Pampus Grass

On the San Mateo coast, what is often called Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) is actually a very similar plant, Cortaderia jubata, or Jubata grass. It is native to South America: Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. Pampas grass was first introduced to California in the late 1840's as an ornamental plant for its decorative plumes. Later that century, Pampas grass was employed as supplementary dryland forage for cattle and for erosion control. Today, large infestations of Pampas grass threaten California's coastal ecosystems by crowding out native species, particularly in sensitive coastal dune areas, bluffs and wetlands. It displaces native vegetation and provides poor habitat for birds and other wildlife. The plant is spreading rapidly along the coast and needs urgent action to control and eliminate it. The good news is that the seeds only remain viable for one or two years so that when an area is thoroughly cleared, it needs only a year or two of follow-up visits to eliminate it from the area. As seeds are dispersed by wind and each plant can produce hundreds and thousands of seeds, coordinating the removal of plants on adjacent areas is essential. The ecological contrast is striking when you compare natural areas with a great diversity of plants and wildflowers, to adjacent areas that are infested with a monoculture of Pampas grass. In time, Pampas grass eliminates virtually all other plants.

PCA is undertaking its first removal project involving the eradication of pampas grass on California State Park lands. Our project goal is to eliminate pampas grass at Gazos Creek Beach, a part of Año Nuevo State Reserve.

Using volunteer work crews, we'll be fighting this battle for several weekends in a row. We'll use both mechanical and hand-grubbing methods to eradicate this invasive non-native plant. Smaller seedlings can be effectively removed by hand. For larger plants, it is necessary to use a Pulaski, mattock or shovel. For any especially large plants, we'll use a backhoe with a starhill jaws attachment. To prevent re-sprouting, we remove the entire crown of the plant and top section of the roots.

Systematically, we'll address different sites along the coast with a monumental goal of 100% eradication. We'll conduct projects on both public and private lands. Our goal is to coordinate removal from adjacent parcels to minimize the reinfestation of treated areas. This effort will take everyone's help but is necessary to win the battle.