Coastal Bluff and Marine Zone
Wildflowers, Grasses, Seaweed, and Whales
Just past The Cliff House and along the edges of the coastal bluff (please stay back from the edge) are plants adapted to poor, rocky soils and salt-laden winds. They are tough, often low-growing plants that have adapted to the windswept, sometimes fog-bound climate. Spring visitors may see California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), angelica (Angelica hendersonii), live-forever (Dudleya farinosa), golden yarrow (Eriophyllum staechadifolium), seaside daisy (Erigeron glaucus), stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium), and pearlwort (Sagina procumbens). This environment is fragile and we have taken steps to route bluff-accessible paths that avoid the richest concentrations of our native wildflowers and that help control erosion.
The coastal grasslands or prairies were once the most species-rich grassland types in North America. Most have been lost to urbanization and agriculture. The Gardens’ coastal grasslands were once used to grow potatoes and other crops. Restoration of the grasslands is under way, and we are slowly replacing the exotic and invasive grasses with native species such as hairgrass (Aira praecox), fescue (Festuca rubra), Douglas iris (Iris douglasiana), California blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum), lupine (Lupinus variicolor), and footsteps-of-spring (Sanicula arctopoides). Please stay on designated trails in this delicate area, we appreciate your mindful enjoyment of our native coastal grasslands.
Intertidal Marine Zone
The coast of northern California is one of the richest marine environments in the world, with what is called a high energy intertidal ecosystem. Cold, nutrient rich water from deep canyons off the coast is brought to the surface by northwesterly winds in spring. This rich combination powers the growth of seaweed and its associated ecology.
There are annual and perennial seaweeds visible from our coastal bluff. A number of these are edible and highly nutritious. One of the most visible is the sea palm (Postelsia palmaeformis), which looks like a small, rubbery palm tree. Although it is illegal to harvest sea palm for recreational use, it is an important part of the commercial harvest of edible seaweed (license required).
Bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana ) can also be seen growing in large masses off the coast. The large forests of this kelp create a rich habitat for a great diversity of sea life.
Our coastline is part of the nationally designated California Coastal Monument, officially protected for posterity in March, 2014.
Be sure to watch for the spouts of California gray whales December through April. From December to early February, the California gray whales are migrating south to Baja. There, the pregnant females give birth. Starting in February and March, the whales migrate back north to Alaska with their newborn calves.