Category archives for: Natural La Jolla

Natural La Jolla: Our fierce and beautiful state fish — the garibaldi

A male garibaldi fiercely protects the bright yellow eggs in his nest, which is constructed of trimmed red algae and cleared of debris. Photos: Jeremy W Smith

While you are looking over the railing down into the water at the Cove, you may happen to see bright orange flashes darting among the kelp and seaweed. These vivid spots of color are evidence of our state marine fish, the garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundus. Named after an Italian national hero (Giuseppe Garibaldi, who famously wore bright red shirts), our garibaldi is also a fierce fighter.

Natural La Jolla: Docile leopard sharks patrolling our coastline

A group of leopard sharks swims together. Photo by Jeremy W. Smith

During summertime in La Jolla, and particularly at La Jolla Shores, leopard sharks (Triakis semifasciata) may be seen along the shore in shallow water swimming in large groups. These sharks pose little threat to humans and snorkelers may be able to approach and observe them more closely on occasion (although caution should always be taken with wild animals). One of the most common sharks in California, they range from Oregon down to Baja California.

Natural La Jolla: Magnificent blue whales in our waters for summer

Diving down, a blue whale flukes up. Photo by Jeremy W Smith

The largest animal on the planet, possibly the largest animal to ever exist, is now roaming about in our local waters. Topping out at about 100 feet long and weighing about 100 tons, the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is a member of the rorqual family (in the same family as humpbacks). Members of this family have pleated grooves in their throats as well as baleen, which is a set of fringed plates composed of keratin that hangs down from the upper jaw in the mouth, functioning as a filter.

Natural La Jolla: Treasure in trash — the beauty of sea glass

Tiny pieces of tile, pottery and china that have been tumbling in the surf for years. Photo: Kelly Stewart

When I’m beachcombing, I spend a lot of time picking up plastic so it doesn’t make its way into the ocean where it might be mistaken for food by marine creatures, but I have another reason for combing the beaches so thoroughly — sea glass.

Beautiful flowers make the Jacaranda a San Diego favorite

A tall Jacaranda brightens a La Jolla neighborhood with its crown of purple flowers. Jeremy W. Smith

Most of the year, the Jacaranda is barely noticeable as a leafy thin tree that lines many of our boulevards and streets in La Jolla and San Diego. But in springtime, this tree comes alive with beautiful purple flowers that bloom and cascade onto the sidewalks below.

Natural La Jolla: The grunion run — an amazing natural spectacle

After a big wave recedes, hundreds of grunion are left wriggling on the beach. Photo by Jeremy W. Smith

California grunion — Leuresthes tenuis — are small (approximately 5”-6”) fish in the Silversides family that have a remarkable reproductive strategy — they spawn on the beach and lay their eggs in the sand. For four consecutive nights during new moon and full moon just after high tide is the time to see the run.

Natural La Jolla: Western gulls a common sight along our coast

One of the parents incubates eggs in the nest. Photo: Kelly Stewart

A walk along our shore would not be complete without seeing one of our regular residents — the Western gull.

Natural La Jolla


In early January, I begin looking for one of my favorite trees to produce its first bloom. On my daily bus ride to work during this time of year, I enjoy going past the Scripps Institution of Oceanography where spectacular specimens of this tree may be found.

Natural La Jolla: Keep your eye out for green sea turtles at the Shores

An East Pacific Green Turtle, 'Chelonia mydas,' swims over sandy bottom substrate at La Jolla Shores. Photo: Jeremy W. Smith

La Jollan Kelly Stewart is fascinated by the beauty and diversity of nature in La Jolla and in her new column will highlight some of the natural wonders that may be found along our coastline. This week she focuses on the sea turtle.

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