Why care about buffelgrass?
Buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) is a non-native grass that provides biomass for high-temperature fires which threaten our homes, safety and biologically-diverse Sonoran Desert. This aggressive grass species was introduced from the African savannahs and grows in dense stands that can crowd out native plants and creates a new, more frequent fire regime in the desert. Buffelgrass threatens to convert our ecologically rich Sonoran Desert into an exotic grassland environment.
Buffelgrass spreads readily by seed and establishes itself in disturbed areas. Once established, this invasive grass can then move into native desert habitats on hillsides and along drainages. Buffelgrass stands can burn at over 1,400 degrees and are almost three times hotter than fires generated by flammable native vegetation. These high-temperature fires are highly detrimental to cacti and native trees and can eliminate them from the landscape. Fires do not significantly impact the buffelgrass stands which can come back more vigorously than before the fire.
Over the past five years, the buffelgrass invasion in the Southwest has been the subject of considerable outreach, extensive media coverage and nearly-unanimous consensus over the need to aggressively control this invader grass. Despite the best efforts of a growing group of volunteers and a growing public investment, control activities have not kept pace with buffelgrass spread. Because this spread is almost exponential – populations of this grass and the costs of controlling it may be doubling every year – time is of the essence and requires working collaboratively and decisively to implement effective control programs.
The Pima County Department of Environmental Quality Buffelgrass Ordinance provides a legal means to control buffelgrass on private land in unincorporated Pima County.