Precious Point Lobos

Point Lobos South View by C. ParsonsAlthough not considered part of Monterey Bay (unless you’re a geologist), Point Lobos is a short drive to the south and on most days too gorgeous to ignore. I met my friend Deborah at the park and on this slightly cloudy, windy May morning, we walked, talked and snapped photos (despite both of us suffering from spring allergies). The dynamic interaction of ocean and rocks, wind and waves provided spectacular sights.

Iris Point Lobos by C. ParsonsAlong South Shore Trail and Lace Lichen Trail, small colorful flowers dotted the rough Monkeyflower Point Lobos by CM. Parsonslike jewels, each discovery a delight.

On Hidden Beach, we spotted mother-pup harbor seal pairs, some snoozing on the warm sand and others engaged in swimming lessons.

Cormorants Point Lobos by CM. ParsonsOn Bird Island and other granite outcroppings, determined cormorants were constructing nests despite the day’s building winds. We watched bustling colonies of Brandt’s and a few solitary pairs of pelagics. While we walked, a duet of pounding surf and wind-rocked trees accompanied us.

The spray of ocean saltwater and ceaseless buffeting by winds gnarl cypress trees along the shoreline and some appear as forest characters. Cypress Point Lobos by CM ParsonsOn the cliffs above Cypress Cove, we encountered a stunning rust-colored growth that blankets the trees and rocks. Algae on Cypress
I was surprised when I learned that the orange fuzz is a green alga. It is rust orange instead of chlorophyll green because of beta carotene (which gives carrots their color) and other carotenoids. One study (Mukherjee et al. 2010) found that the total carotenoid concentration is higher in winter (hence a brighter color) than in summer. This alga (Trentepohlia aurea var. polycarpa) is an epiphyte, that is, it uses cypress trees (Cupressus macrocarpa) only as a growing surface and causes no harm, unlike a parasite. From my reading, it appears the species is found worldwide in damp places similar to Point Lobos, but the variety polycarpa is specific to our coast.

It was a beautiful day and great walk. I can’t wait to return to this precious California State Park soon to make more discoveries. Thanks, Deborah.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sources
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve brochure and website
Mukherjee, R., Borah, S. & Goswami, B. (2010). Biochemical characterization of carotenoids in two species of Trentepohlia (Trentepohliales, Chlorophyta). Journal of Applied Phycology, 22(5), 569-571. doi: 10.1007/s10811-009-9495-9
UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research: Trentepohlia aurea (tentative)
 

About Chris Parsons

Science writer/educator exploring ocean coastlines and sharing via words, photos and stories to connect, inspire and conserve.
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