Sunday, August 17, 2008

Torrey Pines State Reserve

Yesterday my husband and I spent the morning at Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego, CA. What a wonderful place to be, even in the dead heat of summer! (of course, in San Diego, the “dead heat of summer” is 85 degrees!) The Reserve is one of only two places in the world that grow the Torrey Pines Tree. The other, Santa Rosa Island, is also located in California. It is believed at one time these trees were part of a large forest of Torrey Pines that grew along the southern California coast. Over time, for unknown reasons, the pines diminished in range and now only grow in these two places.

This grove of trees at one time served as a landmark for sailors navigating off the California coast. The were identified by Charles Parry in 1850 as a “unique species” and named after John Torrey, a leading botanist of the time. Parry returned to the grove in 1883 and was upset over the lack of protection of this grove and by 1885, a $100 bounty had been placed on the head of anyone caught vandalizing one of these majestic trees. In 1899 the San Diego City Council passed an ordinance that set aside 369 acres to be used as a public park.

Today, this wonderful Reserve contains approximately 300 endangered and protected species of native plants.

We took a nice long mile walk with a Docent who explained to us about the plants and trees along the path. While she had only been doing this 2 years, she was quite knowledgeable. Below is some of the information she gave us along with pictures.

This first picture is the view from atop the Reserve looking north towards Del Mar, CA. The marshy area you see is a Preserve for migratory birds. This area is along the pacific migration route and many birds stop here to rest along their migration path.
What a view, isn't it? This is one of the many places in San Diego the surfers love to come early each and every morning and catch the waves. Bicyclists are always riding along the street parallel to the waves. You can't see it in this picture, but there is a road down there running parallel to the waves, and quite a few parking spaces off the road. These parking spaces are never empty. Often times people pull over and wait for someone to leave just so they can have the pleasure of parking along the ocean.
This next picture with the brown at the top of the stems is California Buckwheat. My apologies for the picture camera is pretty old compared to today's newer 10 megapixel versions.
California Buckwheet has narrow leaves that grow in bundles along the stems. In spring, they have small, white-pink flowers that grow in dense clusters at the end of the stems. They bloom from May to October, but we have had such strange weather this year, they are dying off a little earlier than normal. There are a few that still have blooms, but not many. The seed heads (which is what you see here) are dark brown.

This plant is native to California. It is a great plant to bring the "good bugs" around so the "bad bugs" don't take over and eat everything in sight.
Speaking of bugs, look closely at the picture below. Closer....closer even still......Do you see it?
Yes, there is a big fat spider in the middle of the picture! I'm not sure what kind it is (nor do I much care because it gave me the creeps!) but it was big and bad looking! It's web was quite large and while no dew was clinging to it, it was quite easy to see.

This picture shows what the tour guide thought was an egg sac. The green thing that appears to be floating in the air. It actually was attached by web to the cactus.

As we took off down the path, we stopped at this beautiful but shallow crevasse. Yes ladies and gentlemen, this is a genuine California faultline! Well...they THINK it's a fault line. The tour guide explained that geologists believe a faultline is what created the cliff and ensuing crevasse down below.

At last we come to the Torrey Pine.
This is the end of a branch of the pine tree. The needles are so soft you want to keep them in your hand and stroke them. And yes, they smell like a pine tree, although the fragrance is not as strong as most pine.

They do have cones, as you'll see in a bit. Cones can hold onto the tree for up to 5 years. They get pretty big on that time and I wouldn't want to stand under one when it falls!

Now this was quite interesting. Look closely in the middle of this Torrey Pine, and you will see a dark green cluster of pine needles. This is known as a "witches broom". Although it is a living part of the tree, it will never grow cones, never have sap flowing through it's veins, never have living things within it's branches. It's almost like it's dead , but in truth is living. Strange. It is believed that a witches broom is caused by disease or some type of parasite. The tour guide said no one knew for sure, but they were working on an answer.

Close up of the "witches broom".

More to come as I continue to share with you my trip to Torrey Pines State Reserve.

Happy Gardening!
Independent Garden Consultant
The Happy Gardener

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