Plants Along Highways

traveler_oneAugust 23, 2007

Hello. When driving east of San Francisco in late June, I noticed most highways were had large red, pink, and white flowering bushes in the center median. Does anyone know what these plants are?

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bahia(SF Bay Area)


    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 1:47AM
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Besides Ice Plant for Ground Cover, those pink shrubs, Oleanders, are Cal Trans favorite Highway decorum.

Oleanders are ubiquitous in California.

You'd think someone in Cal Trans could use a little imagination and plant a palm tree or something!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 1:49AM
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buddyben(z9 CA/Sunset 20)

I like the oleanders. Dependable. Low maintenance. Tolerates smog and pollution.
You hit a pet peeve of mine regarding palm trees! I am sick of palm trees. Every new house or apartment around here plants nothing but palm trees. Commercial projects love them because they are so skinny that they don't interfere with the buildings, yet fulfill the requirement for landscaping. Palm trees offer no shade, they harbor rodents, and most of them are not even native to this state.
My favorite (not) thing is the way people around here are planting this palm tree bush thing smack in the middle of their lawns. No other landscaping really, just the palm tree bush in the middle of the lawn. Very odd. Very ugly. It is like they don't know what to do with a lawn.
Just my opinion!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 4:47AM
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One would think Cal Trans would be planting more natives. Rather than plumbago, why not a ceaonthus? (Gets down from soapbox.)

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 11:21AM
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We had a lot of the oleanders die, or just look terrible, along I-5 up here in the "north", probably from the glassy-winged sharpshooter spreading that disease (Pierce's disease?). I noticed there seem to be more bottlebrushes now, which I also like.


    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 11:40AM
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In the Bay Area we get ceanothus and redbuds on some medians, which are nice flowering native plants. We get oleander too though. It really is a perfect plant for the situation.
With the state budget imbroglio, I don't think CalTrans is getting any money to vary or upgrade the landscaping anytime soon.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 12:19PM
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I remember about 5 or 6 years ago when they finished a freeway extension in the SanJose Area running from Cupertino down toward the 101 going South, they really did a fine job of landscaping with flowers, creating floral designs, etc.

Problem was that all the rubber neckers and lookie lous raised the accident rate so high that the freeway was about to become useless and they had to tear all the flowers out.

I like the native plant idea though.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 1:19PM
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ninjabut(USDA z 8,CA)

Oleander is very poisonous!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 8:25PM
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caavonldy(8/9 N CA)

The Oleanders down the middle of I5 are bushy enough to help keep the headlights from approching cars from shining in our eyes when we drive the freeway at night. They seem to thrive on neglect plus they are pretty. It's over 100 up here right now and the Oleanders arn't wilting. That's one tough bush!
Donna in hot Orland

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 9:54PM
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CA Kate

The Oleanders down the center of 99 are quite attractive........ until someone decides to "prune" them (read hack them up with some machine,) then they look cr@ppy. Poor things.

Around here they seem to be using more natives.... AND.... ground roses!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2007 at 7:45PM
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The gwss hasn't yet made it north of Kern county.


Oleander is toxic, but if you are close enough to the ones in the freeway median to eat the leaves, I can think of more immediate health risks :-).


    Bookmark   August 26, 2007 at 10:19PM
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Ryan, actually, according to the site below, it's made it as far north as Sacramento Co., with many other counties being at risk for the spread of Pierce's disease. However, something else must have killed my folks' oleanders up in Shasta Co. :D


Here is a link that might be useful: UCR GWSS resources

    Bookmark   August 27, 2007 at 10:11AM
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Wow Brenda,

Thanks for the link, looks like the website I referenced is a bit out of date.


    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 2:25AM
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I'm new to California (originally from PA) and I would really like to know a few of the native plants that could be planted along California's highways. Mostly round San Francisco and LA. If anyone knows I'm very interested to hear more beautiful facts about Cali.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 2:27AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

There are many, many California natives used for landscaping along freeways here. Coast Redwoods are ubiquitous, Pinus radiata, contorta and Cupressus macrocarpa are also used here in the Bay Area. Large native shrubs incude various Arctostaphylos, Ceanothus, Fremontodendron, Heteromeles arbutifolia are also fairly common. More California natives aren't used because many such as species Arctostaphylos and Ceanothus are not particularly long lived or smog resistant, or highly adaptable across multiple microclimates. There are plenty more large shrub/small tree species that could be used, such as Cercis, Calycanthus, Myrica, etc.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 11:48PM
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Central_Cali369(Sunset Z9, Fresno, CA)

I have seen Caltrans moving from Oleanders to Bottlebrush in some of the new segments of HWY 99. Also, I think the variety of plants depends on which CalTrans office is the one doing the landscaping. Central CA projects, specifically around Fresno and Visalia, have Ceanothus, Cercis and Valley Oak along with deer grass and non-natives like bottlebrush and acacia trees. Older projects mainly have oleanders, bottlebrush, eucalyptus and ice plant.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 11:22AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

I miss the oleanders. Sniff.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 11:22PM
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I had a gorgeous mature oleander hedge along the north fenceline of my back yard (I live on a corner). It was killed by the oleander leaf scorch disease ( I guess that`s the one they're calling Pierce`s now). It was a pain pulling out the dead bushes. That was years ago and now the plantain have put in its place are just now getting large enough to provide some privacy. The only plants that have done particularly well there are cape honeysuckle, Lady Banks rose and California rose. Everything else sulks or dies.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 3:23PM
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Min3 South S.F. Bay CA

I was told that oleanders have no use to nature- nothing dares to eat it, birds don't nest in it. The only thing I ever saw on ours was a row of lacewing eggs on one leaf.
When we removed that oleander we had to use our Chevy Suburban to pull it out. Amazing roots! Min

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 6:38PM
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