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Invasive Plant Profile – Tree Tobacco

Tree tobacco removal in Agua Chinon.

Irvine Ranch Conservancy and its partners make it a goal to preserve the land and support natural habitats. With this mission, most plants are welcome in the open spaces of Orange County, but there are a few invasive plant species that can disrupt the unique biodiversity that make up the Landmarks. Tree tobacco (Nicotiana glauca), for example, is a species that has traveled far from its origins and continues to thrive throughout the lands.

Tree tobacco is a small, open tree that has rubbery, silver-blue leaves and grows clusters of tubular, yellow flowers. Originally native to South America, tree tobacco began as a decorative garden plant used to attract birds and has sprouted into something much larger, becoming an invasive plant throughout California. Growing rather quickly, tree tobacco seeds can bloom into trees of six to ten feet in height and are often found along trails, fields and roadsides in many native wildlands.

Invasive Plant Profile - Tree Tobacco
Invasive Plant Profile – Tree Tobacco

Though it’s rumored that Native Americans once consumed tree tobacco and smoked the leaves for ceremonial purposes, tree tobacco should not be ingested by humans as it has been known to have severe effects. Hummingbirds, on the other hand, enjoy the nectar found within the bright yellow flowers and are favored as pollinators for this plant due to the long, tubular shape of the flowers, with bees and other insects occasionally visiting as well. These pollinators just might be the responsible party for why tree tobacco has been a successful invader so far from its native region.

Invasive non-native plant species like the tree tobacco, are troublesome as they prevent native plants and wildlife from thriving and can diminish the biodiversity of the Landmarks. Removing these invasive plants is crucial in order to preserve the nutrients, space and light for other native plants to do well.