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Calendar of Events
Things to Expect & Do
Ants: The Good, the
Bad, and the Zany
Landscaping with Good
Speaking of Spinach
Invasive Plant Notes
Harvest Time Puzzle
Go Native with
Can You Identify This
Homing in on Jojoba
The Plant Vampires
Of Friendships &
Fall Garden Festival
N E O P H Y T E N O O K
Invasive Plant Notes
by Mike Mekelburg,
Biologist Curt McCasland of Cabeza Prieta
National Wildlife Refuge near Ajo, Arizona, is a walking infomercial against
in-vasive plants of the Sonoran Desert. Two of his favorite targets are
fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) and buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare).
Fountain grass is an ornamental often used in residential landscapes. Native to
Africa and the Middle East, it produces many fluffy seeds on a long seed stalk.
Seeds are dispersed by wind, water, wildlife, and vehicles, and can easily
establish in the smallest places such as cracks in streets and sidewalks, and on
rocky slopes. In a few short years they can choke out native species and become
a fire hazard that "pull" a fire through an otherwise fire-resistant desert.
Buffelgrass was introduced into the southwest as a pasture grass in the early
1900s. Like fountain grass, its seeds spread easily and it is now common along
roadsides, in parking lots, and in native desert areas. It is considered one of
the most seriously invasive plants of the Sonoran Desert.
How can the average homeowner help? First, don't buy these plants at nurseries
or yard sales. If they are already in or around your yard, pull the plants up
before they develop seed stalks. For larger specimens, a few hefty blows with a
pick to the base of the plant should be effective. Resprouting can occur for
several years, so keep an eye out for new volunteers.
McCasland has compiled a short list of substitute plants with similar textures.
These include several species of Muhlenbergia, bear grass and desert spoon
(Nolina and Dasylirion spp). There is also a purple variety of fountain grass
that is believed to be sterile.
Maricopa County Master Gardener Volunteer Information
Last Updated October 4, 2003
Author: Lucy K. Bradley, Extension Agent Urban Horticulture, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
© 1997 The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County
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