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ANCIENT PLANT FOSSILS

Scientists working on the islands have occasionally come across a very exciting discovery ancient plant fossils dating back tens of thousands of years. Examples of the types of fossils that have been found are :

Douglas fir ( Pseodotsuga menziesii )

Bishop pine ( Pinus muricata )

Gowen cypress ( Cupressus goveniana )

Scientists studying these remains have determined that in the Pleistocene Era, Santa Cruz Island for example supported a much richer diversity of trees, and would have been much like the Fort Bragg area of Northern coastal California we know today.

The scientists who made these discoveries are Ralph Cheney and H.L. Mason, working in the Canada de Los Sauces on Santa Cruz island in 1930.

In the reverse, there are plants growing on the islands that are now only know from the fossil record on the mainland.

Catalina Ironwood ( Lyonothamnus floribudus ssp. Floribundus) for example, used to have relatives living all over the American west as far inland as the Rockies according to the fossil record, but weather patterns have changes and ironwood now only lives on the Islands, with this specific species endemic to Catalina Island. Other types of ironwood live on Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and San Clemente.