Lilies of the Valley
The Coast Ranges
"California's Coast Ranges extend along the coast for about two-thirds of the length of the state" (261). The highest of these peaks are in southern California. This mountain range is a north-south trending range consisting of valleys and ridges that lie along a series of parallel faults and folds. This set up means that many rivers run northward and empty into the ocean far from their source. An example of this sort of river is the Eel River.
The rain shadow effect causes much of the drying along the interior of these ranges. The Central Valley is truly a desert with little precipitation and extreme temperatures. The Coast Ranges consist of Oak Woodland and Foothill Woodland (basically the same thing). The southern part of this range has Coastal Sage Scrub and chaparral. North facing slopes tend to have evergreen oaks with deep roots thatreach to permanent water sources. The maritime climate on the western side of the slopes is generally colder, foggy, and lots of water. There is little water loss here and the soil stays very damp due to fog drip. In the north Coast Range the fog drip is responsible for the Coastal Redwoods.
Geology of the Coast Ranges
Many of the rocks in this range originated south of where they currently sit. The batholithic rocks (granite) form the Salinian block. These were probably formed by subduction south of the Sierra Nevada and via the movement of the San Andeas fault lie where they do today. Franciscan rocks make up most of the northern part of the range. These are from an offshore trench that was formed during subduction. Franciscan rocks are made up primarily of shale and sandstone. They are typically gray-green in color and known as graywackes. Franciscan rocks are sedimentary rocks mixed with igneous rocks. With heated seawater they become a green rock known as Serpentine(this is the state rock). Serpentine is an example of an ophiolite. Hot springs near Sonoma and Lake county are places where steam from the earth escapes. This is a way to generate electricity however there are a lot of problems with it politically and economically.
The CoastRanges have a central core of granitic rocks separated from Franciscan rocks by major faults. In early Miocene (over 20 million years ago)the sea covered much of the southern Coast Range forming the bays, straits, islands, and inlets we know today. This means the Coast Range in relatively new. Wet winters are hazardous for the Coastal Range. Due to erosion and sea splash much of the cliffs and coastal areas have decreased. Another change in the Coastal Range is the fact that the water is heating up. Because warmer water takes up more space the water level is rising. Also the polar ice caps are melting causing water in the ocean to be plentiful and warm. There are terraces going up from the ocean. In Palos Verdes there are 13 visible terraces but normally there are only five to seven.
Biotic Zonation Foothill Woodland
Foothill woodland is the predominant community along most of the Coastal Ranges. Dominant tree species like Blue Oak, Digger Pine, California Buckeye, Redbud are common in the Coastal Range. Northern Oak woodland dominates the ridge tops in the northern part of the range. This area is primarily Garry Oak and grassy open woodlands. This contrast between woodland and grassy area characterizes the changes in soil. Coast Live Oak, Interior Live Oak and Valley Oak are also present along this range of mountains. As you travel south along the range, Blue Oak is replaced by Coastal Live Oak. These species are capable of hybridizing which lends itself to the fact that they have not been different species for very long. There are many large oak trees with bases as wide as 11feet and canopies as broad as 120 feet. These trees are hundreds of years old and often have gnarled bark and broad branches. The various types of oak all have different climate preferences. Some prefer the coastal facing slopes in which the cold air and sea water flow while others prefer the opposite. These different types of oak can be identified by their leaves. Some have hairy leaves and others not. Some have bright green leaves and others have a darker green pigment. Where fog is common the trees are laid with Lace Lichen. Fog drip provides the trees with extra water and the lichen acts as insulation, making it easier to photosynthesize. This community may be threatened due to urban sprawl and invasive species. There are many animals that seek balance for their populations that no longer have the force of food to keep their numbers up and/orpredators even. Wild pigs are also becoming a problem in much of California. They can eat three times the number of acorns as deer in equal numbers. Along with the imbalance of animals, the amount of land that is being converted into farmland or pasture is rising.
Chaparral slopes are typical of southern Coast Ranges. Maritime is unique in that it forms low to the ground, on sandy soil, and grows in open woodland. Various forms of Manzanita and California Lilacs are typical forms of this vegetation in this area. Many of these shrubs are endemic to California.
Mixed Evergreen Forest
In the northern part of the range there is cooler temperatures, moister ground, and lots of evergreen trees and shrubs. Douglas Fir, Tanoak, Pacific Madrone, California Laurel, Coast Redwood, Coulter Pine and others. Each has very different descriptions of leaves and bark but they all have one thing in common:| the cool maritime climate. They all like the fog, the water and the cool temperatures.
Conifers such as Coast Redwood, Dougals Fir, and California Nutmeg are species in this area. Pacific Madrone, Tanoak, and California Laurel may occur along the streams as well as in the adjacent forest. Big Leaf Maple, Red Alder, White Alder, Pacific Dogwood, Canyon Live Oak, Red Willow, and Pacific Willow are common trees in this area as well. Rhododendron, Bunchberry, Creek Dogwood and Smooth Dogwood are common shrubs in the Riparian Woodland.
