Pacific Microclimates

Jane McGary
Sat, 30 Nov 2002 19:15:16 PST
Diana Chapman and Georgie Robinett wrote about sharp differences in
microclimates in locations close together on the Pacific coast near Eureka,

I see now that it is probably drier at my place in summer than right in
Eureka, where Diana's nursery was formerly situated. Her present spot
sounds much more conducive to good bulb growth--although as anyone who
bought bulbs from Telos knows, she was doing just fine before.

I am about 30 miles southeast of Portland, Oregon, and have average annual
rainfall of 45 inches, compared with Portland's 32 inches. However, my
place is windier than most parts of Portland, which is very good for most

During my recent trip to northern Chile I saw even more vivid evidence of
this kind of coastal-fog microclimates. In the Atacama Desert region, you
can plot the extent of the coastal fog by the extent of vegetation -- in
some parts, there is literally nothing growing (except on the roadside,
where seeds drop from trucks) east of the fog boundary. When you catch
yourself thinking, "There's a cactus, it must be moist here," you know
you're in a DESERT. The fog rolls east through the canyons just as it does
on North America's Pacific Coast, and there were clear "vegetation bands"
in the coast range. Certain geophytes (e.g., Alstroemeria kingii,
Leucocoryne narcissoides) grew only in or beside dry streambeds, where
there was probably extra moisture below the surface. I was also surprised
at the number of plants growing very close to the high tide line, including
several Alstroemeria species -- a more interesting flora that I'm used to
seeing on the North American Pacific coast, and surely many good
salt-tolerant candidates for seashore gardens.

Jane McGary
Northwest Oregon

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