A current La Cañada Valley Beautiful Award has prompted this letter. Front and center in the landscape are clumps of fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum), classified as an invasive non-native plant (www.cal-ipc.org). Fountain grass is harmful in many ways: Its copious amounts of seed spread by wind into wild lands. There, it raises fuel loads and increases the intensity and severity of fires. It also displaces native plants that provide habitat. Fountain grass also has shallow roots and does not stabilize the soil. The state of California spends nearly $100 million annually to remove fountain grass and other invasives. No landscapes with this plant should receive a La Cañada Valley Beautiful award!
Given the environmental challenges we face, it is vital that our landscape priorities go beyond ornament. They should be widened to include support of biodiversity, carbon sequestration, pollinator habitat, food web value, heat-island reduction, aquifer replenishment, meaningful levels of water conservation and watershed health.
The landscape award criteria of La Cañada Valley Beautiful must transform to reflect the environmental challenges of the 21st century. And La Cañada should do itself a favor by removing all fountain grass from our La Cañada Unified School District, home and commercial sites.