Yellow Pine Forest
"In the southern Coast Ranges this community occurs only on a few high peaks. Where is occurs such as on Figueroa Mountain in Santa Barbara County, the forest is dominated by Jeffery Pine. Also in the areas may be found Coulter Pine, Digger Pine, Big-cone Douglas Fir, Canyon Live Oak, Blue Oak, Coast Live oak and Interior Live Oak. Such an interesting mix of species should provide ecologists many hours of study on microclimate preferences.
These are communities that are controlled by specialized soil types. Soft sandstone near the town of Coalinga harbors a desert species such as Narrowleaf Goldenbush and Mojave Sand Verbena as well as California Juniper and some of its associates. There is also a tree called the Mormon Tea known for its ephedrine. It has a potent smell that can give you a headache if you sniff too much. In the rain shadow of the southern Coast Range this region's much like a desert. Serpentine soils also display this phenomenon. Where different plants grow or normal plants grow differently. Edaphic plants are not the only unique creatures living in these regions. There are also unique insects that feed onthese different plants and because these plant only grow in the particular region it is not surprising that these insects also only live in here as well. There are various butterflies; as well that require these strange conditions.
The Ecological Staircase of Mendocino County
The most interesting example of
biotic zonation occurs right where we were last weekend. The oldest
terrace is the top and the youngest isthe bottom. The lowest terrace
is primarily former beach with low-lying grassland. Here the grasses
stay green all the time due to the waterreadily available from fog
drip, precipitation, ocean currents, and creeks feeding into the sea.
Much of this area has been converted into agriculture or pastureland
and it is also in danger of urban sprawl. It is more productive than
a typical desert it is not as productive as other areas. This area is
not capable of supporting animal life.
Californias Coast Ranges extends along the coast for two-thirds the length of the
state. The San Francisco Bay divides them into two ranges, the northern and southern Coast
Ranges. Steep slopes are common in the southern ranges but overall they are not high. Most
peaks are less than 6000 ft. The Santa Lucia Range above Big Sur has at least 57 endemic plant
species and over 220 total species. The Northern Coast Range is generally higher than the
southern Coast Range. The longest primitive coastline is found along the northern Coast
Range. The Coast Ranges consist of a series of north-south trending valleys and ridges. This
alignment causes many rivers to run northward.
Climate- To the interior of the Coast Ranges, drying occurs because of the rain-shadow effect.
On the coastal side maritime climate predominates.
Geology of the Coast Ranges- the Coast Ranges are folded and faulted on an axis that parallels the
coastline. Many of the rock units of the Coast Ranges had their origin much farther south
than where they lie today. North of Red Bluff the boundary between the northern Cost
Ranges and the Klamath Province generally lies along the South Fork Mountain fault. The
state rock serpentine is a sedimentary rock. These rocks are composed of a great variety of
different minerals and it is their weathering that has caused the enormous variety of sil
types scattered like islands throughout the Coast Ranges. Rich in magnesium andiron and
deficient in calcium, sodium, and potassium. West of the San Andreas fault is a zone of
granitics and metamorphics known as the Salinian block.
Foothill Woodland of the Coast Ranges
o Not true foothills
o The predominant community of the Coast Ranges
o Referred to as Oak Woodland also
o A mixed community of trees and grasses .referred to as "savannah"
o A threatened community due to the decrease of certain animal species and an increase in
others. Pg. 272
Dominant tree species for the Northern Ranges
o Blue Oak Quercus douglasii Largest one found in Alameda County
o Digger Pine Pinus sabiniana
o California Buckeye Aesculus californica
o Redbud Cercis occidentalis
Northern Oak Woodland
Found on the ridgetops up to 5000ft.
Dominated by Garry Oak
Grassy balds intermixed with the trees. The balds are caused by the different soil types.
Coast Live Oak Quercus agrifolia Largest one found near Gilroy
Interior Live Oak Quercus wislizenii
Valley Oak Quercus lobata Largest one found in Butte County
Canyon Live Oak Quercus chrysolepis Largest found in the Santa Ana Mnts
Fog: in areas that it is common you will see a lace lichen/Ramalina menziesii growing in the trees. The lichen have a
function to increase the surface area available for condensation of water. The condensation provides a warming effect
that is thought to enhance photosynthesis.
Chapter 7: The Coast Ranges
Geology of the Coast Ranges:
The Coast Ranges are folded and faulted on an axis that parallels the coastline. In the Southern Coast Ranges batholithic rocks form a major component of what is known as the Salinian block.
The Coast Ranges our covered in a variety of sedimentary and igneous rocks, which have been metamorphosed by heated saltwater and has become known as a rock called Serpentine.
North of San Francisco is a geothermal field that bears testimony that tectonic pressure still exists in the area. Along the Sonoma-lake county line numerous hot springs, fumaroles occur, this area is known as the Geyers.
The Southern Coast Ranges are mainly composed of Sedimentary rocks much younger that the Franciscan or granitic rocks.
