While this winter's rains alleviated drought conditions in California, they also nourished a new crop of invasive species in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, where officials hope volunteers will turn out to help rangers pull the unwelcome plants.
Park staff say the growth of invasives is an ongoing problem that this year’s heavy rains have only exacerbated. But it’s also an opportunity for long-lasting change if park rangers and the community attack the problem head on, making areas more fire safe and enjoyable for visitors.
For example, trails in Zuma and Trancas canyons have been overrun by a spectacular display of bright yellow flowers called black mustard (Brassica nigra), making them difficult to pass for hikers and mountain bike riders. At Solstice Canyon, carnation spurge (Euphorbia terracina), a toxic relative of the holiday favorite poinsettia plant, continues to aggressively push out native plants in a sensitive riparian area. Areas at both of these sites, which are in Malibu, are habitat restoration targets for the National Park Service, with spurge as the main focus.
“There are over 300 non-native species in the Santa Monica Mountains, but a core group of them are what we consider the ‘evil 25,’” says Joey Algiers, restoration ecologist for the park. “Native plants are the foundation of our ecosystem that supports a diversity of wildlife, all the way up to mountain lions. Besides that, the spring crop of weeds will soon dry out and become a fire hazard, creating a large load of fine fuels that are dry longer, ignite quickly, and spread flames faster than native shrubs.”
That said, Algiers and a crew will be hosting volunteer days twice a month on Saturday mornings for the next two months. Individuals and groups, from Boy and Girl Scout troops to corporations looking to give back, can participate in the restoration process, which can include pulling weeds and planting natives.
The volunteer days are May 6, May 20, June 3, and June 17. All four events will run between 9 a.m. and noon at the Bonsall Drive parking lot at Zuma and Trancas canyons. To sign up or get more info, call 805-370-2393.