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Making war on the enemy weeds.

Thistle-thwarting volunteers from the Santa Monica Mountains Chapter of the California Native Plant Society first met their enemies-invasive exotic weeds-in 1986. What began as a casual project to eradicate a patch of milk thistle along a favored hiking trail in Point Mugu State Park has become an all-out war on invaders that threaten to crowd out native plants and some wildlife they support.

Groups in other areas where non-native weeds are troublesome could duplicate those efforts; here's how the plant society did it.

War on weeds: the call to arms

Jo Kitz and Doris Hoover of the native plant society rallied support in 1986 from state park staff, the Camarillo Center of the California Conservation Corps, and CNPS volunteers. They all set out to eradicate milk thistle and other exotic weeds in the 16,500-acre park.

It took four week-long weeding sessions, frequent weed-whacking parties, and the energy of Eagle Scouts just to remove the thistle from the park's Big Sycamore Canyon. In 1987, fire crews from the CCC helped cut, bag, and remove large weeds like castor bean and tree tobacco (Nicotiana glauca).

Since 1986, great progress has been made in controlling the invasive weeds. CNPS members hold regular weed-whacking events to maintain cleared areas. Volunteers bring their own lunches and shovels; the state park occasionally supplies tools such as weed cutters.

Getting to know the enemy

Volunteers have learned about the tenacious plants they fight five of which are pictured at left). For example, seeds of horehound attach to the coats of animals or hikers' clothes. Once released, they sprout in the shade of other plants. The horehound can outgrow and shade native plants such as sage, while producing more seed of its own.

Fountain grass was introduced for ornamental use along roadsides and has since spread by seeds carried by wind into the parks. Before the state bought the land, towering African arundo grass (above) had been planted as a windbreak among the native plants; its progeny live on.

Weed-whacking is a year-round activity for volunteers and CNPS members. November gatherings are at El Segundo Dunes, Malibu Lagoon, and Sepulveda Basin. For more details, call Jo Kitz at (818) 348-5910.
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Title Annotation:Environmental Action
Publication:Sunset
Date:Nov 1, 1990
Words:363
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