West Marshall Field has been used by classes to practice plant sampling and to study the patterns of community succession (how plant communities change over time). Projects on plant succession, the special habitats of native plant and animal species, community history and the interface between the preserved lands and other land uses (private land, Wilder State Park, roads and trails) are all inviting here.

West Marshall Field

Here we notice forest/meadow ecotones. An ecotone is a transition zone between two defined plant communities. This one can be seen between the mixed evergreen forest and the meadow. You can see that the sizes of the tress and shrubs decrease markedly as one looks from the tall forest to the meadow. This means that the forest is actually moving into the meadow, with the youngest plants on the current meadow edge.

The grassland area was once actively managed by the indigenous people, the Ohlone, probably with controlled burning. Research and emeritus faculty member Bob Curry reports that the soils underlying this entire region of the campus, including our Seven Springs area east of Empire Grade, indicate historical and prehistoric changes from forest to grassland and the reverse. This makes the entire Marshall Field region useful in studying the history of the vegetation in a context of geology and human land use. Our effort at maintaining the meadow and the relatively high composition of native plant species continues today with a program of controlled burning and mowing.

West Marshall Field contains a diversity of native and introduced coastal grasses and forbs (herbaceous plants that are not grasses) on a perched water table, in a Mima Mound community structure. This terrace is approximately XXX years old and supports plants that tolerate very wet condition during the winter and spring. such plants are called halophytes. Such ecosystems, seen best in the vernal pools of California�s Central Valley, often permit native plant and invertebrate species to survive relatively well in spite of the ever increasing spread of invasive, non-native weed species. Our interest in West Marshall Field is to protect and enhance the native species and control against weed invasions while we study the species and the processes.

Plant Communities

  • Coastal Grassland-Mima mound
  • Mixed evergreen forest
  • Ponderosa Pine


Det Vogler, Research Geneticist/Plant Pathologist

with the Institute of Forest Genetics USDA Forest Service,

PSW Research Station. Here he is logging the tag he has

just inserted into one of our Ponderosa Pines.


The Ohlone tiger beetle is a federally listed species that lives in coastal prairie grasslands. In West Marshall Field we see it in the early spring, often mating on open ground. The larvae live in burrows. It is a voracious predator, eaten in term by parasitoid wasps and flys. Our campus reserve has a policy of special status species on our reserve parcels.

The ponderosa pine population in West Marshall field is unusually close to the coast for this normally inland-growing species. This group of trees has been classified as a genetically distinct population although more genetic work needs to be done to confirm their taxonomic standing. In addition some of the trees are being monitored for disease by researcher, Det Vogler from the Institute of Forest Genetics in Davis who is involved in the Long-Term Pitch Canker Spread and Intensification Monitoring Project. In the context of the advancing pitch canker disease in pines and other diseases that threaten our native species this work on our reserve will provide baseline data against which to compare future states of the disease.

Mima Mounds are small (1-5 meters in diameter) mounds of earth located on a perched water table. That means that the surface soils are shallow and permeable and that underneath there is impermeable soil or rock. This condition sometimes allows vernal pools to form between the mounds during the rainy season and into the spring. Our wet areas support many native species, including the rare plants Nutall’s quailwort, coast trefoil, and the large flowered star tulip. The other Mima Mound community at UCSC is located across from the Arboretum (LRDP area A) and is thought to be XXX years old.