Back To Natives Dana Point Native Plant Reserve in Jeopardy

City threatens to mow if mustard is not removed. Non-profit working hard to comply.
Dana Point, Calif., June 7, 2017 - Back to Natives Restoration, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, owns and maintains a 2.5 acre parcel of land along Del Obispo Drive in Dana Point. The non-profit has started to restore the site to provide habitat for birds and butterflies. Unfortunately the recent rains have caused more than just wildflowers to grow. Non-native mustard has invaded, and the City of Dana Point - which considers the mustard a fire threat - has threatened to mow (at Back to Natives' expense).

"Mowing would be tragic for the site because our volunteers have already sown 30 pounds of native plant seed - thousands of plants are coming up, or have come up and are now in seed," said Back to Natives Executive Director Reginald Durant. "We've also documented a number of native animals using the site, including trapdoor spiders, western fence lizards, alligator lizards and Cottontail. Mowing would kill, injure, or seriously disturb these animals."

BTN staff and volunteers were able to remove 100% of the mustard that grew on the property last spring, but the recent rains this winter triggered a major infestation of mustard.

"We've scheduled volunteer events to occur each Friday and Sunday through the month of June," said Durant. "The mustard is still green and not a fire danger, but once the summer heat hits, the plants will dry and the City will take action. We can do this, but we need help from our community."

Thousands of successful natives are thriving on the property: wildflowers, ambrosia, California sagebrush, sand aster, saltgrass, California buckwheat, goldenbush, deerweed, prickly pear, California everlasting, lemonadeberry - even Coast Live Oak.

The property was donated to BTN in late 2015 from Kato Properties. The 2.5 acres of land along Del Obispo Drive in Dana Point are about a mile from the Pacific Ocean, less than a ½ mile from San Juan Creek, and less than 2 miles from the Dana Point State Marine Conservation Area. The site is located directly along the autumn and spring monarch butterfly migration routes. Its importance to the western migratory population of monarchs prompted the Monarch Joint Venture to provide a grant to Back to Natives to help establish monarch habitat there.

"With South Coastal California being as densely populated as it is, any additional restored open space is invaluable to wildlife like Monarchs, especially if planted with native milkweed," said Durant. "Our volunteers have been actively propagating milkweed at our native plant nursery to be planted next winter."

“Wild open spaces like this, while small, provide waystations for wildlife like birds and butterflies in urban Orange County where development has limited the amount of habitat available,” said  Durant. “Properties like this one – on a slope – are not ideal for development, but are ideal habitat areas. We have our work cut out for us, but we know our amazing volunteers are ready for the challenge.”

To help Back to Natives remove mustard at Cuesta Kato in Dana Point, visit to sign up. Volunteer events are scheduled each Friday and Sunday from 9AM to 12PM.
About Back to Natives
Back to Natives Restoration, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization connects the community to habitat restoration through service learning and native plant education. The Back to Natives Nursery at Santiago Park in Santa Ana, staffed by community volunteers, grows plants for habitat restoration and to raise funds for service learning and environmental education programs. The Back to Natives Native Plant Reserve provides habitat for birds and butterflies in Dana Point. For more information, please visit or call 949-509- 4787.

Before (above) and after (below) a volunteer event at the Back to Natives Native Plant Reserve in Dana Point.
Top left: fiddle neck at the Back to Natives Native Plant Reserve in Dana Point. Top right: a small oak tree at the Reserve that would be destroyed if the area was mowed. Below, arroyo lupine in seed. If mown now the seeds would not mature and be viable.