have thin soils, low productivity and usually some southern
exposure, or are successional stages between open sand
and coastal forest. These extreme habitats may be too
dry in summer to support shrubs and trees, and are often
sites of high diversity. Higher elevation grasslands
are relicts of habitats that were much more common during
ice ages. The balds and associated rocky slopes of peaks
in Clatsop County, Oregon, contain around two hundred
species of grasses and wildflowers.
Old Dune Prairies are located inland of
present beaches and associated dunelands. Examination
of oceanside grasslands offers insight into relationships
between area covered, community age, disturbance regimes,
productivity and diversity. Old dune prairies predate
jetties and accretion, and may be thousands of years
old, representing plant communities that slowly migrated
west in geologic time as sand spits built along the
Pacific Ocean. They are highly diverse communities with
more than 60 species, none of which are overwhelmingly
dominant. Dune prairies are fire and drought tolerant.
Accretion, urbanization, and fire suppression led to
the isolation and loss of thousands of acres of habitat
in the past century, of which less than two hundred
acres remain in good condition. Losses continue today.
Typical species include coast goldenrod, red fescue,
California oatgrass, seashore lupine, coast piperia,
twisted lady's-tresses, footsteps-of-spring, early blue
violet, paintbrush, seaside tansy, fritillary, two brodiaes,
short-stemmed sedge and two bluegrasses.
dune prairies grow on recently accreted dunes,
made of sand with virtually no soil, and are less than
100 years old. They are dominated by non-native grasses,
Ammophila arenaria and A. breviligulata, which constitute
over 95% of the biomass in these plant communities.
Several species within this dune community are not as
fire tolerant as those on old dune prairies. While a
few native species can be found in these areas, biologically
these grasslands are much less diverse than the older
dune prairies that predate the twentieth century. Scots
broom and gorse rapidly colonize young dune grasslands,
and can dramatically change their appearance and diversity
in a few years. These grasslands are a short-lived transition
between open sand and coastal shore pine forest, and
on a particular site may last less than fifty years.
cliff meadows have thin soils over rock, usually
Miocene or Eocene basalt. They are located in salt spray
zones, and are subject to high winds and year-round
salt spray. These meadows are adjacent to coastal spruce
forests, often found on the south and southwest-facing
slopes of headlands while trees occupy other faces.
Typical species include red fescue, sea-watch, paint
brush, field chickweed, blue-eyed grass, Oregon iris.
Nootka reed-grass and Sitka spruce are also typical
of exposed headlands above tidal reaches; the trees
are often severely sculpted by wind.
have thin soil and little bare ground. They are found
from near sealevel, though well above salt spray, to
mountain tops. Common species include Oregon iris, blue-eyed
grass, Alaska rein-orchid, red columbine, Columbia lily,
chocolate lily, Cardwell's penstemon, Martindale's spring
beauty, copperbush, bistort, clarkia and fawn lily.
Cliffs & Rocky Slopes are bare, dry rock
faces. Tough growing conditions produce the appearance
of alpine habitats despite lower elevations and the
lack of prolonged winter snow cover. Species include
Columbia lewisia, spotted saxifrage tufted saxifrage,
spreading phlox, and smooth douglasia.