Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna
Five freshmen biology classes from Valley Catholic High School showed up at Johnson Creek near their school to remove some invasive plants, and got some surprises, too. Under an overcast sky (it IS October now!), they worked together as a class to remove Armenian blackberry (Rubus armeniacus). This thorny, brambly shrub used to cover the restoration area up over your head! With the help of these students, enough blackberry has been chopped, dug up and cleared away to soon plant more native plants like Pacific Ninebark, Douglas-fir, and Oregon Grape.
Some students found a salamander hanging out in the brush! They decided it needed to be a little closer to the water so they brought it to the creek! Later in the day, another student found a rough-skinned newt! This little critter was hiding under a dead blackberry cane in the dirt, so we moved him closer to some lusher native vegetation. Herman the worm, also just chillin’ by the creek was found by a couple students and moved out of the battle zone where all the chopping and lopping of blackberry was happening.
Rough-skinned Newt (Taricha granulosa):this cute critter secretes a toxin that could be harmful…if you ate it. Look, but don’t eat!
Another great discovery was simply the size of the pile of dead blackberry and the magnitude of the work the students did that day. A HUGE improvement! Now the cleared space will be ready for a native plant planting soon!
AWESOME work Valley Catholic! A big thank you teachers Erin Cole and Amy Lacks, and their hard-working students!