Archive for June, 2012

ALLIARIA PETIOLATA!

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

GARLIC MUSTARD (Alliaria petiolata) IS BEING REMOVED FROM MORRIS PARK. OUR VOLUNTEER EFFORTS ARE SUCCESSFUL, AND AFTER FOUR CONSECUTIVE YEARS OF GARLIC MUSTARD REMOVAL, WE ARE SEEING THE FANTASTIC RESULTS: THE INCREASE OF OAK SEEDLINGS,  WILD GERANIUM AND BLOODROOT FOR STARTERS- THIS URBAN FOREST IS REGENERATING BEFORE OUR EYES.

Garlic mustard removal in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Garlic mustard removal in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Jason Puglionesi and Sean Solomon have worked all afternoon, removing Garlic Mustard from Morris Park, an invasive exotic that has been dominating the herbaceous layer for many years. It would be great to know for how many years exactly; when did this plant arrive, and what  did the forest look like before its arrival?

Garlic mustard removal in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Garlic mustard removal in Morris Park, Philadelphia

This is a typical scene of the forest floor in many parts of Morris Park at this time of the year.  The plant with the spiny characteristics is the Garlic Mustard plant, and the spines are rows of seeds, ready to be propelled into the forest, to be germinated next spring, continuing the cycle of infestation, inbalance and blight upon the woodland.

Each plant has the capacity to produce hundreds of seeds, each seed having the capacity to produce one plant that will also produce hundreds of more seeds, so over just a few years a vast quantity of these plants can emerge upon an ecosystem that for the past thousands and millions of years has never had this plant.

The plant was introduced to America from Europe, because it is edible and its leaves can be made into a tasty salad.

Garlic mustard removal in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Garlic mustard removal in Morris Park, Philadelphia

This picture above shows the seed pods that are in the final stages of maturity. If we do not remove this plant now, it could throw its seed and the damage is done. This photographed plant was removed and bagged .

Garlic mustard removal in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Garlic mustard removal in Morris Park, Philadelphia

We are trying to control this species in Morris Park, to give this little segment of land a break, and to see what will happen.  This is a milestone for us, to be at it, consistent and ready for the long haul.

In this next picture, you will see the invasive exotic Garlic mustard, and the native white oak.

The Oak tree is a native specimen, just growing on its own. It is threatened by the Garlic mustard. This is in an area that the tree canopy has been in decline, due to excessive disturbance and resulting encroachment of non native species. We want the native trees to grow back to restore the canopy. By removing the Garlic mustard, the oak seedlings are now getting the light they need to grow, and they are also able to have access to moisture through their roots, aided by the mychorrizal bacteria, which the oaks depend on to help their roots absorb the moisture in the ground.

The Garlic Mustard plant disturbs this relationship, resulting in the inhibited growth of young trees, which is a situation that threatens the rehabilitation of a blighted forest.

Garlic mustard removal in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Garlic mustard removal in Morris Park, Philadelphia

We have observed that the areas of Morris Park where the forest has thinned out and there is a decrease in trees, there is an increase in invasives.   When we find a small oak sapling buried under a mass of Garlic mustard, and  we pull out all of the Garlic mustard, we get a straightforward on-the-ground sense of exactly why we are doing this, and what it is all about.

Alot of native woodland plants are being stifled by the Garlic mustard, and as we pull we discover more and more.  Also, our square foot by square foot scanning of the area in search of Garlic mustard each spring gives us a window of opportunity to spot any emerging invasives that we need to be aware of and immediately eradicate.

We found Mile-A-minute vine (Persicaria perfoliata), a serious threat, growing in several spots. This noxious annual vine was immediately removed, and right before its flowering.

The Garlic Mustard removal exercise has become for us a Rite -Of -Spring.  We cant stop doing it, otherwise we will have wasted years of work as we watch un-pulled plants throw hundreds of seeds back into the forest.

