Information Station / General Trail background (310)
Between the forest and the ocean, dense, head-high stands of evergreen shrubs create an interplay of texture, color and fragrance. The sticky monkey flower, with its apricot-colored blossoms, is in bloom year-round. Lizard-tail bears dense heads of bright tiny yellow daisies that seem to glow in the subdued light of summer fog.
Below the cliffs, in and beyond the surf, brown broad leafed algae, know as kelp, anchor to the sea floor rocks by means of a special structure called a holdfast. Bull kelp has rounded, gas-filled floats; these can be up to six inches in diameter making them easy to mistake for a sea otter’s head.
The Monterey cypress is the Reserve’s most celebrated tree. Gnarled, buttressed trunks and contorted branches reveal how it has adapted to survive on these outermost and windy cliffs. Notice that its tiny, overlapping, scaly leaves and walnut-sized cones distinguish it from the pine.
The Monterey pine forest in Point Lobos is one of only three native stands of this tree. The seedlings survive, by receiving most of their water in this arid climate, with the help of year-long fog-drip. It has needles in bundles of three and lopsided, pear-shaped cones.
One of the most plentiful shrubs in the Reserve, poison oak, drops its red fall foliage to bare winter stems. Pinkish, pale green spring leaves turn bright green in summer. The leaflets grow in groups of three and have a waxy sheen. Be careful, as in any season, the oils of this plant can cause a red, blistery rash if you touch it.
The gray stringy lace lichen, which hangs from trees is a combination of a fungus and green algae (the food producer). It does not harm the trees and in fact helps collect water from the passing fog that it drips onto the soil.
On the outer edges of the reserve is a striking bright orange-looking alga that grows on Monterey cypress and rocks. It provides a rusty-looking radiant blanket of life for the Cypress trees and gathers moisture from the passing mist. The vibrant color is a result of the production of an orange carotenoid pigment during photosynthesis. It feels like soft felt and looks like a magical frosting on the rocks and trees that a wizard may have created from fairy dust. It is called Trentepohlia.
Several trails begin at the Information Station. Ask the docent on duty in the green jacket for more information.