By Steve Jacobs,
In California we are lucky to live in a mild climate that allows us to grow amazing landscapes. Because of this mild climate, plants from other parts of the world often thrive; and some grow so well they become known as invasive. These plants ‘jump fences’ and ‘throw seeds.’ Their roots and stem fragments spread into our natural areas threatening our biodiversity and ecology. They grow quickly and crowd our native vegetation, blocking streams which can cause flooding, and their biomass can become a serious fire hazard.
By choosing appropriately selected replacements for these invasive plants, we can save ourselves landscape maintenance costs, help protect California’s natural landscape and reduce the risk of flooding and fire damage.
Here is a list of invasive plants commonly used in the Rancho Santa Fe area, along with several healthy and beautiful alternatives:
This strong, aggressive groundcover creates impenetrable mats that can choke out native vegetation, including several rare and threatened plants. Small animals and storm drains help to spread iceplant into natural areas.
Alternatives:Wall Germander, Ivory Star Jasmine, Beach Strawberry, San Diego March Elder, Ivy Geranium, and Common Yarrow.
The massive size of each pampas grass plant reduces wildlife habitat, limits recreational areas, and creates serious fire and flood hazards. Winds can carry their small seeds up to 20 miles. “Sterile” varieties of this plant have not been properly tested and verified and are therefore not recommended.
Alternatives:Blue Oat Grass, Deer Grass, San Deigo Sedge, Giant Wild Rye, and California Fescue.
Mexican Feather Grass:
Once established, Mexican Feather Grass is capable of overcoming native pasture grass species and animal species. It produces tens of thousands of seeds which are easily dispersed by wind, water, contaminated soil, automobiles, and animal feces.
Alternatives:Blue Grama Grass, Prairie Dropseed, Mexican Deer Grass, Pink Muhly, Autumn Moor Grass.
Brazilian Pepper Tree:
The aggressive growth of these South American trees enables them to displace native trees and form dense thickets in natural areas. Additionally, they can take over your yard and can become a maintenance nightmare. Seeds are easily transported by birds and mammals into natural areas.
Alternatives:Coast Live Oak, Catalina Ironwood, Arbutus Strawberry Tree, Australian Willow, Chitalpa, and Fern Pine.
These plants are strong and will out-compete native species (some of these native species are relied on for native creatures to survive). The seeds are very light and easily carried by wind into natural areas where they can survive in harsh conditions.
Alternatives:Mexican Gold Poppy, California Poppy, San Diego Sunflower, Blazing Star, Baby Blue Eyes, and Chinese Houses.
It’s important to be aware of what you grow in your yard. By avoiding or removing these invasive plants and replacing them with native alternatives, you can go a long way in saving yourself maintenance costs along with helping to preserve California’s ecosystem. To learn more about invasive plants, visit the California Invasive Plant Council website at
or Plant Right at
At Nature Designs, we pride ourselves not only in providing you with a beautiful landscape, but also with protecting the Southern California environment. If you are interested in discussing invasive plants and how to protect against them, please contact us at
, or call us at (760) 945-4321.