by Barbara Walvoord
If you walk down to the community garden on the East campus, along the gravel path, on the right side, you will see the signs of a nursery. Not cribs and toys, but tools we need to restore native plants.
We needed a nursery because the strip between the gravel path and the wetland has been a mess of alien invasive plants–bittersweet vines choking the trees, honeysuckle and multiflora rose bushes forming impenetrable thickets, and buckthorn trees challenging the native maples and cherries. Since alien plants support far fewer insects than native plants, and since our birds need insects to raise their young, this ground was losing its ability to support the abundant wildlife we want at Lathrop.
So Sharon and I have been working for more than a year to clear out invasive plants. We’re not done, but new life is coming.
Look up to see dead bittersweet vines hanging from the trees they were smothering. Now the native maple and cherry trees, elderberry, and dogwood can thrive.
You’ll also see a piece of black plastic stapled to the ground among the grasses. We’ll leave it there for two seasons to create bare ground, on which we’ll plant an array of native wildflowers that then can spread their seeds and sprouts.
Among the grasses, stakes mark young native wildflowers we’ve plugged in to enhance biodiversity. Dietrich Snoek contributed bee balm, and Sharon Grace lifted mountain mint and golden groundsel from our cottage garden.
We can’t eradicate all the alien plants, but we focus on the invasive ones that smother everything else. Our goal is to increase the percentage of native plants, and the diversity of native plants, on this little piece of ground that forms a unique and precious bridge between the wetland and the meadow. Not only new plants can thrive here, but insects and the baby birds that eat them.