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Natural Areas  


Torrey Pines State Reserve

MAP     Satellite

There are a number of communities in the Reserve, several of which, located in the Los Penasquitos Lagoon, have been treated elsewhere.  (See Los Penasquitos Lagoon). The remaining portions of the Reserve include some 7.2 kilometers (4.5 miles) of ocean frontage with 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) of beach and, most importantly, the mesa with stands of the rare Torrey pine, Pinus torreyana, as well as a separate area north of the lagoon where there is an extensive cover of the pine.

The Torrey pine, which had a much greater range in more mesic Tertiary times, is now a relictual endemic known only from this site and one on Santa Rosa Island, 280 kilometers (175 miles) northwest.  This pine has one of, if not the, most limited range of any species in the genus.  At this site the pines show well the effect of climatic conditions on their development.  On the seaward side, above the west, ocean-facing bluffs, the tallest pines are around 10.6 meters (35 feet) high and are spindly and stunted.  Some 400 meters (0.25 mile) inland, on a more protected, moist north slope, the pines reach 23 meters (75 feet) in height and are fuller in crown.

The ground cover includes a varied assemblage of plants representing at least four communities:  coastal strand, coastal sage, desert and chaparral.  The latter is particularly pronounced inland.  Though there are older pines in the chaparral areas, there are no young ones; the existing pines probably established themselves when the chaparral was less dense.

At least six rare plants occur within the Reserve, including the pine.  Others are Arctostaphylos glandulosa ssp. crassifolia, Chorizanthe parryi var. fernandina, Dichondra occidentalis, Dudleya blochmaniae ssp. brevifolia, and Erysimum ammophilum.

The bluffs are composed of Miocene and Oligocene sandstones, forming cliffs up to 90 meters (300 feet) high which have been cut in places by deep gullies. Deposits up to 0.6 meter (2 feet) in depth of fossil oysters are exposed in the greenish Delmar formation near the base of the cliffs.  Thirty-two fossils have been identified from this formation.  Above this formation lie deposits of whitish or buffish Torrey Pines sandstone.  The Torrey sand, which is well exposed on the bluffs along the Torrey Pines grade, reflects geological events similar to the Ione formation.  Traces of a marine terrace 15 meters (50 feet) above the present sea level are visible on the southwest side of the lagoon.

Integrity: Most of the pine groves have been placed in a Natural Preserve with access only by trail. In other portions of the area there are camping facilities, etc.

Use:  Educational, observational, research in pine area.

Ref:  Haller, J. Robert.  1976.  A comparison of the Mainland and Island Populations of Torrey Pine in Philbrick, Ralph N. (ed.) Proceedings of the Symposium on the Biology of the California Islands. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.

October 1975  

San Diego
Inventory of California Natural Areas
Revision 2005 Steven Louis Hartman



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Last modified: December 06, 2005