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THE REAL DIRT ON: Calscape's Dennis Mudd

Dennis Mudd, creator of Calscape.

By Susan Krzywicki.

Interested in native plants? Calscape, created by Dennis Mudd, is an online resource you won't want to miss. The California Native Plant Society (CNPS) has been working in partnership with Dennis Mudd, creator of Calscape, to bring this outstanding resource to the attention of more gardeners. The unique aspect of what Dennis has created is the site's ease of use: just type in your address and find out what native plants grow there. Verified sightings by a host of botanists and citizen scientists have been combed through and organized. Dennis and his organization went further, though: he has layered information about plants’ use in gardens with information about size, sun/shade requirements, and even where to buy plants in local nurseries or online. The photos are large and clear. Even better—you can download your choices into spreadsheets for shopping or to use as inventory lists.

From Music to Native Plants and Smart Food

This is not Dennis’s first entrepreneurial venture. He founded MusicMatch, Slacker Radio, and most recently the Smart Food Foundation, which provides whole foods and nutrition education to 3500 low income families in San Diego every month. What prompted his horticulture adventure was buying a home in Poway twelve years ago. He began with conventional landscaping, but wanted to capture the native surroundings that he and his wife, Pam, enjoyed on their bike rides and runs through the hills. Connecting the natural surroundings near his home and a passion for healthy living to his garden, he started working with native plants.

Local Local

But even this refinement was not enough for the driven, passionate visionary. “In a state as biologically and geologically diverse as California, locality matters. What grows in the loamy soil of the Sacramento River Delta is bound to be vastly different than the arid hillsides of Southern California.” In order to satisfy his own curiosity, Dennis started to catalog information. With the help of CNPS, the Jepson Herbarium at UC Berkeley's Consortium of California Herbaria, and several talented programmers, he created a database and website that is a fun and powerful planning tool designed to help Californians restore nature one garden at a time. The site now describes and maps the natural range of early 7000 California native plants. Maps are based on more than two million field observations made by members of the Consortium of California Herbaria.

Calscape provides users with location-appropriate native plant options.

This tool is for home gardeners and professionals alike. You can explore which plants are native to where you live. Try using Calscape today: type in your address and see what pops up. How many trees are native to your site? Scroll to the bottom of the screen and notice some extra categories: “Sun” and “Easy to Grow” are just two of the choices to help make planning and maintaining your garden easier. Click on the ”Advanced Search” button at the very bottom left corner. You can search for several categories, such as “Bank Stabilization” or “Hummingbird Gardens.” Then, see which nurseries carry your choices, and get tips for growing and cultivation.

Dennis is a committed futurist looking for ways to help the planet, and helping us help ourselves to optimal health and vitality. His efforts have given us a great tool to help mitigate, and hopefully one day reverse, the loss of California’s natural habitat due to development.

Susan Krzywicki is a native plant landscape designer in San Diego. She has been the first Horticulture Program Director for the California Native Plant Society, as well as chair of the San Diego Surfrider Foundation Ocean Friendly Gardens Committee and is on the board of San Diego Canyonlands.

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