On a somewhat overcast January morning (yes, overcast, but alas no precipitation), a group of residents from the X9 Ranch development joined the Michelles from the Rincon Institute, and botanists extraordinaire Ray Turner, Carianne Funicelli, and Dana Backer for a morning of weed hunting. Dr. Ray Turner, former Professor of Botany at the University of Arizona, hosted the group on his property and the residents who attended the free workshop were treated to an overview of the noxious weeds growing in and along Rincon Creek and in their own backyards on the old X9 ranchland. The workshop was a part of a partnership project between the National Park Service and the Rincon Institute called Get.Rid.Of.Weeds and Plant Native.
G.R.O.W seeks to engage local landowners in managing their own properties against invasive species. In 2005, the National Park Service and the Rincon Institute partnered to create this initiative which promotes the control and, where possible, eradication of invasive grass species as well as the propagation of native plant species along a significant portion of Rincon Creek.Rincon Creek flows through the X9 property and the lands through which the Creek flows has a long and colorful history. The current development of “ranchettes” was one of the first of its kind when Henry Jackson decided to retire much of the land from the cattle ranching business in the early 1970s.
X9ers, Ray Turner, Dana Backer hunt for weeds during the 1st GROW workshop
Before becoming a forerunner of the “exurban” phenomena that characterizes much of the Rincon Valley today, ranchers had grazed cattle on the land for over 100 years. The legacy of that history is obvious today in the kinds of plants growing in landowners’ backyards and along the creek beds. Species such as Red Brome (Bromus Rubens), an import from the Mediterranean, and Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon), an import from Africa, were both useful fodder for cattle when the native grasses of this area disappeared due to intensive grazing and heavy periods of drought in the pre-World War II era. In time, many of the “exotic” species also became “invasive” – so termed because they out-compete native grasses for water and space.
During the G.R.O.W workshop, Backer, a restoration ecologist from Saguaro National Park, and Funicelli, a biologist from RECON Environmental (an environmental consulting firm), joined Turner in explaining to landowners that some exotic species are worse than others. The scientific community in Arizona is targeting several species for control because of the extreme fire danger they present.
Buffle Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris L.), another introduced forage grass, burns very hot and is quite fire adapted — meaning it will carry fire well and fire will not kill it. If a fire were to break out in an area where this grass has a stronghold, it would likely do great harm to native Sonoran Desert plants (such as the Saguaro) which are not fire adapted. Buffle Grass has just been named a “noxious” weed in Arizona and Saguaro National Park is beginning to intensively manage the plant. In addition to Buffle Grass, the X9 workshop group learned about several other species of plants (e.g. Wild Oats, Canary Grass, Rabbit’s Foot Grass, and Fountain Grass) that are prevalent in the development. The botanists encouraged the residents to remove the (ob)noxious weeds manually and/or to use herbicides in controlling their spread – and to replace them with native plants such as Cane Beard Grass and any of the many native Grama grasses.
Rincon Institute has created an Information Booklet on G.R.O.W and grass species. If you are interested in receiving the booklet, please call 520-647-7388 or email Michelle Berry at