The Mediterranean ecosystem at Cabrillo is dominated by coastal sage scrub plants, which have adapted to warm, dry summers and cool winters with a few storms lasting a few days at a time. To survive through the dry season, some plants found in the habitats have large roots, or bodies, where they store water to use when needed. Other plants have leaf adaptations that prevent the loss of water. These adaptations include leaves that fall off during dry seasons, leaves that curl up and make a small moisture chamber within the leaf, leaves with a waxy coating that protects them from evaporation, leaves with hairs that reflect light penetrating the plant, or leaves that are small in size so there is not a lot of area for evaporation.
The coastal sage scrub habitat is not known for having strong winds, so plants are pollinated by animals. The seeds of some plants are easily caught in animals’ fur so a fox, coyote, rabbit, or mouse carries them to a new germination spot. The plants are also highly aromatic, but not visually vivid, so they can attract moths in the dark of night through the moth’s sense of smell rather than their vision. Not only does the aroma of the plant attract pollinators, but it also deters foragers. Animals that would otherwise eat some of these plants are averted by the strong odors they emit. The animals are further discouraged by some plants’ tough leaves and branches and other plants’ spines.
Last updated: January 4, 2016