Native Plant life-
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  1. #1
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    Oct 2006

    Native Plant life

    In a discussion on the SoCal Board there was some discussion of removal of non-native plant species and the protection of native plants.....

    I am curious why municipalities and other governing agencies are so concerned about this.

    I was a volunteer on a building project in the City of Carlsbad, Ca (San Diego) and the City forced us to remove some Pampas Grass that was growing down the embankments because it was "non-native", but they allowed for us to plant "non-native" trees in the planters of the parking lot....

    On a trail system in San Diego the land managers are actively removing things like mustard and artichoke that are "non-native" but will not even trim back the poison oak that is native.....

    In your area's are the land managers hot to trot on this topic? Does this play into your trail building? Do you have to protect certain plants, but are encouraged to remove others as part of the building and maintaining of trails?

    The one great constant in life is change. Human migration over centuries created much change to the environment, bringing new plants to grow, etc. Some seeds blow in the wind and migrate plant species to places they were not seen in the past. Heck, most of the riding area's in SoCal are surrounded on all sides by housing tracks full of plants purchased at Home Depot that only live in the Arid SoCal climate because of water that would not exist here without the infrastructure to bring it here.... I can imagine that seed from plants in these yards at times blows into the trail systems and take root if they can survive.

    I can understand not wanting a plant to purposely be planted that will strangle what is there and completely transform the landscape.... But does this not play against the philosophy of many regarding the survival of the fittest? If something stronger and more adept to the environment starts growing, why should it be removed if it is the fittest for survival? On the other hand if something is detrimental to humans, why should it stay in place where it can harm humans? For example, Poison Oak... I am not advocating a full extermination of the plant, just generous trimming and maintenance of it to keep it away from trails.

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  2. #2
    Rent this space for $
    Reputation: Oh My Sack!'s Avatar
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    Aug 2006
    The Pampas Grass: Cortaderia spp. topic is an easy one. "Non-native" is just the tip of the iceberg for that plant material. Pampas propagates by those cute, long, feathery puff balls on a stick. Once Pampas Grass gets going, it is vectored extremely fast and will inundate an area in little time by blowing seeds, choking out everything in it's path. It's also very dangerous to have around areas of high target or traffic. As a kid, we called it "Razor Bushes" because if you went into it, you were guaranteed some significant slices and dices all over your body. Once it takes hold, the stuff is an absolute nightmare to mitigate due to it's extensive root ball and potential size, not to mention that safety element of handling it.

    The "Non-Native" buzzword gets used a lot and used incorrectly, IMO. It's treated as that is exclusively the issue at hand. In reality, I think you'll find the true reasons for mitigation is based upon the invasiveness of that particular plant material such as Mustard, Thistle, Genista (Broom), et. al. Almost everything we landscape with, especially in CA, is "non-native" and typically comes from South Africa, the Mediterranean regions, and elsewhere. In the last 30 years, we certainly do use more "native" plant materials or hybrid varieties of such due to the popularity of water rationing landscapes and the trees you mention tend to be "non native" but I think the key factors that are really missed and go unmentioned is that they are "non-invasive" and control is not an issue. The critical aspect becomes what will actually grow and grow well in the environment an agency is attempting to revegetate. I've dealt with this through out my entire 25+ year career as an Arborist/Landscape Contractor and still do like you in working with Land Managers in trail construction.

    The poison oak thing just becomes a thing of "who the hell wants to go in a deal with it?"

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Klurejr View Post
    The one great constant in life is change. Human migration over centuries created much change to the environment, bringing new plants to grow, etc.

    Humans have the ability to impart more change in 1 day than other species of animals could manage to do in thousands of years. With that ability comes responsibility, imo.

    Some plants that are introduced by humans displace native (historically established) species, and those species have usually evolved in a symbiotic relationship with other life forms over countless generations. When you displace some plants species you also displace other plants, butterflies, birds and various mammals.

    So in certain situations it may be worthwhile to attempt the removal of invasive species so that natives have a chance to re-establish. Again, just my opinion.
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  4. #4
    since 4/10/2009
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    Dec 2003
    The short of it -

    Nonnative INVASIVE species displace natives. They reduce biodiversity. They cause direct damage, but also cascading effects on the ecosystem. Some of which directly affect people.

    Getting into the details requires that you know the ecology of the area pre-invasion. It requires you to understand the biology and habits of the nonnative invader. It requires you to know about how that invader changes things after it moves in.

    My whole job last summer was invasive plant control in the southeast. Primarily japanese honeysuckle, oriental bittersweet, chinese silvergrass, japanese stiltgrass, porcelain berry, and chinese lespedeza. And a few occasional others.