Foothill Woodland &emdash; A community known as Northern Oak Woodlands dominates ridge tops up to 5000ft in the northern Coast Ranges. Other oaks include Coast Live oak, Interior Live Oak, Blue Oak.
In Canyons on the north-facing slope there is Canyon Live Oak. The largest Canyon Live Oak is a massive tree found in the Santa Ana Mountains of southern California. It stands 72ft in height and 11ft in diameter.
Where fog is common, the vegetation is coated with reticulated, filamentous lichen known as Lace lichen.
Maritime Chaparral &emdash; Chaparral covered slopes are common I the southern Coast Ranges. Chaparral predominates on south-facing slopes and becomes more common toward the south. Maritime Chaparral is a unique kind of Chaparral that occurs in patches on the coastal side , the shrubs form low, conspicuous mounds in open areas among the woodlands.
Maritime Chaparral is dominated by a number of endemic manzanitas and California Lilacs. The community includes, Chamise, which is the most common. The endemic shrubs that occur in maritime Chaparral include Hooker Manzanita, Monterey Manzanita, pajaro Manzanita, Sandmat manzanita etc.
Mixed Evergreen Forest &emdash; Located in the northern part of the Coast Ranges, in Mendocino and Humboldt Counties. On cooler sites Oak Woodland merges with Mixed Evergreen Forest composed of conifers and evergreen trees.
Tanoak and Tanbark oak is an evergreen species of the beech-oak family that is more closely allied to the oaks of Southeast Asia. Pacific Madrone is an evergreen tree with large oblong leaves similar to those of a Tanoak.
California Laurel is more common in southern California that the other Evergreen species. In northern Coast Ranges, California laurel is commonly called Pepperwood.
Riparian Woodland &emdash; Similar to the Klamath Province, the Riparian woodland is located in high precipitation. Conifers such as Coast Redwood, Douglas Fir, and California Nutmeg are forest species that may be found in these woodlands.
Shrubs associated with the Riparian Woodland include, Brown Dogwood, Creek Dogwood, Western Rose-bay,
Trees associated in these woodlands include Big-leaf maple, Pacific Dogwood, Red Alder, Red Willow.
The ecological Staircase of Mendocino County; each staircase possess a distinctive vegetation type. The cause of the zonation is a combination of factors including climatic differences associated with elevation, as well as soil differences associated with age.
The Lower Terrace: Coastal Prairie; Known as North Coast Grassland. Grasses and spring wildflowers, such as California Poppy, Owl Clover, and Beach Strawberry, characterize it. There are no large tree or shrub species because of heavy winds and salt spray.
Community of herbs and evergreen shrubs, includes Sticky or Orange Bush Monkey Flower, Coyote Brush or Chaparral Broom.
Chapter 7: The Coast Ranges
The rain shadow effect causes drying of the inland region of the Coast Ranges. Vegetation of the Coast Ranges is Oak Woodland or Foothill Woodland. In the south Coastal Sage Scrub and lower Chaparral commonly occur on south-facing slopes because of our Mediterranean climate. North-facing slopes are covered with evergreen oaks. Maritime climate is characteristic of the coastal side of the Coast Ranges. Temperature is generally cold because of the southward flow of water from Alaska. Fog is a common component of the coastal climate. It helps to reduce water loss in plants and produces the fog drip that allows the Coast Redwoods to survive.
Geology of the Coast Ranges
The Coast Ranges are the result of subduction of the Pacific plate beneath the western border of North America. The coast ranges are folded and faulted and have created the ridges and valleys characteristic of California. Many of Californias rock units originated farther south than they lie today indicating long-distance northern transport approximately 100 million years ago. The southern Coast Ranges are thought to be younger than the northern Coast Ranges. Most of the northern Coast Ranges are Franciscan Rocks (shales and sandstones) that were formed during subduction and are late Mesozoic in age. The Great Valley sequence is a belt of sedimentary rocks along the continental shelf of the Mesozoic ocean.
Serpentine is created when Franciscan sedimentary rocks are intruded by igneous rocks that have been metamorphosed. It is a hydrothermally altered rock that creates ophiolitic, serpentine, ultramafic, or ultrabasic soils in California. They are rich in magnesium and iron but deficient in calcium, sodium, and potassium and because of this they are host to many endemic plant species and create many edaphic ecologic islands.
The Geysers are an indication that geothermal activity still exists in northern California. There, steam is created by the earths heat and used to generate electricity.
The southern Coast Ranges lies the Salinian block which was carried northwest about 190 mile from where it originated. The southern Coast Ranges have a core of granitic rocks separated from Franciscan rocks by major faults on either side. The southern Coast Ranges are mostly comprised of sedimentary rocks. Over 20 million years ago southern California was covered with water (bays, straits, islands, and inlets). The sediment and shales deposited in that area were uplifted about 10 million years ago. The sedimentary rocks of these ranges is particularly susceptible to weathering and erosion. Many sedimentary beds have been tilted by tectonic forces and because of this they commonly form landslides during rainy seasons.
