Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Charlie
Tuesday saw the ever-energetic students from Valley Catholic Middle school visit the restoration site in their backyard next to Johnson creek. Between spurts of sunshine and showers (and sometimes hail), some students got to work mulching the native plants they had planted last time they were out while others took a stab at removing the young blackberry plants that have started to sprout back in the restoration area. Students knew that the mulching was important for the young native plants for not only providing nutrients but also for providing a nice layer of organic material that will help keep moisture around the plant when things dry out in the summer (which is hard to imagine right now). They were also excited about getting rid of the small blackberry shoots before they can grow into a large unmanageable bramble.
While we were mulching and removing blackberry, students came across a lot of a strange plant growing in the under story. With no true leaves and a scale-like stem, it looks like a visitor from Mars. This plant is called Equisetum, more commonly known as horsetail, and is considered to be a living fossil. The several species of this odd-looking plant around the world make the only remaining genus of the Equisetopsida class which once was much more diverse and dominated the under story of Paleozoic forests, some as tall as 30 feet! These plants are remnants of a time when plants didn’t reproduce by seed like the rest of the flowering angiosperms we see in the forest, but by spores. Scientists have seen fossils of these plants over one hundred million years old, and they look largely unchanged. Knowing this, with our history as a species of being merely 200,000 years old, it’s humbling to stand in their presence and know that these guys have something figured out.
As always the students at Valley Catholic Middle School were very knowledgable and hard working. We wish all of the eighth-graders good luck in high school and we look forward to working with many of you in some of our high school Green Teams in the area!