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The first two volunteer workdays of the 2019-2020 academic year were, as usual, devoted to cutting back cattails in pHake Lake. The cattails weren’t planted when the lake was first constructed. They got there on their own. And, boy, do they love it! They grow very tall and thick, extending their territory with rhizomes that spread out into the lake. So even though the cattails are native, we devote time each year to cutting them back – otherwise, they would completely block off access to the lake for students and researchers.

Cattail cutting is big undertaking. First we get organized with saw, waders, and boats.

Carson and Yanai armed and ready to take off. ©Linda Worlow.

 

Nancy and Jesse don waders ©Linda Worlow.

Then we head off …

Yanai and Carson push off. ©Linda Worlow.

 

Off to find some cattails to cut! Hmmm, it looks like there’s no shortage. ©Nancy Hamlett.

… for close encounters with cattails.

Have saw; have boat; ready to cut cattails! ©Avinash Chauhan.

 

Watch out, cattails! Jacqueline is headed your way. ©Nancy Hamlett.

Next comes the actual cutting.

Cutting cattails. ©Nancy Hamlett.

 

That’s one cattail that’s not coming back! Jacqueline with a cattail she removed roots and all. ©Nancy Hamlett.

Sometimes we find interesting things in the cattails. There were a lot of spiders, but also these:

We found a lot of these – dragonfly exuviae – the empty larval shells left behind after a dragonfly larva has metamorphosed into an adult and flown away. ©Nancy Hamlett.

Once the cattails are cut, we can’t just leave them in the lake, where they would create a rotting mess that would remove oxygen from the lake water. So we collect them all …

Volunteers pile cut cattails in boats of drag them onto the shore. ©Avinash Chauhan.

 

Here come the cattails! ©Avinash Chauhan.

 

Avinash hauls out a load of cattails. ©Avinash Chauhan.

 

A boatful of cattails heads for the shore. ©Nancy Hamlett.

… and take them to a vehicle-accessible location, where they will be collected and taken away for mulch or compost.

Unloading the cattails from the boat. ©Nancy Hamlett.

 

The first week’s pile of cattails. ©Nancy Hamlett.

 

The Bonita High Environmental Club with an even BIGGER pile of cattails after the second week of cutting. ©Avinash Chauhan.

 

Cutting cattails is thirsty work! ©Nancy Hamlett.

And a special thanks to the Bonita High Environmental Club for helping out! Great job, folks!

Some of the Bonita High School Environmental Club – thumbs up! ©Avinash Chauhan.

And here’s a peek at the difference the work has made.

Lake, what lake? View from the little island before cattail and brush trimming. ©Nancy Hamlett.


Ah, there’s the lake! View from the little island after cattail and brush trimming. ©Nancy Hamlett.

 

The south shore of the lake before any cattail trimming. ©Nancy Hamlett.


The south shore of the lake after the first day of cattail trimming. ©Nancy Hamlett.


The south shore of the lake after the second day of cattail and brush trimming. ©Nancy Hamlett.

We’ll have a least one more day of cattail cutting, so if you missed out on the fun, you still have a chance! Check the volunteer schedule for dates.

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As we move into a new academic year – and a new season of volunteer workdays – it’s fun and satisfying to look back on what we accomplished last year and to look at some photos not previously posted.

As usual, we started off with cattail removal, which you can see here, here, here, and here. Once that was done, we cleared the lake trail and planted a bunch of plants before winter break.

The spring semester was almost all about mustard and other invasive annuals.

We started each workday with instruction on how to recognize and remove the target plant:

Volunteers get instruction of recognizing mustard.

We pulled a whole lot of mustard – Sahara Mustard, Mediterranean Cabbage, Short-pod Mustard, Field Mustard – you name it!

Gio, Sean, and Maclellan go after Sahara Mustard by the Foothill Blvd fence.

 

Jesse pulls some Mediterranean Cabbage.

 

Henry with his mustard plant.

 

BFS Director Marty Meyer checks on the progress of the work.

 

Volunteers pull mustard by the fence.

 

Volunteers with some giant mustard.

 

Christine hauling out a big load of mustard.

And at the end of the spring we were pulling tocalote (aka Maltese Star Thistle) as well as mustard.

Volunteers attack mustard and tocalote.

And, of course, in June we had our special workday with the Sustainable Claremont Green Crew for Invasive Species Action Week.

All those pulled weeds got stuffed into cans or loaded into the truck to be taken to the collection point, where they are taken away for a landfill or composting.

Volunteers pull mustard, filling up the cans.

 

Get in there! Jesse stomps the mustard into the can.

