CAPITOLA -- An aggressive, mildly toxic ivy believed to have made its way here from Cape Town, South Africa, faced retaliation on Saturday by a small group of volunteers gathered on the bank of Soquel Creek.

The crew worked to eradicate the invasive Cape Ivy from a plot of land under permanent conservation next to the creek between Highway 1 and Nob Hill grocery store.

The effort was part of a project to restore health to the creek and its wildlife spearheaded by the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, Americorps and George McMenamin, a local environmental consultant.

"Cape Ivy is probably the single biggest threat to riparian corridors in California," McMenamin said. "It grows 20-30 feet in all directions, about 3,000 square feet in one year."

The bright green Cape Ivy with tiny yellow flowers is bad news largely due to its ability to grow unchecked and the fact that no insects or animals eat it, which means they tend to vanish from areas with ivy. No bugs means fish, namely steelhead, are left without a food source, McMenamin said.

McMenamin began overseeing Soquel Creek's riparian corridor next to Nob Hill in Capitola in 2005 when property owner Redtree Properties and the city of Capitola hired him to get rid of the ivy.

At the time, the land was a "green ocean" of ivy with some mounds 30 feet high, he said.

Not a single bug, bird or squirrel, could be found living amongst the ivy. Only rats, McMenamin said.

There were also no native plants or trees such as the cottonwoods and alders that stand there now.

However, the eradication effort seven years ago didn't quite do the job and the ivy grew back almost immediately.

"It just kind of smothers out any native species," said Jessica Missaghian, 23, an Americorps volunteer. "They steal nutrients, space and sunlight from all of our native plants."

La Selva Beach resident Cheryl Otto and her daughter were among the handful of volunteers on Saturday. Otto said the eradication work was a learning experience.

"It sounded like a nice way to do something good for the environment," she said. "I always like doing volunteer work and doing something useful."

For information on how to volunteer, call 831-464-2950.

Follow Sentinel reporter Shanna McCord on Twitter at Twitter.com/scnewsmom