Beware: Non-native, invasive plants are fire hazards

By Crystal Crawford

Mayor, Del Mar

As many of you know, the Del Mar Fire Department has been reviewing properties within the Wildland/Urban Interface (WUI) to help our residents adopt the best practices to safeguard their properties against wildfire. The WUI was defined by the State, with the City’s input, based upon fuel load, topography and distance from our open space canyons, such as Crest Canyon. Recently, the City removed vegetation within the undeveloped alley near the intersection of Hoska and Crest and extending down to Klish Way and the City property west of 912 Crest Road. During this effort, a large patch of Arundo donax was removed.

Arundo donax is a tall perennial reed that can grow to 20 or 30 feet in ideal conditions and generally looks like a giant cane or bamboo. The plant was introduced to California in the early 1800s and has spread through use as an ornamental. Arundo donax is one of the fastest growing terrestrial plants in the world and, regrettably, does not provide any food sources or nesting habitats for wildlife. Rather, it crowds out native plants and damages California’s riparian ecosystems by outcompeting with native species. The stems and leaves contain harmful chemicals, including silica and various alkaloids, which protect it from most insects and deter wildlife from feeding on it.

Arundo donax is a winter-dormant perennial and during the driest months of the year can increase the probability, intensity and spread of wildfires.

On Jan. 22 at 4 p.m. the City will conduct a workshop to explore options for the permanent removal of Arundo donax and other flammable and undesirable non-native and invasive species. The workshop will take place in the Del Mar City Hall Annex located at 235 11th St. Everyone is invited to attend and provide valuable input.

An invasive plant specialist from the University of California Cooperative Extension Service and a resource specialist with a local river valley conservancy will attend to assist in the creation of a collaborative solution that will permanently remove these invasive species of plants from sensitive areas within our community.

The City welcomes questions and ideas regarding the permanent removal of invasive and flammable plants. If you have questions or wish to provide input prior to the meeting, please e-mail me at

or e-mail the City’s Public Works Director David Scherer at