 

Wow! Look at all that pulled mustard!

 

A truckful of mustard.

 

Volunteers with the HUGE pile of mustard they pulled.

We also pulled some other invasives – notably Horehound and a Peruvian Pepper Tree at the top to the ‘Neck’.

Cans full of horehound!

 

The truck full of cans of horehound and a pepper tree!

After all that pulling, volunteers headed back to the outdoor classroom for a well-deserved pizza lunch.

Volunteers head off for lunch.

Although, sometimes the pizza took a while to get there …

Madison and Sarah eagerly awaiting arrival of the pizza.

 

MacClellan, Gio, and Sean also waiting for pizza.

 

Joshua, Daisy, Nyx, and John hoping the pizza will get here soon.

And we volunteers happy for a job well done and a tummy full of tasty pizza.

Ted, Frank, and Erick.

 

Dick and Dean.

And a happy field station, where the native plants can thrive.

Top of the Neck with Horehound and a Peruvian Pepper Tree.


Top of the Neck with the Horehound and Pepper Tree gone.

Thank you, than you, volunteers!!!

And now we start another cycle! This year’s workdays have just begun. The next one (cattails, of course) will be Saturday, September 21, if you’d care to join us. You can see the whole schedule for the year here.

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The California Department of Fish & Wildlife designated June 1-9 as “California Invasive Species Action Week“, and we at the BFS are doing our part! We teamed up the Sustainable Claremont’s Green Crew to remove invasive plants from an area currently undergoing restoration.

The area was bulldozed during the installation of a sewer line during the renovation of the old Claremont Colleges’ infirmary for use by Pitzer College’s Robert Redford Center for Southern California Sustainability. To restore the area, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, which is conveniently right next door, propagated plants from the BFS to preserved the genetics of the indigenous plant community.

We outplanted groups of new plants in November 2017 and December 2018, and we are pleased to see they are doing quite well. Nonetheless, those pesky invasive plants love nothing better than a disturbed area, and aided by this year’s heavy rainfall, the spaces between the plants had gotten filled in with a lot of invasives – mostly Short-pod Mustard (Hirschfeldia incana), but also Tree Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) and Tocalote (Centaurea melitensis). We wanted to get them out to give the new plants a chance to establish – and get them out we did!

Here’s a photo of the north side of the work area before the crew commenced:

Before: Short-pod Mustard all over the north side of the work area. ©Nancy Hamlett.

And here’s what happened during the workday:


Time-lapse video ©Erica Pinal.

Until the volunteers declared victory over the mustard:

Volunteers declare victory over in front of the giant mustard pile! ©Richard Haskell.

And when they all left at the end of the workday, here’s what the area looked like:

After: The north area at the end of the workday. ©Nancy Hamlett.

Here are a bunch of other photos of the hard-working crew:

 

Meet the mustard! Nancy introduces the volunteers to Short-pod Mustard (Hirschfeldia incana). ©Jacqueline Legazcue.

 

A little mustard plant about to meet its doom. ©Jacqueline Legazcue.

 

Pulling up mustard. ©Jacqueline Legazcue.

 

Mustard into the can to be delivered to the big pile. ©Jacqueline Legazcue.

 

Jaime with his mustard.
©Jacqueline Legazcue.

 

Jackie and the giant mustard. ©Jacqueline Legazcue.

 

Carrie with a big load of mustard. ©Jacqueline Legazcue.

 

Another big load of mustard. ©Marcyn Clements.

 

Is that a tiny Tree Tobacco?
©Jacqueline Legazcue.

 

The area around the new plants was cleared, so the volunteers headed off into the surrounding scrub to hunt for more mustard. ©Jacqueline Legazcue.

 

Arrgh. All those tiny little mustard plants are really annoying! ©Jacqueline Legazcue.

 

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If you walk along Foothill Blvd to the field station, you may be enjoying the masses of Common Fiddleneck (Amsinckia intermedia) and Distant Phacelia (Phacelia distans) blooming in the parkway, spurred on by the unusually rainy winter. Both Common Fiddleneck and Distant Phacelia are characteristic annuals of California Sage Scrub – a native plant community that once dominated most of our area but is now quite rare. It is, however, still preserved at the BFS, and the flowers that have spread into the parkway give passersby a chance to enjoy our our very own mini-“Super Bloom”

Distant Phacelia (Phacelia distans) and Common Fiddleneck (Amsinckia intermedia) in front of the Foothill Blvd fence. ©Nancy Hamlett.

