Clackamas Middle College Saves Native Plants

CMS @ Phillips Creek October 7th

Written by Becca, SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer

Clackamas Middle College made a trip out to Philips Creek for the first time this school year on Monday.  Students brought the sun for a mostly beautiful day of removing invasive blackberry.  Despite constant efforts to dig up blackberry last year it keep creeping back close to the native plants planted at Phillips Creek.  Students spent their class period cutting away blackberry stems and digging up roots which had begun to invade our native plants.  Students also picked up any litter they saw around Phillips Creek and played a game of Riparian Metaphors, which helped to remind them of the positive aspects of a riparian ecosystem.  Good Job Clackamas Middle College!

Rachel Carson Middle School at Willow Creek Doing Stations!

Rachel Carson Middle School students visited Willow Creek Wednesday, October 2nd for riparian restoration projects. Students split into groups and cycled through three different stations focused on invasive plant removal, water quality testing, and site familiarization.

At the first station, students played the Riparian Metaphor game to reestablish what was learned in class during the previous watershed presentation.  Sixth grade students were then led by eight grade students on a tour of the site.  The either graders shared personal stories of blackberry bushes that had towered over their heads, the efforts required to remove the gnarled blackberry roots, and planting native shrubs and trees which are currently growing magnificently.  Finally, students were introduced to some fundamental plant identification skills and then quizzed!  Their prior knowledge of plant i.d. was truly impressive!

The second station went down to the edge of the creek and took numerous measurements regarding water quality, while the third station used shovels and loppers to dig out the wretched blackberry that survived last years removal efforts.  Due to the blackberry removal, a plethora of weeds were suddenly given the opportunity to spring forth. These weeds included thistles, Morning Glory & the ominous Deadly Purple Night Shade.

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All in all, it was a wonderful day and much was learnt about the changing face of Willow Creek.  No longer burdened with Armenian Blackberry, the Red Osier Dogwoods and native willows are thriving. Most were planted a mere six months ago and now towered over us while we worked. These native trees will keep the soil in place and keep Willow Creek cool so that our fish can breathe easy.

Keep up the amazing work Rachel Carson Middle School & Thank You!


Learning from our berry hard work.

Today Deer Park Academy came ready to restore Willow Creek!  Students remembered that our native plants and shrubs have dynamic root structures that will prevent erosion and that we need to remove Armenian Blackberry (formerly known as Himalayan Blackberry) to allow those natives to grow!

Students reviewed the effective methods of removing blackberry and even identified the differences between Armenian Blackberry and Trailing Blackberry.

While working, we reviewed the names of the many native trees and shrubs volunteers have planted at the site.  While reviewing these, we began wondering who eats the many berries these plants produce and how toxic they are to people.  Below is information regarding some of the berries we encountered/ might encounter together.  The moral of the story always remains that you should never eat a berry without knowing its effects on you!

Common Snowberry (S. albus) is a winter food source for birds such as quail, grouse, and pheasants, but is poisonous to humans. The berries contain the isoquinoline alkaloid chelidonine, as well as
other alkaloids (type of chemical compounds).  Ingesting the berries causes mild symptoms of vomiting, dizziness, and slight sedation in children.  Snowberry is a native shrub we have planted at Willow Creek and many of our restoration sites in the Portland- Metro Area.

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Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna) is one of the most toxic plants found in the Western hemisphere.   All parts of the plant are poisonous.  The berries may be the greatest danger to children because they look red and delicious and have a somewhat sweet taste.  Don’t be fooled!  The consumption of two to five berries by children and ten to twenty berries by adults are probably fatal.   The root of the plant is normally the most toxic part, though this can vary from one plant to another  Ingestion of a single leaf of the plant can be lethal to an adult.  Atropa belladonna is also toxic to many domestic animals, causing narcosis and paralysis.   However, cattle and rabbits eat the plant seemingly without suffering harmful effect.  Never eat this plant!

Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana) have flowers, which appear in early summer, and can have a pleasantly strong fragrance.  The fruits (hips) of Nootka rose are apparently somewhat bitter but edible.  It is
reported that freezing and thawing will greatly mitigate the bitterness and make the hips much more palatable.  It is very important to know that only the rind should be eaten as the seeds are irritating.  Eating some huckleberry or thimbleberry might be much more pleasant!

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Armenian Blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) is of course devastatingly invasive.  However, these berries are eatable and delicious.   Often times we pick the berries when they are ripe in the summer… then we cut the plant down and dig out its root bulb.

Trailing Blackberry (Rubus ursinus) is a native blackberry with much smaller thorns and only 3 leaflets and it too is eatable and delicious.

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) is edible and shares the fruit structure of the raspberry, with the fruit pulling away from its receptacle.  They are good eaten raw as well as in jam, candy, jelly and wine. They are an important food for indigenous peoples.  Traditionally, the berries were eaten with salmon or mixed with oolichan grease or salmon eggs.  Yum!

Thanks for all of the great questions, Deer Park!  You are quite a berry awesome Green Team!

