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Ice Plants: Not so Cool

Posted by Jody on June 13, 2012

I always thought that the striking, colorful ice plants that grow so profusely along the dunes and on the rocky bluffs of California’s Pacific coastline were native to the Golden State. Was I ever wrong!  I do still think they are absolutely striking, but now I know that they are definitely not native. In fact, ice plants (Carpobrotus edulis) were intentionally brought to California from South Africa in the early 1900s to stabilize the coastal sands and help control erosion.

Well, you know what they say about the “best laid plans.”  They often go awry.

The Invasive Ice Plant, North Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Ice plants are  mat-forming perennials.  They have very thick, triangularly shaped, smooth and fleshy leaves with pretty yellow or pink flowers. Once intended to maintain the stability the coastal dunes, these rapidly spreading, non-native succulents are now recognized as an invasive species. Growing year round, a single ice plant shoot segment can grow up to three feet in one year, threatening the delicate ecosystem and unique environment of California’s coastal dunes.

Ice Plants on the Dunes of North Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California

The colorful blankets of ice plants squeeze out indigenous plants, and native dune vegetation has to compete for nutrients, space, water and sunlight. In some areas ice plants have completely taken over, preventing  the native flora from thriving and slowing the natural process of dune migration.

As the late, great Johnny Carson used to say, “I did not know that.”

Beautiful North Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California

So now, at Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California, Coastal Dune Habitat Restoration Projects are taking place to remove both the non-native invasive European beachgrass and the ice plant from coastal dune habitats to “restore natural dune processes and function.”  Would you like to know more? There is a very thorough article on the National Park Service website entitled “Coastal Dune Habitat Restoration Project: Why is Dune Restoration Important?” It is long, but it covers everything you might want to know on the topic, and so much more. It’s very interesting reading!

By golly, ya really do learn something new everyday!

Suggestions? Tips? Comments?  Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment space below!

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2 Responses to “Ice Plants: Not so Cool”

  1. seapunk2 said

    Up here in Del Norte county, there are monthly beach grass pullin’ events. You may already know this, but the grass was planted in the past to stabilize the dunes in and around Lake Earl and Lake Tolowa, just next to the Pacific. It’s now extremely invasive and has upset the balance of native plants. I’m guessing it’ll take lifetimes to remove the grass. It’s quite a commitment, in my view. 😀 Nice blog.

  2. Jody said

    Great info! Attending a beach grass pullin’ sounds somehow therapeutic. I do hope they’re well attended. Thanks for stopping by.

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