A Visit to the Proposed Jeff Norman Botanical Area

Every year, thousands of tourists navigate narrow, winding Sycamore Canyon Road to one of the few accessible beaches along the Big Sur Coast, and with good reason. Pfeiffer Beach is a magnificent setting of sand dunes, sea stacks and natural arches sheltered between the massive arms of the Santa Lucia Range.

But a special reward awaits anyone willing to ford Sycamore Canyon Creek and ascend steep bluffs southward toward Pfeiffer Point.

Looking east, Pfeiffer Ridge is dwarfed beneath Cabezo Prieto and Manuel Peak.

Looking east, Pfeiffer Ridge is dwarfed beneath Cabezo Prieto and Manuel Peak.

To the north, the aptly named Clear Ridge comes into view, with Post Summit rising beyond Andrew Molera State Park.

To the north, the aptly named Clear Ridge comes into view, with Post Summit rising beyond Andrew Molera State Park.

Soon, one enters a vast stand of Little Sur manzanita (Arctostaphylos edmundsii, CNPS list 1B.2), an endemic maritime chaparral species at the southernmost extent of its range.

Soon, one enters a vast stand of Little Sur manzanita (Arctostaphylos edmundsii, CNPS list 1B.2), an endemic maritime chaparral species at the southernmost extent of its range.

Seaside daisy (Erigeron glaucus), a coastal scrub species, extends flowering heads above the manzanita in a noble attempt to attract airborne pollinators.

Seaside daisy (Erigeron glaucus), a coastal scrub species, extends flowering heads above the manzanita in a noble attempt to attract airborne pollinators.

But strong prevailing winds sweep over the bluffs, imparting a seemingly alpine appearance to the vegetation, which seldom rises to more than a foot in height.

But strong prevailing winds sweep over the bluffs, imparting a seemingly alpine appearance to the vegetation, which seldom rises to more than a foot in height.

Carmel ceanothus (Ceanothus griseus) plants barely eight inches tall are nevertheless at reproductive maturity, as evidenced by the fruits and flowers on this individual.

Carmel ceanothus (Ceanothus griseus) plants barely eight inches tall are nevertheless at reproductive maturity, as evidenced by the fruits and flowers on this individual.

Chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum), a primary component of chaparral throughout the backcountry, is an unusual appearance here within view of the ocean.

Chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum), a primary component of chaparral throughout the backcountry, is an unusual appearance here within view of the ocean.

With height limited by wind, horizontal space is at a premium. Here A. edmundsii, Toxicodendron diversilobum and C. griseus compete for sunlight.

With height limited by wind, horizontal space is at a premium. Here A. edmundsii, Toxicodendron diversilobum and C. griseus compete for sunlight.

Careful examination of this vegetative jumble reveals sticky monkey flower (Mimulus aurantiacus), Little Sur manzanita (A. edmundsii) and black sage (Salvia mellifera.)

Careful examination of this vegetative jumble reveals sticky monkey flower (Mimulus aurantiacus), Little Sur manzanita (A. edmundsii) and black sage (Salvia mellifera.)

Globe lilies (Calochortus albus) are more commonly found in the partial shade of forests and woodlands. This plant, although barely three inches high, has managed to produce full-sized flowers.

Globe lilies (Calochortus albus) are more commonly found in the partial shade of forests and woodlands. This plant, although barely three inches high, has managed to produce full-sized flowers.

High atop Pfeiffer Point, steep sea cliffs and the south coast come into view.

High atop Pfeiffer Point, steep sea cliffs and the south coast come into view.

Descending toward Pfeiffer Beach, sage scrub species like lizard tail (Eriophyllum staechadifolium) predominate.

Descending toward Pfeiffer Beach, sage scrub species like lizard tail (Eriophyllum staechadifolium) predominate.

Intervening mats of scrub and chaparral sometimes carpet near-vertical slopes.

Intervening mats of scrub and chaparral sometimes carpet near-vertical slopes.

Coast dudleya (Dudleya caespitosa) clings to rocky outcrops.

Coast dudleya (Dudleya caespitosa) clings to rocky outcrops.

On the lee side of the bluffs resides a pygmy forest of coyote bush (Baccharis pillularis) and coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens.)

On the lee side of the bluffs resides a pygmy forest of coyote bush (Baccharis pillularis) and coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens.)

Such a complex mosaic of forest, scrub and chaparral species challenges simplified notions of ecological communities.

Such a complex mosaic of forest, scrub and chaparral species challenges simplified notions of ecological communities.

Besides serving as hand-holds for the steep descent, manzanita roots provide shelter for plants like Douglas iris (Iris douglasiana) and California blackberry (Rubus ursinus.)

Besides serving as hand-holds for the steep descent, manzanita roots provide shelter for plants like Douglas iris (Iris douglasiana) and California blackberry (Rubus ursinus.)

Just above the salt spray, a coast piperia (Piperia elegans) prepares to bloom, its basal leaves having already withered.

Just above the salt spray, a coast piperia (Piperia elegans) prepares to bloom, its basal leaves having already withered.

But even in this wild place, civilization has taken its toll. Here, ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis), an invasive exotic, chokes a rare seaside paintbrush (Castilleja latifolia, CNPS list 4.3.)

But even in this wild place, civilization has taken its toll. Here, ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis), an invasive exotic, chokes a rare seaside paintbrush (Castilleja latifolia, CNPS list 4.3.)

Fortunately, Congressman Sam Farr has introduced a bill into the US House of Representatives that would simultaneously recognize this unique habitat and honor the famed botanist who first identified its ecological significance. If passed into law, HR4040, the Big Sur Forest Service Management Unit Act of 2009, would designate 65 acres of this unparalleled landscape as the Jeff Norman Botanical Area. You can help - write a letter to Congressman Farr expressing your support for the Jeff Norman Botanical Area and HR4040, it only takes a minute.