The surf of the California coast has created coastal terraces along the rocky shores. Because of continual uplift the terraces are elevated above sea level giving a benchmark like appearance. The changes in sea level over the years can be seen in the coastal terraces. These factors have contributed to ecological staircases such as Jughandle Sate Reserve.
Throughout most of the Coast Ranges the predominant community is Foothill Woodland. Many authorities refer to the community as Oak Woodland. Dominant tree species include Blue Oak and Digger Pine.
In Humboldt and Mendocino counties, grassy "balds" and open
woodlands of Garry Oak occur in patches on ridges in the Mixed
Evergreen Forest. Other oaks include Coast Live Oak, Interior
Live Oak and Valley Oak. To the south of the Coast Ranges,
Coast Live Oak ultimately replaces Blue Oak. Where the two
species occur together, in the southern Coast Ranges, Blue Oak tends
to grow on south-facing slopes, and Coast Live Oak grows on
In canyons, particularly on north-facing slopes, there is Canyon Live Oak. Canyon Live Oak resembles Coast Live Oak in size and shape but has small whitish hairs on the undersides of the leaves. They may be identified at a glance by noting the undersides of the leaves and the variety of leaf shapes on a single tree.
Coast Live Oak tends to occur more commonly on the coast-facing slopes, where there is more soil moisture. Interior Live Oak prefers slopes that face away from the coast and becomes more common toward the interior of the Coast Ranges. Interior Live Oak is bright green and shiny on both leaf surfaces. The leaf of the Coast Live Oak is a darker green and shiny only on the top surface. Coast Live Oak also has small tufts of hairs where veins intersect on the lower surface.
Where fog is common, the vegetation is coated with a reticulated, filamentous lichen known as Lace Lichen. The apparent function of the netlike branching is to increase the surface area available for condensation of water. It also provides a warming effect which is important to organisms.
In most valleys, native marshes and grassland have been replaced
by pastures or agriculture. In the south, these valleys produce
a wide variety of crops, including cotton, corn, tomatoes, beans, and
sugar beets. Valleys of the northern Coast Ranges are renowned
for grapes, producing some of the finest wines in the
Chaparral-covered slopes are common in the southern Coast
Ranges. Chaparral predominates on south-facing slopes and
becomes more common toward the south. Maritime Chaparral is a
unique kind of Chaparral that occurs in patches on the coastal side
of the southern Coast Ranges.
Mixed Evergreen Forest
In the northern part of the Coast Ranges, in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, precipitation increases markedly. On cooler, moister sites, particularly canyon bottoms, Oak Woodland merges with Mixed Evergreen Forest composed of conifers and broad-leaved evergreen trees.
Tanoak or Tanbark Oak is an evergreen species of the beech-oak family that is more closely allied to the oaks of Southeast Asia. The tree is called Tanoak because it was once a major source of tannin, the substance used to preserve or tan leather. The leaves are large, oblong, and leathery, up to 5 inches in length. They have a wavy, toothed margin, and the undersides are hairy.
Pacific Madrone looks like a large manzanita. It is an evergreen tree with large, oblong leaves similar in shape to those of the Tanoak. The leaves differ from those of the Tanoak by lacking the hairy underside and, usually, the toothed margin. It is the most northerly occurring evergreen hardwood tree. In California its distribution is similar to that of Tanoak, and the two species usually occur together. Tanoak has brown, deeply furrowed bark. Madrone has smooth, red bark that peels off in papery sheets on the branches.
California Laurel is an evergreen with dark green, lance-shaped leaves, up to 5 inches in length. The most distinctive feature of the leaves is a peppery, aromatic odor. They are shaped like bay leaves, and they may be used in cooking; therefore this tree sometimes is referred to as California Bay. It is more common in southern California. Along the southern coast of Oregon the wood is known as myrtlewood, and the tree is called Oregon Myrtle. Carvings made of myrtlewood are a popular tourist attraction in Oregon, and they often carry a sticker erroneously stating that this tree is unique to the Oregon coast. How strange that they would make such a claim when the scientific name refers to the state of California.
In the southern Coast Ranges, Mixed Evergreen Forest is restricted
to north-facing slopes at higher elevation. These sites,
characterized by Tanoak and Pacific Madrone, may be highly
localized. On disturbed sites, or where the soil is derived
from granitics or schist, Coulter Pine is an important species.
Coulter Pine is the southern California equivalent of Digger
Pine. (Schoenherr pp. 270 276)
Riparian Woodland is similar to Klamath Province. Riparian Woodland conifers are Coast Redwood, Douglas Fir, and California Nutmeg. Broad-leaved evergreen species include Pacific Madrone, Tanoak, and California Laurel occur along the streams and in the adjacent forests.
The winter-deciduous trees are Big-leaf Maple, Pacific Dogwood, and Red Alder. In Oak Woodland areas riparian species are joined with Canyon Live Oak. Red Willow and Pacific Willow are common on the Coast Ranges.
Riparian shrubs that are common are similar to Klamath Province. The shrubby dogwoods are Brown or Smooth Dogwood. Bunchberry is a shrub that is 3-9 inches high and has bright red berries.
