Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Year in the Trenches

A little over a year ago, I learned that there's a war going on in my neighborhood.

Being fought hand-to-hand, against invaders from overseas.

Or, more precisely, gloved-hand to root, stem, stalk, or trunk. Often with pointy, pokey tools. Occassionally with heavy machinery, or biological and chemical agents.

The foreign enemies we're attempting to turn away?

Non-native, invasive weeds - French and Spanish broom, Italian thistle, English ivy, European olive... And the ultimate evil: Yellow star thistle. Which, I think must be from outer space, because it seems to be able to survive nearly anything, and is about as friendly as a Vermicious Knid.

Our defenders are the Edgewood Weed Warriors, a group of fine folks that beat back the encroachers that would otherwise turn a native-nature preserve, into just another scruffy park. Yes, given the chance, those weeds would happily overrun Edgewood's rare flora and fauna, and create uninviting fields of thistles as far as the eye can see. Or, banks of broom, cotoneaster, eucalyptus and acacia, instead of classic California oaks and chaparral.

The Warriors know, because that's how Edgewood Park was 10 years ago, and how the untended parks in the area look today.

So, I volunteered. And, a yearish later, not only am I still having fun and learning a ton, I can really see that this diligent, dedicated, invasive-fighting infantry makes a surprising difference.

Now, I'm sure many are saying: "weeding? Isn't that one of those tedious chores I avoid doing in my own backyard?"

Well, weeding in a park is much, much different.

Not only are you out with a bunch of great people, but you're about with a bunch of great plants and animals, too. Hundreds of species of wildflowers come and go under your nose. Hawks swoop by. You share morning fields with meadowlarks, jackrabbits and deer. Fascinating insects are revealed. Grasses rustle with glances of harmless lizards, snakes and voles.

But enough descriptions - here's the year in photos:

weed warriors
Year-round, sprinkles or shine, and often with great views

weed warriors
Birds and bunnies "accidentally" drop weed seeds in native bushes

something new?
"New species?" "I dunno, how many nutlets do you see?"

leader of the weed warriors
Our fearless general protects a patch of chia sage that enjoys hillside exposures

weed warriors
Searching for hidden enemies

weed warriors
Grasslands of... grasses (with scattered nature-geeks)

weed samurai
A doomed, but well-defended cul de sac of yellow star (now sprouting arroyo lupine!)

weed warriors
Sweeping for strays before summer seeds spread

weed warriors
Expanding the war into the enemy's home base near the edge of the park

weed warriors
Summer fields of native coast tarplant - and no nasty yellow star thistle

weed warriors
Dead enemies with seeds are removed for mulching

weed warriors
Fans of the weed warriors often stop to show their appreciation

weed warriors
Battling French broom that's infiltrating the oak woodlands

weed warriors
Caution - spontaneous learning is known to break out. Here, our CNPS Fellow
talks toyon and chaparral plant communities.

weed warriors
Dead Italians show the next season has begun. Learning to ID natives vs. weeds
as sprouts is a handy skill you pick up.

weed warriors
New Year's Eve - just can't get enough


Some flora & fauna we saw through the year:

coast silk tassel - garrya ellipticafresh, bright amethyst laccaria

the dragon on north hillsurface tension

purple mouse ears - mimulus douglasiifragrant fritillary - fritillaria liliacea

fiesty yellowbelly racera viper in the bush

rosy calochortus albusluteus on serpentine

euro mantiswee beetle

coyote thistlee l o n g a t a

edgewood chiasweeps of elegans

argiope aurantia abundanceargiope trifasciata

van houtte's columbinebeaked twig gall

female silk tasselbitter bolete I believe


Yes, there are still weeds in Edgewood. Filaree, pimpernel, European annual grasses, and some yellow star entrenched on the perimeters... But - the park is about as close to native as you can get these days in California. And, it's very nice to prove that restoration is both possible, and that there's wise warriors willing to take it on, and keep at it.

See ya in the field.




  1. Wow. A lot of work - but social and educational and enjoyable too. The photos are great! The butterfly/moth shot w/ the folks in the background is great! And that beetle on a stick is my favorite!

  2. Excellent post, great work, lovely photos, and a wonderful inspirational post for the cause. I wish there were such dedicated groups for every bit of land.

  3. Wonderful photos! I'll echo texwisgirl in that the photo with the butterfly and people in the background is well composed. All of them are excellent!


  4. So nice to see others taking action and blogging about it to boot! Your blog is very intriguing to use as wildlife field biologists, and we look forward to keeping tabs on life from "the nature of a man"

    You captured some wonderful shots this year!

    -Carrie and Ben

  5. Nice to see such a big group of dedicated people working together to protect the park. It's a very fortunate park to have such feareless wariors fighting for it.

    Good job and great pictures (as always).

  6. Thanks all. It is a great gang, and a wonderful suburban park. And I too hope that more and more of these volunteer groups form. At least around the SF Bay Area there seems to be more and more popping up.

  7. Hi Random,
    A friend and I were just talking yesterday about how GOOD Edgewood is looking these days! Thanks so much.


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