Nature & Wildlife

Nature & Wildlife

Enjoy and Preserve our Habitats

The Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds are home to a wide variety of plant and animal life. Today, many of these important habitats are being protected, restored, and preserved. The dunes restoration is a great example of these efforts.

Nature Preservation Rules

  • Keep a safe distance from all wild animals.
  • Laws prohibit the feeding of wild animals.
  • Heed any signs requesting that you not enter areas that are sensitive and protected.
  • Please remain on paved pathways and roadways at all times.

Following these rules will ensure that you - and generations to come - may continue to marvel at all the beauty we have worked so hard to preserve. Do not take anything such as seashells or pinecones. But do feel free to take lots of great photos and bring back a lot of memories.

An Underground World

A sandy stretch of beach that seems devoid of life may conceal an underground world of marine organisms. Worms, crabs, and tiny invertebrates’ dwell in the first six to eight inches beneath the surface. When seawater washes over the quartz sand, it percolates into the sand, carrying with it the plankton and the dissolved oxygen that nourishes these beach creatures.

Shell Middens

Rumsien Indians used the coastal areas of Monterey Bay for camping and hunting sites prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 1700’s. They fished, gathered shellfish, and hunted marine and land mammals. Remnants of these old campsites’ “middens” can be seen in the bluff face. The dark soil with bits of broken shell and rocks from their middens provide archaeologists with information about their diet and technology and these changed through time.

Rock of Ages

Santa Lucia granodiorite, the rock forming coastal shoreline, is more than 100 million years old. Formed from a molten mass deep in the earth, this dense, hard rock is comprised of large rectangular crystals of orthoclase feldspar, gray translucent quartz, creamy plagioclase feldspar, and black biotite mica.

Seals and Sea Lions

Sea lions and seals make their home in these coastal waters often seen resting on the rocks or feeding in the near-shore waters.

Protected Marine Tide Pools

Approximately every 12 hours, the tide advances, and retreats over the rocky fringe of the coast, covering, then uncovering, a group of plants and animals that have adapted to the intertidal zone. Survival in this narrow strand is accomplished by those marine species that can find and hold their places amid the rocks including muscles and hermit crabs.

*When exploring the tide pools, please do not disturb or remove any rocks, plants, or animals. This is a protected marine reserve.

Monterey Pines

Today, Asilomar’s pine forest ecosystem struggles to survive due, in part, to the pine’s natural span of 90 to 100 years, forest fragmentation, loss of habitat, and fire suppression. These stress factors on the pines have made them more susceptible to disease. Since 1992, an introduced fungal disease called pine pitch canker has killed thousands of pines at Asilomar.

Coast Live Oaks

In the absence of wildfire or other forest-clearing disturbance, the pine forest will eventually be replaced by oaks. Unlike many species of oaks that produce very strong wood used for furniture, cabinets and floors, the coast live oak is prone to cracking and twisting. Some coast live oaks at Asilomar have distorted trunks and twisted branches. This growth pattern is the result of growing in a windy location, salt spray, and the persistent browsing by deer. Most of the oaks at Asilomar are 50 to 100 years old. Acorns are an important food source for wildlife.

Forest Understory

The understory of the forest is made up of grasses, shrubs, wildflowers, and tree seedlings. A dense forest canopy can create ideal conditions for the understory by increasing soil nutrients, shade, and moisture retention.

The Swamp

The swamp was once a pond, one in a series of nine small ponds that existed nearly 100 years ago. Today, the pond is filled with sediment and plant life. The soil remains moist year-round from a high-water table. Monterey pine, blackberry, poison oak, and giant ryegrass are a few of the native plants that grow here.

Poison Oak

Poison oak is one of California’s most common native plants. It is recognized by its leaves, which are divided into three leaflets. One of the best-known sayings is, “Leaves of three, let them be.” Touching any part of the plant may cause an allergic reaction from the colorless oil, urushiol, in the plant’s sap. It causes severe itching and a red, blistery skin rash.

Poison oak is ideal for stabilizing soil. The dense vegetation provides shelter and protection for birds and small mammals. Stems, leaves, berries, and seeds all provide food for these animals.

Meadow

The meadow is a “back dune swale,” a low area between the back dune ridge and mid-dunes.

Like other swales in our dune system where nutrients and moisture content are high, the vegetation consists mostly of sedge grass and woody shrubs like coyote brush. Monterey pines can survive because the area is far enough away from salt-laden winds off the ocean.

The meadow provides habitat for various small mammals and birds. Deer use the meadow as a corridor from the dunes into the forest. Portions of the meadow are fenced off periodically to protect one of the world’s rarest plants – Pacific Grove clover. This tiny clover grows only in a few isolated places on the central coast.