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California Native Plant PR

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

December 2005 Los Feliz Ledger Column - "Invasion of the Eco-Snatchers"

The preservation, perpetuation and survival of California native plants depend on many factors. First and foremost, we have to use them in public and private landscapes. Second, but no less important, we must eliminate existing invasive non-native plants—“exotics”—from our yards and refrain from purchasing them in the future.

Many plants that are not native to California, but are easy to grow and have been trusted to perform well for many years, are now decimating native species through rampant spreading.

In the process, they have wiped out and continue to decrease habitats for many of the native wildlife, dramatically reducing the state’s biodiversity and throwing its delicate eco-system out of balance. They block streams, cause flooding and create fire hazards by an over-production of biomass.

This leads to public safety hazards as well as increases in landscape maintenance costs to homeowners and the government. Public dollars have to be spent on clean up when invasive exotic plants reach wild areas, parks, sides and centers of highways and inside rivers.

Some of the worst offenders are in our own backyards, along the roads of Los Feliz and throughout our beloved Griffith Park.

Here are the worst of the worst: Morning Glory (Ipomoea indica), Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana—all cultivars and varieties), Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum—all cultivars and varieties), Iceplant/Hottentot Fig (Carpobrotus edulis), English/Irish/Algerian Ivy (Hedera helix/hibernica/caneriensis), Lantana, Periwinkle (Vinca minor & major), Bridal/French/Portuguese/Scotch/Spanish Broom (Retana monosperma/Genista monspessulana/Cytisus striatus & scoparius/Spartium junceum).

But wait, there are more: Acacia/Western Coastal Wattle (Acacia Cyclops), Myoporum (Myoporum laetum), Mexican Fan/ Canary Island Date Palm (Washingtonia robusta/Phoenix canariensis), Brazilian Pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius), Peruvian or “California” Pepper (Schinus molle), Blue Gum/Red Gum Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globules/camaldulensis), Tree of Heaven (Alianthus altissima), Bailey Acacia (Acacia baileyana), Tamarisk (Tamarix spp.).

Most invasive plants look innocent enough. When they’re a foot tall in the nursery you certainly wouldn’t expect that they could cause much damage, like the Broom species have done by invading over 1 million acres.

The fact that the plants on this list are even for sale would seem to indicate that they’re perfectly suitable to put in your yard.

This is where personal responsibility comes into play. It is, unfortunately, up to customers to know which plants not to purchase. My hope is that there will, one day, be a ban on many or all invasives.

Until then, it is imperative to research any plant you’re thinking of using.

If any of the above-mentioned plants are in your garden currently or are in pots on your property, please remove them with great care not to leave behind roots or seeds. Stay away from herbicides. Recent research has found that most common brands—thought to be innocuous—stay bound up in soil, kill earthworms and beneficial insects, seep into the water table, cause environmental illness in farm and landscape workers and more.

The best approach to eradicating invasive plants is to pull them out. For trees, call your local certified arborist. For large shrubs and grasses, your gardener and a small crew should suffice.

If you want to find out what else in your yard might be invasive, please contact the California Invasive Plant Council at: www.cal-ipc.org. Their “Don’t Plant a Pest!” brochure (subtitled: “Give them an inch and they’ll take an acre . . .”) was a source of inspiration for this column.

All hope is not lost if your yard is currently swimming in a sea of these pesky plants. It may take a while to remove them, but I assure you it will be time well spent. You’ll feel good about your contribution.

When you’re done, you can choose from a long list of more suitable, preferably native, plants that should be growing in our area. They can be purchased by special order at the local nursery (Sunset, for instance) or through the website of a primarily native plant nursery, El Nativo, in Azusa: www.elnativogrowers.com.

I’ll provide some suggestions on sensible substitutes for the eco-snatchers next time around.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


In no particular order at this point:

Garden with plants native to your state.
Buy organic products.
Eliminate all synthetic scents, such as chemical air fresheners like "Glade Plug-ins" and car air fresheners that car washes sell, from your life. This will save your lungs and the air. If you want to freshen the air, open the windows or use essential oils made purely from plant sources - preferably organically grown ones.
Recycle plastic bags, other plastics, glass, paper and anything else your municipality recycles.
Don't dump hazardous materials in your garbage. Dispose of them properly.
Never handwash your car at home - it wastes water and pollutes waterways such as rivers, lakes and oceans.
Never dump cleaning materials or any other products in the street - they end up in waterways, kills wildlife and create a toxic environment.
Unplug appliances like toaster ovens, microwaves, hair dryers, phone chargers, coffee makers, etc. when not in use.
Become a vegetarian. Instead of feeding cattle soy, corn and wheat, we could feed the entire world. We would also save millions of acres of land used to raise "livestock." Plus, waste from "livestock" gets into the water supply and pollutes it. The methane produced by cows is contributing to depletion of the ozone layer.
Grow your own food.
Don't use hebicides or pesticides - ever.
Rescue a dog or cat - avoid breeders at all costs. Most pounds or rescue groups have pure breed dogs AND puppies.
Install solar panels on your roof.
Buy a hybrid or electric car (the tango!).
Drive less or don't drive at all.
Walk or ride a bicycle for short trips.
Adopt a child.
Make kindness your number one priority.
Use a cloth diaper service.
Buy items made by people earning a fair wage and receiving health insurance.
Lobby your legislators for fair trade.
Support a community garden.
Support restoration of old buildings.
Question/fight new non-sustainable development in your neighborhood.
Install a gray water system.
Capture and re-use rainwater.
Prevent run-off from your yard.
Turn your yard into a Backyard Wildlife Habitat.
Dump standing water in your yard - prevent mosquitoes.
Cancel your newspaper subscription and read it online.
Reject disposable items.
Get off junk mailing lists.
Repair a broken appliance instead of buying a new one.
Wear more layers in the house instead of turning up the heat in the winter.
Flush the toilet less frequently - unless you absolutely have to.
Compost your green waste.
Turn off lights as you leave a room.
Change all light bulbs in the house to compact fluorescents (except in the bathroom for makeup purposes).
Turn off the sprinkler systems in the winter - water with the hose if the rain stops for a while.
Adjust sprinkler heads in the dry months to ensure they actually water plants and not sidewalks or streets. Set them to go on before dawn, around 5 in the morning. Don't water in the middle of the day during the heat. Water will evaporate before it even makes it to the roots.
Rip out your lawn and plant natives. If you must have a lawn, make it a small one that you don't water much.
Paint with low or no VOC paints (Safecoat brand is the best paint anyway - totally durable and comes in all forms, from paints, to stains to polyurethane alternatives).
Take showers every other day if possible.
Install a low-flow shower head.
Install a low-flow toilet.
Patronize only green dry cleaners and bring your own garment bags.
Use canvas bags at the grocery store.
Buy recycled paper products: toilet paper; paper towels; copy/printer paper; napkins; etc.
Buy biodegradable soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, dish soap, laundry detergent, dishwasher soap.
Stop using chlorine bleach.
Use white vinegar instead.
Stop buying non-stick pans and pots.