Native Wetland Garden at Ferry Point, Martinez

About the Project

This garden has been a long time coming. In 2020, the City of Martinez applied for a Proposition 68 grant, which was not realized because the grant was not awarded. Within this grant application, an attractive wetland garden of approximately 300 square feet was proposed. Some time later, the Contra Costa Resource Conservation District (CCRCD) was contacted by an environmental consulting firm searching for approximately 1,306 square feet of tidally influenced land in Martinez for a small habitat restoration to satisfy a mitigation need. The idea to accomplish an expanded version of the previously proposed native wetland garden was determined to fit the bill. Thus, with help from the City of Martinez and the Friends of Alhambra Creek, the CCRCD was able to install this garden in early 2024.   

The plants in this garden are all native, which means they evolved with our native wildlife over thousands of years. They are better adapted to live in local conditions and support local wildlife populations than non-native plants. Furthermore, this garden is a tidal marsh, a coastal wetland occasionally flooded by saltwater brought in by tides from the Carquinez Strait. These plants are especially adapted to survive in frequently flooded, oxygen-deficient, and salty conditions.  

This garden is now a part of The Alhambra Native Plant Trail: a series of native plant gardens throughout the City of Martinez, created and maintained by the Friends of Alhambra Creek volunteers. To learn more about the Friends of Alhambra Creek and The Alhambra Native Plant Trail, visit this page.

Meet the Plants in this Garden!

Marsh Gumplant (Grindelia stricta var. angustifolia)

Marsh Gumplant is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) that prefers the higher and dryer areas of saltwater wetlands. The flower buds have a glossy, gummy substance on them before they open, which native american’s use topically to treat skin afflictions or rashes. You can spot this plant easily when it is full of bright yellow blooms in late summer. The plethora of flowers provide a vital nectar source for native pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Other marsh residents, including the California clapper rail, the black rail, and the salt marsh harvest mouse use the stem and leaf canopies for shelter and the numerous seeds for food. See if you can spot any unique or colorful bees visiting the flowers!

Calscape Profile
Pickleweed (Salicornia pacifica)

Pickleweed is a low-growing succulent that can dominate the lower reaches of salt marshes. It is a bright green mat throughout summer, quickly turning red in autumn, and potentially going dormant and brown in the winter. Pickleweed stores the salt it accumulates in reserves in terminal segments, which eventually turn red and fall off. Marshes dominated by Pickleweed provide important habitat and food for the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse and other marsh inhabitants. The leaves of this plant are even edible to humans and can be eaten raw or cooked.

Calscape Profile

©2015 Keir Morse

Marsh Jaumea (Jaumea carnosa)

Similarly to pickleweed, Marsh Jaumea survives in salty conditions by concentrating the salt in special cells, using the rest of the freshwater leftover for its growth and reproduction needs. This plant spreads by rhizomes, underground stems that grow horizontally and send out shoots and roots intermittently. As a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae), this plant has yellow, daisy-like flowers in spring and summer. One type of Marsh Jaumea is boiled into a tea to treat fever and can be eaten as a vegetable when cooked.

Calscape Profile

©2015 John Doyen

Alkali Heath (Frankenia salina)

Alkali Heath has special glands that it excretes concentrated salt water from. Salt crystals are then left on the leaves as the sun evaporates the water. As described by its common name, this plant can survive in alkaline soil, or soil with a high pH and poor soil structure. If you look closely, you can see small, white, pink or bright fuschia colored flowers throughout the leaves.

Calscape Profile
Marsh Fleabane (Pluchea odorata)

Marsh Fleabane goes dormant and brown in the winter, but pops back out with bright green leaves and showy pink flowers in the summer. This plant has a strong distinctive scent, gaining multiple common names including “sweet scent”, “sourbush” and “stinkweed”.  While native and beneficial here in California, it is described as a noxious weed in Hawaii, highlighting the importance of planting the right plants for your location, native is usually best. Rub the leaves and give it a sniff to see what you think about its strong scent!

Calscape Profile

©2021 Zoya Akulova

Saltmarsh Baccharis (Baccharis glutinosa)

Saltmarsh Baccharis is dioecious, which means it has male flowers on one plant and female flowers on another plant. The female flowers have pink phyllaries on the outside of each flower, while the male flowers are whiter and stubbier. This plant is used by local natives to disinfect and wash wounds and sores, treat boils, and as an infusion for kidney ailments. In late summer, you can find predatory wasps, flies, butterflies, and many more insects on this plant’s numerous flowers. See if you can find an insect you’ve never seen before!

