Eight Habitats


Riparian means on the bank of or near a stream or pond. Trees that like to be near water grow in this habitat. Willows are always a sign of water and so are the shrub called mulefat. Sycamore and Cottonwood trees have been planted in this habitat. They are also a sign that there is water nearby.

Elderberry also grows here. In spring and summer, these shrubs are showy with heads of creamy flowers. When the flowers are pollinated they grow into lovely bunches of purple-blue berries in the fall. You can watch them develop from tiny green berries as the season progresses. These berries provide food for birds and animals.

Stinging Nettle grows here, sometimes reaching 8 feet tall. Stinging Nettle has hairs that grow on the surface of the leaves and stems which secrete a stinging fluid which affects the skin. A rash may develop with a burning sensation which can last for hours. You don’t want to touch these plants. However, a beautiful butterfly, the Red Admiral, uses these nettles as a host plant. You may be lucky enough to spot one in this habitat.

Floating and flitting over the Willow Wetland Habitat and the Riparian Woodland Habitat you may see two other species of butterfly. The Western Tiger Swallowtail and the Mourning Cloak use the Willows, Sycamores, and Alders as host plants.

Riparian Woodland

The only trees native to the Huntington Beach area are members of the willow family. Two common species are the Black Willow and the Arroyo Willow. Black Willow is a single trunked tree. Its leaf is green on both the upper and lower surfaces and tapers to a narrow tip. Arroyo Willow is a multi-trunked tree. Its leaf is silver on the lower surface and is wider near the tip.

Willow seeds come attached to tufts of white cottony hairs which aid in wind dispersal. Black-chinned Hummingbirds use these cottony tufts to construct their nests. In the spring, honey bees visit the willows for pollen collection. Willows are important to birds for nesting and food. Many insect larvae, which birds feed on, reside on the leaves.  To lear more, read The Importantance of Riparian Zones – Scout project by Andie Kramer

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