The Kumeyaay Garden

The Kumeyaay Garden presents an opportunity for the community of USD to make a meaningful connection to the living Kumeyaay legacy.



The Kumeyaay people are the first inhabitants of San Diego, in fact the Kumeyaay once occupied the land that USD is built upon. Today, the Kumeyaay nation remains a vibrant and active part of the San Diego community. This garden offers a chance to learn more about the Kumeyaay and the native plants they relied on for their survival and well-being.

We encourage everyone to stop by, enjoy the view and spend some time learning about the native plants that are an essential part of the Kumeyaay culture. The Kumeyaay use these plants for food, drink, medicine, tools, clothing and shelter.

The Kumeyaay Garden is located on the north edge of USD campus, just north of the Hahn University Center, overlooking Tecolote Canyon.


Update: Photos from the garden preparation are shown below our plant list.


As you walk along the garden path, you'll notice the native plants are labeled with a number. Use this number to identify the plant below.

Choose a plant name to learn more about the plant and its traditional use by the Kumeyaay people. The Kumeyaay name is placed in italics.

  1. huutat - Lemonade Berry
  2. pellytaay - White Sage
  3. telku - Barrel Cactus
  4. kwa'ak - California Wild Rose
  5. hamil - Flat Top Buckwheat
  6. kepally - Elderberry
  7. a'naally - Chilean Mesquite
  8. esnyaaw - Coast Live Oak
  9. Cliff Spurge 
  10. pullaay - Showy Island Snapdragon
  11. samaall kwsiyaay - Desert Broom
  12. Bushmallow
  13. miikell - Ramona Lilac
  14. miltii'aaw - Matilija Poppy
  15. No plant at this time.
  16. California Wild Grape
  17. ha'anya yul - Black Sage
  18. San Diego Marsh Elder
  19. iipshii - Chamise
  20. ehpaa - Coastal Prickly Pear
  21. Desert Willow
  22. hasill - Mission Manzanita
  23. hosiill - Toyon
  24. samaall kwsiyaay - Coyote Brush
  25. inyekhaay - Coffee Berry
  26. kwechash - California Sage Brush
  27. 'epshash - Bladderpod
  28. No plant at this time.
  29. nahekwi - California Brittlebush
  30. California Desert Thorn
  31. etat'kwilly - Coastal Cholla
  32. kushu - Jojoba
  33. pullaay -Baja Bush Snapdragon
  34. Red Bush Monkey Flower
  35. sha'a - Mojave Yucca
  36. mulh'amulh - Cleveland Sage
  37. emally - Shaw’s Agave
  38. Red Fairy Duster
  39. ektii - Laurel Sumac
  40. kwa'naay - Basket Rush
  41. kwaayull - Deer Grass
  42. sa'maall - Yerba Santa
  43. San Diego Willowy Mint
  44. hpiip - Morman Tea
  45. inyekhaay - Chokecherry
  46. Wooly Blue Curls
  47. Red Monardella
  48. Desert Brittlebush
  49. millykumaay - Chalk Dudleya
  50. Lady Fingers Dudleya


Kristie Orosco prepares the Kumeyaay Garden site for new plants.

Kristie Orosco prepares the site for plants



Marcy Darby surrounds a new plant with a rock circle.




Johnny Bear Contreras prepares our Kumeyaay sculpture in his studio.



Johnny Bear secures his sculpture along the foot path of USD campus.




Mike Mayer finds a new home for a barrel cactus, with Tecolote Canyon in the background.


Upcoming Native American events



Malki Museum Agave Harvest

This wonderful event occurs mid-April every year.


The Agave Harvest and Tasting is an annual event sponsored by the Malki Museum. It is held on two consecutive Saturdays in mid- to late-April, when the Agave plants were traditionally gathered. The agave or amul was a basic food staple for indigenous people of Southern California.

Reservations Recommended: Please call (951) 849 7289

Malki Museum website for more information




USD: Department of Ethnic Studies


ethnic studies


University of San Diego is blessed with a very active ethnic studies department. This department was instrumental in the establishment of the Kumeyaay Garden.

The USD Ethnic Studies home page lists many resources and websites pertaining to local indigenous communities. Below, we have listed a few other Kumeyaay related websites. You can learn about upcoming indigenous events through these sites.


Barona Cultural Center and Museum

California American Indian and Indigenous Film Festival




The USD Kumeyaay Garden opened September 2017


On Friday, September 22, 2017, the University of San Diego, in conjunction with the Office of Tribal Liaison, dedicated and opened the Kumeyaay Garden.

This was a beautiful ceremony that kicked off the garden in grand fashion.

In celebrating Native American culture, the event included Bird Songs, storytelling, ethnobotany tours, Kumeyaay cultural activities, and an art exhibition. Hands-on activities included basket making, Kumeyaay games and smoothies made with ingredients gathered from plants indigenous to Southern California.

The purpose of the dedication was to create a space that recognizes the importance of USD's location on the traditional territory of the Kumeyaay Nation and to honor indigenous plants used by the Kumeyaay people.

Originally named the Tecolote Memorial Garden, the area was a focus of a student-led movement to urge USD to incorporate more indigenous, drought-resistant plants into the university's landscaping plan. More recently, students from the Ethnic Studies Department pushed to have the garden officially renamed the Kumeyaay Garden in recognition of the relationship between the indigenous people of the area and the environment.

A committee of students, staff and faculty worked with local ethnobotanists Kristie Orosco (Kumeyaay) and Richard Bugbee (Luiseno) to highlight the Kumeyaay names and uses for the fifty plants in the garden. In addition, USD commissioned Johnny Bear Contreras (Kumeyaay) to create a public art piece that ties the garden to the Kumeyaay creation story and astronomy.