Calscape Profile

©2019 Steve Matson

Tule (Schoenoplectus species)

There are a few different species of Tule and Bulrush in California, which are commonly found in marshes and wetlands. Tule seeds are an essential and common food source for wetland birds including ducks, godwits, clappers, rails, blackbirds, and more. The tall reeds provide cover and protection for wildlife and other plants from wind and predators. These plants also provide many uses to humans. Young shoots and rhizomes (underground stems) can be eaten raw or cooked. The pollen and seeds can be ground and used as a flour. The harvested plant material was and is used by natives for basket weaving, insulating thatch for structures, bedding, roofing materials, and clothing. Due to the hollow stem, the dried out stalks were also utilized to build canoes and mud-shoes to walk without sinking. Tule are very effective at stabilizing or restoring disturbed or degraded areas such as eroding stream banks and are often utilized in restoration projects.  

Calscape Profile

©2011 Barry Breckling

Cattail (Typha species)

Cattail are commonly found as dense stands where there is water logged soil such as marshes, ponds, lakes, riverbanks, water retention areas, stormwater collection ponds, and even roadside ditches throughout the world. There are three species of cattail in the Bay Area: broadleaf (Typha latifolia), southern (Typha domingensis), and narrowleaf (Typha glauca). A single, recognizable, corn dog shaped cattail flower can release as many as 700,000 wind dispersed seeds that can travel more than 0.6 miles. Along with this and the ability to spread locally through rhizomes (underground stems), cattail can be considered an invasive plant, often colonizing areas where it is not beneficial. However, in the proper location and amount, cattails provide many benefits. Their fast growth rates allow them to remove waterborne contaminants, metals, and nutrients from the soil and sequester carbon from the atmosphere at an impressive rate. The tall and thick stands provide forage and shelter to marsh wildlife. Indigenous peoples use many parts of the cattail for food, medicine, and other goods such as woven baskets, mats, and bedding. Additional human uses of cattail include energy production as biofuel, compost, livestock bedding, and agricultural soil enhancement. Although management of cattail populations is important, these plants provide many ecosystem services.

Calscape Profile

©2020 Zoya Akulova

Saltgrass (Distichlis spicata)

Saltgrass is a widespread grass throughout our state, found in virtually every county. This grass forms dense mats with rhizomes (underground stems) and stolons (above ground horizontal stems). Each leaf has many small glands that excrete drops of highly concentrated saltwater onto the leaf surface, removing the excess salt from plant tissues and allowing Distichlis to thrive in salty conditions that other plants could not survive. The leaves are eventually left with salt crystals as water evaporates from the surface. Natives harvested these salt crystals through various techniques to use for food seasoning and as a valuable trade item. Saltgrass is sometimes used in wetland restoration because its strong root systems can protect against erosion and filter pollutants from runoff. When you find this plant, it may appear to sparkle when the sun hits the salt crystals in just the right way!

Calscape Profile

More Native Plants In and Around the Garden

Above, some of the more common and established native plants in this garden are described, however these are not all of the native plants present. Below is a list of more that you may be able to find in or near the native wetland garden. How many of these plants can you spot? 

Native Wetland Garden Location

If you have not already visited this native wetland garden, you can do so by walking along the waterfront path just south of the Martinez Fishing Pier at the Ferry Point Picnic Area in Martinez, CA. See the image below for the exact location.


Aquarium of the Pacific. Alkali Heath, Frankenia salina.

Bansal, Tangen, Newman, Lishawa, and Wilcox. (2020). A review of Cattail (Typha) invasion in North American wetlands. U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet.  

California Native Plant Society. Saltgrass, Distichlis spicata.

Climate Research and Development Program. (2020). Cattail (typha) invasion in North American wetlands. U.S. Geological Survey.  

George, Aleta. (2009). Cattails: A Wetlands Supermarket. Bay Nature Magazine.  

Hart, John. (2007). Marsh Gumplant. Bay Nature Magazine.  

Lang, Frank. (2023). Tules. Oregon Encyclopedia.  

Monterey County Wildflowers, Trees & Ferns - a photographic guide. (2017). Asteraceae: Sunflower Family - Astereae Tribe: Baccharis.  

Nature Collective. Alkali Heath, Frankenia salina.  

Nature Collective. Pickleweed, Salicornia pacifica.  

Nature Collective. Saltgrass, Distichlis spicata.

Nature Collective. Salt Marsh Fleabane, Pluchea odorata.  

Nature Collective. Salty Susan, Jaumea carnosa.  

Stevens, Michelle. California Bulrush, Schoenoplectus californicus. Natural Resources Conservation Services, Plant Guide.  

The Watershed Nursery. Baccharis glutinosa.  

The Watershed Project. (2019). Neither a pickle, nor a weed, its pickleweed!. Ebb and Flow. 

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. California Clapper Rail.  

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Salt-marsh Harvest Mouse.