The Western Rose-Bay grows from Monterey County to British Columbia. Pacific Madrone, California Laurel, Big-leaf Maple, Pacific Dogwood, White Alder, and Canyon Live Oak can resist summer drought and thrive all the way to the Peninsular Ranges.
In the Southern Coast Ranges species such as Coast Redwoods,
Douglas Fir, Red Alder, and Western Azalea drop out and Western
Sycamore, Platanus racemosa, and Fremont Cottonwood, White Alder, Red
Willow, and Pacific Willow become more dominant.
Yellow Pine Forest
True yellow Pine Forest occurs in the northern Coast Ranges at
high elevations and on dry sites associated with serpentine or
ophiolitic soil. In the South, Figueroa Mtn. in Santa Barbara
County it is mostly Jeffery Pine, then Coulter Pine, Digger Pine,
Big-Cone Douglas Fir, Canyon Live Oak, Blue Oak, Coast Live Oak, and
Interior Live Oak.
Edaphic communities are controlled by specialized soils. These are common in the Sierra Nevada and the Pacific Northwest. Serpentine and specialization is prolific. Serpentinite occurs in the Sierra Nevada, th4e Klamath Province, and the Coast Ranges. On the northern Coast Ranges serpentine soils are associated with either chaparral species such as Chamise in the drier areas and Jeffrey Pine and Incense Cedar in the moist areas.
In western Fresno County near Coalinga there is and area known as Anticline Ridge, it is associated with soft sandstone. Desert species thrive; Narrowleaf Goldenbrush, Ericameria linearifolius, and Mojave Sand Verbena. California Juniper and Mormon Tea are also abundant.
Indicators for serpentine soil along the Coast Ranges are Leather Oak, Muskbrush, and Interior Silktassel. Serpentine indicators along the inner Coast Ranges from Napa County Northward are MacNab Cypress and Sargent Cypress. A serpentine endemic that is an herb is the Streptanthus, part of the mustard family.
In San Benita County the serpentine indicators on the new Idria Barrens are Bigberry Manzanita, Digger Pines, Jeffrey Pines, and Coulter Pines. Hyperaccumulators such as Milkwort can take up amounts of nickel in excess on 1000 parts per million.
Endemic animals to the area are butterflies like Muirs Hairstreak
and the Lancustra Skipper, the California White.
The Ecological Staircase of Mendocino County
The most interesting example of biotic zonation occurs on the
coastal side of the mountains in Mendocino County. The cause of
the zonation is climactic differences associated with elevation and
soil differences associated with age. The terraces illustrate
the succession of changes over time. There is a guided trail in Van
Damme National Park.
The Lowest Terrace: Coastal Prairie
The lowest terrace is the youngest. This is known as the North Coast Grassland or the Coastal Prairie. It is characterized by grasses and flowers such as; California Poppy, Owl Clover, and Beach Strawberry. The salty winds prevent shrubs and trees from thriving and there is a rich dark prairie soil called mollisol. This is prize territory for cattle and farmland because of good irrigation and green grasses.
Where there is protection from salt spray a community of herbs and evergreen shrubs occur named the Northern Coastal Scrub. Sticky or Orange Bush Monkey Flower, Mimulus, and Coyote Brush or Chaparral Broom. The dominant plants can be perennial lupines, like the Varicolored Lupine and yellow Bush Lupine. The California Blackberry and Salal also occur.
Chapter 7: The Coast Ranges
Climate varies based on locale. Along the interior the Coast Ranges show the effect of rain-shadow with desert in the area of the Great Central Valley. The coastal side shows the effect of maritime climate with fog being a frequent visitor to coastal communities. This fog drip in areas such as the Berkeley Hills is equal to 10 inches of rain.
Foothill Woodland or Oak Woodland both refers to the same biotic zonation most prominent in the Coast Ranges. Tree species such as Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii, and Digger Pine, Pinus sabiniana, are mixed with grasses in this woodland area to the south. While California Buckeye, Aesculus californica, and Redbud, Cercis occidentalis, are common to the north. In the north ridgetops to 5,000 feet consist primarily have Northern Oak Woodland &endash; Garry Oak or Oregon White Oak, Quercus garryana. Also residing in the Coast Ranges are the Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizenii, and Valley Oak, Quercus lobata. These woodlands are threatened by a fluctuation in animal and plant species. Numbers of hawks, owls, coyotes and bobcats are decreasing allowing rabbits, ground squirrels, gophers, mice and deer to flourish causing a decline in Blue Oaks. The destruction committed by wild pigs throughout is having a great impact on both vegetation and maintenance of native deer herds.
Yellow Pine Forest occurs at high elevations in northern Coast Ranges and dry sites of southern Coast Ranges with serpentine or other ophiolitic soils.
SOUTHERN COAST RANGES, with peaks such as Big Pine Mountain at 6,828 feet and Mount Pinos further south at 8,826 feet, are for the most part less than 6,000 feet. These ranges are mainly formed from batholithic rocks (granitics) &endash; Salinian block.