But human passersby are not the only ones enjoying this floral abundance. Both Common Fiddleneck and Distant Phacelia are favorites of many local insects, such as the Painted Lady butterflies, which delighted many Claremonters during their massive migration through our area.

A Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) nectaring on Common Fiddleneck (Amsinckia intermedia) in the Foothill Blvd parkway. ©Nancy Hamlett.

Having plants that support native insects are more important than ever, as they can help to combat the “Insect Apocalypse”.

Have you heard about the “Insect Apocalypse”? In 2017, German researchers reported that flying insect populations in 63 protected nature areas had declined by more than 75% between 1989 and 2016. Although this astonishing number brought widespread attention to insect decline and lead to the term “Insect Apocalypse”, declines in many specific insect groups, including European butterflies, honeybees, and British moths, have have been reported for years. But the German group’s study was unique in that it covered all flying insects instead of specific populations.

A Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) nectaring on Common Fiddleneck (Amsinckia intermedia) in the Foothill Blvd parkway. ©Nancy Hamlett.

Why are insects in decline? A new review article concludes habitat loss is the main driver of the declines, with agrochemical pollutants, invasive species, and climate change as additional causes.

A Bird Hover Fly (Eupeodes volucris) nectaring on Common Fiddleneck (Amsinckia intermedia) in the Foothill Blvd parkway. Hover Flies, also known as Flower Flies, are important pollinators, and their larvae eat aphids, thrips, and other plant-sucking insects. ©Nancy Hamlett.

Why should you care? Ecosystem depend on insects. Insects are food for many birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians and are also essential for pollination of many plants. Insects are also crucial to soil health, nutrient recycling, and ecosystem functioning. Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, from the University of Sydney, Australia, and coauthor of the recent review, told the Guardian, “If insect-species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of mankind.”

A sawfly (Filacus sp.) on Distant Phacelia (Phacelia distans) in the Foothill Blvd parkway. Sawflies are related to bees and wasps, but don’t sting. Filacus larvae specifically eat Phacelia and Amsinckia. ©Nancy Hamlett.

What can you do? In your own home, you can reduce the use of pesticides, plant native plants that are used by insects, and buy organic produce. You can also support policies and legislation that conserve or restore native habitats and promote more insect-friendly agricultural practices, such as discouraging the use of pesticides.

Here are some more insects recently spotted in the parkway, including more butterflies…

A Reakirt’s Blue butterfly (Echinargus isola) on Distant Phacelia (Phacelia distans) in the Foothill Blvd parkway. Reakirt’s Blues are uncommon in our area.©Nancy Hamlett.

 

Funereal Duskywing (Erynnis funeralis) nectaring on Distant Phacelia (Phacelia distans). ©Nancy Hamlett.

 

Another Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) – this one is nectaring on Distant Phacelia (Phacelia distans). ©Nancy Hamlett.

…more bumblebees,…

A Black-tailed Bumble Bee (Bombus melanopygus) nectaring on Common Fiddleneck (Amsinckia intermedia) in the Foothill Blvd parkway. ©Nancy Hamlett.

…more hoverflies,…

Another Bird Hover Fly (Eupeodes volucris) – this one is on Distant Phacelia (Phacelia distans) in the Foothill Blvd parkway. ©Nancy Hamlett.

…and snakeflies, too!

A snakefly (Agulla sp.) resting on Distant Phacelia (Phacelia distans)in the Foothill Blvd parkway. Snakeflies are important predators on aphids and mites and have been considered for biological pest control in agriculture. ©Nancy Hamlett.

Please look and enjoy as you stroll along the boulevard!

References:

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As noted in the previous post, Sahara Mustard (Brassica tournefortii) has been a focus of volunteer efforts this semester, and here are a few photos from our first Sahara Mustard removal day on January 19. Thanks to Gerardo Vitale for some great pictures!

A flagged Sahara Mustard plant ready to be pulled. ©Nancy Hamlett.

 

The pale yellow flowers are a quick tip-off for recognizing Sahara Mustard. ©Nancy Hamlett.

 

Stacy Scibelli with a handful of Sahara Mustard. ©Gerardo Vitale.

 

Sneaky tiny mustard plants hiding in the grass are no match for Stacy! ©Gerardo Vitale.

 

A break from mustard pulling to enjoy the view and the beautiful day. ©Gerardo Vitale.

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The first two volunteer workdays of the spring semester have been all about mustard – specifically two winter-blooming mustards – Brassica tournefortii (Sahara Mustard) and Brasscia fruticulosa (Mediterranean Cabbage).

Volunteers at work. ©Nancy Hamlett.

