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Trip Report: October Plant Walk – San Pedro Valley County Park

“Blue Monday” is usually an unwelcome start to the long work week. But for the Sutro Stewards' staff and nursery volunteers, our Monday, October 1 field trip was anything but blue. In fact, there was a lush palette of greens, reds, and other fabulous colors along the rolling trails of San Pedro Valley County Park (SPVCP). This educational outing to Pacifica in San Mateo County was the second this year for volunteers at our native plant nursery. How lucky is that? We had a great trip earlier in spring to the Botanic Garden at Tilden Regional Park.

Sutro Stewards core volunteers and two staff tramped along the rolling but not too steep trails of the park. Located inland from the coast near the middle of Pacifica, SPVCP is an oasis of natural beauty.

The park not only boasts a treasure trove of native plant species, but is also a part of California history. In 1769, Spanish explorer, Gaspar de Portola discovered San Pedro Valley while searching for Monterey Bay. The valley then became an important link in the Spanish Mission System because of the valuable resources (good soil, sunshine, and cattle grazing land) that could not be found in San Francisco at Mission Dolores. There was even a trout farm on the South Fork of San Pedro Creek until 1962, when storm rains washed out the entire operation.

The park’s coastal scrub, maritime chaparral, and riparian habitats host a diverse selection of flora and fauna. California coffeeberry (Frangula californica), nootka reed grass (Calamagrostis nutkaensis), sword fern (Polystichum munitum), and arroyo willow (Salix lasiolepis) are just some of the natives that line the lower edges of the trails. The upper coastal scrub and chaparral habitat host rare plants including giant golden chinquapin (Chrysolepis chrysophylla), Montara manzanita (Arctostaphylos montaraensis) and the more common coyote brush (Baccharus pilularis), toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), and California hazelnut (Corylus cornuta).

Giant golden chinquapin (Chrysolepis chrysophylla) in flower. We were scratching our

heads about these unusual looking "fruits" that we did not recognize. But upon closer

examination and comparison the spiky fruits with hard nuts lying on the ground we

concluded that these must be galls! This growth on the plant is a reaction to eggs laid

by a small wasp.

An exciting find for us was a female silk tassel (Garrya elliptica). A dioecious (dye-eeshus) plant, Garrya has male and female flowers on separate plants. Seeing a female Garrya, not as common as the male tree often used in landscaping, was one of the many highlights of our day (photo below).

Silk tassel (Garrya elliptica) fruit

SPVCP is open to hikers, runners, bikers, and equestrians, although we saw mostly walkers on our five mile hike. You can find more information on SPVCP at Beautiful coastal and granite cliff top views are highlights of this oasis of natural beauty, just a short hop from downtown Pacifica.

Thank you everyone for a fun outing!

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