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This past Saturday BFS volunteers mounted an assault on Italian Thistles (Carduus pycnocephelus) at what we think is the site of the original infestation – the top mound of dirt that with the ‘old toad pond’. This is what it looked like before we started:

The top of the toad pond mound covered with mustard and Italian Thistles. ©Nancy Hamlett

And here’s what it looked like after we finished:

Four tired volunteers – Tim Cox, Elliott Cox, Lee Krusa, and Cleo Stannard – contemplate the mound free of mustard and thistles. ©Nancy Hamlett

In the “before” photo, the dense stand of mustard makes its hard to tell the thistles are there, bit they are. The whole area was a mix of mustard, Italian Thistles, and dead mustard and thistle stalks. If you click on the photo below to enlarge it, you can see the purple thistle flowers among the yellow mustard.

Italian Thistles among the Mustard. ©Nancy Hamlett.

Clearing this area was a daunting task.

Tim Cox contemplates where to begin. ©Nancy Hamlett.

We used a combination of approaches. In some areas, like the side of the mound, the thistles were loosened with a shovel and pulled.

Elliott Cox pulls an Italian Thistle from the south side of the mound. ©Nancy Hamlett.

In the open areas, we used grass whips or weed cutters then got the remaining thistle stubs with a shovel or hoe.

Tim Cox wields a grass whip. ©Nancy Hamlett.

Under shrubs and in tight places we hand-pulled the thistles.

Cleo Stannard hand-pulls Italian Thistles growing underneath a Laurel Sumac (Malsoma laurina). ©Nancy Hamlett.

When we were finished, we checked the edges for any thistles that might have escaped.

Tim Cox makes sure no more thistles are lurking under the Laurel Sumac. ©Nancy Hamlett.

Then we retired to the outdoor classroom, where the volunteers were treated to a Cinco de Mayo lunch. Of course, we also took a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful day at the BFS and some of the plants and animals, including Southern California Toad (Anaxyrus boreas halophilus) tadpoles in the toad pond, a beautiful (and aromatic!) Black Sage (Salvia mellifera) in bloom by the path to the toad pond…

Black Sage (Salvia mellifera) blooming by the path the mustard and thistles. ©Nancy Hamlett

…and a Red-tailed Hawk that landed on a too-small willow branch.

A Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) balances on a branch in a Gooding’s Black Willow (Salix gooddingii). ©Nancy Hamlett.

All in all a very satisfying day!

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