After inches of rain, Sunset Cliffs has become home to tall, bright flowers that blow in the ocean wind. They are beautiful in photos and create the perfect setting for a sunset picnic or even a ring-by-spring proposal. But these flowers are not helping the ecosystem of the cliffs.
The tall yellow flowers on the cliffs are an invasive weed called crown daisy. They can grow up to five feet tall and crowd out native vegetation. Crown daisies sprout quickly after rain and are found on the central and southern coasts of California. It is common that their seeds escape garden settings and invade nearby areas. According to the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC), once the plant dies, the remains can stay in the area for years, preventing native plants from growing.
“There are some native plants blooming (black sage and bladderpod) but the large masses of yellow and white that you see are the weed. Yes, they are pretty, but they take over and out-compete the native plants,” says PLNU biology professor, Dianne Anderson. Anderson teaches several classes at PLNU including Applied Plant Biology and Physiology of Plants and Animals.
The city of San Diego began Sunset Cliffs Natural Park-Hillside Improvements Project in January of 2018, a $4.2 million revegetation project. One of the project’s main goals, according to the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Master Plan, is to “ [implement] a comprehensive on-site drainage system, [eradicate] exotic invasive plants and…[restore] native vegetation.” But there are still concerns about how the crown daisy is affecting the cliffs.
“People are working in the park try to control it, but it is really hard to do,” says Anderson. “They have planted hundreds (maybe thousands) of small native plants, but it will be a constant battle for years to keep the weeds down so that the slow-growing native plants have a chance to grow,” she says.