Prickles, Thistles, and Foxtail: Taking the Invasive Weed Walk at Anderson Marsh

As a resident woodpecker drummed his message in the cool the morning air at Anderson Marsh State Historic Park, it was gearing up to be one of the hottest days of the season when we met near the historic Ranch House to take a relaxing walk along the Cache Creek Trail to learn about invasive weeds. The dedication, intelligence and commitment to bettering our unique county was abundantly evident as the Lake County Weed Management Area played host to the annual invasive weeds tour, after a 2-year hiatus due to Covid restrictions. The event, backed by the Lake County Department of Agriculture and the Lake County Resource Conservation District contained a treasure trove of plants education. Those present included Chaye VanKeuren, E.S. who represented California State Parks, Paul Aigner who is McLaughlin Reserve’s Director of Land Stewardship, Katherine Vanderwall, the new Lake County Agriculture Commissioner appointed by the Board of Supervisors, Dr. Harry Lyons, Emeritus Professor of Biology and Ecology from Yuba College, president of the Resource Conservation District (RCD), founding member of the Middle Creek Restoration Coalition and appointed by the County Board of Supervisors to the Blue Ribbon Committee, Larry Ray, ecologist and Project Coordinator for (RCD), and Victoria Brandon, chair of Sierra Club Redwood Chapter. Also present was Senator Mike McGuire’s assistant.

Since our state enjoys a temperate climate we play host to a variety of plant species, both invasive and native, who also thrive here. Paul Aigner explained, “Most of the state’s grasslands are dominated by non-natives.” He went on with some questions for us that also interest farmers, State Park’s Departments and many others, “How realistic is it to get rid of a particular invasive? How does it reduce biodiversity here?” What helps ranchers may hinder places like parks and preserves. The study of invasives brings up the question of just what defines a weed or a problem plant? A prolific variety of plants were identified and discussed during the plant walk, including prickly lettuce, teasel, soft chess, mustard, Italian rye grass, oat grass, barley, milkweed, star thistle, fiddleneck, Himalayan blackberry, poison hemlock and many more.

One project designed to restore the 3.2 acre entrance to Anderson Marsh State Historic Park’s meadow was the 2021 Wildfire Resiliency and Prevention Grant obtained after this area burned in the Clayton Fire. The grant allowed for the removal, control and management of non-native species. By clearing the thatch, brush and overgrowth via control burns monitored by the fire department and local Pomo Native People it allows for defensible space near the historic Ranch House and its barns. Since it was replanted with native grass seed, shrubs and trees it will provide added evidence of the Park’s natural beauty. It will also make it obvious to the public how the treated native entrance meadow compares with the nearby untreated areas.

As the fascinating plants walk and talk led us back, and we returned to the shade of the ancient oaks near the Ranch House we were treated to an aquatic invasive weeds talk by Angela Dow, scientist, limnologist and staffer at Lake County Water Resources. Also present was Emma Belanger, Water Steward Fellow with Lake County Water Resources Department. Angela Dow’s absorbing talk included facts about what the public and County are doing to restore Clear Lake; and she is your go-to person who can tell you anything you need to know about the native or invasive aquatic plants of Clear Lake. She was brimming with good news on the plans for tule restoration projects on Clear Lake that are vital to the ecology of the lake, beginning with Clear Lake State Park, Clear Lake Campground and the Lake County Land Trust’s recent acquisition of the Wright Wetland Preserve. All in all, it was a highly educational morning at lovely Anderson Marsh State Historic Park.

Kathleen Scavone

Kathleen Scavone, MA., is a retired educator who has resided in beautiful Lake County for over 45 years. She freelances fiction, poetry, nature writing, curriculum ideas, and local history. She writes for The Press Democrat, Napa Valley Register, News From Native California, Green Prints, etc. She has published three books, a play and a poetry chapbook. The second edition of her locally set historical novella, People of the Water- a novella of the events leading to the Bloody Island Massacre of 1850 is available in local museums and stores, as well as on Amazon.com and IngramSpark in both paperback and e-book formats. She has written Anderson Marsh State Historic Park- A Walking History, Prehistory, Flora and Fauna tour of a California State Park, and Native Americans of Lake County. Kathleen is a photographer and potter. Her other interests include hiking, assisting on archaeology digs, travel, gardening and reading.

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