The Garden Learning Center

Take a stroll through the grounds of the Museum within Tyrrell Park and you will discover an array of habitats and plants that are native to the Central California Coast. These demonstration gardens support a wealth of insects and birds, and have also been a favorite location for spotting fungi in the winter months. Visit the garden in different seasons to discover what’s in bloom.

How to Use this Guide

Use the map to find which section of the garden you are in and use the links below to jump to your section. Click on the individual species images to learn more about the plants and their adaptations.

Pollinator Garden | Woodland | Coastal Creekside | Coastal Terrace

Pollinator Garden

Flowering plants demonstrate a wide variety of ways to attract pollinators, including shape and color of flowers, smell, and blooming during seasons when many other plants do not. Do you see insects and birds collecting pollen in this section of the garden? The Museum’s observation beehive has an outlet above this garden and honey bees are a frequent visitor.


Composed of a mixture of deciduous and evergreen trees, shrubs, with shade-tolerant plants in the understory, woodlands provide food sources and a varied habitat for numerous animals. Do you see any birds or mammals using this habitat?

Coastal Creekside

Many creekside plants aid in filtering pollution and sediment out of water, and prevent erosion. They provide shelter, food, and nesting materials for various birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Many of these plants have been used by Native Californians for making baskets and other tools.

Coastal Terrace

This species-rich, coastal landscape mosaic is adapted to dry summers and coastal fog. It provides habitat and food for many animals, and is characterized by flowing grasses and annual flowers. Coastal terrace plants have deep roots to tap into water underground and they stay green longer than invasive plants with shallow roots.

Learn More

Explore other resources for better understanding native plants, fungi and the many habitats of Santa Cruz County.

Get Involved with Native Plants

Volunteers of all ages are crucial to the care and maintenance of the Garden Learning Center. If you’d like to help keep this habitat thriving you can join us for monthly Saturdays in the Soil events.

See something in bloom or examples of wildlife while you’re exploring? Take a photo and tag us on social media!

Use the app iNaturalist to upload your observations in the garden. Figure out the identification of your specimen and contribute to community science at the same time.


Over the past decade, dedicated volunteers and staff have developed our Garden Learning Center into a mosaic of native habitats. The original garden was planted in 2008 and in 2017 we installed the front coastal terrace habitat in partnership with the City of Santa Cruz, Groundswell Coastal Ecology, and local school groups. The Garden Learning Center was made possible through the generous support of these groups:

  • CA State Water Resources Control Board
  • Ecology Action
  • City of Santa Cruz Adopt-a-Park Program
  • Captain Planet Foundation
  • Groundswell Coastal Ecology
  • Elkhorn Native Nursery
  • The California Native Plant Society
  • Central Coast Wilds
  • Graniterock
  • Michael Wolcott
  • Joni L. Janecki and Associates
  • Strategic Construction Management
  • Fitz Fresh Mushrooms
  • Louie Bernard and Steve Johnson
  • Nancy Lenz