Saguaro National Park To Use Herbicide For Invasive Buffelgrass Control

By Ron Dungan
Published: Thursday, August 5, 2021 - 5:52am

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buffelgrass
nps.gov
A patch of buffelgrass.

Saguaro National Park will resume aerial spraying for buffelgrass on the park’s eastern Rincon Mountain section this month. The spraying is part of an ongoing program to get rid of the invasive plants.

The Sonoran Desert did not evolve with large wildfires. The vegetation is spread out, and so historically, fires ran out of fuel and remained small. But that was before buffelgrass.

The U.S. Soil Conservation Service planted the African grass decades ago for cattle forage and erosion control in southern Arizona. It spread quickly.

Park spokesman Jeff Conn says that buffelgrass grows thicker than native grasses. And it burns hotter.

"And so if we get a fire in buffelgrass, it’s a very hot fire, which tends to kill virtually all our native desert plants," Conn said.

Although the park uses volunteers to pull the invasive grass, it uses herbicides in hard-to-reach areas, which it applies during the monsoon. Aerial spraying has begun in the park’s eastern Rincon section.

"We still have a ways to go, but we’re really seeing a difference in the places where we’ve been working," Conn said. "It’s now at a maintenance level or it’s totally gone from those areas."

Trail closures are possible but should be brief. 

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