For a moment, forget McMansions as a threat to the desert landscape.
Buffelgrass — an invasive weed from the African Savannah that crowds out native species, sucks up water and thrives after fires — has choked large chunks of the Sonoran Desert around Tucson.
This weekend, you can help reclaim our biome’s natural biodiversity by joining the Sonoran Desert Weedwackers as they spend Saturday morning yanking the weed from Tucson Mountain Park.
Weedwacker volunteers head out with maps and GPS receivers to plot buffelgrass clusters before removal parties dig up and bag the rampant grasses. They return later to plot their efforts’ success — and remove new patches.
“It’s been a very successful process, thanks to their efforts,” said Wendy Burroughs, program manager for Pima County Parks and Rec.
Since 2002, the volunteer-oriented Weedwacker group reports it has bagged and discarded 73 tons of buffelgrass during its social outings. Last year, the group pulled a record 25 tons during 2,396 hours of work.
Areas targeted by the Weedwackers show a marked difference in landscape from those untouched. Burroughs said the Foothills region is “overrun” with the plants, while the group has just started its work on the heavily infested Sentinel Peak.
“I think there are areas of Tucson Mountain Park that would look just like (the Foothills), those really large out-of-control infestations, had it not been for the work of the Sonoran Desert Weedwackers,” Burroughs said.
Volunteers are supplied with digging bars, gloves and instructions.
They’re asked to bring sunscreen, snacks and water.