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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!


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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!


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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September 29 was another warm fall Saturday and another day of cutting cattails at pHake Lake. This time volunteers concentrated on the south shore of the lake, where access to the lake was almost totally blocked.

After cattails were cut, they were piled into boats and hauled across the lake to the boat landing area, where they were piled for later collection and mulching or composting.

Jeremy Hall and Luke Hall bring a load of cut cattails back across the lake. ©Nancy Hamlett.


Chia-Yun Chin and Kevin Jimenez unload cut cattails from the boat. ©Nancy Hamlett.

The south shore access was dramaticlly improved, as you can see from these photos!

View of the lake from the south shore. Left: before (is there a lake there?); right: after. ©Nancy Hamlett.


View across the lake to the south shore. Left: before; right: after. ©Nancy Hamlett.

We also spend some time clearing more cattails to the west of the boat landing:

Cattails cleared from the west side of the boat landing. Top: before; bottom: after @Nancy Hamlett.

Cattail cutting will is scheduled to continue for the next two workdays so long as the weather cooperates. So if you’d like to have fun splashing around in the lake while improving the BFS, please join us on October 6 or October 20.

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Saturday, September 15, marked the start of BFS volunteer workdays for the 2018-2019 academic year, after the summer hiatus. As usual for this time of year, the work for the day was trimming back those pesky cattails (Typha latifolia) that keep trying to take over pHake Lake. On Saturday, we specifically worked on clearing out the area around the boat landing.

Volunteers at work. BFS Director Marty Meyer points out areas to cut as Stacy Scibelli and Dean McHenry saw away. ©Nancy Hamlett.

The cattails spread via large rhizomes that essentially make floating peninsulas out into the lake. We try to get rid of as many rhizomes as we can.

Stacy Scibelli admires a fine cattail rhizome. ©Nancy Hamlett

The boat landing area was much improved!

The boat landing before (above) and after (below). ©Nancy Hamlett

Cattail removal will continue on our next workday, September 29, and likely the two Saturdays after that. Please join us if you can for some wet fun and free pizza!

You can see the workday schedule for this academic year at bfs.claremont.edu/volunteer.html.

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