Yesterday’s Monthly Trail Workday


Priscilla, Tom, Roy, Elizabeth, and Kurt. Jamie took the picture.

Yesterday a crew of six stewards, including me, headed out to clear the upper Sonoma Overlook Trail meadow of invasive Italian thistle. We made one complete sweep of the upper meadow and emerged with ten contractor debris bags full of the nasty weed, as well as some remaining invasive Yellow starthistle, which unfortunately was a surprise.

Elizabeth Garsonnin, Priscilla Miles, Jamie Nelson, Tom Sours, and Kurt Teuber came out to help with this important battle. If we hit Italian thistle hard now on the upper meadow, before it completely drops its seed, we have a chance of eventually eradicating it instead of allowing it take over completely.

Although we’ve been largely successful in pushing it away from the trail, we are still challenged in large areas where Italian thistle is gaining the upper hand. On the Montini Preserve, my focus has been simply to get it off the trail, as that is the only reasonable goal for that property at the moment. But on the Sonoma Overlook Trail property, we have an opportunity to eradicate it further back from the trail. Eventually, some years from now, my goal will to be to not even see it from the trail, but that is clearly some years out still, and may never be achieved on the Montini Preserve, where it’s fairly rampant.

An Update on the War

ThistlePirates2Today I went out to assess the invasive Yellow starthistle infestation this year. I’m happy to say that it’s less than last year, but it’s still there. We may still be several years away from complete eradication.

But the really depressing thing to see is that Italian thistle is simply taking its place.

This has me thinking that my strategy needs to be this:

  • Eradicate Yellow starthistle (essentially steady the course on what I’ve already been working on).
  • Control Italian thistle in specific areas (trailside and on the Upper Meadow of the Sonoma Overlook Trail).
  • Clone myself. I’ve already signed up Dan Noreen to join “Thistle Pirates” (see graphic) and I hope to sign up others as well. If you wish to join, let me know. You get a free t-shirt, but be careful, as it can come with an obsession.

If you wish to join us, let me know! People along the trail are very appreciative of this work.

The Third Wave

IMG-2727I’ve been pulling Italian thistle (an invasive monster) since mid-November. It’s now mid-March and we still have very young plants coming in (see pic, gloved finger for scale). Today, I decided to call it the “third wave” but I have no idea if it comes in waves at all, or just constantly. Or if it comes in waves, how many can we expect? Five? Ten?

All I know is that it will continue to come in for quite some time, and I need to keep an eye out for these little guys probably well into May. Part of the reason may be the very wet winter we are having, as none of the thistle is bolting yet but the plants, in some cases, are becoming very large. This presages a massive stalk, which will mean more bulk to deal with when we need to begin bagging the thistle and carrying it out.

Also, the rain is preventing me from using 30 percent vinegar to battle big patches, since I need sun to follow spraying, not rain that will wash it off. So far we haven’t many stretches of dry weather.

Sorry to be a Debby Downer, but these are just some of the challenges we face when attempting to control invasive thistle on these lands.

The Game is Afoot

Picture of an Italian thistle plant.

A young Italian thistle.

I know what all five of you who read this blog are thinking: “Oh no, not again!” you’re groaning. And I don’t blame you.

Yet again I’m blogging about invasive species management on the Overlook and Montini properties, as I have for years. But as you might imagine, there’s a reason for that, and it’s because we’re in a decades-long fight that we may never win.  So buckle up, buttercup, here we go again!

I first sighted Italian thistle popping up in early November. Certainly by November 8, two days earlier than last year, I noticed more than one patch of it. Therefore, today I went out on the Montini Preserve and pulled not only the one pictured plant (the largest one I found today), but also many other, much smaller plants. The game is definitely already afoot, thanks to some early rains.

So far I’ve been unable to tell if our previous work has made much of an impact on the problem. My instinct is that we haven’t yet, that we still have a ways to go to seriously reduce the seed bank present in the soil. There seem to be plenty of plants along the trail on the Montini, which is where I’ve focused much of my attention, so there doesn’t seem to be much progress there. Yet.

But if there’s one thing I know, it’s that invasive species management is a long game. And few people know what the long game takes better than I do, I submit. So once again I saddle up, and enter the fray. I’ll see you out there.

The Wildflowers are Busting Out…Here’s How to Find ’em….

Walking the Overlook and Montini trails is a treasure hunt these days, with an artist’s palette of wildflowers making themselves seen early this year. Grab one of our newly updated Wildflower brochures at the kiosk, and take a gander at the new Wildlife Panel as well to get an overview of all of the flora and fauna.

“On March 9th, a beautiful new Nature Panel was installed in the Kiosk at the main trailhead of the Overlook Trail. Funded solely by donations from Trail Stewards, the new panel features all of the up-to-date common names of many of the wonderful birds, mammals, reptiles and plants that help make the Trail such a delightful place. To assist even the casual hiker with identification, several of the most frequently seen and most lovely wildflowers are depicted in greater detail in a special expanded section. Superb original artwork by Irene Guidici Ehret is now also joined by artist Don Boucher’s stunning portrait of the native Gray Fox. The Overlook Trail Stewards that assisted in the installation of the panel included Michael Studebaker, Kurt Teuber and Dan Noreen.”

Dan Noreen, Overlook Flora Specialist