At the beginning of April, I typed “Earth Day” into my iPad calendar. Then I considered ideas how to participate this year. This became the plan:
Goal… what I want to do-
Initiate restoration of native flora to west slope/trail section of Beaver Willows Nature Habitat Park
Objectives… steps I’ll take to get the job done-
- remove invasive grasses growing on west slope;
- replant with native plants suitable for growing conditions;
- complete by Earth Day- April 22.
In my usual fashion, I decided to do a little background research before heading into the park and quickly discovered that Reed Canarygrass is a formidable invasive species with an interesting history.
According to USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Reed Canarygrass was introduced to the Northwest by farmers at the turn of the twentieth century to overcome a problem created by logging operations. In the early 1900′s, it was not unusual for farming to follow logging. Reed Canarygrass was often planted as a preliminary crop where stumps and wood debris were left behind after clearing operations. This hardy grass was a productive crop used for livestock forage until stumps and debris degraded over time and were removed for other planting. Later in the century, Reed Canarygrass became part of wastewater management for irrigation with wastewater from municipal and industrial sources as a pollution control measure. Although the plant appears to be useful, it has proven to be too aggressive in the Pacific Northwest. It is a weedy invasive in many regions and habitats that often displaces more desirable native vegetation. Reed Canarygrass is the bane of wetland restoration.
Reed Canarygrass Control and Management provided a reality check for my expectations with this project… “There is no immediate one-year ‘fix’ to convert a Reed Canarygrass infestation into a native community, but much can be accomplished within 2 to 3 years. Continued monitoring and follow-up treatments will be required for up to 5 to 10 years to prevent reinvasion.” I wonder, does this mean I have found my Earth Day goal for the next decade? Whoa… as a person who thrives on challenge, I decided to proceed.
The Project Underway-
The target: Reed Canarygrass-
Our spring weather has been rainy. That was good news for weeding that had to be done by hand. Wet, saturated, soggy soils improved the chances that plants could be pulled out with roots attached. As the days went by, our wheelbarrow was filled many times over with the “bane of wetlands.”
Dense mats of Reed Canarygrass don’t look overwhelming, but the roots that hold them in place can be a nightmare to release. The pulling process was often a full-body workout involving the pitchfork, shovel, and sheer determination.
Removal was often slow-going because existing native plants were trapped within the grassy areas. An established patch of native Creeping Buttercups, next to the stairway, was especially tricky in this regard. But now that the Reed Canarygrass has been removed, I hope the Buttercups will form a thick mat that will choke out grass reinfestation.
Some of the creatures I met along the way-
These native plants were released from imprisonment. I need help identifying the plant pictured in the first two photos. The third photo showcases a Skunk Cabbage patch and Horsetails. In the background is an Oceanspray, and in the foreground a Serviceberry. These are two newly planted species.
Once the thick mats of grass were gone from the base of this tree-stand, a trove of native plant treasure was revealed that included Rushes, Red Osier Dogwood sprouts, and Great Betony perennials.
The grand finale for this clearing session was planting over a dozen native plants that we received from Clean Water Services back in February. Conditions were finally favorable for adding:
Cascara – Serviceberry – and – Oceanspray
And so, it appears that this project will be revisited for a number of Earth Days into the future!
Reed Canarygrass: Control and Management in the Pacific Northwest; http://www.invasive.org/gist/moredocs/phaaru01.pdf
USDA Plant Guide: Reed Canarygrass; http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_phar3.pdf