The most beautiful section of the southern Coast Ranges is the Santa Lucia Range where Big Sur is situated. Its highest peak at 5,868 feet is Junipero Serra Peak. Here there are at least 57 endemic plant species and over 220 total species including the Coast Redwood &endash; this being the furthest south the tree is found. Annual rainfall averages 60 inches with 100+ inches falling in the higher elevations.
Chaparral is common in the south. In the Monterey area Maritime Chaparral is found. This Chaparral consists of a number of endemic manzanitas (Arctostaphylos spp.) and California lilacs (CeanothusI spp.).
NORTHERN COAST RANGES has higher peaks than its southern portion plus a stretch of coastline that runs approximately 23 miles known as the "lost coast." Due to a 4,000 feet rise close to the coast Highway 1 heads inland avoiding the range. Franciscan rocks of the late Mesozoic age form these ranges in the north. This rock is 90% graywackes, gray-green in color and formed when shales and sandstones were deposited in deep marine basins. Plus Franciscan sedimentary rock along with igneous rocks changed to become a waxy green rock known as serpentine &endash; our state rock. In this mixture is other igneous rocks known as ophiolites. With weathering a large variety of soils are found throughout the Coast Ranges and may be called ophiolitic, serpentine, ultramafic or ultrabasic.
These northern Coast Ranges' biotic zonation also consists of mixed evergreen forest. Common to this forest is Tanoak or Tanbark Oak, Lithocarpus densiflorus. Also present is the Pacific Madrone, Arbutus menziesii and Douglas Fir, Pseudosuga menziesii. The Riparian Woodland also of the northern Coast Ranges has species such as Coast Redwood, Douglas Fir and California Nutmeg. Also present is a flowering shrub called Western Rose-bay, Rhododendron macrophyllum, better known as rhododendron.
TERRACES OF THE COASTLINE are formed from erosion of the soft
sedimentary rocks and the uplifting of the west coast. The heavy
winter storms and humans building along the coastline have combined
to erode the rock along the shore. These terraces are visible all
along the coast from Palos Verdes' 13 terraces in southern California
to the terraces of the ecological staircase at Jughandle State
Reserve. Five to seven terraces are the norm.
The Orr Springs Scouts
The California Coast Ranges run approximately two-thirds of the length of the state. The San Francisco Bay
divides the Coast Ranges: northern and southern Coast Ranges. Mountains rise abruptly form the sea with
steep slopes in the southern Coast Ranges. The longest primitive stretch of coastline is found in the northern
Coast Range. The northern Coast Ranges are usually higher than the southern Coast Range. Rivers run
northward, emptying into the ocean many miles from their source. The Ranges are a series of north-south
trending valleys and ridges that lie along a series of parallel faults and folds (262), which causes the rivers to
The interior of the Ranges drying occurs due to the rain-shadow effect. The Slope Effect on the sough coast is
very distinct. It is accentuated by a Mediterranean climate. The south-facing slopes suffer from extreme
drought. The north-facing slopes are covered in evergreen oaks whose roots go deeply into permanent water.
On the coastal side of the Ranges maritime climate predominates.
"The Coast Ranges are folded and faulted on an axis that parallels the coast line." (264) Subduction caused by
the Pacific plate beneath the western border of North America has aided the formation of the Coast Ranges.
The northern Coast Ranges is an accumulation of sedimentary rocks of the Franciscan Formation. Igneous
rocks that have been metamorphosed, to become serpentine, have intrude Franciscan rocks. Ophiolites are an
assemblage of igneous rocks, believed to be associated with ocean floor deposition.
The southern Coast Ranges is mostly composed of sedimentary rocks that are younger than the Franciscan or
granitic rocks. Coastal terraces in the southern Coastal Ranges are formed by the action of surf on a rocky
The predominate community throughout the Coast Ranges is the Foothill Woodland. It is also referred
to as the Oak Woodland. It is a community of mixed trees and grasses. The Northern Oak Woodland
dominates ridge tops up to 5000ft in the north Coast Ranges. Oaks in the foothill Woodland include: the
interior; Garry Oak, White Oak, Coast Live Oak, Valley Oak. The south of the Coast Ranges; Blue Oak, and Live
Oak. The Blue Oak grows on the south-facing slops, and the Live Oak grows on the north-facing slopes.
In the fogy areas of the Foothill Woodlands the vegetation is coated with a reticulated, filamentous
lichen known as Lace Lichen. Condensation supplies additional water to the lichen and promotes fog drip, but
The Foothill Woodlands are a threatened community. The number of hawks, owls, coyotes, and
bobcats are decreasing. This has allowed an increase in rabbits, ground squirrels, gophers, mice, and deer.
Annual weeds that produce in large numbers have added to an increase in seed-eating mammals. These
herbivores have interfered with regeneration of Blue Oaks. Many other factors including the increase of wild
pigs need to be addressed.
In the southern Coast Ranges Chaparral-covered slopes are common. It is more predominate on
MIXED EVERGREEN FOREST
Precipitation increased in the northern Coast Ranges, in Mendocino and Humboldt counties. On cooler,
moister sites Oak Woodland merges with Mixed Evergreen Forest. They are composed of conifers and
broad-leaved evergreen trees. In the north Douglas Fir is an important component.
