A Journey Through the Scott Creek Watershed

Scott Creek beach


Scott Creek beach cliffsLeaving the strand, we first encounter an unstable dune system mixed with displaced coastal scrub at the cliff base. Here we find yellow sand-verbena (Abronia latifolia), beach bur-sage (Ambrosia chamissonis), coastal sagewort (Artemisia pycnocephala), beach morning-glory (Calystegia soldanella), beach evening-primrose (Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia subsp. cheiranthifolia), salt grass (Distichlis spicata), Pacific gumplant (Grindelia stricta var. platyphylla), American dune grass (Elymus mollis subsp. mollis), and sand-dune bluegrass (Poa douglasii).

Interspersed amongst the arroyo willows (Salix lasiolepis), poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum), coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis subsp. consanguinea), and lizard-tail (Eriophyllum poison oakstaechadifolium), are mature plants of Carex "gianonei" growing up through the shrubbery and producing "keikis" (nodal proliferations) on current flowering culms. This asexual mode of reproduction most likely evolved in response to extended periods of soil aridity coupled with elevated levels of atmospheric moisture.monkey flower

Looking up, we see the near-vertical perpetually exfoliating cliffs with their seasonal waterfalls and perennial seeps—here coast monkeyflower (Erythranthe grandis) cloaks the vertical faces of the dampened mudstone displaying yellow corollas redolent of honey. Vying for attention on these precarious wind-buffeted exposures and held hostage by the ever-changing hydrology, Watson's willow herb (Epilobium ciliatum subsp. watsonii) in reduced stature shows off intensely pigmented cerise flowers looking like miniature pin-wheels.

seaside daisy Also coexisting in this exposed vertical tapestry, between Post Rock and the south end of Scott Creek Beach, are a group of unrelated species whose rosette growth patterns superficially simulate that of sympatric sea lettuce (Dudleya caespitosa)—four of these poseurs are common seaside plantain (Plantago maritima), cotton-batting plant (Pseudognaphalium stramineum), thick-stemmed pearlwort (Sagina maxima subsp. crassicaulis), and seaside daisy (Erigeron glaucus).