Brassica tournefortii has been discussed before in these pages. This particularly nasty mustard has displaced native vegetation in large areas of Joshua Tree National Park and the Anza Borrego desert. It is thought to have been introduced to Southern California 1920’s in Coachella Valley, where it was likely imported with Date Palms. Since then Brassica tournefortii has been gradually spreading, largely along roads as the seeds stick to automobile and truck tires. It first arrived in the Foothill Blvd parkway in front of the Field Station in 2012. The recent construction activity associated with the Robert Redford Conservancy and the Foothill Blvd project appears to have introduced a lot of B. tournefortii seeds, which germinated profusely after the winter rains, and on January 19 and February 16 volunteers removed thousands of plants from the Foothill Blvd and Mills Ave parkways as well as some areas inside the fence.

Brasscia fruticulosa, another Mediterranean native, is a new addition to our list of targeted invasive plants. It was first reported in Southern California in 1996, and its distribution in California (at least so far) is limited to Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties. Because this is a relatively new arrival, it’s not been clear how invasive it will be. It was first noticed at the Field Station in 1998, in an area on the west side of the ‘Neck’ near the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden greenhouses, and there it stayed for a number of years. In the last year or so, however, it seems to be spreading. Four infestations appeared on the east side of the field station, several plants have popped up around the lake, and the plants are spreading out on the west side from the original infestation into the woodland area.

Given the apparent spread, it seemed prudent to remove the Brasscia fruticulosa while the infestations are small enough to control, and we on February 16, volunteers removed all the plants in the four infestations on the east side – along the fence at the southeast corner of the ‘Neck’, just south of the Conservancy building, along the road to the west of the Conservancy south of the Lowell gate, and among the newly planted natives in the restoration project.

Here are a few photos from the February 16 workday…

We were joined for this workday by a terrific crew from the Bonita High Environmental Club:

The Bonita High Environmental Club.

Have weed diggers — will dig mustard! Bonita High students and faculty Advisor Nick Queen ready to go.

 

Ethan loves pulling weeds!

 

More volunteers go after Brasscia fruticulosa. Even tiny volunteers lend a hand! ©Nancy Hamlett.

 

A can full of mustard!

 

A selfie under the live oaks.

 

San Gabriel Valley Environmental Club was here!

Some before and after photos:

Brassica fruticulosa along the road below Lowell gate. ©Nancy Hamlett.

Road below Lowell gate after Brassica fruticulosa removal. ©Nancy Hamlett.

 

Brassica fruticulosa at the bottom of the ‘Neck’. ©Nancy Hamlett.

Lower ‘Neck’ after Brassica fruticulosa removal ©Nancy Hamlett.

 

Brassica fruticulosa among the newly planted plants. ©Nancy Hamlett.

Plantings after Brassica fruticulosa removed. ©Nancy Hamlett.

The next volunteer workday is scheduled for March 2, and we will likely be removing more mustard. Please join us if you can!

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For the last volunteer workday of the fall semester, we had a record crew of 53 people, including large contingents from the Webb Schools, Bonita High School, and Citrus College, as well as Claremont Colleges faculty, staff, students, and children. They turned out to help restore the area bulldozed during renovation of the Redford Conservancy! Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden had propagated plants from the BFS, and they were now ready to do into the ground.

All the plants are set out waiting to be planted. ©Nancy Hamlett.

 

The crew at work! ©Nancy Hamlett.

We had a good rain a few days before the planting, so the soil was nice and moist. There’s no getting around, however, the fact that the BFS is on an alluvial fan, so that the ground is mainly rocks, and digging is never easy.

Abraham goes “HAM” on a new place to plant a California Coffee Berry (Frangula californica). ©Linda Worlow.

 

Malcolm, Patricia, and Matthew preparing the planting hole for their California Coffee Berry (Frangula californica) next to The Second Biggest Rock of the Day, which came out of their hole. ©Nancy Hamlett.

 

Bonita High students Nika, Sarah, and Elika checking the level of their Lemonade Berry (Rhus integrifolia). You can also see their The Biggest Rock for the Day! ©Linda Worlow.

 

Citrus College students Fangshu, Kevin, and Sabrina with their Showy Penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis).

 

Bonita High students Jake, Avinash, Yeonu, and Ethan with their Skunk Bush (Rhus aromatica). ©Linda Worlow.

 

It’s a family affair! Citrus College students Christine, Julianne, and Zoey Mullen with their Lemonade Berry (Rhus integriflolia). ©Linda Worlow.

