As the weather heats up in the summer months and people plan restful summer vacations, plants and animals are doing much the same thing. We all notice when the green hillsides across the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks start to fade to brown as the plants of our Mediterranean climate react to the arid heat of summer. An upcoming hike in the Buck Gully Reserve gives you the opportunity to take a closer look, and see that these plants are cleverly adapting to warmer weather as a means of survival.
An interpretive hike in Buck Gully Reserve in the city of Newport Beach is designed to teach hikers about some of the ingenious plant and animal adaptations that evolution has bestowed on our native flora and fauna. The Adapt or Perish Interpretive Walk: Oasis Shuttle Service Route hike on the morning of Friday, August 7 will traverse two miles of trails through the riparian and coastal sage scrub habitats of Buck Gully. Experienced naturalists will lead the hike and discuss the diverse trail-side plants, as well as the canyon’s active wildlife, and the adaptive characteristics of each.
Buck Gully Reserve, where a single-track trail meanders through a variety of habitats, is a particularly great place to examine how adaptations help plants and animals survive the summer. Visitors can see firsthand how the leaf shape of each plant contributes to its response to changing temperatures.
For instance, the laurel sumac (Malosma laurina) has large, folded leaves that are often described as “taco-shaped.” This folded leaf shape helps reduce the amount of surface area exposed to sunlight and therefore limits moisture evaporation, helping the plant conserve water over the dry summer. The “taco shape” also helps the plant collect and utilize moisture. As morning fog rolls off the Pacific Ocean to fill the coastal canyons of Newport Beach, it collects on the “taco-shaped” leaves of the laurel sumac, which causes dew drops to form and drip off the point of the leaf to water the roots of the plant below.
This is just one example of a clever adaptation that will be discussed during the Adapt or Perish Interpretive Walk: Oasis Shuttle Service Route hike. The activity will begin with a short shuttle bus trip from the Oasis Senior Center to the nearby trailhead at the top of Buck Gully Reserve. The walking route will travel down a fairly steep path and continue along a flat trail back to the Oasis Senior Center parking lot. This program is for participants who would like to hike at a slower pace as they enjoy the local habitats. Please wear comfortable clothes and sturdy shoes, bring plenty of water and a pair of binoculars, if you have them.
To learn more about this interpretive hike, and a variety of offered programs within the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, visit www.LetsGoOutside.org/activities. Most programs are free and require pre-registration.