Invasive Species Control
The NCRCDC encourages efforts to control and eradicate invasive species, which frequently crowd out native vegetation to the detriment of wildlife and the environment. Some of the common invasives in the North Coast include:
Arundo donax is a large member of the grass family and resembles bamboo. The plant grows well along stream banks and other wet areas, and can obtain heights of 25 feet. Large masses of the plant form continuous root clumps with hundreds of stems growing very closely together. Rapid growth of several inches per day in the Spring and Summer is not uncommon. The plant's worst trait is its ability to vegetatively reproduce by spreading outward. Fast moving winter waters break pieces of the root clumps apart, and these spread downstream where new colonies are established. Both the stems and the underground parts called rhizomes have the ability to propagate. Arundo can be successfully removed from a watershed by starting eradication efforts at the top of the watershed where infestation first occurs, and working downstream.
Vinca major is introduced to new locations usually as an ornamental or medicinal herb. It spreads locally from dumped garden waste, plant fragments carried downstream, and as a garden escape along shady corridors. It grows most vigorously in moist shady areas in forests, along streams, and urban areas. Once established the herb competes with native vegetation by smothering all native groundcover vegetation and preventing the regeneration of trees and shrubs. V. major is a serious threat to the understory of forested areas and streamside vegetation. Common names include bigleaf periwinkle, blue periwinkle, greater periwinkle, large periwinkle, periwinkle .
Pampas grass (Cortaderia jubata), also known as Jubata Grass, is popular for use in landscaping. Unfortunately, the plant also outcompetes native plants, and spreads easilt. If left unchecked, Pampas Grass creates an environment devoid of native plants or birds. Its thick, flaxen blooms spread seeds easily on the wind.
Scotch broom is a legume (Cytisus scoparius) which is a serious ecological and economic problem in California and elsewhere. Broom invades and degrades coastal and mountain ecosystems, creating a dangerous source of fuel for wildfire, and inhibiting forest regeneration in logged timberlands.
Gorse (Ulex europaeus). Stories about the introduction of Gorse into California attribute the plant to an immigrant from Scotland who missed his native gorse hedgerows. Whatever the case, the thorny, oily plant has become widespread along the Pacific coast from California through Washington, and eradication efforts have been largely unsuccessful. On a nice warm summer day, gorse shoots its seeds 30 feet from the plant; these robust little bombs can lie dormant for an average of 30 years, until a heedless gardener disturbs the soil, and the whole invasive cycle begins again. On a warm, dry autumn day, a well established stand of gorse -- roots and stems are 30% combustible oil -- can burn like an inferno. Gorse invades pasturelands, and eliminates wildlife and bird habitat.
Take an Invasive Species Roadside Tour along Highway 128 and Highway 1 in Mendocino County:
- Highway 128, MP 40-45 Arrundo donax is visible along Highway 101 and the Russian River, as well as in the headwaters area of the Russian River along
- Highway 128. The bamboo-like growth is readily apparent in the riparian corridor. Highway 128, MP 5.5 Paul Dimmick State Park entrance; Vinca major is visible as a dense carpet all along the Navarro Redwoods area, usually in shady groups.
- Highway 1, Cortaderia is readily visible from Little River Beach/Van Damme State Park to north of Fort Bragg, especially evident around the town of mendocino on the highway edges. Entire hillsides are engulfed by the invader in areas north of Fort Bragg.
- Highway 1, Cytisus scoparius is evident all along the roadside between Cloverdale and Navarro on Highway 128, with dense fields of Scotch broom between Mendocino and Caspar.
- Highway 1, by Caspar. Ulex europaeus overwhelms many pastures, and dense fields of the invasive gorse can be seen just north of Caspar.