The Geologic Foundation
Once upon a time, this land was under water, part of an ancient ocean, which uplifted to form the Santa Cruz Mountains about three million years ago. The silt, sand, and mud that had been deposited in that shallow sea later turned into the shale, sandstone, and mudstone that make up Quail Hollow today. Hiking the park trails, one becomes aware of the sandy soils that have been eroded from the Santa Margarita sandstone – an important foundation for many habitats as well as an aquifer for the San Lorenzo Valley.
Habitats Reflecting a Unique Place
The diversity of Quail Hollow is mirrored in the patchwork of 15 habitats that are located in this small, secluded valley. They range from the aquatic environment of the pond and surrounding riparian ecosystems to the hot, dry chaparral and unique sandhills habitat. Mixed evergreen forests, redwoods, and grasslands round out some of the other habitats found in the park. We even have the largest Red Willow in the U.S. (next to the pond).
One of the unique aspects of Quail Hollow is the number of rare plants and animals that make this valley their home. Plants like the endangered Ben Lomond spine flower and the threatened Silver-leafed manzanita line the trails here, making one question their sensitive status. They are both found in the park's sandhills habitat, marked by the characteristic sandy soils and scattered ponderosa pine – an ecosystem located only in Santa Cruz County and no where else in the world!
Other sensitive species that are found at Quail Hollow include: the Santa Cruz Wallflower, Ben Lomond buckwheat, Curley-leaved monardella, Santa Cruz monkeyflower, Mount Hermon June beetle, Zayante Banned-winged grasshopper, and Western pond turtle.