Invasive species


There are many definitions of invasive species, but basically it is any plant, animal, or pathogenic organism that spreads in range without human intervention. Organisms do this naturally—it is a part of being alive.

Some definitions of invasive species include both natives and non-natives, but conservationists have a particular problem with non-native invasive species that have been introduced to areas by humans, because often they grow rapidly and displace the native organisms. The VAST majority of plants and animals introduced to areas are not problems, but a few are, and they can cause lots of damage to the native species.

The Davis area has lots of these species, many being grown in its Town flora. Some are already widely spread and can only be eradicated locally, or perhaps by biocontrols. Other species are still in the early stages of invasion—they are just being grown here and there as landscape or garden plants, and may never escape. On the other hand, these species are invasive in other parts of the world, and invasive species scientists will tell you that the best indicator of invasiveness is if the organism has a bad track record elsewhere.

Invasiveness is very local. As the California Invasive Plant Council puts it: “Invasive plants are by nature a regional or local problem. A plant that jumps out of the garden in one climate and habitat type may behave perfectly in another.” Nandina domestica, the common Heavenly bamboo, is an invasive plant in northern Florida and parts of Georgia, but not here. Lantana x camara, a subtropical with beautiful flowers, has become a serious rangeland invader in New Zealand, but is just an attractive garden plant in California. Scotch broom and gorse have become serious problems throughout northwestern California. Baby’s breath (Gypsophila paniculata) has clusters of delicate, airy-looking flowers used in arrangements, but it may be restricted in some areas (not here) as it invades bunchgrass rangelands. The California Invasive Plant Council (CalIPC) has an [WWW]inventory of invasive plants by region.

Below are some species of invasive species spotted in Davis, which are damaging to natural areas. The list of species that are strictly agricultural pests is different.


Plants not widely spread

Growing these plants in Davis is just asking for trouble. Even if you don't think they can spread from your garden, birds can carry propagules from your yard to the many wetlands and rivers within an easy bird's flight. Many of these plants are already causing problems in the various wetlands and impoundments that provide value for native animals and migrating waterfowl.

Plants Already Widely Spread

The plants are already widely spread in the Davis area, and are damaging our native biodiversity. Alas, there's not much we can really do about them in terms of eradicating them. But we can try to remove them when possible. A few of their impacts are listed, all exclude native species by growing very thick or dense.



What Can You Do?


The number one, most cost effective way to deal with harmful invasive species is to prevent them from getting a foothold in the first place. In Davis, the number one vector for new invasive plants is the horticulture trade. The plants you can get at nonspecialist nurseries like Ace Hardware are not likely to be a problem in this way, since most of their plants are ones already in wide cultivation. Even so, Ace will sometimes have some invasive plants for sale, like the 'Red Baron' cultivar of Cogongrass or Periwinkle.

The UC Davis Arboretum is, unfortunately, a source for some invasive plants. The worst ones they have in this category are invasive grasses. Each year they sell lots of different clones of Maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis), and it is only a matter of time before they introduce a clone that causes the same amount of trouble to California that they are causing in the eastern USA.

Landscaping invasives control

A few of the species of plants being grown (and even promoted) for landscape work in Davis should be removed from use, and replaced by native species or non-invasive exotics. Lists of ecologically responsible alternatives for the really bad players (such as Chinese tallow tree, Fountaingrass, or Periwinkle) are maintained by the [WWW]California Invasive Plant Council.

Natural area invasives control

Davis maintains a great set of natural areas that act as sanctuaries for native animals such as waterfowl. Unfortunately, many of these are becoming degraded because non-native plants are invading them. These plants are either growing into clumps that are so thick that native animals are unable to pass through them, or are excluding more desirable plants that could provide food for the native animals.

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