Seeding Native Grasses

It would have been nice if European annual grasses had not replaced most of our native bunch grass.

On our hill ranch there are about as many native plant species as any place in the region, but invasive grasses still make up a huge percentage of the flora.

Well intended is the State of California requirement to use native grass seed when re-seeding areas disturbed by grading or dirt moving. I’m not sure how deep this policy is ingrained in our agencies, but it is appears to be beyond the influence of people of reason.

There may be occasions when native grass seeds have a chance to root and outcompete non-native annuals, but it’s not usually the case. To require native grass seeds to be used for re-vegetation after dirt work is folly.

Here’s photo of our property on Sherman Island. (click on photos to enlarge.)

Following construction, the berms at Mayberry were seeded with native grass seeds.

 After seeding, the rains came and the native grass seeds germinated. For a while, it looked as though they might work out. In the meantime, nearby non-native plants grew rapidly. (The native grasses were green with envy.)

I took a photo this week with my phone camera, not the best source, but you’ll get the point.

Took this photo yesterday from the levee overlooking Mayberry.

Non-native broad-leaf vegetation took off along the sides of the berm and the project managers were forced to spray it with herbicides to prevent it from taking over the native grass planting. This effort can be compared to dumping buckets of fresh water into the ocean in an effort to dilute it.

Native grass seed is more expensive, less available, less competitive and therefore requires more followup work to give it a chance to succeed. Once left unmaintained, the plants will fail.

Not only will the native grasses eventually fail, in the meantime we will have no vegetation at all on the berms to provide any habitat. Non-native vegetation has value, even if it’s not original.

Why are we wasting our resources in this feeble effort?

While grading around our ponds on the hill ranch last fall, we went through the same routine . The requirement to seed with native grasses may be well intended, but the effort is folly. We cannot be successful while planting native grasses on little patches of land surrounded by oceans of non-native plants, which have taken over because the native grasses could not compete with them to begin with.

I believe it’s time to put our resources where they make a difference. Sometimes we need to use common sense.