Discover brilliant colors and fragrances in a rich variety of plant life.
San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve is home to more than 400 species of plants in six distinct plant communities. Many rare and sensitive plants are rooted in this region. Continued protection is critical to ensure that our future generations will enjoy this wetland's incredible biodiversity.
Remnant sand dunes between Pacific Coast Highway and the railroad tracks support several prostrate dune species. Well-draining, sandy soil, minimal fluctuation in mild temperatures, and 10–20 inches of annual precipitation support this unique plant community. With its proximity to the ocean, some of the moisture utilized by these species is often coastal fog. Image Gallery
The west and central basins of the reserve receive a steady saline influence when the mouth of the lagoon is open. Salt water along with mild, consistent temperatures sustain an assemblage of low-growing succulent halophytes (salt-tolerant plants). Image Gallery
Toward the eastern end of the reserve freshwater drainage dilutes tidal influence. A transition in plant species occurs in response to this decrease in salinity. Emergent plants able to withstand saturated soils dominate this area. Image Gallery
Seasonal freshwater streams and drainages create sandy washes throughout the reserve, which support semi-aquatic trees and herbaceous species. A more consistent water source supports a dense thicket of vegetation that is typically taller than drier surrounding areas. Image Gallery
Coastal sage scrub
Dry, rocky coastal slopes along the southwestern border of the reserve receive 10–20 inches of annual precipitation and support drought-deciduous shrubs that are most active in the winter and early spring. Species in this community tend to be shorter in stature (approximately three to four feet tall) and less dense than those of the chaparral community. Plants in the coastal sage scrub are also typically softer in texture than those found in the adjacent chaparral community. Image Gallery
Along the eastern slopes of the reserve, larger fluctuations in temperatures and 10–20 inches of annual rainfall influence characteristics of plants in this area. Dense, woody shrubs with thick leathery leaves are common adaptive features among many members of this region. Regeneration after fire is another characteristic among chaparral plants. Image Gallery