This Saturday, January 24, 2015, is “Beat Back Buffelgrass Day” in Arizona.

To recognize this important effort, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and other local officials will gather at A Mountain Community at 8:30 a.m. Together with the Southern Arizona Buffelgrass Coordination Center, January 24 will be declared “Beat Back Buffelgrass Day” in Pima County and across Arizona.

The public is welcome to attend the ceremony. More important, the public is also encouraged to take part in this ambitious effort.

What is Buffelgrass?

Buffelgrass is a shrub that grows like a weed. It’s prolific in the Sonoran desert.

The shrub is green and grows one and a half to three feet tall. The more mature the plants get, the more they branch out and spread. When that happens, nodes in the grass produce flowers and leaves. With just a slight gust of wind, those flowers and leaves spread seeds and encourage the growth of more buffelgrass in the area.

As this plant takes over the desert ground, it poses a threat to the environment.

Is It Really That Dangerous?

You don’t need an expert to tell you that the desert is dry. It’s obvious. What isn’t as obvious is just how dangerous our arid climate is to wildfires. When there is even the slightest spark, fire becomes a very real risk, endangering wildlife, homes, and plants.

Although buffelgrass is tolerant to dry conditions (which is why it grows so well in Pima County) it is the perfect tinder for a wildfire. The tolerance to the dry climate makes it survive and spread much longer. That poses a direct threat to the safety and health of our desert land.

Some people claim that natural wildfires are healthy for the environment once in awhile. Although that’s true in many other regions, the desert evolved without fire as an ecological factor. Most plants in our area cannot tolerate the fire.

Still not convinced that buffelgrass is dangerous? Consider this statement from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: “A single buffelgrass fire kills nearly all native plants in its path. The buffelgrass invasion is now destroying step hillsides compared to red brome’s flatter terrain, and is rapidly converting formerly rich biological communities into monocultural wastelands.”

The danger is real.

Getting Involved

This Saturday, join hundreds of volunteers across Arizona to pull these weeds and rid our desert of this dangerous plant. To see the sites where you can volunteer, sign up at It’s great exercise, great fun with your friends, and a great help to Pima County.

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Lucretia Free