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Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
April 17, 2000
To a trained eye, driving along the new and improved Leucadia Boulevard in Encinitas, it is obvious the landscape designer had no sense of time nor place. From Interstate 5 to the eastern boundary of the Encinitas Ranch Golf Course not one native plant has been included. Instead of xeriscaping with indigenous species that are perfect for our climate, a host of irrigation dependent exotics were planted instead along the roadside and median. In a region facing the extinction of most native species this makes no sense.
Biodiversity is very tricky business, with native animals evolving in tandem with native plants, the relationship between the two groups is what Aldo Leopold defined as a Biotic Community. Like it or not, without native flora, native fauna will be hard pressed to survive. Of the numerous indigenous species that once inhabited coastal north county only a few still survive and usually they do so near the lagoons. In our neighborhoods, and along our roadways, natives are rare and becoming more so.
Pretty as exotic species may be, they do not meet the needs of native animals, nor does the local environment favor their continued survival without expensive maintenance by the smart monkeys that planted them. Unless our neighborhoods begin to resemble the native habitats that were removed to make room for single family hotels and their manicured lawn, the Multiple Species Conservation Plan (MSCP) and the Multiple Habitat Conservation Plan (MHCP) will in no part stave off the coming extinctions. With the amount of development being forced on the area by the building industry, it is safe to say there will soon be more yard space then open space in coastal Southern California.
If it is as easy to plant native species as it is to plant non-natives, the rationale behind landscaping without using natives must in some way have to do with a complete disregard for environmental sustainability. Why do we continue to waste water on plants that would die as soon as their artificial water sources are turned off, when we could be revegetating the region with species that thrive on moisture provided by dew, fog, and the occasional rain? Could it be because the folks who have recently moved to Southern California have decided the aesthetics of Coastal Sage scrub is not to their liking? I know the current Encinitas City Council does not favor the planting of native trees because they are too "messy." Hence the complete absence of native species along Leucadia Boulevard.
One native species you would expect to find all over Encinitas is Quercus Dumosa, the small oak from which the city derives its name. The environmentally sensitive choice for median plantings along Leucadia Blvd. would be Quercus Dumosa, along with other natives. Encinitas baccharis, also known as Coyote Bush and currently listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, should also be planted as a water wise landscaping alternatives. By recreating coastal sage scrub habitats along roadways, we create wildlife corridors that can support native birds and small mammals.
With water availability decreasing, and populations increasing, the sustainable alternative to pretty plants all in a row, is to plant natives. It's the least we can do.