Prairie grasses return to Hawthorne?

My little city of Hawthorne indicated the other day that they were planning to use California bunch grasses and our native sycamore trees in a re-landscaping project along Prairie Avenue near Marine. Prairie Avenue is so-named because it runs through what used to be California coastal prairie habitat. While they have used sycamores extensively on some of the other main boulevards (surrounded by turf grasses), to my knowledge this is the first time they will use native grasses.

The project will rip up asphalt surrounding ~50 year old ficus trees, replace some ficus with sycamores, put in a meandering path, and plant ground cover in the remaining open areas. I'm particularly pleased with the choice of trees and grasses, though it remains to be seen how it's implemented. My neighbors also expressed pleasure with giving a little native green back, though of course there's always a contingent that believes a 50 year old ficus trumps any new plant.

I believe that I had some influence on this decision since the city solicited my opinion a few weeks prior to the announcement, expressing the idea that they wanted a drought tolerant grass as groundcover. I didn't have a whole lot of time to respond, but gave them what I thought was a good starting point. Interestingly and somewhat dishearteningly, a later search on the web finds one author (link above) stating that, "Distinguishable species and cover, based on three transects with a microscope across the photograph (1938 by W.D. Pierce) , include Lupinus bicolor (39%), Camissonia bistorta (18%), Phacelia stellaris (14%), Lotus strigosus (8%), Festuca megalura (4%), Cryptantha intermedia (1%) and open soil (16%)." Later, the same author writes about another photograph that it, "shows the later−growing components of the prairie community, of which Heterotheca grandiflora, Mucronea californica and Gnaphalium canescens ssp. microcephalum are distinguishable. Others included Eriogonum gracile, Ambrosia acanthicarpa, and Eremocarpus setigerus. Note that the community was not dominated by bunchgrasses." Still, grasses are a start. I tremble to think that we could have ended up with camphor trees and ice plant.

We'll see how this all plays out sooner rather than later: barring weather delays, re-landscaping should start tomorrow.

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