    Each plant invaded a slightly different area/habitat, and each plant had its own effects. Sometimes the problem was a simple crowding issue. Sometimes, like with the bittersweet, the vine girdled the trees it climbed. Some invasives dump toxins into the soil to prevent competition. Some plants alter soil chemistry and open the door to other invaders. Some alter fire frequency/intensity. Sometimes, a combination of these effects results in reduced soil stability and more landslides. Some of these introduced plants bring pests that decimate native plants. Oftentimes, native insects and wildlife refuse to forage on nonnatives. This reduces insect biodiversity as the native forage gets crowded out or killed by invasives. The loss of insect diversity reduces bird biodiversity. So on and so on as it cascades throughout the food chain.

    All of this leaves us in a more precarious situation because as much as many people refuse to admit, we are PART of nature and we're pissing in our own bed right now.

    In all honesty, none of the nonnative invasives will be eliminated through these control efforts. What these efforts DO accomplish is that they buy time. They buy time for evolution to work on its own, for diseases to begin affecting the invaders, and for native wildlife to start munching on the introduced plants or for the native plants to evolve genetic defenses. In some cases, it buys humans time to work on selective breeding and/or genetic engineering to speed up the evolution of genetic defenses of native plants. It gives people time to find biological controls that can be introduced without themselves ravaging a different part of the ecosystem.

  5. #5
    BM and PQ Trail Rep
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    Oct 2006
    Most consider plants invasive if they have been introduced into an environment where they did not evolve. As a result, they usually have no natural enemies to limit their reproduction and spread. They tend to crowd out and replace the native plants that supply food to the local insect and animal populations. Over time you lose bio-diversity and have a weakened population even more susceptible to further decline.

    The circle of life is based on a predatory chain that has specialized in a region. Each segment of the chain is completely dependent upon the lower ones. There are few if any cases where an invasive plant created a better environment for the native species who relied on the plants replaced. While it may not be decimating, it can have real impacts. Bring in an invasive species and the results can be too much to handle.

    A couple easy examples of invasive that cause issues

    - Shot Hole borer - a very tiny beetle from SouthEast Asia. It is currently wiping out trees through San Diego and much of Southern California. It has ZERO natural predators here. We have a problem right now with a native beetle (Bark) but that is a water issue and can be controlled naturally as seasons change. (Global warming debate anyone?). Shot Hole borer has proven impervious to everything except chemical control that kills all insect life.
    - Mustard Plant is seen along trails and other disturbed areas. It actually fights other plants using chemical warfare. It produces a non germination chemical in the vicinity that prohibits other plants from germinating. It spreads rampantly in areas eliminating food sources for birds and other wildlife.
    -"wild" artichoke is seen all over fields in San Diego. There are no SD animals that currently can use it as food source. It grows rapidly and reproduces quickly, moving across the county on the slightest breeze. If you see it in your yard, it needs to come out before it blooms.
    - Papas Grass - same concept as the artichoke.

    Now, back to the "why not eliminate poison oak?" question. It is a substantial food source for deer, birds, and other wild life. Removing all of it goes back to the crux of this post. It changes the natural order of the biology in the area. Removing some is no different that weeding and can be done. Removing it all is the same as shutting down the grocery store in your area. Now you have to move on to another location or starve. Not much of a choice.
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  6. #6
    trail gnome
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    One beneficial side effect (if you can call it that) of noxious plants like poison oak, poison ivy, wild parsnip, and the like -- is they tend to encourage people to stay on the trail tread and not wander off. Of course, that only works if people are aware the noxious plants are present.

    Invasive species are a major issue for the Don River Valley in Toronto, home to an excellent trail system. The valley has been invaded by maple trees: non-native Norway maple. The Norway maple canopy crowds out native trees, and the poisonous sap extruded by the Norway maple kills off the undergrowth, leading to erosion.
    Mountain bikers are generally a rational bunch...until someone moves a rock on our favorite trail and we lose our minds - LMN

  7. #7
    Reputation: chazpat's Avatar
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    Sep 2006
    Native Plant life-kudzu.jpg

    Kudzu. Hats off to the folks who maintain this trail and battle this stuff back.

    Once established in a habitat, kudzu is able to grow very quickly. Kudzu can grow up to 60 feet per season, or about one foot per day. Kudzu is also able to allocate large portions of carbon to root growth, allowing it to acquire sufficient nutrients for rapid growth and to spread clonally. Primary kudzu roots can weigh over 180 kg, grow to 18 cm in diameter, and penetrate soil at a rate of 3 cm in depth per day. Kudzu can also root wherever stems make contact with soil, allowing vines to grow in all directions. Once rooted, most stems lose connection with each other within one year, allowing each stem to become a physiologically independent individual, and requiring that all stems be treated or removed in order to eliminate a population.[6]

    The economic impact of kudzu in the United States is estimated at $100 million to $500 million lost per year in forest productivity.[6] In addition, it takes about $5,000 per hectare (2.5 acres) per year to control kudzu.[6] Power companies must spend about $1.5 million per year to repair damage to power lines.[6]
    This post is a natural product. Variances in spelling & grammar should be appreciated as part of its character & beauty.

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