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Archive for the ‘Beach Flora’ Category

April Showers Bring May Flowers to Big Sur

Posted by Jody on May 28, 2013

Early May 2013 in Big Sur on the Northern California Coast

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Greg and I found this delightful variety of springtime blossoms along the coast just a few miles south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. The sugar-white sand beach and turquoise blue Pacific Ocean combined to present a breathtaking backdrop for this colorful carpet of wildflowers. (CA-1/Cabrillo Hwy)

Historically, the name Big Sur was derived from that unexplored and unmapped wilderness area which lies along the coast south of Monterey. It was simply called el país grande del sur, the Big South Country. Today, Big Sur refers to that 90-mile stretch of rugged and awesomely beautiful coastline between Carmel to the north and San Simeon (Hearst Castle) to the south. Highway One winds along its length and is flanked on one side by the majestic Santa Lucia Mountains and on the other by the rocky Pacific Coast.

Source: Big Sur Guide

Big Sur maps and information: Big Sur Chamber of Commerce

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Posted in Beach Flora, Northern California Beaches | Tagged: , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

A Wealth of Wildlife on Louisiana’s Gulf Coast: The Creole Nature Trail

Posted by E.G.D. on August 8, 2012

Long Beach, Louisiana Gulf Coast – Creole Nature Trail

Recently, my mom (Jody) and I spent a weekend enjoying the gulf coast along the Texas/Louisiana border.  We spent nearly a whole day in southern Louisiana enjoying the “Cajun Riviera,” and one of our most amazing and delightful discoveries was that much of the “Cajun Riviera” coast is part of Louisiana’s Creole Nature Trail.  According to the official website, “Louisiana’s Creole Nature Trail All-American Road is a hands-on opportunity to experience one of America’s untamed natural wonders,” and we certainly found that to be the case.  We spotted a good many shorebirds, hermit crabs, and wildflowers along the nature trail’s 26 miles of natural beaches, and while we were at it, we had a spectacular time shelling!  More on that in future posts (we’re slated to do articles on Mae’s Beach and Holly Beach, if not more!), but while we’re on the topic of the nature trail, I would like to point out that there’s a downloadable beachcombing guide on the website because the nature trail’s beaches, “located west of the Mississippi Delta… are constantly replenished by the ‘muddy river’s’ southeast tidal flow which carries rich deposits of driftwood and a wide variety of shells including whelks, cockles, angelwings, cateyes, olives, wentletraps, coquinas and periwinkles” as well as sea beans, though Jody and I weren’t lucky enough to find any sea beans or driftwood on this particular trip.

Beachcombing along Louisiana’s Creole Nature Trail (Holly Beach)

Back to the wildlife, though (this is Wild Wednesday, after all), the Creole Nature Trail is one of the Top 10 Birding Destinations in the country.”  There is a southwest Louisiana birding guide available on the website that includes the quote “the gulf beaches themselves are extensive, and vary in composition from sand to shell fragments, to mud. Here, common nesters include Snowy Plover, Wilson’s Plover, and Least Tern. Rarities have included Little Gull, Glaucous Gull, California Gull, Thayer’s Gull,  Black-legged Kittiwake, Arctic Tern, Smith’s Longspur, and Yellow-nosed Albatross, to mention a few.”  What a wealth of awesome birds to spot, and what a great reference material to have available free to all online!  If you are at all interested in birding and think you might someday be in southern Louisiana, you really should go check it out.

Wildflowers of Louisiana’s Gulf Coast

Finally, the Creole Nature Trail passes through terrain rich in bright, fragrant wildflowers that are far more than “just pretty faces.” Able to thrive with intense heat, the Creole Nature Trail’s wildflower population plays an active role in the ecosystem.” 

I could not find any Louisiana wildflower guides specific to the Gulf of Mexico coast, but if you visit the Creole Nature Trail, I absolutely guarantee you will spot wildflowers, and when that happens, you can attempt to identify them using the Louisiana page of USWildflowers.com, if you’re the type to be curious about flower names.

Creole Nature Trail, Louisiana Gulf Coast

And there you have it!  I personally give the Gulf coast section of the Creole Nature Trail five out of five stars for natural beauty and educational opportunity, and if you keep your eye on our future posts, we’ll give you a full report about its beachcombing opportunities, friendly locals, and soft sands.  Suffice it to say, we are duly impressed.

