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The Ecosystems throughout the Filoli Nature Preserve

Did you know that Filoli’s Nature Preserve has more than seven miles of trails crisscrossing six different types of native California habitats?

The PondA stream in the nature preserve.

Broadleaf Community

Generally, broadleaf trees are characteristic of climate zones where the weather is mild, frosts are few and snowfall is rare. These plants usually occur in moist areas and adjacent to redwood forests. More sunlight reaches the ground here than in a redwood forest, resulting in more undergrowth. Tree species of the broadleaf community at Filoli include:

  • Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia)
  • Valley Oak (Querucs lobata)
  • Tanbark Oak (Lithocarpus densiflorus)
  • California Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californica)
  • Douglas Fir (Pseudosuga menziesii)
  • Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata)
  • Black Cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa)
  • Madrone (Arbutus menziesii)
  • California Buckeye (Aesculus californica)

Additional shrubs, vines, ferns and herbaceous plants, as well as animals, comprise the Broadleaf Community.

Redwood Community

At one time, redwood forests were widespread in the Northern Hemisphere. From approximately 35 species only three species of redwoods exist today, two of which can be found here on the Filoli property. These are:

  • Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)
  • Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)

Additional understory plants, wildflowers and animals comprise the Redwood Community.

Riparian Community

A Riparian Community is defined as an area on or near the banks of small lakes, rivers and creeks. Tree species that are included in the Riparian Community at Filoli are:

  • Arroyo Willow (Salix lasiolepis)
  • Black Cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa)
  • White Alder (Alnus rhombifolia)
  • Bigfleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum)

Smaller plants and animals also exist in the Riparian Community.

Chaparral

A Chapparal Community is a dense thicket of shrubs and dwarf trees. Also known as the Elfin Forest, most bushes range from 3 to 8 feet in height in dense growth virtually impenetrable to larger animals. Some of the plants in the Chapparal Community at Filoli include:

  • Scrub Oak (Quercus dumosa)
  • Chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum)
  • Ceanothus (Ceonothus spp.)
  • Manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.)
  • Chaparral Pea (Pickeringia Montana)
  • Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia)

The Pond

The pond is a man-made reservoir formed by an earthen dam built by Mr. Bourn, backing up Spring Creek. During the winter and early spring when the stream flow is at its peak, excess water spills over into an artificial channel and flume where it rejoins the natural streambed of the creek below. The reservoir's original purpose has been replaced by pipelines and water tanks. It now plays a vital role in providing water and habitat to a variety of animal and plant species.

For some animals the pond is primarily a place to drink since it is one of the few permanent sources of water on the estate. Blacktailed deer come to drink and sometimes to bed down in the cattails. For others, it is a place to hunt. Mountain lions, coyotes, garter snakes, raccoons and red-shou1dered hawks all know that abundant prey can be found there. The edge of the pond is always a good place to look for tracks.

The pond is also a productive nursery. It is the natal pond of a large population of California newts. They faithfully return to the body of water where they were spawned to mate and lay their eggs. Pacific Chorus Frogs and red-legged frogs fill the air with their mating calls during the rainy season. Their larvae provide food for garter snakes and other streamside carnivores. The stream course, with its boulders and deep shade, attracts the lungless salamanders such as the slender and arboreal salamanders. Mosquitoes, caddis flies, dragonflies and damselflies lay their eggs in the water. Their young lead a completely aquatic existence until metamorphosis and are a valuable food source for animals living in the pond. Water striders also live on the pond. Their oily feet do not break the surface tension of the water as they seem to skate over the surface.

Some animals inhabit the pond on a seasonal basis, such as the masses of ladybird beetles sometimes found clustered on the horsetail and other shrubs. A pair of mallard ducks are also regular visitors. In 1993, a pair of gray foxes raised a family of four kits in the area surrounding the pond. Black phoebes, jays and gray squirrels are year-round inhabitants as are banana slugs.

Cultivated Grasslands

From the edge of the field just west of the House, a line of trees marks the edge of the San Andreas Fault and, beyond that, the hills and patchwork of broadleaf evergreen forest, redwoods and chaparral. A depression exists in the southeast corner of this area; a sag pond typical of earthquake zones and rushes grow in this undrained depression. At the northeast border of the field lies a small hill, Dun Dag, where the Bourn family enjoyed picnics. The two principal Filoli fields are seeded in red oat hay each year. A farmer cultivates the ground and harvests the hay in the summer. Wildflower Rushes of this area include:

  • Wildflowers Rushes (Juncus spp.)
  • Sun Cup
  • Red-stem Filaree
  • Scarlet Pimpernel
  • Mustard, Wild Radish
  • Cutleaf Geranium
  • Romuleus

On Dun Dag trail, look for Mule Ears, Lupine, Owl Clover, Blue-eyed Grass, Indian Warrior, Buttercups, Hound's Tongue and Trillium.