The Riparian Woodland difference is not dramatic between its adjacent forest areas. Conifers such as
Coast Redwood, Douglas Fir, and California Nutmeg may be included in the Riparian Woodland. Broad-leaved
evergreens such as Pacific, Madrone, Tanoak, and California laurel can occur along the streams and in the
adjacent forest. Deciduous tress in and bordering the Riparian Woodland included Big-leaf Maple, Pacific
Dogwood, Red Alder, and up stream replacing Red Alder is White Alder.
YELLOW PINE FOREST
The Yellow Pine Forest is found in northern Coast Ranges at high elevations and in dry sites in
serpentine or other ophiolitci soils. Jeffery Pine dominates these forest.
Edaphic communities are controlled by specialized soils. Where there are endemic plants there are
also endemic animals.
The Coast Ranges
Southern Coast ranges have steep slopes where the mountains rise from the sea. Not extremely high (most peaks less than 6,000 ft.). The highest peaks are at the south end. Big Pine Mountain highest peak in the San Rafael Range. Mount Pinos (8826 ft.) In a terrane more appropriately apart of the Transverse Ranges.
Robinson Jeffers called the area "the greatest meeting of land and water in the world." Highway 1 between Cambria to Carmel constructed by convict labor.
Santa Lucia Range rises abruptly from the Big Sur coast to a height of 5868 ft.. At least 57 endemic plants including Coast Redwood in this area. Average precipitations at Big Sur is 60".
Northern Coast Ranges generally higher than the southern ranges. Solomon Peak in Trinity County reaches 7581 ft. Longest primitive stretch of coastline in the state is 23 miles of beach located south of the Mattole River along the King Mountain Range.
Coast Ranges consist of a series of north-south rending valley and ridges that lie along a series of parallel faults and folds. This causes many rivers to run northward.
El River runs northward about 140 miles to exit south of Humboldt Bay.
The Salinas River runs northward 100 miles and exits at Monterey Bay. Major river of the northern Coast Ranges is the Russian River. It runs southward then westward to the coast at Jenner. The east-west orientation permits marine air to flow inland.
To the interior of the Coast Ranges, drying occurs because of the rain-shadow effect. At the southern end the Great Cental Valley near Taft is desert. The vegetation is Oak Woodland or Foothill Woodland in most of the Coast Ranges. The southern coast ranges have Coastal Sage Scrub and Chaparral. South-facing slopes covered with chaparral due to drought. North-facing slopes have evergreen oaks. The coastal side of the Coast Ranges has mainly a maritime climate. The ocean temperature along the California coast is cold because the water flows from Alaska. This causes the fog on the coast.
Geology of the Coast Ranges:
Coast Ranges are folded and faulted on an axis that parallels the coastline. Formation attributed with subduction of the Pacific plate. Many rock units of the Coast Ranges had their origin much farther south than they are today. Batholithic Rocks (granitics) were carried by right-lateral slip from south of the Sierra Nevada to their present position west of the San Andreas fault. The South Fork Mountain fault (between norther Coast Ranges the Klamath Province) is a thrust fault. Most of the northern Coast Ranges are Franciscan rocks (dominated by shales and sandstones that are a gray-green color called Graywackes). The rocks known as the Great Valley sequence is a belt of sedimentary rocks. Serpentine is the state rock. It is a Franciscan sedimentary rock that have become intruded by igneous rocks that have been metamorphosed to become a waxy green. Mixed in with the serpentine are other igneous rocks to become opliolites (ophidion is Greek for serpent). Ophiolites are rich in magnesium and iron, but deficient in calcium sodium, and potassium. A geothermal field known as the Geysers is located along the Sonoma-Lake county line. It produces some electricity. West of the San Andreas is a zone of granitics and metamorphics known as the Salinian block. West of the Salinian block is the Nacimiento fault. It separates the granitics from the Franciscan rocks. The southern Coast Ranges are mainly composed of sedimentary rocks. These sedimentary rocks are easily eroded by surf. Landslides occur because these beds are not horizontal. They have been tilted by tectonic activity. When they become wet they slide off. Terraces that formed on rocky headlands allow us see the different levels.
Foothill Woodland is the predominant community of the Coast Ranges. Dominant tree species include Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii, and Digger Pine, Pinus sabiniana . On north slopes at higher elevations California Buckeye, Aesulus californica and Redbud, Cercis occidentalis.
The Northern Oak Woodland dominates ridgetops up to 5000 feet. This are has mainly Garry Oak or Oregon White Oak, Quercus garryana. Other oaks include Coast Live Oak, Quercus Agrifolia, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizenni and Valley Oak Quercus Lobata. Valley Oak dominate in valleys. Coast Live Oak grows on north-facing slopes. Blue Oak goes on south-facing slopes. In canyons on north-facing slopes you will find Canyon Live Oak, Quercus Chrysolepis. Interior Live Oak is bright green and shiny on both leaf surfaces. The leaf of the Coast Live Oak is a darker green and shiny only on the top surface. When fog is common, the vegetation is coasted with a reticulated, filamentous lichen known as Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii. The Foothill Woodland is a threatened community for some animals are decreasing and others increasing and the introducing of annual weeds that produce a large number of seeds has put stress on the trees in the area. Wild pigs are increasing which puts other animals that eat the same diet as they do to decrease. The valleys are also being used for crops.
