Next Plant Use Class


Great fun, lots of demonstrations, samples, and displays!

Presenter: Robin Kobaly—Botanist, Founder and President of Power of Plants, and Executive Director of The SummerTree Institute.

  • Saturday, March 8, 2014
    12:30 – 3:30 pm
    Covington Park Community Center
    11165 Vale Drive, Morongo Valley, CA 92256

They’re growing all around you…hardy and helpful wild desert plants that can add richness to your kitchen, your medicine chest, your home, and your garden, as well as enhancing the lives of your neighborhood wildlife.

This three-hour class offers a fascinating look at ancient and tribal uses of desert medicinal and food plants, and presents ways to adapt those uses to fit today’s needs. Find out why these powerful native plants’ survival strategies make them so useful to us today. Explore which native food and healing plants can be used successfully, and explore the many other benefits of growing these amazing herbal remedies, edible oddities, and utilitarian providers. Class includes demonstrations and samples, plus tips on identifying and harvesting native plant species.

It’s fun learning how our native desert plants can serve as food, beverages, art, utensils, and healing remedies for humans.

  • $25 tax deductible donation for each class.
    Spaces limited – RSVP required.

To reserve your space or for more information about this Spring Fundraising event, call:

Presented by Special Arrangement with: The SummerTree Institute, The Power of Plants,
& Robin Kobaly, Botanist and Executive Director of The SummerTree Institute.


Surrounded by Ancients

“Living With the Desert’s Long-Lived Native Plants”

Presented as part of the

9th Annual Desert Garden Community Day

 October 18th | 9 AM – 1 PM

A Presentation by Robin Kobaly | Exec. Director of

The SummerTree Institute

  • Saturday, October 18, 2014
  • 11 AM – Noon
  • Henderson Community Building
    72559 Highway 111 (cross street El Paseo, SW Corner), Palm Desert, CA

    Ancient Plants - Pinyon Pine & Mojave Yuccas

    Ancient Plants – Pinyon Pine & Mojave Yuccas

Using samples of local ancient plants, Robin will reveal the amazing ages of the long-lived plants of the southwest and our local area, discuss how ancient native plants contribute to the stability of their community, share ways we can each help protect these treasures of the desert, and relate how ancient plants have  rewritten human history. Robin will also tell how these ancient survivors can enhance your own landscape, introducing local ancient plants that you can incorporate into your garden, not just for your enjoyment, but for future generations of humans, native songbirds, and wildlife. Learn how you can become part of the solution by contributing to an attractive, environmentally sustainable landscape – right in your own yard!

For more information, call The SummerTree Institute at (760) 363-7229, or email:

The 9th Annual Desert Garden Community Day is co-sponsored by the Desert Horticultural Society of the Coachella Valley and the City of Palm Desert. This popular, free event will feature exhibits and information booths, demonstrations, and workshops on water-wise gardening, garden design, proper pruning techniques, irrigation practices and many other topics. For a full schedule of events, visit


Presented as part of the

Morongo Basin Conservation Association’s

Desert-Wise Living Series

 October 5th | 12:30  – 3:30 PM

A Presentation by Robin Kobaly | Botanist & Exec. Director of

The SummerTree Institute

Join us for a fun, 3-hour landscape workshop

Robin presenting hands-on displays at workshop

Robin presenting hands-on displays at workshop

  • Saturday, October 5th, 2013
  • 12:30pm – 3:30pm
  • Joshua Tree Community Center, Joshua Tree, CA

Class registration includes:

  • 3-hour workshop with displays & demonstrations
  • Workbook with local information on soils, native plants for landscape use, and more
  • Water-Wise Landscape DVD with over 4 hours of “how-to” information and bonus materials
  • Question and Answer period for your own questions

Fee: $20/$15 for MBCA members Enrollment is limited to 75 people

In this popular 3-hour workshop, participants will learn how to transform home landscapes into desert-wise gardenscapes, with guidance on plant selection and irrigation methods.Samples of many plant species will be available to help visualize and create your garden plan. This workshop is timed for the fall planting season –  the ideal season for desert planting.

Tips presented in the workshop will save you water, money, and time in your landscaping. This Desert-Wise Landscape Workshop is presented by The SummerTree Institute’s Robin Kobaly as part of Morongo Basin Conservation Association’s Desert-Wise Living Series. In this popular workshop, you will find out how to select, plant, irrigate and care for a remarkable variety of attractive, drought-tolerant plants (both native and other climate-adapted plants) to enhance your landscape and increase your enjoyment of your yard.

