Saving Laguna from Sahara Mustard

Since 2008, Laguna Canyon Foundation has partnered with Aliso Viejo’s Soka University of America to offer student internships in the spring and fall. While internships are offered in a variety of roles, including work in the Native Plant Nursery and the LCF offices, most of the internships offered focus on restoration, allowing students to gain firsthand experience in environmental fieldwork and habitat conservation.

LCF’s Spring 2016 restoration interns will be taking part in their first restoration activity this weekend. Under the supervision of LCF Restoration Coordinator Matthew Sutton, they will be removing Sahara mustard plants from Park Avenue in the City of Laguna Beach. Sahara mustard is an extremely invasive, non-native species of mustard. It grows quickly, crowding out native plants, and is self-pollinating, with the largest plants producing up to 16,000 seeds each season. The photos below show the before and after of Sahara mustard invasion in the Mojave desert. The “before” picture (on the left) shows the original native creosote and desert dandelion, while the “after” picture (on the right) shows the bleaker, less diverse landscape of creosote overgrown by Sahara mustard.

Sahara mustard is already widespread throughout the southwestern desert regions of the United States and Mexico, but it’s only recently been introduced to Laguna Canyon. Laguna Canyon Foundation’s goal is to eliminate the first small, introductory pockets of Sahara mustard before it gains a foothold in our canyons and threatens to overrun native species and transform fragile, diverse native habitat into a sea of dry, flammable Sahara mustard.

Past restoration activities with Soka interns have been very successful, including last fall’s project working on restoration and native plantings at Aliso Creek. Welcome to all our new interns – we’re glad to have you on board!


Photos by Darren Sandquist, a biology professor at Cal State Fullerton. One photo shows the bleak contrast of creosote (the dominant shrub) interspersed and overgrown by Sahara mustard, whereas the other photo shows Mojave Desert with creosote and a native wildflower.