• The Point Reyes Beach as viewed from the Point Reyes Headlands

    Point Reyes

    National Seashore California

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  • 2014 Harbor Seal Pupping Season Closures

    From March 1 through June 30, the park implements closures of certain Tomales Bay beaches and Drakes Estero to water-based recreation to protect harbor seals during the pupping season. Please avoid disturbing seals to ensure a successful pupping season. More »

  • 2014 Winter Shuttle Bus Operations Have Ended

    March 30, 2014, was the last day for the 2014 Winter Shuttle Bus System. Sir Francis Drake Blvd. is open daily from now through late December 2014. More »

  • Operational Changes Took Effect on May 1, 2013

    The Lighthouse Visitor Center is now only open Fridays through Mondays; closed Tuesdays through Thursdays, including Thanksgiving. The Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center is open on weekends and holidays when shuttles are operating. More »

Grasses

Sunrise over Pastoral Zone © Sue Van Der Wal

Less than one percent of California’s native grassland is still intact today. The northern coastal prairie, which extends into Oregon, is the most diverse type of grassland in North America. Pristine patches of this vegetation still grow at Point Reyes on either side of the San Andreas Fault. Deschampsia coastal prairie is found on the Point Reyes peninsula and Danthonia coastal prairie is found on Bolinas Ridge. Coastal prairie is dominated by long lived perennial bunchgrasses, such as Purple needlegrass, California fescue and California oatgrass, all of which can stay green year round with the moisture provided in the fog belt.

Purple needlegrass (Stipa pulchra) is the most widespread native perennial bunchgrass found in California. It was an important food source to Native Americans, and is valuable to wildlife and livestock. Purple needlegrass is used in many restoration projects at Point Reyes. Its life span can last for hundreds of years; and its deep root systems can support the survival of young oak trees through root fungal associations.

California fescue (Festuca californica) is a native perennial bunchgrass that lives in both shaded and open areas. It is found in coastal forests, chaparral and grasslands. At Point Reyes, it is found at the D-ranch, as well as in the wilderness, growing on west to southwest facing slopes.

California oatgrass (Danthonia californica) is a densely tufted perennial grass. It is found in moist soils, and is moderately drought-tolerant. It is dominant in the coastal prairie along Bolinas ridge where it grows with purple needle grass. Danthonia has adapted to grazing pressure by producing fertile seed enclosed within the stem.

Grass-like sedges and rushes may also be found at Point Reyes. "Sedges have edges and rushes are round," is an often used phrase to help people know what they are looking at. Like grasses, sedges and rushes have linear plant forms, and inconspicuous flowers which lack color. However, these are three distinct plant families. Sedges and rushes are wetland plants with fewer species than the highly diverse grass family.

Volunteers can help the park work toward the goal of restoring native grasslands. To get involved, contact Dylan Voeller by email or at 415-464-5216.

Native Grassland Restoration News - April 2007 (306 KB PDF)

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Did You Know?

Harbor Seal Pup, © Sue Van Der Wal

Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) are present in the waters of Point Reyes year round. Every spring, approximately 7,000 harbor seals, or 20% of the mainland California breeding population, haul out on the beaches of Point Reyes. Look for them in the esteros and in Tomales Bay and Bolinas Lagoon. More...