The Closed-Cone Pine Forest
The closed-cone pine forest is an interesting plant community that occurs just inland from the immediate coast. Cones of the species in this forest do not always open at maturity but may remain closed for several years, then gradually open to disperse seed. This habit is found to a larger extent in inland closed-cone forests where fires occur regularly and is found less and less towards the coast, where fires rarely if ever occur. The extreme heat of fires that sweep through the forests every 40 to 50 years opens the cones and clears brush and duff. This gives germinating seeds the bare mineral soil and unobstructed sunlight that is vital to their establishment as young trees.
The characteristic tree species of our closed-cone pine forest plant community are Bishop pine (Pinus muricata), shore pine (Pinus contorta ssp. contorta), and Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa), which was introduced out toward the headlands as a windbreak. Common understory plants here include twinberry (Lonicera involucrata var. ledebourii), salal (Gaultheria shallon), sword fern (Polystichum munitum), false lily of the valley (Maianthemum dilatatum) and evergreen or blue huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum).
The closed-cone pine forest forms the background for our beautiful Gardens and provides an invaluable windbreak, without which the Gardens could not exist. Trees away from the coast grow up to 100 feet, average height decreases closer to the ocean. The Bishop pines in the Gardens are reaching maturity (about 80 years) and many are beginning to die. Because of fire suppression, lush undergrowth and lack of sunlight our closed-cone pine forest is unable to naturally regenerate itself. The Gardens has a forest regeneration program underway to make sure that the windbreak will continue to exist. Seed collection and nursery growth of new conifers are important parts of this plan.