Maritime Chaparral occurs in patches on the coastal side of the southern Coast Ranges. There is an abundance of summer fog. The plants that grow here are endemic manzanitas (Arctostaphylos spp.) and California lilacs (Ceanothus spp.). Also Chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) is the most common species. The Monterey are has many endemic shrubs of which nearly all is classified as threatened or endangered.
Mixed Evergreen Forest:
In Mendocino and Humboldt counties precipitation increases. The Forest is composed of conifers and broad-leaved evergreen trees with Douglas Fir being an important component. Tanoak (Lithocarpus densiflorus) is an evergreen species of the beech-oak family (Fagaceae). It doesnt look like an oak. Leaves are large, oblong, and leathery and the undersides are hairy. This is a relic.
Pacific Madrone (Arbutus Menziesii) looks like a large manzanita. Madrone has red bark that peels off in sheets and flower that re white and urn-shaped.
California Laurel (Umbellularia californica) is an evergreen with dark green, lance-shaped leaves. The most distinctive feature of the leaves is a peppery, aromatic odor. They are shaped like bay leaves. Also called myrtlewood. In the northern Coast Ranges, California Laurel is commonly called Pepperwood..
Coulter Pine (Pinus coulteri) is the southern California equivalent of Digger Pine. Large cones and long needles (10 Inches.).
The Riparian Woodland is not dramatically different than the adjacent forest areas. The conifers found here are Coast Redwood, Douglas Fir, and California Nutmeg (Torreya californica). Broad-leaved evergreen species are Pacific Madrone, Tanoak, and California Laurel.
The winter-deciduous trees are Big-leaf Maple, Pacific Dogwood, and Red Alder. The most common willow of the Coast Ranges are Red Willow (Salix laevigata) and Pacific Willow (Salix lasiandra). Bunchberry (Cornus Canadensis) is a spreading shrub in the dogwood family (Cornaceae).
Western Rose-bay (Rhododendron Macrophyllum) a flowering shrub is related to Western Azalea (Rhododendron occidentale). They may be sold under the name rhododendron.
Yellow Pine Forest:
True Yellow Pine Forest occurs in the northern Coast Ranges at high elevations and on dry sites associated with serpentine or other opliolitic soils. In the south Coast Ranges it occurs only on a few high peaks. The forest is dominated by Jeffrey Pine. Also in the area are Coulter Pine, Digger Pine, Big-cone Douglas Fir, Canyon Live Oak, Blue Oak, Coast Live Oak, and interior Live Oak.
Edaphic communities are those controlled by specialized soils. Serpentine soil has species of chaparral such as Chamise, closed-cone pines, Jeffrey Pine and Incense Cedar.
Anticline Ridge near the town of Coalinga has special soils derived from sandstone. This area weathers to sandy mounds that harbor a number of desert species. These include Narrowleaf Goldenbush and Mojave Sand Verbena. Also is California Juniper and California Joint Fir (used to make tea).
Species that indicate serpentine outcrops include Leather Oak (Quercus durata), Muskbrush (Ceanothus jepsonii), and Interior Silktassel (Garrya congdonii).
A herbaceous specie on many serpentine endemics is a group called Strptanthus, a highly diversified group of the mustard family (Brassicaceae).
The area known as the New Idria Barrens in Benito County is characterized by serpentine soils that are yellowish and nearly devoid of vegetation. Growth is extremely slow for the few things that can grow there such as Jeffrey Pines, Digger Pines, and Coulter Pines.
Endemic animals to this area are nine species and subspecies of butterflies.
The Ecological Staircase of Mendocino County
Near Fort Bragg is an ecological staircase with an interesting boitic zonations.
The Lowest Terrace is Coastal Prairie and is the youngest. The Coastal Prairie has been mostly converted to agricultural or pasture land due to the moist coming from the next terrace and the accumulation of organic material that produced a rich dark soil (mollisol).
California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Owl Clover (Orthocarpus erianthus) and Beach Strawberry (Frageria chiloensis).
Coastal Prairie is not cable of supporting much animal life for if percolation from upper terraces does not occur primary productivity is low.
Coastal Prairie grades into a community of herbs and evergreen shrubs known as Northern Coastal Scrub where there is some protection from salt spray. Sticky Monkey Flower and Coyote Brush are associated with Coastal Sage Scrub. Coastal Prairie has many herbaceous plants such as Varicolored Lupine (Lupinus variicolor)and Yellow Bush Lupine (Lupinus arboreus). Other species include California Blackberry (Rubus vitifolius) and salal (Gaultheria shallon).
Go to Other Chapters!Marilyn Cannon, Nov.17, 2002