- Author: Melissa G. Womack
As California Invasive Species Week (June 3-11) approaches, it's time to raise awareness about the impact of invasive plants on our natural ecosystems and the importance of making informed plant choices. Invasive species can have detrimental effects on local flora and fauna, often outcompeting other plants for resources and disrupting local ecosystems. By selecting plants that are well-suited to your environment and not invasive, you can make a positive contribution to preserving California's diverse landscapes.
Many invasive plants can be aesthetically pleasing and low-maintenance, making them a popular choice for gardeners. However, invasive plants can spread rapidly, taking over natural habitats and causing significant environmental damage. Invasive species often have few natural predators, enabling them to grow uncontrollably and outcompete other plants for resources like water, sunlight, and nutrients. This can lead to the loss of biodiversity, reduced habitat quality for wildlife, and increased risk of erosion and wildfires.
Examples of Invasive Plants in California:
1. Periwinkle (Vinca major) - This evergreen groundcover is a popular species because of its beautiful purple blooms. Periwinkle forms dense mats that can smother native plants and alter soil chemistry. Instead of periwinkle, try planting native groundcovers like California lilac (Ceanothus spp.) or hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea).
2. Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) - This ornamental grass is highly adaptable and has invaded many natural habitats, including grasslands and coastal sage scrub. Instead, opt for native grasses like purple needlegrass (Stipa pulchra) or deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens or the smaller version Muhlenbergia dubia).
3. Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) - A tall, clumping grass with feathery blooms that can quickly dominate landscapes and outcompete native species. Consider planting native ornamental grasses such as blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis) or switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) as alternatives to pampas grass.
4. Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) - This fast-growing tree can release chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants and can sprout vigorously from root fragments. Plant California native trees like sycamore (Platanus racemosa) or western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) instead of the invasive tree of heaven.
As we celebrate California Invasive Species Week, remember the importance of choosing native plants for your garden. By doing so, you can preserve biodiversity, and contribute to the overall health of our communities. The UC Master Gardener Program is a resource for guidance and education in sustainable gardening practices, including the selection of non-invasive plants. By working together, we can protect California's rich and diverse landscapes for generations to come. To learn more about mindful plant selection and how to create a beautiful, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly garden, visit the UC Master Gardener Program at mg.ucanr.edu/findus. Connect with your local UC Master Gardener Program, and access a wealth of gardening information tailored to your local climates and ecosystems.
- California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC) - https://www.cal-ipc.org/ - Cal-IPC is a leading organization dedicated to protecting California's wildlands from invasive plants through research, restoration, and education.
- California Native Plant Society (CNPS) - https://www.cnps.org/ - CNPS is a non-profit organization that promotes the understanding and appreciation of California's native plants and preserves them in their natural habitat.
- PlantRight - https://plantright.org/ - PlantRight works with California's nursey industry to keep invasive plants out of our landscapes and promotes the sale of non-invasive alternatives.
Help keep the conversation going during California Invasive Species Week by sharing your native plant success stories on social media using the hashtag #CAInvasiveSpeciesWeek. Participate in local events, workshops, and volunteer opportunities to increase awareness and take action against invasive species in your community. Together, we can make a difference and preserve California's unique and vibrant ecosystems for future generations!