Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Skyline Serpentine prairie

So what did California look like before massive development and the upheaval of introduced species of flora?  Is there anyway to get a glimpse into the past?  Well it so happens that areas with serpentine soil often still contain many native plants and haven't been crowded out by invasives.  Many of our plants evolved to grow in serpentine soils and so, for once, have an advantage over exotic species.

Between gardens during the natives tour, I drove along Skyline Blvd in the Oakland hills.  I saw a stretch of grasses and wildflowers between the north and south lanes that caught my attention.  My partner's father the day before had mentioned going to the serpentine prairie with the dog and I wondered if this was it.
Interesting, but it seemed awfully small.  I was still impressed with the native grasses, flowers (lupine, poppies, owl's clover), etc. growing in a median strip.  But I went on my way and then saw what he was talking about.
The Skyline Serpentine Prairie up in the Oakland hills is home to many native plants.  Aside from things like yarrow and blue-eyed grass, which I often see elsewhere, it is also home to 16 species and two natural hybrids of native grasses, and the endangered Presidio Clarkia and rare Tiburon buckwheat.  It was evidently twice as big as it is now (half lost to housing in the 1960s).  But they have begun restoring a 6-acre area by removing trees (Monterey pines) and fencing off part of the area to  avoid overuse.  (In the last pic you can see some exposed rock.)
The restoration will continue over the next couple of years and the idea is that hopefully they can restore it to its former glory.  Here's hoping they are successful.


  1. Nice post! One of the few things I remember from a restoration ecology class I took (uh, 17 years ago) was that native grass seeds were being collected from old cemeteries where modern mowers couldn't chop them up near headstones and fence posts.

  2. Nice project. I really like the clear signage that has pretty pictures for the folks not wanting to linger too long as well as a longer description.

  3. Interesting post. I do hope they're successful, it would be wonderful to see that land restored.

  4. What fun! Another east bay destination for me...I really need to take a few days off!

  5. How have I not visited this place? I should get out there, this week, while the wildflowers are still good.

    Thanks for the heads-up.