Willow Staking 101: Gales Creek Edition

Text and photos by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

Forest Grove HS @ Gales Creek 12/1/2012

Whooooooo!

Many SOLVE creek and stream sites have willows, of course.  But it is really exciting when there is a willow large enough to harvest cuttings from!  It is a good indicator that there is hope for the creek and that native plants can grow there.  Gales Creek, now very wet from recent rains and full of freshly planted native plants (thanks to Forest Grove High School and Forest Gorve Community School), is ready for another makeover: willow cuttings.  There is evidence that placing willow cuttings — basically placing trimmed poles made from willow branches — is VERY effective in eliminating invasive reed canarygrass, which engulf much of Gales Creek (see blog for Boardman Wetlands for more information).  WIllows contain auxins (natural plant growth hormones that help it grow quickly.  These chemicals are especially concentrated in young branches used to make the cuttings.  Willows also soak up toxins, stabilize the soil, grow quickly and provide shade and habitat.  Here’s a visual of the steps Forest Grove students took…

These students from their after-school Green Team placed 47 Pacific Willow (Salix lucida) pole cuttings into the ground that will quickly re-root and start to establish themselves.  They also planted an additional 27 native trees and shrubs and added rich, warm, still-decomposing mulch to the 110 plants they had planted during their last visit!  Mind you, there are only about 15 students, plus Mr. Crabtree.  Talk about the will-ow to work!

When the mornings work was finished, students shared how they felt about their experience working at Gales Creek so far.  Some words that were said:

proud, accomplished, fulfilled, muddy, productive,

useful, joyful, hilarious, grateful…

One student exclaimed, when he realized they were not returning to Gales until February, “What we aren’t coming back next month?!”

Thanks again Forest Grove, for your enthusiasm and energy!  See you after the New Year!

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