This plant is a bi-annual, which requires reseeding to continue propagation, which involves a different dimension in eradicating the plant.

The ability to remove the seed source gives us hope that we can actually control this noxious invasive, we get direct results that we can see in just two years. And we know that if we dont keep pulling every year, our efforts are negated and the problem continues.  Garlic Mustard has forced us to become consistent stewards, that can never miss a beat. Also the more we pull, the less we have to do the following years, allowing us to focus on other priorities.  Follow through practices on any restoration project are crucial to success.

Once you start environmental restoration, you are pulled in and committed.  Its a great position to be in: you are affecting the environment you live and work in, and this is rewarding.

These next two pictures are a before and after taken an hour apart in exactly the same location:

Garlic mustard removal in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Garlic mustard removal in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Here is a site in Morris Park infested with Garlic mustard, in a woodland area that for the most part is free of this invasive.  This site was identified and targeted by the Sanguine Root as  high priority- an isolated infestation, adjacent to a woodland free of most invasives.  The above picture was taken just before an intensive pulling and bagging operation.

Garlic mustard removal in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Garlic mustard removal in Morris Park, Philadelphia

And this picture an hour later. Beneath the infestation was an herbaceous layer with promise, and several species of native sapling trees; Oak, Hickory, Dogwood, Sassafrass and Tulip Poplar .

Garlic mustard removal in Morris Park, Philadelphia

Garlic mustard removal in Morris Park, Philadelphia

A most important component of volunteering our time is the fun we have doing it. Learning about all of the different species, both native and invasive and non-native, and the natural environment we work in as a whole is exceptionally rewarding. Also the people we work with and the like-minded neighbors and community that care about the park and nature make these restoration projects enjoyable.

THE NATIVE GARDEN BLOOMS OF JUNE: A TOUR OF THE GARDEN OF THE SANGUINE ROOT

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

THE BACKYARD HAS FINALLY BEEN TRANSFORMED FROM A NEGLECTED MENAGERIE OF NOXIOUS INVASIVE WEEDS INTO A PLEASANT AND INVITING SANCTUARY OF NATIVE HERBACEOUS PLANTS, SHRUBS AND TREES AFTER THREE YEARS OF WORK

The native plant garden of the Sanguine Root, Morris Park Road, Overbrook, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

The native plant garden of the Sanguine Root, Morris Park Road, Overbrook, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Welcome to our backyard! This neglected piece of Philadelphia shares a border with Morris Park, which is on the other side of the fence. For years inappropriate plantings have been escaping this yard into the park, and  invasives from the Park, escaped from other inappropriate plantings have found their way into the yard.   What a mess!  Noxious weeds such as Mile- a-minute, Multiflora Rose, Burning Bush, English Ivy, Porcelainberry, Japanese Stiltgrass and Garlic Mustard. Even the native plants were out of whack.  Violets, Poison Ivy and Pokeweed  were running rampant.  Non native garden plantings, not considered noxious weeds were showing signs of aggressive growth such as Rose-of -Sharon and Snow drops.

The native plant garden of the Sanguine Root, Morris Park Road, Overbrook, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The native plant garden of the Sanguine Root, Morris Park Road, Overbrook, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

We tilled the soil and planted all native in the backyard over the last 3 years, and have been weeding out the non-native all along. Isabelle created a garden plan that involved an oval shaped area of grass surrounded by beds of plantings.   The fact that the property directly borders Morris Park, a natural woodland area, has further inspired us to stick with native plants, especially ones native to the region of Philadelphia. Whatever we plant will eventually escape into the Park, and we would like that to be a plant that will not harm the natural area. Ideally, any plant we put in our yard would have originated from a local seed source, and we do try to search these plants out.  Because of its proximity to a natural area, our yard is something of an extension of a natural area, yet it is a garden.