Rock Creek Middle meets Rock Creek

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Rock Creek Middle School met the creek they are adopting this year and spent some time exploring.  Students arrived and immediately got to work removing big Armenian blackberry roots and reviewing their knowledge of riparian corridors with a fun game.Students worked tirelessly to remove blackberry, learning quickly about the size and depth of their roots.  A few especially hard workers even walked away with new SOLV t-shirts because they dug up the most gigantic root!

Next, students thought creatively regarding the different objects in our riparian metaphor kit and shared their answers with their peers.  Students reviewed the awesome ways that native plants have deep and complex roots that hold our banks in place and filter out toxins from nearby houses and businesses.  We stood near good examples of trees like Ninebark and Alder that do just that for Rock Creek!

We did a brief look at other native and invasive plants on site and the students drove away accomplished and aware of their stream.

Thanks to our student photographers for the awesome photos and videos and thanks to the entire class for being watershed movie stars!

Plant ID: Easy as A,B,C

How well do YOU know your native and invasive plant identifcation?

Students from two classes at Gladstone High School joined SOLV at Rinearson Creek yesterday to remove invasive Himalyan blackberry, install coffee bags around native trees and shrubs and familiarize themselves with native and invasive plants.

Miles (SOLV) worked with students to remove invasive blackberry, reminding them that though the berries might taste delicious, the thickets of the plant are very detrimental to soil and ecosystem health.  Students also installed biodegradeable coffee bags around native plants to impede invasive grass and weed growth.

Meghan of SOLV led students on a native/invasive plant walk, identifying those plants that belong in our wetlands and forested areas and those which do not belong there.  Many of the invasive plants, like mint, have been dumped on the site by nearby residents with their lawn clippings.  It is best to compost and dispose of these clippings properly; once non-native plant species have been introduced to an area, it is very difficult to control them.  Become a Weed Watcher; the Multnomah Weed Watchers supports and trains volunteers to look for and report new invaders before they become a problem.

Check out the photos from the plant walk above!

Valley Catholic Digs Deep

Valley Catholic High School students in Environmental Science and Biology classes joined SOLV and Wells Fargo volunteers at Johnson Creek last week to dig invasive blackberry roots and plant native trees and shrubs.  Wells Fargo employees joined us for the morning and helped us clear a great amount of ground to plant native trees and shrubs in the forested area next to Johnson Creek, behind the high school.  Volunteers also planted natives alongside Valley Catholic students in Ms. Cole and Ms. Lacks’ classes.

This area, overrun just a few months ago by invasive Himalayan blackberry that grew shoulder-high, was tackled by Valley Catholic Middle School students.  All that was left was the roots of the blackberry plants, which students have been helping us to remove over the past months and weeks.  The area is almost completely blackberry free and native trees and shrubs are being planted; way to go Valley Catholic!

Gladstone Battles Blackberry

A new group of students joined SOLV at Rinearson Creek last week as a part of our restoration efforts there.  Kevin Zerzan’s students, armed with loppers and determination, removed an amazing amount of invasive Himalayan blackberry and succeeded in completely clearing a small island of blackberry in the middle of Rinearson.  If this site visit is any indication of the students’ efforts to come, we will certainly be seeing some wonderful improvements at Rinearson this year!

A Muddy Victory

Thanks to dedicated students at Valley Catholic school, the blackberry that once stood shoulder-high in the forested area behind their school no longer exists.  Valley Catholic middle schoolers came out a few weeks ago and lopped and chopped down a majority of the vines and canes of Himalayan blackberry, one of our most common invasive species. 

Erin Cole’s high school Environmental Science class came out last week and finished the job up by digging up the roots of the blackberry.   (If blackberry roots are not removed after the vines are cut away, it will grow right back the next season.)  Though the area was very soggy and muddy in some places, students removed a great number of roots and made way for native trees and shrubs to be planted the next time they come out.  Way to go, Valley Catholic!

Bye bye, blackberry!

Blackberry? No problem!

Students in Kim Wilson’s classes at Reynolds Natural Resource Academy came out this week and last week to get some wonderful streamside work done at Beaver Creek.  Students spend the first few minutes at the site in silent observation of the sights, sounds and smells to re-acquaint themselves with the area.  Before we knew it, students had planted over 300 native trees and shrubs and removed hundreds of pounds of blackberry vines and roots.

Students worked and interacted really well with SOLV’s Americorps NCCC team, who have been invaluable in our stream restoration this season.  By removing invasive blackberry, students are able to plant natives with varying root depths to hold onto stream banks to prevent erosion.  These natives will also grow to shade the stream, lowering water temperatures, to create better habitat for wildlife.

Wet and Wild at Rock Creek

Clackamas High schoolers had a great few days out at Rock Creek this week.  Students removed blackberry vines and dug out stubborn blackberry roots to make way for native plants like cottonwood, Douglas fir and Oregon grape.  In just one day, a class was able to plant 205 natives!  Students also went on a nature walk to get acquainted with the site and its biodiversity; they walked to the confluence of Rock Creek and the Clackamas River and some students had the great fortune of seeing a wild spawning salmon in the creek.  Be sure to look for underwater footage in our video!