Phillips Creek received even more TLC last week when students from the Clackamas Middle College Green Team came out for their last site visit of the school year this Friday. Fortunately the weather was dry, but the ground was still saturated from all of the rain we had last week and each student got to take a little (or in some cases, a lot) of Phillips Creek home with them that day. Despite the muddiness, the CMC students were excited to learn about native plants improve our watersheds by supplying bank stabilization, shade, and habitat for native animals, and they were eager to help us plant some native trees and shrubs as well as help us continue the battle against the invasive species at this site.
Students planted a lot of shrubs including Elderberry and Ninebark while others got busy making a dent in the Armenian Blackberry. These blackberry bushes have canes that are biennial meaning that they live for two years, the first year they just leaf out and the second year they fruit, and then they die. However, each cane grows from a perennial knotty root structure or “heart” as I like to call it. In order to fully eradicate the blackberry, one needs to find and dig up these root balls. Another nasty invasive at this site, taking over habitat is the English holly. This pokey plant is akin to the mythological hydra. If you cut the treelike shrub down to a stump, then it sends up several more shoots in its place. The only method we knew to fully get rid of it was to cut it, slash the stump and paint it with herbicides. However through the restoration grapevine, we learned that success in eradicating this shrub could be had by simply stripping away the bark of the holly in a ring at the base. In any tree if you cut away that outer living cambium layer, you are essentially severing the tree’s arteries and veins, and the tree will use up all of its energy trying to (unsuccessfully) transport water and nutrients between the roots and branches and eventually die. Therefore we trusted a few students with some machetes to shave off the bark in a ring around all of the invasive holly bushes. This is the first year we’ve tried this, so let’s hope that it works!
We at SOLVE really appreciate the hard work and good humor that the Clackamas Middle College students always brought out into the field. They should be very proud of the amount of work they did this year and they left a very strong impact on not only the Phillips creek watershed community but also the Clackamas community as a whole. And hopefully Phillips creek left a lasting impression with the Clackamas Middle College Green Team members (other than the caked mud it left on clothes).