Catalina’s native plant community is central to the ecosystem of the Island. It provides habitats that offer shelter and food to the Island’s endemic and native animals like the Catalina Island fox, Catalina quail, and bald eagles among many other species. But years of importing non-native plants to feed grazing animals and landscape homes has introduced to Catalina to more than 76 highly invasive plants. Left unmanaged, these invaders would overtake native habitats, potentially dooming some to extinction, and harming animals that rely on them for shelter and food.
The CHIRP program has been recognized state-wide for its successes by the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC).
Non-native plants grow faster than Catalina natives. These weeds can compete for sunlight, water and nutrients in the soil and crowd natives out. Some of the most virulent non-native invasive plants on Catalina include flax leaf broom (Genista linifolia), that competes with endemic St. Catherine’s lace; fennel (Foeniculum vulgar), that forms huge infestations obstructing the view of birds of prey looking for prey; and Horehound (Marrubium vulgare), that pushes out natives such as wildflowers along trails and roadsides.
Native and endemic plants grown at the James H. Ackerman Native Plant Center, an important element of CHIRP, are outplanted to give native plant communities the edge needed to repopulate areas formerly occupied by the weeds. Fortifying existing native habitats allows them to re-establish dominance over invasives vying for natural resources.
The Conservancy’s Catalina Habitat Improvement and Restoration Program (CHIRP) aims to control the spread of invasive plants as well as to restore areas that have been cleared of weeds. To make a donation in support of the CHIRP program, note it on your check and mail it to: Catalina Island Conservancy, PO Box 2739, Avalon, CA 90704. Or specify your wishes and donate online.