Sunday, November 09, 2008

Non-Native, Invasive Ice Plant Abound on the Slopes of Carmel Beach

ABSTRACT: Ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis) is a succulent native to South Africa; it has become an invasive species and a threat to native vegetation. It abounds on the slopes of Carmel Beach, west of the Carmel Beach Bluff Pathway. Photos of Iceplant are shown. Information about Iceplant with links is presented. A COMMENT is made with regard to Ice Plant and other native species which can be planted for stabilization of the Carmel Beach slopes. REFERENCES including relevant sections dealing with non-native invasive vegetation from the General Plan/Coastal Land Use Plan Coastal Resource Management Element and a link to native groundcovers is provided.

Ice Plant along Slope of Carmel Beach, west of Carmel Beach Bluff Pathway

More Ice Plant along Carmel Beach Slope, west of Carmel Beach Bluff Pathway

Close-Up of Ice Plant, west of Carmel Beach Bluff Pathway, on a Slope of Carmel Beach

The California Exotic Pest Plant Council

List A-1: Most Invasive Wildland Pest Plants; Widespread
Latin Name: Carpobrotus edulis
Common Name: iceplant, sea fig
Habitats of Concern and Other Comments: Many coastal communities, esp. dunes
Distribution: SCo,CCo,NCo,SnFrB (CCo=Central Coast)

Ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis) is a succulent native to South Africa, but common in chaparral habitats around the world. Though it was once grown in California, Australia, the Mediterranean, and similar areas as a decorative plant, it has become an invasive species and a threat to native vegetation. Ice plant is hardy and quick to reproduce, easily growing into a thick ground cover that chokes out other plant life and depletes soil nutrients. The only reliable way to control ice plant is to uproot it physically.

Ice plant is attractive, with fleshy green leaves covered with small fibers, causing them to sparkle like ice in the sun. It also features bright yellow, pink, or white flowers and edible fruit that is made into jam in South Africa. The leaves sometimes turn red or yellow. Ice plant was first introduced to California in the early 20th century, when it was used to stabilize soil along railroad tracks. It also became a popular garden plant, and some continue to grow it for decorative purposes today.

Despite the beauty of ice plant, it has become an ecological nuisance in California and other areas in which it is not native. Ice plant has proliferated along California highways to the detriment of many native species. Ice plant dominates the areas where it grows, resulting in very low biodiversity and depriving other species of the resources they need to grow, such as soil and space. Ice plants reproduce both through fruit, which is produced year round, and through segmentation, meaning that any shoot can put down roots. A single shoot of ice plant can grow three feet (about one meter) in a year.

Ice Plant, Sea Fig
Carpobrotus chilensis
Fig-marigold family

What makes it a "BAD" plant?
It excludes native dune mat vegetation.
It displaces three (CNPS List 1B) sensitive plant species: beach layia (Layia carnosa) [also federally listed as endangered], Wolf's evening primrose (Oenothera wolfii) and pink sand verbena (Abronia umbellata ssp. brevifolia).
It stabilizes sand, preventing its natural movement which most native dune species need to survive.
Iceplant/sea fig has the capability of growing over entire beaches.

Invasive Species
America's Least Wanted

When a plant or animal is introduced to a non-native area—where its presence is not "natural"— the effects are often devastating to the ecosystem. The balance is upset, and without its natural predators the non-native species may "out-compete" the native species. The native plants and animals, business, agriculture, and recreational activities may be negatively impacted.

While Ice Plant is known to stabilize sand and slopes, Ice Plant is a threat to native species as it out-competes native species. Consequently, an advantageous goal of the City would be to develop and implement a plan over time to eradicate Ice Plant growing and spreading on the slopes of Carmel Beach; there are other native plant species which can be planted for the purpose of stabilization of the Carmel Beach slopes. (see REFERENCES Some of the California native plants that can be used as less than a foot high groundcover.)

General Plan/Coastal Land Use Plan Coastal Resource Management Element

Selected relevant excerpts, as follows:

Tidestrom’s lupine can be found in and near the dune scrub habitat in the north dunes at Carmel Beach… The species is seriously threatened by coastal development, trampling, and competition from invasive, non-native plants…While the local population appears viable the habitat conditions for Tidestrom’s lupine is degraded from public use and the spread of invasive non-native species

Frequent human use of the area and encroachment of non-native species such as ice plant reduce the area’s value for legless lizard.

Avoid planting and control the spread of invasive, non-native plants.

P5-29 Prohibit planting and control the spread of invasive non-native plants. (LUP)

P5-159 Remove any non-native, invasive vegetation from sensitive habitats. (LUP)

P5-175 Remove any non-native invasive vegetation from special status habitat to eliminate competition and implement a dune restoration plan. (LUP)

P5-177 Minimize spread of non-native plants. (LUP)

Some of the California native plants that can be used as less than a foot high groundcover.


Anonymous said...

I cannot believe it. The city does not even follow the LCP when it comes to invasive plants at sacred Carmel Beach. With all the attention Carmel Beach Bluff area gets from the city's gardener, to the exclusion of practically everything else except Devendorf Park, this tells me the city superfically attends to everything, even the tourist drawing mecca of Carmel Beach.

Anonymous said...

It is false to imply that no effort has been made to control and remove iceplant along the Beachbluff. It is a monumental task of which one person could not complete or sustain!! The City Gardener has been planting coastal natives along Scenic drive for the past several years. A great deal of effort has been put into eliminating and controlling overgrown non-natives (i.e. myoporum,iceplant,acacia,and weeds in general.) Like all gardening endeavors, it has been an on-going task with both sucesses and failures. There are alot of people who actually like the iceplant in question. I think we can do both.

VillageinForest said...

The observation that one city gardener is basically all the staff to address the LCP with regard to non-natives, et cetera, goes to whether the city is adequately staffing and funding the Forest, Parks and Beach Department. There is also the larger context, and that is, the attention or lack of attention to other city parks, such as Mission Trail Nature Preserve.

Objectively speaking, citywide, there is a lot more the city can do to comply with the LCP and maintain all our city parks to the level of well maintained parks.

Please inform readers what specific efforts have been made to control and remove ice plant along the Carmel Beach Bluff. What have been the successes and failures? Does the City have a systematic plan to eradicate non-natives at Carmel Beach, Mission Trail Nature Preserve, et cetera?

Anonymous said...


I am new here..First post to just say hi to all community.


Barry Marshall said...

Well very interesting.Seems all the comments are for the removal First Ice plant has done a wonderful job holding our cliffs together.Second by using round up along our coast is not a healthy thing.Third the local plants turn brown and look dead and very bleak.Not to mention the new closed areas to protect the weed like plants. Compared to the color of the ice plan to the newly planted.If you take a ride up to Bodega Bay and walk the beach look up at the cliffs, there you will see many of the native plants growing between the ice plant.You have been hood winked and it is our loss of the beauty along our coast.I am a painter who has painted here for the last 20 years and it breaks my heart to see what has been done.Look up at your lighthouse from the beach.where there were once cascading color down over the sand dunes there is nothing but dead looking weeds.the ice plant gave us color,you took it away,shame on you.