Serpentine soil is derived from a type of metamorphosed sedimentary rock called serpentinite. A number of characteristics of this rock normally inhibit plant growth. These include:
- a relative lack of the elements plants need to grow, such as calcium, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and trace elements such as molybdenum
- concentrations of iron, magnesium, and other heavy metals, such as nickel, chromium, and cobalt, that are toxic to most plants
- lack of both water and a buildup of organic matter
Nevertheless, many plants have managed to adapt to and thrive in this relatively thin, dry serpentine soil. Some require little calcium, others accumulate it. Since calcium is important to plant growth, plants in this community tend to be low-growing. Also, they are free of competition from those plants that have not adapted to this soil.
The community of serpentine grassland plants, includes blow-wives, blue dicks, California lomatium, California plantain, goldfields, and serpentine linanthus. Click on the images below to find out more about these plants.