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monocots for summer & autumn coursework

Monocots include both the expected and the unexpected, but we first need to understand what are monocots, or more formally, monocotyledons, to make sense of this group.  The word cotyledon is the scientific term for the embryonic leaf that is ready to push from the seed when germination begins.  Here in California, we often see these occur in the landscape when Mexican fan palms, or Washingtonia robusta, burst forth and sprout what looks like a wide blade of grass.  Mono means one, which is why only one leaf first presents itself above ground.  Leaves of monocotyledons will typically have veins running parallel to the length of the leaf, and a monocot's stems do not have pith that eventually produces wood in dicotyledons, or what we are referring to in this course as trees, shrubs, and many perennials.  Without getting into too many details of dicotyledons, they have two embryonic leaves, di vs. mono, and have pith as they mature.

As mentioned, you might not expect some of the plant species on this list.  We commonly call monocots grasses, so turf/sod/lawn are included as well as taller ornamental grasses.  This latter group, by the way, can be very attractive in late fall and winter even though many of them will go dormant and die back to the ground.  Other categories of monocots include bamboos, palms, and other species.  To many arborists, such as this professor, calling a palm a tree, like the Washingtonia referenced earlier, is just not something professionals do, and I will state my case.  Palm "trees" provide little to no benefit for reducing heat island effects, stormwater capture, or carbon sequestration.  Choosing palms is an aesthetic choice, for example tropical effects, as only one palm is native to California, Washingtonia filifera, that arguably could be beneficially classified for habitat restoration projects in the right locations. Of course, an argument can be easily made for W. robusta's migration into the state.

If I could standardize any observations about monocots, it is that they provide excellent contrasting textures and forms in the landscape.  Their features can be used to great effect by designers, such as the late landscape architect (and former mentor of mine) James Van Sweden and his partner Wolfgang Oehme.  Today, ornamental grasses have been included in the lexicon of designer's palettes for their unique attributions.

The following list is fluid, meaning it will change as new information is made available, including new species and status on campus.  We welcome any updates, corrections, or comments to continue to make this page useful to students at West Valley College.

If a scientific name is linked, please feel free to find additional information via this website.

scientific name

Acorus gramineus

Butia odorata

Chamaerops humilis

Cycas revoluta (not a monocot or dicot but its own plant type)

Miscanthus sinensis 'Strictus'

Muhlenbergia rigens

Stipa tenuissima (Nassella tenuissima)

Syagrus romanzoffiana


Washingtonia filifera

Washingtonia robusta

common name

Japanese sweet flag

pindo palm

Mediterranean fan palm

sago palm


porcupine grass

deer grass

Mexican feather grass

queen palm


California fan palm

Mexican fan palm

campus location







Admissions Way; Cilker: East


Off Campus: Campbell Community Center

Community Education; Parking Lots

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