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Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 4.16.2009

 

Earth Day 2009

At Home with Native Plants Garden tour on Mother’s Day

Just Say No to the Butterfly Bush

The Camas Among Us A common spring flower invokes Kalapuya heritage

Students, Volunteers and the Land Seven years of restoration efforts with Walama

Livin’ Green, Even in Winter Nature, raw and processed

 

Carpets of Wildflowers, Canopy of Oaks

Restoring native plants across the city

by Suzi Steffen

Rain, hail, wind and snow cannot turn them back, nor can mats of ivy and stinky Bob deter their gloves, spades, keen eyes and knee pads. 

Trillium Albidum. Photo Todd Cooper

At Hendricks Park, in Buford Park at Mt. Pisgah and in other places across the city, the fleet of brain and determined of heart battle invasive plants to recreate space and soil for native wildflowers — and, in some cases, for the oak savanna that covered the Willamette Valley for thousands of years.

The motto of native plant space reclaimers: First, let’s kill off the ivy. A Portland ivy-eradication group calls itself the No Ivy League — NIL. Closer to home, in Hendricks Park above the Rhododendron Garden, head gardener Ginny Alfred puts on a before and after show for visitors. She points to the differences between the untreated space and the area where volunteers, Walama Restoration Project and the Northwest Youth Corps have pulled acres of ivy and other invasives from the floor of the Doug fir forest. 

One side of the trail sports the geranium invasive Herb Robert (“Stinky Bob”) woven into the dark, smothering “ivy desert,” as Friends of Hendricks Park founder and board member Sandra Austin calls it. The other side glows a much lighter green. Trillium pop up one by one, their matte white triangular flowers luminous against the leaves, and tiny native ranunculus have started to spread near the winter-loving licorice fern. 

Austin, who walks the trail every day, looks out over the native plants and feels both pride and joy — not to mention a sense of ownership and accomplishment, since her organization and her hard physical labor have been instrumental to bringing back the native plants. According to Hendricks Park Forest Restoration Plan Coordinator Jason Blazar, everyone who helps feels some part of Austin’s emotion. The return of the flowers — and their attendant insects and birds — are all onthe City of Eugene’s park agenda.

In one spot, low on the trail, beautiful blue camas lilies form a carpet against the dark evergreens. Before white settlers came to the area, say Alfred and Blazar, the Kalapuya and other tribes practiced controlled burns that helped oak savanna and prairie ecosystems. But “the Doug firs have been marching over the ridge for 100 years now,” Blazar says, and they form one of Eugene’s few urban older growth fir forests, so most of the forest will remain.

The trail leads up to the southwest corner of the park, called Oak Knoll, where at this time of year hikers and runners break out of the moist, dark firs into a sunny, open oak forest. Piles of removed ivy decompose, and soon, native plants will spring back up, rewarding years of labor and planning.

With a small budget, the park (and oak savanna restoration at Buford Park) relies on a dedicated cadre of volunteers. Those who want to rip out that ivy desert and help re-carpet the forest floor can attend a monthly work party or contact Blazar at 682-5324 for other opportunities. 

On Saturday, April 18, the work party starts at 9 am in the F.M. Wilkins Shelter, where the Friends and the city provide gloves, tools, snacks and coffee. Blazar says, “All you have to bring is a friend.”