The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve protects six distinct plant communities.
Coast live oak woodlands frequent low lying areas. Engelmann oak savanna can be found on elevated land where water is infrequent, as Engelmann oaks are drought deciduous. Bird species such as band-tailed pigeons, acorn woodpeckers, red-shouldered hawks, screech owls, and great horned owls utilize these two oak species.
The native bunchgrass prairie on the Santa Rosa Plateau is considered the finest example of native grasslands remaining in California. The prairie reveals a host of native wildflowers — among them chocolate lilies, mariposa lilies, lupines, checkerblooms, shooting stars, and Johnny jump-ups. The grasslands are used by badger, mule deer, and many burrowing rodents.
Vernal pools are found on mesa tops, and support some of the rarest plant and animal species in the region – California Orcutt grass, San Diego button-celery, thread-leaf brodiaea, and fairy shrimp. During the winter months, these seasonal pools are frequented by many water fowl, including green-winged teals, Canada geese, grebes, greater yellowlegs, and long-billed dowitchers. As the water recedes in spring, brightly-colored wildflowers such as yellow goldfields and purple downingia circle the banks of the pools with bright color.
The most common plant community in California can be found on the Plateau in areas of granite rock outcroppings. Plant species such as chamise ceonothus and manzanita are characterized by their tough, woody stems and small leaves which help conserve water.
Coastal Sage Scrub
Gone frome 95% of its former sourthern California range, the Reserve protects examles of a plant community that is home to endangered species such as San Diego coast horned lizard and California gnatcatcher.
Low-lying areas where gravity accumulates water support dense stands of vegetation including western sycamore, arroyo willow and poison oak. Pools along these stream coarses called tenajas (ten-ah-has) allow western pond turtles, California newts and red-legged frogs to survive through dry summer months.