Flowers and Weeds

| April 28, 2011

Editor:

Thanks to Heidi Walters for the much-needed counterbalance to the "More Native Than Thou" plant purists ("Bad Weed," April 21).

In San Francisco awhile back, I donated a pair of large jade plants to a struggling local nursery, thinking they'd sell for $15-$20 each (the pots alone were worth that) and help keep the place open. A day later they were gone. Sold already? I hopefully inquired. No, composted, harrumphed the manager, an MNTT purist. "They weren't native." His nursery has now folded.

As for the jade plant, it's thriving elsewhere, covering much of the earth from well north of San Francisco to well south of Santa Barbara where it is practically the only visible vegetation (but never fear, locals, jades can't survive the local freezes around Humboldt Bay and will never "invade" around here outside of a greenhouse). I suppose that maybe 500 years ago they were all down in Peru, like the evil Potato, but I haven't noticed any damage from them ... and I think that folks would do well to remember that our own species is 100-percent non-native, unknown in this hemisphere 'til a few short millenia ago.

Rick Park, Arcata

Editor:

So glad to see the subject of "exotic" plants on our shores come up. There are the truly foreign invaders, such as the grass Ammophila, native to northern Europe and featured in the article. Also, known to nearly everyone, we have the infamous pampas grass, which is native to the grasslands of Argentina and terribly invasive here, as well as ice plant from South Africa, extending over many dunes. These plants are present on our shores because humans have purposely or accidentally imported them from other continents.

Another kind of so-called exotic is the plant whose origin is nearby in a similar ecological zone. Lupinus arboreus (Yellow bush lupine), mentioned in the article, is now found in every coastal county of California, probably having originated in Central California. It is a showy shrub, with candelabra of sweetly scented yellow flowers and a long bloom period, and it is visible from a distance. It is lovely.

Yet there have been campaigns and work rallies to eradicate this lupine from our shores as a "non-native exotic." The climate is achangin', and many species are on the move in reaction to warming temperatures. Is it not a waste of focus and effort to attempt to eradicate this plant that is found on the coasts of Mendocino and Del Norte counties, which adjoin ours? If the climate were static, it might make sense to try for restoration to the status of some previous era. Given the coming changes, let's go with the flow instead of fruitlessly attempting to live in the past. There are surely better botanical battles to wage. Good or bad, this is a judgment call. Let's leave Lupinus arboreus alone.

Kathryn Corbett, Eureka

Editor:

I learned much from your article on European beachgrass. Well done! I have two observations.

First, there was no mention of the multi-acre beachgrass removal project being conducted on Clam Beach directly below the Highway 101 Vista Point in McKinleyville. Hundreds, if not thousands, of person hours have been devoted to this ongoing project, which appears to be in harms way as the Mad River cuts northward to possibly reclaim this area once again.

Second, as the Mad River moves northward it plows up all the beachgrass in its path and sends it to a watery grave. The result is an ever-expanding sand spit and future dune complex that is initially grass free.

Might it not be cheaper and easier to keep beachgrass from re-colonizing this area rather than trying to eradicate it from existing sites? After all, Mother Nature has already done all the hard work. As a taxpayer, I would really like to know the answer to this question.

Attu Ritsch, McKinleyville

 

Editor:

The article "Bad Weed" contains several false statements, half-truths, and misleading and alarmist remarks from a small but vocal minority opposed to current coastal conservation practices.

Assertions that work in the foredunes would make Manila more susceptible to a tsunami are not supported by experts in the field of coastal geomorphology. It is misguided to think that allowing invasive species such as European beachgrass to thrive in our foredunes will afford tsunami protection to coastal communities. At the recent public forum on coastal dunes, geologist Tom Leroy, of Cascadia Geosciences, clearly explained that a tsunami generated by a major Cascadia earthquake event will overtop our foredunes, with or without invasive species. As borne out by tsunami inundation maps prepared by the California Geological Survey, the higher backdunes, not the foredunes, are the best defense against a major tsunami.

The accusation that Friends of the Dunes uses Manila Community Services District as a "grant mill" is false and misleading. From 2004-2009, Manila Community Services District contracted Friends of the Dunes to help implement their management plan by supervising community volunteers. The total of those contracts, over five years, was less than $35,000.

Claims that restoration has killed a "pygmy forest" are simply not true. The pines referred to in the article, sprouting up in areas invaded by European beachgrass, are not a "pygmy forest" (a unique forest type, the nearest one located in Mendocino County). These scattered young trees would not have normally sprouted in these areas if it weren't for the non-native beachgrass invasion. Some die because of natural stresses not associated with restoration, and some probably have had their demise hastened by removing the beachgrass. Land managers are now shifting their approach in these farthest backdune areas from managing for dune mat to encouraging the expansion of forests.

The statement that European beachgrass is here to stay and can only be managed with "machines, labor or chemicals" is another example of a misinformed view on restoration. Lanphere Dunes is an excellent example of how persistent manual removal of European beachgrass has resulted in the restoration of the rare, northern foredune grassland community. We encourage your readership to attend a guided walk at Lanphere and see for themselves the results of this effort.

Our dunes offer a beautiful and diverse landscape to be conserved for the enjoyment of generations to come and for the species that evolved to live in this dynamic system. The continued health of this system depends on the public's commitment to its stewardship. Friends of the Dunes along with its fellow members of the Humboldt Dunes Cooperative is working to ensure that the public dialog about coastal conservation is based on facts.

William Weaver, PhD,
Board President, Friends of the Dunes

 Carol Vander Meer,
Executive Director, Friends of the Dunes

 

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