Fabulous sedimentary rock of the 60 million
year old "Carmelo Formation" at Weston Beach
Point Lobos
State Reserve

Monterey County

August 8, 2001

"This is so cool!" was the only thing I kept saying when I was first introduced to Point Lobos
Reserve. It was exceptionally hard to put my camera away (which, of course, I didn't dare!) Indeed,
this point, on the southern edge of Carmel Bay, has everything an outdoor fanatic (even an urban
city enthusiast) could want: dramatic sea cliffs, sea otters, harbor seals, wildflowers, birdlife, and
lots of trails (13 of them!)...and, if you must, nearby Carmel/Carmel Highlands offers beautiful
seaside homes and resorts as well as shopping in nearby Carmel/Carmel Highlands. I easily passed
over the developed side of life (well, alright, I did have to strain my neck to catch a glimpse of the
D.L. James house [Charles Greene architect]) and headed straight for the plant and scenery haven
within Point Lobos.

The white sands at China Cove help to make the waters glow emerald on sunlit days. Monterey Pine
(Pinus radiata) forest occupies the South Plateau (background). Point Lobos is one of only 5 locations
in the world where the Monterey Pine grows naturally (Ano Nuevo-Swanton area, Monterey-Carmel
area, Cambria, and two islands offshore Baja California). Despite its limited natural range, this
species has become, under cultivated and selective breeding efforts, one of the
world's most planted conifer species (Lanner, 1999).

Monterey Cypress (Cypressus macrocarpa) on the trail to North Point. It is easy to guess the prevailing wind direction with these sculpted trees.

Allan Memorial Grove along the Cypress Grove Trail. Lace lichen drape gracefully from the branches of these Monterey Cypress trees. The reserve's cypress prefer the outer granitic cliffs of the area (whereas the Monterey Pine are located slightly more inland at the reserve). One of only two naturally occurring populations of Monterey Cypress in the world (the other occurs at Cypress Point, on the north side of Carmel Bay), this species remains a popular windbreak and ornamental tree throughout the humid and milder climates of the world (Lanner, 1999).

This fabulous assemblage of bluff lettuce (Dudleya caespitosa) was found along the Cypress
Grove Trail. (For a closer view of this Dudleya, go to the Garrapata State Park page). This
weathered and jointed outcrop of rock belongs to the "Santa Lucia" formation, a coarse grained
granite (called granodiorite) that formed 110 million years ago (Point Lobos brochure).

View from the point looking towards Carmel Highlands. Within and atop the granitic rock of the
sea cliffs reside a myriad of plants: California sagebrush (Artemesia californica), bluff lettuce,
seaside daisy (lavender aster) (Erigeron glaucus), poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum),
sticky monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus), dune buckwheat (Eriogonum parvifolium),
yellow lizardtail (Eriophyllum staechadifolium), and golden yarrow (Eriophyllum
to name a few.

(left) Buckwheat alongside a salt and sun weathered Monterey Cypress trunk (gnarled
by its headland exposure).
(right) Monterey Cypress on the Cypress Grove Trail. A really curious, velvety, rust-colored
algae (Trentepohlia) covered the shaded side of the cypress branches along this seaside
exposure. Harmless to the trees, I'm sure the persistent fogs that hang close to the shore (owing
to the deep, cold waters of the submarine canyon just offshore) help to promote its
happiness. Indeed, fog drip is a precious resource during the summer drought, contributing up to
1/2 inch of water per week. This dry season resource allows the Monterey Pine and Cypress
populations to thrive in a climate that would otherwise not be suitable for sustained growth.

One final postcard image. It does seem that I was so carried away with the scenery that I forgot
to shoot plants... :-)

Lanner, Ronald M. 1999. Conifers of California. Cachuma Press: Los Olivos.
Point Lobos Brochure. 2000. Point Lobos Natural History Association.


Revised: June 21, 2004

This site ©2004 Ann Dittmer.