Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana)

Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana)

My family joined Lynn Deedler in Sebastopol‘s Railroad Forest a couple of weekends ago to make the first steps in dealing with the Himalayan blackberries and other exotic invasives that have taken over the area. We spent most of a Sunday morning cutting acacia and dead limbs, moving brush and cleaning up a small area near the intersection of the Railroad Forest Trail and the Joe Rodota Trail. My son and I finished the session with an assault on two large clumps of pampas grass with machetes. We gave them a good shave, but since we ran out of time (and energy), my wife and I returned last weekend with various digging and cutting tools to finish the job. After three hours of intense work, we had a huge pile of debris and all five clumps of pampas grass gone, as well cleared areas around a number of native trees.

We’re organizing a general cleanup day for early March, details TBA.  We still need to scout the area to see how much trash we might target; depending on the amount, we may combine trash pick-up with some more exotic invasive removal — we’ve been eying the cotoneaster, ivy, pyracantha and a few other obvious candidates. We might also work in the area that Lynn cleared by the Railroad Forest Trail to remove blackberry canes and roots, but only if it looks like we might be effective with a small group of volunteers and hand tools.

Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus)

Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus)

We’d really love to see a lot more of the berries come out — with a concrete plan for next steps to keep them out and preventing other invasives from taking over through native plantings and active management. In addition to improving wildlife habitat and making it a more attractive park, we think that reducing the fuel load is very important. Right now, there could be a very hot fire if a campfire got out of control as happened south of the Rodota Trail a couple of years ago.
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