But those giant yellow flowers are mustard plant, which isn’t good for the wetlands
The upside of this winter’s record-setting rainfall was the end of a crippling five-year drought; the downside is all that water stimulated unprecedented growth of invasive plant species that threaten the balance of ecosystems in the Westside’s few remaining spaces set aside for nature.
All along Culver Boulevard from Jefferson Boulevard to the 90 Freeway, the highlands of the Ballona Wetlands have come alive as a sea of tall yellow flowers as far as a driver’s eye can see, accented by tufts of crown daisies sprouted along the roadway’s edge.
It’s beautiful on its face, but bad news for the overall health of the 640-acre state ecological preserve.
“This is the worst that I’ve seen it. We have a bumper crop of invasive species this year,” said Richard Brody, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s manager of the Ballona Wetlands. “Due to the infestation, any native plants — sensitive or not — would have an even tougher time surviving. There are hundreds of acres of infestation.”
Karina Johnston, a wetlands biologist with The Bay Foundation in Westchester, confirmed that the rains likely activated the growth of weeds and invasive plants.
“Certainly it’s a trend that we’ve seen throughout California this spring,” said Johnston, whose organization is working with Fish and Wildlife and the California Coastal Conservancy on the long-delayed environmental review that will guide official restoration efforts in the Ballona Wetlands.
But Johnston is also holding out hope that native plants such as the evening primrose and the imperiled Orcutt’s Yellow Pincushion could see a simultaneous uptick in growth, if not choked out by all that mustard plant.
“Let’s just hope the native wetland species have benefitted as well,” she said.
Brody said Fish and Wildlife will have to wait until the official state restoration to more permanently address eradication of mustard plant due to the massive scope of the infestation, but the state and volunteer groups such as Friends of the Ballona Wetlands will do what they can to control the population until then.
“It’s something that we have to deal with right now. We can keep Ballona as a special corner of Los Angeles for plants that are clinging to existence,” Brody said.
— Gary Walker