Joe Pye Weed, The native plant garden of the Sanguine Root, Morris Park Road, Overbrook, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Joe Pye Weed, The native plant garden of the Sanguine Root, Morris Park Road, Overbrook, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Here we have confronted the situation at hand: we have this unique situation of bordering a natural area, and being enthusiastic about native plants, and wanting to create a beautiful garden in an area infested with invasives.

We found that by being limited to the native plants of Philadelphia, we were at an advantage: our clearly defined scope allowed us to focus on our planting choices, and the sun exposure and soil conditions gave us even more focus. The limiting choices of plant material has actually enhanced our sense of garden design. It has given it a purpose; an ecological sensibility and the challenge of a horticultural translation from raw nature to an ornamental garden setting.

There is an enlightenment to be had from the restrictions of native plants that only grow in this very specific region.  We can focus on these specific plants, we can learn their habits, latin names and their place in the botanical classification, where they become members of a global family of plants that go back millenia. Suddenly we realize that we are participating in nature itself, that we are attuning ourselves to the botanical evolution of Southeastern Pennsylvania, we are truly embracing the sense of place, the home of the plants we choose, we are becoming involved as closely as possible to the millions of years of  botanical evolution that have occurred right at our doorstep.  What an amazing breakthrough!

Our sense of time has been transformed. We go out into the park and take close notes on the plants just growing, and we see them as the genetic blueprint of our natural lands, the area of the world we inhabit. We want a garden in our yard, we want to celebrate these local, indigenous plants, to highlight them, to conserve them, to share them, exalt them above the introduced versions, the aliens, the ones that are are inappropriate to our place. We want our sense of place to be reaffirmed and we want to have a grasp of our sense of time, the years, the seasons, the many skies that pass over us, that we are somehow a part of this natural phenomenon.

Here, we have a chance to participate botanically in the world of time and the immediate sense of place, here in Overbrook, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, here and now, we watch our plants grow and flower, and we ponder over the red, tubular flowers and the Hummingbirds that visit hourly, the moths and bees, the bright yellow flowers of the Sundrops, the Oenothera fruticosa, and we really feel our sense of place and time in our little spot in the world, our small urban garden in West Philadelphia. These plants we have chosen, guided by such scientific volumes as the The Vascular Flora of Pennsylvania, an Annotated checklist and Atlas, are the plants of our place. These are the plants that tell us where we are in the world, they tell us where the sun is, the rainfall, the soil conditions, where the nearest stream or wetland area is, or where the nearest tree is, how high in elevation, what the weather is.

We started with the books and have just gone ahead and planted them and watched them grow or die.  The garden is a place where we  have been trying to learn about nature first hand, in a semi controlled setting. We have watched our plantings wither and wondered why.  We have watched other plants flourish with great delight. The native plant garden has captured us emotionally, we are made happy by the success of a species and made sad by the failures of another. Its a ground of learning, a new territory of exploration.

The idea of a garden being a place of botanical exploration is ideal. We recommend this journey to be one of native plants to your region. limitations, especially ecological ones, will prove to be the most rewarding. Putting boundaries on enlightenment may seem counterintuitive at first, but when we can grasp a solid sense of place by our restrictions, and really feel that we are somewhere, and this somewhere is magnificent and is the place, then we are enlightened.

We dream of visiting other parts of the world,such as the mesic forests of central China, where we can see the Tree Of Heaven, the Ailanthus altissima, growing naturally in its habitat.  This tree is a noxious weed in the U.S. and in western Europe. It is a horribly problematic tree, but to see its native habitat could give us a sense of global place; will we understand better the value of our own habitat, our micro region, our garden?

To us the garden is more than a place we can kick off our shoes and  rest under the canopy of a nice native shade tree and appreciate the beauty of nature, and see the flowers of our plantings we have worked so hard to create.  The garden is a place of learning, an ongoing adventure of questions asked and answered.

Tall Meadow Rue, The native plant garden of the Sanguine Root, Morris Park Road, Overbrook, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tall Meadow Rue, The native plant garden of the Sanguine Root, Morris Park Road, Overbrook, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

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