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California Native Plant Society

Santa Clara Valley Chapter

Lake Cunningham Native Plant Garden

Lake Cunningham Native GardenCNPS volunteers have been working since 2002 to establish a California Native Garden at Lake Cunningham Park, one of the largest regional parks in San Jose. Their goal is to enhance the environment at Lake Cunningham Park by removing invasive plants and planting California native wildflowers, perennials, and shrubs; to provide summer shade through native tree planting; to encourage community participation; to create a sustainable, low-maintenance landscape; to enhance nature-based recreation; and to create wildlife habitat. This garden is part of City of San Jose's Adopt A Park program, and a project of CNPS Santa Clara Valley Chapter.

View a talk about the Native Plant Garden at Lake Cunningham.


The native garden project began in 2002 when neighborhood residents who were CNPS members sought and received permission from the park staff to plant wildflower seeds in selected areas of the park. This early effort was unsuccessful because of the huge seed bank of invasive annuals and perennials at the park. From the second year onwards, volunteers focused their effort on controlling invasives and planting native trees, shrubs, and perennials.

A grant from San Jose Beautiful funded the expansion of the garden along the accessible path from the parking lot to the lake. A CAP grant from the City of San Jose funded the construction of a native plant nursery in the maintenance yard of the park. 

Ranger Mark Rayner installed an interpretive sign at the entrance to the native garden, and signs at the Tully Entrance and near the parking lot. As part of the skate park project, the seasonal stream was lined with river rocks.

In 2006, the frontage bed along Tully Road was mulched with help from San Jose Conservation Corps, and planted with native plants using a grant from San Jose Beautiful.

In 2009-2010, a boy scout eagle project expanded the garden along the lakeside path, and a girl scout team expanded the garden to the east of the parking lot.

The construction of the adjacent BMX bike track in 2016 damaged parts of the native garden. That area has since been restored with a mix of locally native plants.

In 2017-2019, with grants from BeautifySJ and City of SanJose Parks & Rec, volunteers planted 100 native trees along Inner Lake Path from the garden to the Marina. Each tree has a bubbler and is watered weekly during the dry months. Three valley oaks have been planted along Park Road near the native garden.

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteers are welcome at the Lake Cunningham Native Garden. Tasks include weeding invasive plants, mulching, watering, and planting. No prior experience necessary. Students earn community service hours by volunteering here. The chapter's listings on and on attract students and others from all around the South Bay. Nearly 1,000 volunteer-hours are logged each year. 


Lake Cunningham Park, 2305 S. White Road, San Jose. In google maps, search for the pin "Lake Cunningham Native Garden".


Workdays are every Saturday 8-10am. To volunteer, RSVP throup the chapter meetup site below. Look for events titled "Habitat Restoration @ Lake Cunningham".:


Weekends: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

More Information

Lake Cunningham Volunteers egroup - low traffic, mostly weekly status reports

The 2021 GNGT Kickoff featured a talk about the Native Plant Garden at Lake Cunningham - learn about the area history, the garden and its wildlife, and its volunteers.

Byddi Lee's Blog about the Native Garden at Lake Cunningham

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