California edibles: Yerba buena stars in the garden, tea cup

As summer winds down and we celebrate the transition to autumn, we look to the elegant foliage and flowers of yerba buena as September’s plant of the month. Satureja douglasii offers an emerald ground cover that is sure to enhance your native garden.

Yerba buena growing along rocks. Photo by Jean Pawek

Identify it

Yerba buena means “good herb” in Spanish, which was named by the missionaries after the Indigenous Californians introduced them to it. Alternate names that you may find in nurseries or botanical resources may refer to yerba buena as Clinopodium douglasii or Micromeria douglasii.

The leaves and flowers are dainty, delicate, and delicious.

Its slender stems lay along the ground and have tiny leaves. The flower are small and white tubes.

Enjoy it

The leaves and flowers make a great tea, especially if you enjoy a touch of minty aromatic accents in your drink.

In the wild

Yerba buena flowering. Photo by Ron Wolf.

Yerba buena is a low-growing perennial herb native to California and is found along the coast across the entire state. It is found in northern coastal scrub, closed-cone pine, redwood, and mixed-evergreen forest communities, as well as in chaparral ecosystems.

In your yard

The good herb grows well in a moderately moist woodland setting where summers are cool, but will do well in shade during hot summers as long as you have a nice drip irrigation set up. Yerba buena could also be a great addition to a native rock garden and likes part-shade to full-shade. It will tolerate some sun.

Yerba buena shown as a ground cover. Photo by Jean Pawek.

It makes a great low-maintenance ground cover that won’t be too aggressive.

Some companion native plants are those that like to grow in the understory, and are usually associated with trees such as oaks (Quercus spp.), bays (Umbellularia californica) and Madrones (Arbutus menziesii).

Some lower-growing companion plants are Fragaria californica, Rubus ursinus, and Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum.

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