What is a native plant? California hosts approximately 6,500 species, subspecies, and varieties of plants that occur naturally in the state, and many of these are found nowhere else in the world. Some are adapted to unique habitats or harsh conditions, and some occur in such
low numbers or have been so impacted by human influence that they are at risk of permanent extinction from the wild. They are essential components of ecosystems and natural processes.
Solano County is home to many varieties of native plants, some so rare as to be almost extinct. Benicia is fortunate to be home to the Forrest Deaner Botanic Garden, which is the only native plant botanic garden in Solano County. The garden is within the Benicia State Recreation Area and contains a collection of over 4000 native trees, shrubs, perennials and bunch grasses representing over 300 species of
native plants on 3.5 acres overlooking the scenic Carquinez Strait. It has been recognized as one of the thirteen leading native plant collections in the State. The garden includes a Butterfly/Hummingbird Garden, a Riparian Garden, a Residential/Community Garden, a Native American Garden, a Wildflower Meadow and a collection of Oaks and other Native trees.
The garden is the story of a dream, of love, of a promise and a commitment. The dream was that of the late Forrest Deaner, who initiated the garden when he founded the Willis Linn Jepson Chapter of the California Native Plant Society in 1998. He recruited members, horticulture and landscape professionals, and negotiated and brokered with the State Parks for the garden site. The love was that of native California plants – he wanted the Garden to be “one of the only of its kind in the state” and worked tirelessly to make it so, even as he was fighting rapidly deteriorating health. The promise was that of Norma, his widow, who promised him that she would continue his work. Norma sought the advice of experienced grant-writers, learned to write grants herself and received funding to start the Garden. The commitment is that of the Founding Botanic Garden Committee (Gary Brogan, Norma Deaner, Tim Sullivan, and Susan Dean), whose countless volunteer hours served to help complete the Garden in record time. Construction and development of the Garden began in 2003 and was opened to the public in late 2004. The Garden is recognized as one of the 13 leading collections of native plants in the state by the California Native Plant Society.
The Garden is 100% serviced and maintained by volunteers. Development of the Garden’s infrastructure was funded by grants from the California Coastal Conservancy, California State Parks, County of Solano, Delta Protection Commission, and California State Parks Foundation. Ongoing maintenance and operations are funded by grants from corporations and individual donations.