It was a cold and rainy morning in January when my son and I headed for the bus to catch the skytrain to Slocan Park. There were seven of us that gathered at the official meeting point, and after some deliberation and detective work, we discovered a sign that directed us to another location.
We found the site tent only to discover our leader from Evergreen had gone off in search of us. So after this comedy of errors we were given tools and told to remove invasive Himalayan blackberry. I must admit, my heart sank. I've done this before and I know how hard it is under the best of conditions, let alone in soggy conditions.
Anyone who eats these blackberries should try this job. When you see how deep and gnarly the roots of these plants are, and you've had your skin ripped by thorns a few times, you'll appreciate how thuggish they are. The worst situation is when you've got a patch of native plants like thimbleberry and the blackberries have intertwined their roots among the good plants. Those blackberry vines are fast growers and everywhere they touch the ground they can start to root. This is why you can't just "crop and drop" the cuttings. They need to be dried and safely composted.
Himalayan blackberries are not native to British Columbia. They squeeze out other plants, causing a significant loss in biodiversity of plant material, meaning a loss in many other wild native species of plants, insects and animals. Those tasty berries fall on the ground and the seeds sprout. Birds eat the berries and spread the seeds in their poop. If you've ever had them in your garden, or your neighbor's garden you know how tough it is to get rid of this invader. (We do have a native blackberry (Rubus ursinus) in this province. The fruit is much smaller and the vines have blue stems. It grows more like a ground cover than an upright shrub.)
These holly trees are also foreign invaders. We had the tools to take out some of the smaller trees, but it takes big machinery to get out the larger ones. We cut off as many branches as possible, then cut the trunk down with a hand saw. Then we used a "weed wrench" to pry out the root ball. It was very satisfying to get those roots outta there!!!!
Meanwhile, back in the blackberry patch, we were getting quite mucky and accumulating a pile of brambles to haul away to the compost. Those of you who have taken my classes will see the danger in the photo below. NEVER leave a rake or shovel on the ground!!!!!!!! That's a big safety hazard. Also, wherever you are using cutters be sure to shout "CLEAR!!!" before you go anywhere a branch someone else is holding.
I discovered a sweet temporary garden planted in burlap sacks. This is a great idea in a situation where you are working with a site in progress. I worked to extricate as much of the blackberry that had crept in as I could. This site is marked for significant restoration, so depending on the timeline we may or may not have time to plant some pollinator flowers in this little garden. Stay tuned for more information.
Sunflower stalks mark the edge of the pollinator garden.
More shovels on the ground. Ahhhhh!
I believe this is a gall formed by the thimbleberry gall wasp. It burrows in the stem and lays its eggs inside. I noticed the blackberry didn't have any galls at all. It's interesting that even the stems of this native plant hosts at least one species of insect. Thimbleberry supports a host of insects, including several species of mining bees and bumblebees.
One of the most important tasks of the work party was removing garbage from the site. The cleaner the ravine, the less likely it is to be used as a garbage dump. The safety of anyone working or playing in the ravine can be compromised by broken glass and other hazardous materials.
If you are interested in trying your hand at eco-restoration, please sign up for Evergreen's next work party on the third Sunday in February (Feb 25). You'll have a chance to work alongside some of the members of the Superbloomer team!!!!!