Forest Grove High School: Grasses Have Mustaches

Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest Member, Charlie

This is a very busy and exciting time for the SOLVE Green Team staff! On top of wrapping up the school year for a lot of Green Teams, we just finished up our Summits which were awesome and amazing. One of the Green Teams who has just said ‘farewell’ to their restoration site for the summer was Forest Grove High School at Gale’s Creek.

Clear skies and sunshine were waiting for them at Gales Creek, it was Green Team karma in response to the wet and cold weather they had experienced during their previous two visits. This time they came out, students continued to maintenance on the plants they had planted in the winter by putting biodegradable coffee bags around them. The invasive Reed Canary Grass was nearly chest high in some of the areas so the hard work we have put into staking these coffee bags to suppress invasives from growing right next to the planted natives was very relevant.

Now that spring has officially sprung, so have all of the leaves in the plants, so students also went for a walk learning tips on how to identify plants. They learned that when looking at a woody shrub or tree, the first thing to note is whether or not the leaves grow alternately or opposite one another on the branch. Our opposite “friends” in Willamette riparian zones are SAM & TED (Snowberry, Ash, Maple, Twinberry, Elderberry, & Dogwood). Another clue to help ID is whether the leaves are simple or compound. Students also learned the difference between similar looking sedges, rushes, and grasses. They learned the mnemonic for remembering their differences: sedges have edges (on the stem), rushes are round, and grasses are… we didn’t have one for grasses, so students decided that “grasses have mustaches” would be a good one to start using (mustaches referring to the ligule that grasses have, and I am now obligated to point out that not all grasses have ligules, unfortunately).

The “mustache” of the grass to FGHS students (also known as the ligule)

After exploring and working so hard, students then enjoyed a nice treat and spent their last few minutes at the site, reflecting on their work by writing articles, reflections, poetry, and sketching about their experience at Gales Creek. These will be compiled in a newsletter to distribute to neighbors and residents living next to Gales Creek so they can learn about the hard work Forest Grove High School has been doing.

We at SOLVE have enjoyed working with Forest Grove High School this year, and we are very impressed with the positive impact they have made on their community!

Thank you, Clean Water Services, for funding this project!

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