Happy Halloween! Today I am dressed in the scariest costume I could think of – an invasive non-native plant! I am a Tamarisk tree, but there are approximately 1,800 non-native plants that grow in the wild in the state. Tamarisk is especially bad because it drinks A LOT of water, and deposits salts on the surface of the soil. Deposits of salt-encrusted Tamarisk needles keep other plants from growing. Tamarisk (or Saltcedar) has been blamed for increasing flooding and fire frequency!
Non-native plants reduce biodiversity, and reduce habitat available to native animals like birds and butterflies. They alter natural landscapes, and increase the frequency and intensity of fires. Non-native plants also contribute to species endangerment. 42% of the nation’s endangered and threatened species have declined as a result of encroaching exotic plants and animals (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).
Non-native plants cost us money! Each year, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service spend an estimated 2 and 10 million dollars, respectively, on controlling exotic plants (Westbrooks, 1998). They cause great economic losses and expenditures each year, measured in billions of dollars, for agriculture, forestry, range lands and roadways management (Westbrooks 1998).
How can you help? Do not purchase or use invasive exotic species in your landscaping – check the California Invasive Plant Council’s website before you buy. Use plants that are native to your local region as much as possible. The best resource to determine what is native to you area is CalFlora.org. To learn more download THIS! – Leslie Helliwell, ENC Museum Collections Manager