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Impacts and Best Management Practices for Erect Veldtgrass (Ehrharta erecta)

Courtenay A. Ray, Joel J. Sherman, Anna L. Godinho, Nikki Hanson, Ingrid M. Parker
Invasive plant science and management 2018 v.11 no.1 pp. 40-48
Clinopodium, Ehrharta, best management practices, community structure, forests, glyphosate, habitats, indigenous species, invasive species, labor, perennials, pesticide application, plants (botany), regrowth, species diversity, understory, vegetation cover, California
Erect veldtgrass (Ehrharta erecta Lam.) is an invasive grass actively spreading in California that is capable of invading multiple habitats. Our objective is to contribute to a better understanding of the ecology, impacts, and potential for control of E. erecta in order to guide management practices. In a mixed-evergreen forest in Santa Cruz County, we measured impacts of E. erecta on native plant species richness and abundance in an observational comparison across 11 sites. Strikingly, we measured nearly four times greater total vegetation cover in plots invaded by E. erecta. However, native plants were not significantly less abundant in invaded plots than in reference plots, and native cover was not significantly predicted by E. erecta cover within invaded plots. We did, however, find evidence of change in community composition in response to E. erecta abundance. Our findings demonstrate that native species can persist in the presence of E. erecta, although the long-term impacts on populations of the perennial plants that dominate this forest understory are still unknown. We also compared the effectiveness of mechanical (hand pulling with volunteers) and chemical (glyphosate) management methods. Twenty-two months following management treatments, we found substantial reductions in E. erecta using both mechanical and herbicide treatments, but herbicide application also produced greater reductions in native species cover and species richness. Transplanting native yerba buena [Clinopodium douglasii (Benth.) Kuntze] into management plots following treatment did not slow regrowth of E. erecta. It did, however, increase total native plant percent cover in herbicide and pull treatments, although largely by increasing C. douglasii cover. Effective management is possible using either manual or chemical removal methods; the optimal method may depend on the availability of manual labor and the sensitivity of the habitat to non-target effects on native plants.