, he wrote: "coastal dune community, Area 1 [Area B] at southern end of Area 1 [Area A]."

Note 2. Regarding Anemopsis californica Robert Gustafson wrote the following quote: "Near the Carpobrotus covered bluff at southwest end of Area 2." Area 2 is synonomis with Area B-south of Culver Boulevard.

Note 3. Regarding Cressa truxillensis Robert Gustafson wrote the following geographical information: "Ballona wetlands, Area 3. Low, many branched perennial common throughout all three areas.

Note 4: Regarding E. insulare suffrutescens, Robert Gustafson collected two specimens in different seasons, one in winter (February) and another in summer (July). Interestingly, the February specimen shows only flowers with no fruits, whereas the July specimen shows fruits only but no flowers. Obviously, Robert Gustafson was focusing his two collections for taxonomy and systematics so that both fruits and flowers could be used by future botanical scientists. However, an ecologist can also utilize his two specimens to uncover phenology, behavior, climatology, soils, biogeography, and other information. The voucher specimen #1788, collected on July 7, 1980, was given the following geographical distribution by Robert Gustafson on the specimen sheet: "Present in very small numbers on a strip of Area 1 coastal strand along western boundary of Area 1." From this narrative statement we can ascertain that he believed that the plant was rare in the sandy soils of Area B's western margin. We can compare this statement to another statement on voucher specimen #2097, collected February 4, 1981, as follows: "Relatively common in a small strip of coastal strand in southwestern section of Area 1." In the second (1981) season versus the 1980 season, the Suffrutescent Ballona Wallflower was relatively more common according to Robert Gustafson. So we have two seasons of information. It might be good to check the rainfall patterns for 1979 to 1981 to see if this is partly an explanation for the different phenology and ecological behavior, but it should also be noted that the rare Ballona Wallflower is a herbaceous perennial Looking at the specimens I noted that the 1980 (#1788) specimen was a 28" high (over 2 feet tall) and as only a single stalk with fruits only (no flowers). The 1981 (#2097) specimen was 13" high (about 1 foot tall), and is two stalks with flowers only (no fruits). In further analysis later, I will compare other collectors specimens from the Ballona sand dunes and El Segundo Sand Dunes. Already I am developing new insights into the ecology of this beautiful wallflower. I have been studying this plant at Ballona with field notes and photographs for over 20 years. It is my conclusion that the Friends of Ballona Wetlands and Playa Vista had slowly been destroying this rare plant population by constructing a trail through the heart of the population, allowing dogs to trample the Ballona Wallflower by their ineffective dog control, allowing children and adults to trample plants when off-trail doing iceplant removal and planting of incorrect native plants. And now, by the Friends of Ballona's very own restoration specialists, with a flawed notion that they want to remove some of the Dune Lupine because it is "too dense," but the Dune Wallflower is found growing luxuriantly in dense stands of Dune Lupine. Now that the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) owns this sand dune with the Dune Wallfower rather than the Friends of Ballona's friendly associate (Playa Vista Development), you might think that management has changed, but DFG has continued to allow the "Friends" masses of volunteers to ruin the dunes. Even though DFG has botanists there is no protection given to the Ballona Wallflower. Given that Robert Gustafson already noted its rarity 23 years ago and that the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) has this plant on its watchlist as a rare plant, it makes no sense to allow the "Friends" to be present in the dunes where the Ballona Wallfower is barely hanging on to survival, as it quickly slides toward extinction! I am called a crackpot scientist by the "Friends" and their Playa Vista "friendly developers" but they are acting as crackpot gamblers as they play roulette with this very rare California native plant.