Invasive Plants

A small saguaro surrounded by tall brown grass.
For invasive plant management in the Sonoran Desert, buffelgrass is the archenemy. Over 90% of our invasive plant management efforts are directed against buffelgrass

NPS photo/Bethany Hontz

What's an Invasive Plant?

Native plants evolved as part of the ecosystem and have been part of our landscape since before the arrival of Europeans.They have adapted through natural selection to the soil, climate, and other plants and animals of the ecosystem. A non-native plant species is not native to an area and has usually been introduced by people.

Non-native plants are considered invasive when they are known to displace native plant species. Invasive, non-native species can be harmful or destructive to native plant and animal communities, as well as negatively impact local economies and human safety.

Invasive plants know no boundaries. They can affect native plants and wildlife, change the fire regime, endanger the ecosystem, make the park less attractive for visitors, and spread beyond park borders to adjacent land.

Whether they arrived by wind or water, bird or boots, invasive plants are a threat in Saguaro National Park.


Common Invasive Species

  • buffelgrass

    The spread of buffelgrass is one of the largest threats to the well-being of the Sonoran Desert.

  • fountaingrass

    A close relative of buffelgrass, fountain grass is also found all over the park.

  • tamarisk

    Though its flowers can be pretty, tamarisk is a risk to our ecosystem!



Agrostis stolonifera, creeping bentgrass
Avena fatua, wild oat
Bothriochloa ischaemum, yellow bluestem
Bromus catharticus, rescuegrass
Bromus rubens, red brome
Bromus tectorum, cheatgrass
Cenchrus ciliaris (a.k.a. Pennisetum ciliare), buffelgrass
Cenchrus setaceus (a.k.a. Pennisetum setaceum), fountain grass
Cynodon dactylon, Bermuda grass
Dactyloctenium aegyptium, Egyptian grass
Digitaria ciliaris, southern crabgrass
Digitaria sanguinalis, hairy crabgrass
Echinochloa colona, jungle rice
Enneapogon cenchroides, soft feather pappus grass
Eragrostis cilianensis, stink grass
Eragrostis curvula, weeping lovegrass
Eragrostis echinochloidea, tickgrass
Eragrostis lehmanniana, Lehmann lovegrass
Hordeum murinum ssp.
wild barley
Lamarckia aurea, goldentop grass
Melinis repens, rose Natal grass
Panicum antidotale, blue panicgrass
Phleum pratense, timothy
Poa annua, annual bluegrass
Poa pratensis, Kentucky bluegrass
Polypogon monspeliensis, annual rabbitsfoot grass
Polypogon viridis, beardless rabbitsfoot grass
Schismus arabicus and S. barbatus, Mediterranean grass
Sorghum halepense, Johnson grass
Vulpia myuros, rat-tail fescue


Asphodelus fistulosus, onionweed
Brassica tournefortii, Sahara mustard
Capsella bursa-pastoris, shepherd's purse
Centaurea melitensis, Malta star-thistle
Dimorphotheca sinuate, Cape marigold
Erigeron bonariensis, Asthmaweed
Erodium cicutarium, redstem filaree
Herniaria hirsuta var. cinerea, hairy rupturewort
Lactuca serriola, prickly lettuce
Lamium amplexicaule, henbit
Lasiopogon sp., no common name in English, in Afrikaans it is wolbossie - tentative ID on potentially recent introduction
Malva parviflora, cheeseweed
Marrubium vulgare, horehound
Matthiola parviflora, small-flowered stock
Melilotus species, sweetclover
Mentha spicata, spearmint
Mollugo cerviana, threadsteam carpetweed
Oncosiphon pilulifer, stinknet (a.k.a. globe chamomile)
Polygonum aviculare, prostrate knotweed
Rumex acetosella, sheep sorrel
Rumex crispus, curly dock
Salsola tragus, prickly Russian thistle
Sisymbrium irio, London rocket
Sonchus asper, S. oleraceus, sow thistle
Taraxacum species, dandelion
Tragopogon dubius, yellow salsify
Tribulus terrestris, goathead (a.k.a. puncture vine)

Shrubs & Trees

Leucophyllum frutescens, Texas ranger
Nerium oleander, oleander
Nicotiana glauca, tree tobacco
Parkinsonia aculeata, Mexican palo verde
Prosopis chilensis, Chilean mesquite
Searsia lancea, African sumac
Senna artemisioides, silver senna (a.k.a. feathery cassia)
Tamarix aphylla, athel tamarisk
Tamarix chinensis, five-stamen tamarisk
Ulmus pumila, Siberian elm


Opuntia basilaris, beavertail prickly pear
Opuntia engelmannii var. linguiformis, cow's tongue prickly pear
Park Staff spraying buffelgrass
Management Strategies

Management Strategies at Saguaro National Park

Saguaro shadow
Additional Resources

Additional resources regarding invasive plants in the Park.


Last updated: August 29, 2023

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

3693 S Old Spanish Trail
Tucson, AZ 85730


520 733-5153

Contact Us