Plant 200 native plants? No problem for Glencoe High School!

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Photos and text by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

Glencoe HS @ McKay Creek 11/29,30/2012

Five Glencoe High School biology classes geared up for rain and mud to plant 217 trees and shrubs at McKay Creek!  They probably did not know they would plant that much either!  Despite quick-mud (as students called the super goopy mud, like quick sand), water up to their knees (in the wetland area, of course!) and with plenty of time to explore the area, a lot of work got done, and a lot of fun!

Nestled in a corner of the school’s grounds by their track, this site had once been invasive blackberry, over your head, tangle-y morning glory strangling plants, and reed canary grass choking what native plants were there.  After just one year since Glencoe has been working there, the blackberry has been cleared out and native plants, planted last year, are thriving.  The addition of the over 200 native trees and shrubs, including Western Red Cedar, Black Twinberry, Red Elderberry, Douglas Spirea, and Red Osier Dogwood, will help stabilize the soil, filter runoff, and provide shade and wildlife habitat.

While planting, students got to take a walk through their forest and learn some plant I.D. tips.  For example, Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa), a terrific shrub with bumpy bark, large pinnately-compound leaves that are arranged oppositely and large lenticels (pores in the bark), is often confused with Blue Elderberry.  Though a little more rare, there is a beautiful Blue Elderberry at the entrance on Glencoe’s trail.  If you find berries on it during the summer, don’t eat them!  They contain a chemical that if eat, can induce the production of cyanide, which is definitely toxic!  However, elderberries are often prepared into jams and wines and some people make syrup from the flowers, as cooking them makes them edible.  Besides their delicious edible qualities, elderberries provide shrubby habitat and food for animals.

Blue Elderberry (at Glencoe!): Sambucus cerulea

Blue Elderberry sighting at Glencoe!             Sambucus cerulea

As each class pulled off their muddy gloves and trudged back to school, they were still excited about planting at McKay:

“We planted 20!”

“You planted a tree! Whooo!”

“SOLVE days are my favorite school days.  I look forward to them.”

Thank you to Mr Stanley and Ms. Wolf’s classes.  You did an awesome job!  And thank you Mr. Stanley for your wisdom about mushrooms!

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