Showing posts with label workdays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label workdays. Show all posts

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Hands-On Learning About Invasiveness in Plants

Environmental science teacher Jim Smirk brought his kids outdoors this spring to do some hands-on learning at the Princeton High School's very own ecolab wetland. Most people would call it a detention basin, but we planted it long ago with native wetland species that thrive on the beneficent, dependable offerings of the high school's sump pump. Yes, a lowly sump pump provides the consistent water flow that drives this lush community of plants. Without it, most of the plant species, along with the frogs and crayfish, would die out the next time a long drought came along.

Jim enlisted me to provide some history on the planting to three of his classes, and also to explain why this manmade detention basin does such a good job of hosting wetland plants and animals. Like any garden, even a fairly wild one, it still needs intervention to maintain balance, since some of the native species tend to take over. Cattails, lizard's tail, and the native sunflowers spread aggressively underground, while the willows pop up in new places and quickly grow, hogging the sunlight.

Some of the more adventurous students donned waders and began digging up short- and broadleafed cattails so that some of the less aggressive sedges and wildflowers wouldn't be overwhelmed.

Others cut back willow, and removed a non-native plant called starwort that gained a foothold a couple years ago.

The students showed a lot of spirit, and were surprised that working in the mud could actually be fun.

Thanks to Mr. Smirk and his environmental science students for helping keep this wetland thriving right next to Princeton High School.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Garlic Mustard Pulling Party--Sunday, 10am

Join us this Sunday, June 11 at 10am, before the day heats up, to pull garlic mustard before its seedpods have a chance to burst. We'll have some refreshments on hand, the better to socialize while snipping off the seedpods. Veblen House is up the gravel driveway across the street from 443 Herrontown Rd, or walk up from the main Herrontown Woods parking lot off of Snowden (map here).

We should be able to get all the remaining garlic mustards--half having been pulled last week by volunteers. Garlic mustard is a biennial, meaning it bears seeds the second year and then dies. If we bag up all the seeds each year, the population will fade away, which is good news for native wildflowers we want to reestablish here next to Veblen House.

The first year, garlic mustard looks like this, gathering energy for the seedhead that it sends up the second year. The species was brought to America by European settlers wanting to have something green to eat in early spring, after the long winter. Unfortunately, the plant has very aggressively spread into nature preserves, crowding out native species. Even after several centuries, the wildlife still don't eat it enough to keep it in check.

Another invasive we'll cut back is wisteria. We have almost vanquished an acre-sized, kudzu-like clone of wisteria that just last year was smothering much of the garden and weakening trees. This year's mild followup is really important to starve the roots of any chance to rebound.

Bring hand-pruners and loppers, if you have them, gloves and work shoes. We'll also provide some tools.

Here's a weed we'll allow to grow: moth mullein, a few of which have popped up in the horse run next to the house.

Other projects of the Friends of Herrontown Woods (FOHW) to promote sustainable landscaping include caring for a detention basin at nearby Smoyer Park. The basin was converted from turfgrass to native grasses and wildflowers. FOHW is proactively removing highly aggressive weeds like Canada thistle and crown vetch before they can get established, and adding local native wildflowers like this Hibiscus moscheutos to increase diversity and color.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Princeton Day School Community Day at Mountain Lakes

On September 16 at 9am, 100 PDS 9th graders arrived at Community Park North ready to help remove invasive plants, as part of the school's annual Community Day. First step was to buddy up with 4th graders who had also made the hike over from their school.
After a brief intro by yours truly about plant identification, the why and the wherefore of invasive plant control, and some tips on how to use loppers, saws and garden rakes safely, they set about the day's task.

Neither the thorns of multiflora rose nor the sheer numbers of invasive shrubs crowding the woods could deter them from their newfound mission. Those with loppers cut honeysuckle, privet and multiflora rose, while others hauled the cuttings into brushpiles, to serve as habitat.

What I particularly enjoy is showing the kids how to work together, use the tools most effectively, and how to get into a steady working rhythm so that a lot can be accomplished. After a morning's work session, they could see the difference they had made.

Native shrubs intermixed with the exotic invasives had been tagged beforehand, and left uncut to take advantage of the additional sun and water available now that the exotic competition had been removed. In the photo is spicebush (Lindera benzoin), which the kids discovered gives off an appealing fragrance when the leaves are scratched. That natives will fill the void left by the removed invasives helps make clear the positive impact of the work.

An innovative method of transporting litter was developed when some of the kids went back out to pick up stray tools.

During the lunch break, volunteer Andrew Thornton engaged the kids in some juggling.

After lunch, I led the 9th graders on a tour through the 400 acres of preserved land in and around Mountain Lakes. Like so many Princetonians, the majority of the kids had never seen Pettoranello Gardens, the evergreen forest, or the historic fields of John Witherspoon's Tusculum. (the area we worked on is in the lower right; PDS school is in the upper left)

They walked past trees stripped of their limbs by Hurricane Irene,

clambored across a bridge washed askew by the recent flooding,

and past construction to restore the lower dam at Mountain Lakes.

At one stop along the way, a student asked why it's called Mountain Lakes if there are no mountains nearby. I explained that Princeton bestows its ennobling magic on all within its borders, making ponds into lakes and hills into mountains. These words having been spoken, I am sure that all within earshot gazed out upon the landscape with new eyes.

When they reached the turn leading to their school, they disappeared up the trail, their good deeds done and another school year begun.

The Friends of Princeton Open Space thank the students and teachers of Princeton Day School for their contribution to restoring habitat in town.

Thanks also to community volunteers Andrew Thornton and Tony Beesley for helping out with supervision.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stuart School and FOPOS Collaborate

The forests of Princeton and Central America both got a boost on a recent Saturday, when volunteers met behind Stuart School to clear trails and remove invasive plants. The afternoon's work was preceded by a presentation by leaders of a Fair Trade coffee collective, who explained how the purchase of Fair Trade Certified coffee works to improve the lives of coffee growers. Camila T., a Stuart School student who has been very active in promoting Fair Trade products in Princeton and beyond, served as translator for farmer Angelina Espinosa.

Afterwards, more or less bravely oblivious to the arrival of onagainoffagain rain, we headed into the woods to improve boardwalks and cut invasive shrubs like privet and Asian Photinia. A collaboration has been long in the works between Friends of Princeton Open Space and Stuart School, which is directly upstream of Mountain Lakes. Impetus to finally set things rolling came from Sophie Glovier and Stuart School science teacher Eric Anderson.

Coffee with the Fair Trade emblem on the package, competitive in taste and price, can be found at McCaffery's and no doubt many other locations in town.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Princeton Bible Church Brings Their Green Project To Mountain Lakes

Many thanks to all the members of the Princeton Bible Church Green Project who came to Mountain Lakes yesterday to help with removal of invasive shrubs.

Andrew Thornton (right) helped show everyone which shrubs were exotic and needed to be cut.

Four hours of steady effort with loppers and pruning saws cleared a large swath of exotic understory beginning at the Mountain Lakes House parking lot

and continuing down the slope to the lakes.

 Our youngest helper, after carrying some sticks to the brushpiles volunteers made for habitat, took a great interest in all the clipping going on.

This spring, inspired by the ongoing restoration of the dams and lakes by Princeton Township, and all the updating inside and outside of Mountain Lakes House, we're focusing on restoring habitat on the slopes surrounding the lakes.

Exotic shrubs cut: honeysuckle shrub and vine, privet, Asian photinia, and the occasional Linden viburnum and barberry.

Native shrubs and small trees left to grow: Blackhaw viburnum, sassafras, flowering dogwood, silky dogwood, false indigo.