Cal Poly Professor and Author Publishes Guide to Iconic California Plants

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly biology Professor and author Matt Ritter is on a mission to “get people stoked on plants.”

With a foreword from Gov. Jerry Brown, Ritter’s new book, “California Plants: A Guide to Our Iconic Flora,” presents dazzling photos and key details on the Golden State’s must-know native plants. The book, which will be available at local bookstores and online on Friday, April 20, in honor of Earth Day, is “the hipster’s guide to California flora,” according to Ritter. He hopes it will inspire Californians to get to know and value the state’s native plants.

“We only conserve what we appreciate, and we only Matt Ritter sits at a desk in his campus office.appreciate what we know,” Ritter said.

The book covers everything from monkey flowers to San Luis Obispo County’s own coastal live oak. Readers will learn about more than 500 species. Sections on each type of habitat make the guide easy to use for all audiences — from Master Gardeners to amateurs who enjoy colorful blooms.

Packed with more than 1,000 full-color photos, 150 species range maps and clear, inviting descriptions, California Plants is sure to become the definitive field guide for exploring the state’s spectacular flora. 

“These are plants that define California,” Ritter said. “You can’t find them anywhere else. They make this state special.”

Part of the proceeds from the book will go to the California Native Plant Society and to The Wildlands Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving biodiversity and providing nature education for children.

Ritter will give a talk, show photographs, and answer questions about native plants and the book from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Thursday, May 3, at the San Luis Obispo Veterans Memorial Building, 801 Grand Ave. A book signing will follow. The event is free and open to the public. For more information visit the Pacific Street Publishing website at

Ritter has written two other books, “Plants of San Luis Obispo: Their Lives and Stories” and “A Californian’s Guide to the Trees Among Us.” He has received the Cal Poly Excellence in Teaching Award and the Western Chapter International Society of Arboriculture Award for Excellence in Education. He studies trees and California’s native plants.

He’s a master woodworker as well as a mason and gardener. Ritter lives with his wife and two children in San Luis Obispo. For more details, visit his website at

Contact: Matt Ritter
805-756- 2775;

April 19, 2018

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