Invasive plants are those that are not native to the region where they are growing and bring several problems to the local environment, including becoming fire hazards. Anthony Elisarraras, owner of Ant’s Tractor Mowing recently released a report on the top reasons and strategies for controlling invasive plants.
As long as invasive plants stay in the garden, or farm field, they rarely become a serious problem. But, once escaped into the larger environment they can alter the environment by being toxic to grazers and browsers, crowding out beneficial native plants, and not being palatable or even safe for native fauna or livestock to eat. When aggressive invasive plants take over an area they can alter the soil chemistry and threaten beneficial native plants that support the local fauna like deer, tule elk, rabbits, and predators.
Some of the leading invasive plants found on California’s Central Coast include:
- Pampas Grass, introduced in 1848 by Santa Barbara nurseries is one of the most visible invasive plants. It has spread throughout California and neighboring states. The huge plumes release millions of wind-borne seeds annually. The leaf blades are not a food source for local fauna and the barb-like structure of the leaves does not provide shelter for birds and small animals.
- Iceplant is a succulent from the coast of South Africa. Introduced to California in the early 1900s to control erosion, the plant’s shallow root system and thick growth soon failed at that task. Iceplant forms a thick mat that chokes out all other growth and dies off in big dry, flammable clumps. It’s easy to pull up, but because it has become so invasive, occupying wide swaths of California and Baja shorelines, removing it is labor intensive.
- Tree-of-Heaven or Chinese sumac has been taking over local landscapes throughout the United States since it was introduced in Philadelphia in 1784. It arrived in California during the Gold Rush and has taken over large areas, especially in riparian environments. It produces chemicals that prevent other plants from growing and its dense thickets have also crowded out other native riparian plants, creating fire hazards. Its roots are known to invade septic systems and plumbing.
- Vinca Major, or big periwinkle, has escaped the gardens and become invasive throughout California. It spreads rapidly, forms a thick ground cover that chokes out native plants, and can alter the flow of water and other natural water formations of a region.
“Not all invasive plants are the bad guys,” says Elisarraras from the Arroyo Grande weed abatement company, “and a good 90% of our favorite garden plants are well-behaved and stay where they are planted. But, when plants like pampas grass, begin crowding native plants, the natives become diseased, lose their ability to adapt to dry and drought conditions and the combination of flammable invasives and weakened and diseased natives become a tinder box.”
Many native plants are fire-resistant and can help slow the spread of wildfires. Fire-resistant plants have developed characteristics that make them resistant to embers that are one of the reasons wildfires spread so fast. Establishing these plants, and maintaining them with appropriate irrigation and pruning can create a fire-resistant barrier and is becoming an accepted fire prevention practice.
The important thing to remember is that no tree, shrub, or other plant is 100% fireproof if the fire is hot enough. Maintaining healthy native California plants is key to getting the most benefit from those that are fire resistant.
Knowing how to eliminate invasive plants and manage the land to reestablish natives, and enhance their fire resistance is a big step toward a healthy environment. Growing and maintaining a native plant fire-resistant barrier on the perimeter of a property’s defensible space is one more way to help prevent the spread of fire from embers.
Removing invasives is the first step and the Arroyo Grande weed abatement company can help. The weed abatement crew from Ant’s Tractor Mowing can mow or weed-whack invasive plants to a height that makes them easier to pull, plow to expose the roots, or apply herbicide if that is your preferred method.
Some invasives can be controlled by planting “cover crops” of a few native plants that will act to crowd out new growth of the invasive, and that cover crop may also need to be managed as part of a weed abatement program. Ant’s Tractor Mowing can also help manage the cover crop to keep it strong and healthy by regular mowing during your invasive abatement program.
Elisarraras recommends that property owners do some research before starting a native plant restoration project. “It can take a few years to completely eliminate some invasives and for the natives to become established.” Some excellent sources of information are:
- Cal Fire, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, has a lot of information about invasive plants and how to eliminate them.
- The California Department of Fish and Wildlife Don’t Plant Me website provides information about some of the most common invasive plants in California and which natives to plant instead.
- Local nurseries that specialize in native California plants are good sources of information.
- The California Native Plant Society is also a good source of information.
Ant’s Tractor Mowing has been serving the Central Coast since 2004 and is committed to helping property owners keep their properties in excellent condition, free of weeds and overgrowth, and safe from fire. Get a free online estimate for a weed abatement project and know that Ant’s Tractor Mowing will provide the best assistance possible.