 

Bonita HIgh students Noah, Mia, Vincent, and Omar with their Chaparral Yucca (Hesperoyucca whipplei). ©Linda Worlow

 

Citrus College students worry whether their Skunk Bush (Rhus aromatica) might be planted too deeply. ©Linda Worlow.

 

Bonita High students Sanskar and Sam with their Showy Penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis). ©Linda Worlow.

 

Webb school students with their Showy Penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis). ©Linda Worlow.

Once all the plants were in the ground, it was time to refuel the volunteers with a tasty pizza lunch.

Pizza time! Webb students enjoying their lunch. ©Linda Worlow.

 

The Bonita High students like their pizza, too! ©Linda Worlow.

 

Many boxes, many choices! BFS Director Marty Meyer chats with Christine & Zoey in the background. ©Linda Worlow.

 

Professors Diane Thomson (Keck Science), and Nancy Hamlett (BFS Volunteer Coordinator) confer over pizza. ©Linda Worlow.

Spring volunteer workdays are scheduled to begin on Saturday, January 19. We hope you can join us!

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On the November 3 workday, volunteers cleaned up around pHake Lake. A few days of strong Santa Ana winds in previous weeks had brought down limbs and some entire trees that were blocking the lake trail. One very large downed willow tree was removed by Johnny’s Tree Service, but the volunteers took care of the smaller stuff to excellent effect as you can see below:

Fallen tree blocking the trail on the west side of the lake. Left:before; right: after. ©Nancy Hamlett.

 

Branches blocking the trail on the west side of the lake. Left: before; right: after. ©Nancy Hamlett.

 

Overgrown brush on the east side of the lake. Left:before; right: after. ©Nancy Hamlett.

The volunteers also cleared out the remains of the tent that was used as a classroom during the renovation of the Redford Conservancy, and cut back a a few cattails that had the nerve to regrow after our last cutting:

Cattail regrowth on the south shore. Top: before; bottom: after. ©Nancy Hamlett.

The next workday will be Saturday, November 17, and we will be removing non-native plants in the ‘Neck’. We hope you can join us!

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This past Saturday’s volunteer workday was what we expect to be the last cattail cutting for this year. The volunteers concentrated on widening the lake access on the south shore and also did some additional cattail tidying around the boat landing and the northeast corner of the lake.

Here they are at work on the south shore:

Volunteers load cut cattails into the boat for transport back across the lake. Left to right: Patricia Barroso, Al Canguahuala, Kevin Jimenez (mostly hidden), Ben Stapp, Fang-shu Liu, Dean McHenry. ©Nancy Hamlett.

And here are some of the volunteers with the giant pile of cattails from four weeks of cutting – the whole pile was too big to fit into the picture!

Some of the volunteers with part of the enormous pile of conquered cattails. Left to right: Dean McHenry, Al Canguahuala, Sebastian Canguahuala, Kevin Jimenez, Fang-shu Liu, and Patricia Barroso. ©Nancy Hamlett.

And here’s the south shore of the lake showing the change over the last month:

Cattail clearing on the south shore of the lake. Top: before (September 13), middle: during (September 30), bottom: after (October 20), with volunteers hauling away the last of the cut cattails. ©Nancy Hamlett.

You will note that the large willow tree in the center of the access area is missing in the bottom photo. That was not the result of volunteers; the tree blew down in the Santa Ana winds earlier in the week. The highest gust recorded by the BFS weather station on Monday was 38 mph.

The next volunteer workday with be November 3, with the activity to be announced. Check our volunteer page for more information.

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The Saturday, October 6, volunteer workday continued the cutting of cattails (Typha latifolia) as well as some bulrushes (Schoenoplectus sp.) and smaller rushes (Juncus sp.) on the edge of pHake Lake. This time the work centered on the northeast corner of lake to clear a site on the north shore that is used for collecting samples and to open an area for viewing the lake from a little island.

A determined Christina Valdez moves in on the bulrushes. ©Nancy Hamlett.

 

Linda Worlow attacks the rushes blocking the path. ©Nancy Hamlett.

 

Gosh, it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it! Dick Haskell after piling up cut cattails. ©Linda Worlow.

 

The work really made a big difference. Here, in lieu of Vanna White, we have volunteer Christina Valdez to point out the areas we worked on:

View of the lake from the little island before (top) and after (bottom). ©Nancy Hamlett.

 

View from the sampling site on the north shore before (top) and after (bottom). ©Nancy Hamlett.

 

View looking across the lake to the island. Before (left); after (right). ©Nancy Hamlett.

Weather permitting, we’ll have one more cattail workday on October 20. If you’d like to splash around in the lake, please come join us!

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