Team Arundo formed in Orange County in 1991 to control Arundo Donax along the Santa Ana River, and has since become a statewide program. Chapters exist in the Bay Area, San Luis Obispo and surrounding counties, Greater Los Angeles County, in addition to our local chapter, Team Arundo El Sereno, which covers San Diego County and the Santa Ana River, and is led by Fallbrook's Judy Mitchell.
Arundo is a giant reed which has been significantly changing the river environments in Southern California. Arundo originated in Asia and was introduced to the U.S. around the 1700s. The reed is very invasive due to its broad root system and often chokes out other plant life. It propagates through its roots, and because the roots are shallow, the plant is easily spread by floods. It is so tough it can grow through asphalt or aluminum.
In addition to invasiveness, arundo uses three times as much water as willows, drawing down water tables, is a fire hazard when it dries out, and a flood hazard when mats of arundo form during a flood, blocking the river. For example, the buildup of arundo damaged the Basilone and Stewart Mesa bridges on Campleton during the 1993 floods. Most of the beach cleanup expenses for the city of Long Beach is due to arundo. The Orange County Water District estimates that it loses 8,000 acre feet of water a year due to arundo.
Team Arundo joined the Nature Conservancy, the Regional Water Quality Control, Riverside County Parks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Monsanto.
Monsanto manufactures the weed-killer Roundup, which contains a surfactant which breaks down water tension but is toxic to fish and invertebrates. For the arundo eradication, Monsanto developed a derivative product called Rodeo without the surfactant, and donated the chemical for the Santa Ana River cleanup.
Eradication of Arundo must begin at the top of the watershed, and work its way down. Various techniques are used, including cut-and-spray, helicopter spraying, and machine gathering and grinding of arundo.
Source: VN, 7/2/98, 1, 36.
Copyright © 1998 by Tom Chester.
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Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last update: 3 July 1998.