For more information about this fun event, contact The SummerTree Institute at 760-363-7229, or email us at

To register for this event, visit




Discovering The Ancients

Discovering The Ancients Presentation

A Presentation by Robin Kobaly | Exec. Director of The SummerTree Institute

  • Thursday, March 21, 2013 ~
  • 6:00 – 7:00 PM
    Santa Rosa &
    San Jacinto Mountains National Monument | Visitor Center
    51-500 Hwy 74,  Palm Desert, CA
  • Visitor Center is 4 miles south of Hwy 111, in Palm Desert, CA

Using samples of local ancient plants, Robin will reveal the incredible ages of the long-lived plants of the southwest, discuss how ancient native plants contribute to the stability of their community, and demonstrate how tree ring data from ancient bristlecone pines has rewritten human history. Robin will also tell how these ancient survivors can enhance your own landscape.

For more information, call The Friends of the Desert Mountains at (760) 568-9918, or email:

Sandpaper Verbena—Showy Groundcover

Sandpaper Verbena—Showy Groundcover

Sandpaper Verbena

Verbena rigida


  • Plant Form: Evergreen groundcover
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 2’ tall & 4’ wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: March – November
  • Native to: South America
  • Hardiness: Cold Hardy to 15° F

Sandpaper Verbena is a showy groundcover, with large, rough sandpaper-like leaves and ruffled, purple flowers in spring, summer, and fall. It is very hardy, resistant to rabbits, and attractive to butterflies. Sandpaper verbena plants can be grouped together to form a continuous ground cover and used on banks or slopes for erosion control. Cut it back to the ground if it looks ragged (usually in fall or winter), and fresh growth will sprout from hardy underground stems.



Meet Robin

Robin Kobaly as Wildflower Queen at six years old

Wildflower Queen at six years old with native purple sand verbena throne, crown, and bouquet.

I LOVE plants. I became intensely interested in plants at six years old. I was laying face-first in a carpet of inch-high desert wildflowers, admiring the multi-colored “belly flowers” with their intricate patterns painted on each petal, and watching insects maneuvering into the flowers as if guided by elaborate runway markings. I felt as if I had entered a magical, miniature world with beauty and wonders I had never imagined. I was hooked.

So it was very fitting when I was selected to be our town’s first “Wildflower Queen” the same year as that memorable encounter (also probably not a surprise, since my grandmother dreamed up the whole idea of a wildflower show, and likely selected the would-be queen). My mom’s passion for desert plants was ignited by her mother, Morongo Valley’s first librarian, when she asked my mom to help her organize that first wildflower show in 1958.

To help my mom and grandmother prepare for Morongo Valley’s first ever wildflower show, I started trekking all over the mountains and valleys of our desert community with my mom, who was soon bitten by wildflower infatuation herself. We began by collecting flowers for display in vases, but we both felt a need to honor each bouquet by labeling what it was…but what were they? We checked out every library book available on wildflowers from my grandmother and identified every plant we found, eventually coloring in the line drawings in our own plant guides whenever we identified a new specimen.

Robin Kobaly in a field of coreopsis

Robin in a field of Coreopsis.

But the wildflower show was just the start. Together my mom and I discovered, identified, tasted, tested, and researched every desert plant we could find throughout our local high desert. We fed on each other’s mutual, ravenous quest for knowledge about desert plants and how they have been used in ancient and modern times. I was so inspired that I went on to receive my masters degree in botany and biology at U.C. Riverside, next working as the curator of a herbarium, and then becoming a professional botanist for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for 21 years.

I have loved studying plants close up, magnified with a hand lens, as well as through stereoscopes to interpret aerial photos to identify vegetation, and even from helicopters to map plant distribution and locate rare plants. My favorite way to relate to plants, though, is learning about the many uses of plants by indigenous peoples, whose lives were so intertwined with the plants where they lived that the two were inextricable. Now, in our own yard, I grow plants that were used by peoples native to our region long ago for food, medicine, basketry, flutes, and tools. I also love growing our native plants for the cover, food, and nest sites they provide for our songbirds.

Robin removing a hummingbird from a mist net

Removing a hummingbird from a nearly invisible mist net for the bird banding project at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve.

I am passionate about sharing the fascinating world of plants with others. I have designed and presented environmental education programs for adults and children in many venues, including radio and TV. I love teaching classes and workshops about the uses of native plants, the fun of water-wise gardening, and little-known secrets I have discovered about the desert throughout my career as a field biologist.

I can’t decide whether I love learning or teaching more. Whenever I learn something new about plants, animals, or our natural world, I can’t wait to share that tidbit with others, wanting to spread the excitement. When I begin teaching what I’ve learned to others, I always want to learn even more so I can better explain it, and I get more excited still about the newly discovered facts.

Robin leading a garden landscaping tour.

Leading a garden landscaping tour.

So I guess I’ll just continue exploring the magic of plants everywhere, continually learning, and hopefully find others with whom I can share the amazing mysteries of our plant world.