After 2 hours of pulling weeds on Saturday there’s nothing I wanted to write about more than all of our nasty little non-native plants. As much as I love the Ventura river preserve, the very nature of the area makes it a hotbed for invasives. Not only does the river bring seeds from miles away (good and bad), but the numerous uses over the decades of the preserve have ensured a riotous mix of introduced flora. Livestock grazing, kiwi farm, orange orchard, oil and gas exploration have all brought their unique foreign flavor to our trails. I’ve found that the more I learn the non-natives the more I appreciate the plants that actually belong here. So here are a few of my choice favorites, stuff that you’d be likely to see blooming now.
The Tolerable: Introduced from the Mediterranean, the sight of entire mountainsides covered in bright yellow flowers is iconic California. Can actually be used to make mustard, take that Gulden’s.
The Bad: They’ve taken over, I mean everywhere, to the point that eradication projects don’t even bother anymore. In past years the Ojai Meadow Preserve by Nordhoff has been a literal 8 foot tall forest of mustard, the tide is turning though, nice work OVLC.
The Ugly: Produce chemicals that discourage natives from growing. Can increase the risk of wildfires in chaparral areas.
The Tolerable: Kind of a nice purple when it blooms. Definitely intimidating looking, would make a gnarly weapon if you could grab it.
The Bad: Seeds remain viable in the soil for years. The spines are everywhere on the plant, particularly brutal when they dry out in summer. As I am typing this I have itchy red pinpricks up and down my arms and legs even though I wore long sleeves while yanking them.
The Ugly: They can achieve almost 100% coverage of an infected area, completely wiping out competitors, wind blown seed can form distant colonies. Known as a “mid-story fire ladder”
The Tolerable: Next time you are hiking.. look down at the side of the trail, see that purple carpet? Isn’t it pretty? Good forage for local rodents as well.
The Bad: Look closer, see those nasty little spears forming? Those are seeds which are going to end up sticking to your polyester bell bottoms or your pet wombat’s fur.
The Ugly: Just ask Brian Stark OVLC restoration coordinator how much he loves the purple carpet choking the ground in every direction, regardless of drought.
The Tolerable: I suppose seeing a field of them waving in the wind could be comforting for the mentally disturbed
The Bad: It is slowly choking out our native grasslands, spreading via easily dispersible seeds
The Ugly: It’s called ripgut for heaven’s sake. The scourge of pet owners, the nasty little fishhook barbs work their way into paws, eyes, noses, often requiring surgery to remove.
The Tolerable: Pretty impressive looking, see that person in the foreground of the picture? Can get 15 feet tall, lush green leaves mixed with shades of purple, big funky spike fruits would make a gnarly projectile
The Bad: They just love to grow into massive bushes in any type of roadside or disturbed soil. Easily shading or crowding out any native plants
The Ugly: Guinness Book of Records named it the “World’s Most Poisonous Plant”. All parts toxic to humans and livestock. Ingested seeds can kill.
OK take a deep breath. I know you’re worked up. Of these 5 which of them gets your vote as the biggest pest
Just a few to get you going on this lovely Monday morning. I know there are dozens of others, I’ll save those for another day. Would love to hear any stories you have with these, please leave a comment.