217. Invasive Iceplant

217. Invasive Iceplant: A Threat to Biodiversity on the Dunes (1 minute and 50 seconds)
Michelle dela Cruz, Student Volunteer

Hi! I’m Michelle dela Cruz, a student volunteer at California State Parks. Take a look around you. Have you noticed the patches of red-green plants that cover the dunes? If you look closely, these plants have thick, three-sided leaves, and their flowers are pink, yellow, or magenta. 

This plant is called iceplant, and it occurs naturally in South Africa. Iceplant is an introduced invasive species that can be found along California’s coast and highways.

Iceplant was brought to California to stabilize soil. It was first planted along railroads in the early 1900s, and later used near highways until the 1970s. The U.S. Army planted it in Fort Ord to control erosion and drifting sands in the dunes.

Iceplant thrives in California and causes problems for native plants and animals. Iceplant outcompetes native plants by hoarding water and nutrients and forming new roots as it spreads. It can quickly invade large, open areas on the dunes.

Western snowy plovers are a threatened bird species that need open space to nest. Native plants such as sand gilia, Monterey spineflower, and buckwheat also need open space to grow. The endangered Smith’s blue butterfly needs buckwheat in particular to survive.

You can help limit the iceplant invasion by becoming a State parks volunteer or participating in local planting events to remove non-native plants and replace them with native species.