Thursday, June 30

They Don't Belong Here...

The vast expanse of the beautiful southern Californian landscape is plagued by a great threat. When alive, it looks like a normal green grass, but it is really a kind of succubus to the water supply of native Californian plants. In the summer it is dead, brown, and dry--potential kindling for a conflagration that could put the San Jacinto’s wildlife and human lives at great risk. It is everywhere: on the peaks of mountains, in the very depths of the valleys, and even creeping around the environmental sanctuary known as the James Reserve. It is Bromus tectorum. Native to Europe, the northern rim of Africa, and southwestern Asia, cheatgrass (yes, its common name is quite appropriate) was introduced to North America by disguising itself as different grains that people actually like and hitchhiking on merchant ships in the late 1800’s. It is now rampant throughout all of North America.

As said before, there are many reasons why this plant just shouldn’t exist. Living cheatgrass steals water out of beautiful and useful species, like the agave and yucca. Dead cheatgrass easily spreads fires that kill native species, much like the way European settlers spread smallpox throughout the Native American peoples. And it never stops spreading. Its seeds attach onto unsuspecting hikers’ boots and clothes and travel to all corners of the world, endangering native species everywhere. Cheatgrass is also a blight upon the eyes. It looks like Europe decided to bring his ugly brown shag carpet over to North America’s place when they were moving in together but he never got rid of it even though she's saying for years that it's just killing the feng shui of the room.

Like most invasive species Bromus tectorum is here to stay. Best thing to do now is to try to limit its spread. So if you're hiking in an area where this brown plague is present, make sure to check your boots and pant legs carefully, even before getting back into your car. Pick out any seeds or grasses, bag them up, and dispose of them where they can't spread. Only you can stop bad shag swag.

It doesn’t belong here.

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