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There's a New 'Super Bloom' of Weeds Overrunning the Santa Monica Mountains

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(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
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Ever since this winter’s drought-ending rain ushered in the “superbloom,” the bounty of flowers flourishing atop Los Angeles hillsides has been rivaled only by the bounty of superbloom selfies taking over Angelenos’ Instagram feeds. As it turns out, the heavy rain that sowed spring flowers has also brought a new, somewhat less picturesque “super bloom” of weeds to the Santa Monica Mountains.

Weeds like bright-yellow black mustard (Brassica nigra) and carnation spurge (Euphorbia terracina) may look innocent, but according to Zach Behrens, Senior Communications Fellow for the National Park Service, they pose a threat. Where “non-native plants” like these bloom, they aggressively push out native plants in the area. (Think of them as the gentrifiers of the plant world.) Carnation spurge's sap contains toxins that can harm wildlife and irritate human skin, and the sheer volume of black mustard sprouting on trails like Malibu’s Zuma and Trancas Canyons is making it difficult for hikers and mountain bikers to pass, and is increasing the risk of ticks.

According to Behrens, the National Park Service is focusing primarily on rooting out carnation spurge, which hasn't yet overrun the Santa Monica Mountains to the extent that black mustard has. "Even though black mustard might look pretty carpeting the hillsides, imagine what those hillsides would look like if it didn't push out all the native plants," mused Behrens. "There's a lot of potential for a wider rainbow: red paintbrush, orange poppies, bright blue sage."

If you want to see that rainbow, there's still hope. Joey Algiers, a restoration ecologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, is putting together a team of weekend volunteers to help pull weeds and re-plant natives at Zuma and Trancas Canyons over the next two months. If you're concerned about the proliferation of weeds in Malibu, or just want to impress your Tinder date with how outdoorsy and sensitive you are, sign up for a Saturday volunteer shift. The shifts run between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. on May 6, May 20, June 3 and June 17—to learn more, visit the event page, or email Algiers at joseph_algiers@nps.gov.