Saving Sage

BEFORE: Bob Huttar at a stand of Purple Sage under attack by invasive Kikuyu Grass
AFTER: Native Purple Sage has room to breathe and thrive

Undaunted by heat and ambient wildfire haze, Chavez Park Conservancy volunteers Bob Huttar and Jutta Burger came to the rescue of native California Sage on Saturday morning August 29. This stand of sage bloomed prolifically in the spring and drew a buzzing mob of bees and bumblebees, but then was surrounded and choked by the relentlessly invasive Kikuyu Grass. In this late summer season, the sage shrubs are dormant but the Kikuyu is still going strong, overtopping them and taking away the sunlight and soil moisture they need to thrive and bloom again next spring. Bob and Jutta pulled back the aggressive weed by hand, uprooting it as much as possible to shift the balance for next season in favor of the sage. It is an effort that at this stage only buys the shrubs some time, since Kikuyu grass is an ongoing menace without more intensive management once it has established. For now, it has at least been stalled and laid down, and the sage will breathe more deeply next season.  The pair also cleared weeds and dead brush around nearby Catalina Island Cherry trees. This work improved a small section of the DAWN Native Plant Communities area on the west slope of the park. Chavez Park Conservancy has won a $5000 grant from the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Office for a professional study aiming at restoration of this three-acre area, but Parks Director Scott Ferris has refused the money, saying he “does not have time.”

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