Design in sandstone
|Garrapata State Park|
August 9, 2001
Having traveled much of California, I can honestly say that
this beach was one of my favorite
beach sites anywhere. While I visited only a narrow
portion of this state park, I was taken
with the soft hues and
pastel flowers of the wind sheared coastal vegetation. Perhaps it was my
mood that day, but I thought this beach was stunning!
Though erosion is a significant
issue (as you can see from the foreground), the thick vegetation
has done much
to stabilize these coastal dunes atop this narrow marine terrace.
Hands down, this gem of a plant is my favorite new find of the
Big Sur coastline! Bluff (or sea)
lettuce (Dudleya caespitosa) will bloom in dense
colonies within tight rock crevaces, or
individually in sandy soil (as is the case here).
A host of varied plants grew in this tightly wind pruned clifftop garden.
Coyote bush (Baccharis
pilularis), California lilac (aka. blueblossom)
(Ceanothus thyrsiflorus), poison oak
lizardtail (Eriophyllum staechadifolium), Sedum, seaside
daisy (aster) (Erigeron glaucus), and dune buckwheat (Eriogonum parvifolium).
What a combination!
Slightly farther from the immediate cliff break and the damaging
salt spray carried in strong
onshore winds, the vegetation grew taller (to about five
feet). Coyote brush
and California coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica)
this zone (referred to as the coyote
bush scrub community, which occurs above the
coastal bluff scrub community of the previous photo).
I have heard much of the invasive iceplant (aka. fig marigold)
(Carpobrotus edulis), and, of
course, have seen it along the coast innumerable
times. However, this was the first time I
realized the full impact of damage this
species can inflict on a native ecosystem. The iceplant
pictured here was encroaching
from the northern end of Garrapata State Park. There was a clear
boundary line between the coastal
bluff scrub community (diverse in species count) and the
iceplant colony. Iceplant does
not share living space with other native species. Its dense mat
overpowers the native plants and
ultimately drowns them out. Here, only a much weakend, leggy
dune buckwheat and a single
bluff lettuce survive in the sea of iceplant. It is sad
to see the
diversity of native vegetation
crowded out by the monotony
of a singular, introduced species.
For more information on the natural history of Garrapata State
Park and the Big Sur region, I highly recommend:
Henson, Paul and Donald J. Usner. 1993. The Natural History of Big Sur.
University of California Press: Berkeley.
Revised: June 21, 2004
This site ©2004 Ann Dittmer.