Happy beach-going -E.G.D.

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding, Beach Flora, Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Wild Wednesday Wildflowers of the California Coast

Posted by E.G.D. on July 18, 2012

Point Reyes National Seashore, California

I cannot believe it took me this long to think of beach wildflowers for a Wild Wednesday post!  Until today, I think the only flower article we’ve featured was Jody’s about ice plants, which are an invasive species (maybe you can call them feral at this point, but certainly not wild!).  Isn’t it crazy the things we don’t think of… until we do?  I was wandering around the world wide web, and I was inspired to feature beach wildflowers when I stumbled upon John Raithel and Linda Herbert’s incredible pictographic guide to Wildflowers of the Central California Coast.  If you enjoy coastal flora at all, you really must swing by their page.  It’s basically a spotter’s guide!  I plan to print it when next I’m on the central California coast to see which ones are in bloom at that time of year.  I assume most of the flowers shown are spring and summer occurrences, but you never know.

Incidentally, the Ventura Botanical Gardens (located in southern California), prints and sells a book called Beach Wildflowers of the California Transitional Coast, and the cover features many of the same flowers as as the website mentioned above.  Clearly, the south and central coasts have a lot in common.

Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Now, if you’re a scholar and connoisseur and you want a really, amazingly comprehensive look at California coastal wildflowers, one photographer’s website takes the cake, though the main site is not exactly visually inclined (or even visually appealing).  The site I am referring to is David Senesac’s California Coastal Wildflower Close-ups Species Latin Name Index Table.  From this photographer’s table, you can view close-up images of 94 coastal wildflowers, complete with each flower’s Latin name, common name, “links to the University of California Berkeley’s Jepson Flora Project species treatment out of the Jepson Manual that includes California range maps,” and the specific location where the actual photo was taken by Mr. Sensac.  Wow!  Let me tell you, the photographs are absolutely stellar, though you have to click to see each one, and the information can’t be beat.  The old saying about “you can’t judge a book by its cover” clearly applies to websites’ front pages, as well.

I must say, today’s article has been a bit of an enlightening experience for me.  I now know where to find a wealth of information about California coastal wildflowers, and the sites I found have piqued my interest.  Wildflower spotting will add a whole new dimension to my next trip to the coast of California!

Happy beach-going- E.G.D.

Posted in Beach Flora, Pacific Coast Beaches, Sand and Shoreline | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Ice Plants: Not so Cool

Posted by Jody on June 13, 2012

I always thought that the striking, colorful ice plants that grow so profusely along the dunes and on the rocky bluffs of California’s Pacific coastline were native to the Golden State. Was I ever wrong!  I do still think they are absolutely striking, but now I know that they are definitely not native. In fact, ice plants (Carpobrotus edulis) were intentionally brought to California from South Africa in the early 1900s to stabilize the coastal sands and help control erosion.

Well, you know what they say about the “best laid plans.”  They often go awry.

The Invasive Ice Plant, North Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Ice plants are  mat-forming perennials.  They have very thick, triangularly shaped, smooth and fleshy leaves with pretty yellow or pink flowers. Once intended to maintain the stability the coastal dunes, these rapidly spreading, non-native succulents are now recognized as an invasive species. Growing year round, a single ice plant shoot segment can grow up to three feet in one year, threatening the delicate ecosystem and unique environment of California’s coastal dunes.

Ice Plants on the Dunes of North Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California

The colorful blankets of ice plants squeeze out indigenous plants, and native dune vegetation has to compete for nutrients, space, water and sunlight. In some areas ice plants have completely taken over, preventing  the native flora from thriving and slowing the natural process of dune migration.

As the late, great Johnny Carson used to say, “I did not know that.”

Beautiful North Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California

So now, at Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California, Coastal Dune Habitat Restoration Projects are taking place to remove both the non-native invasive European beachgrass and the ice plant from coastal dune habitats to “restore natural dune processes and function.”  Would you like to know more? There is a very thorough article on the National Park Service website entitled “Coastal Dune Habitat Restoration Project: Why is Dune Restoration Important?” It is long, but it covers everything you might want to know on the topic, and so much more. It’s very interesting reading!

By golly, ya really do learn something new everyday!

Suggestions? Tips? Comments?  Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment space below!

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Flora, Northern California Beaches, Sand and Shoreline | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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