Category archives for: Natural La Jolla

Arrival in St. Croix and first impressions

Flying in over the west end of St. Croix. The salt pond (a natural color), just inland of the beach is used by many waterbirds as a foraging area.

It is really good to be back in the islands. Flying into St. Croix last week, my heart rate slowed as I looked forward to our busy summer fieldwork.

La Jolla to St. Croix: Summer views … here … and elsewhere

Summer view in Frederiksted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

It’s June in La Jolla and sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s summer. The marine layer has been pretty persistent lately and we’ve had a lot of spring-like weather. But I don’t spend summer in La Jolla because each year I travel to St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands to work with hatchling leatherback sea turtles (our soon-to-be state marine reptile).

Common in Jurassic period, cycads are living fossils

A sago palm that is female. The flower has opened and is ready for pollination. Seeds will develop within the flower during the summer months, and will be ready for planting in January. Photos by Kelly Stewart

Although it’s not a palm tree at all, the sago palm (Cycas revoluta) is a beautiful primitive plant that grows well here in La Jolla, requiring little water to thrive. A member of one of the oldest plant families on the planet, sago palms are in a group known as cycads. More closely related to conifers than they are to palms or ferns, which they superficially resemble, cycads were very common during the Jurassic period more than 200 million years ago.

Giant kelp forest off La Jolla provides a rich habitat

Giant kelp near the surface of the water. Photos by Kelly Stewart

Just offshore, we have one of the most productive habitats on Earth that supports extremely high biodiversity. The giant kelp forests of Southern California are dominated by two large brown algae species, the giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) and bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana).

Native to the Canary Islands, the Dragon Tree truly delights

A tall dragon tree at the La Jolla Bridge Club at the Cove.  Photos by Kelly Stewart

One of the most striking trees in our neighborhood, one that makes people stop in their tracks and exclaim, “What is that?” is the Dragon Tree (Dracaena draco). Native to the Canary Islands (and the national tree of Tenerife), the Dragon Tree is a curious plant. It is ancient, even having a role in Greek mythology.

It’s the time for ice plants of every variety

A Delosperma species

I am going to continue with the plant theme for this week’s article because there are so many flowers at this time of year that deserve mentioning. Ice plant is one of the best flowering plants in the spring, and there are many different varieties.

Perez’s sea lavender adds a great splash of purple to the seashore

Statice (sea lavender) growing along La Jolla’s coastal bluffs. Photos by Kelly Stewart

The first day of spring has just passed and that means we are about to be surrounded by the most beautiful wildflowers (and cultivated flowers) along our seashore.

Ground squirrels become more active on the coastal bluffs

A ground squirrel stands motionless.

You can find these furry little rodents running all over the cliffs in La Jolla, munching on ice plants and roots, and then disappearing into a burrow at the first sight of an approaching dog. Mottled brown and white, California ground squirrels (Otospermophilus beecheyi) are found throughout California, and along other parts of the West Coast of the United States. They are related to chipmunks, groundhogs and prairie dogs.

Natural La Jolla: Migrating shorebirds are now stopping by our beaches, bluffs

Spring in La Jolla is just around the corner and the little birds that are heading up north and east of us to start their families are making their way past our coastline.

It’s prime time for the striking bird of paradise blooms

The spectacular bird of paradise flower, with blue petals and orange sepals held up on the beak-like modified leaf. Jeremy W. Smith Photos

It’s wintertime in La Jolla, and that means that the birds of paradise are blooming. These beautiful flowers and trees are native to South Africa and are related to the banana plant.

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