Community 'pulls' together

Shareen Strauss
Karen Aldous and Molly Breitmun hold Dyer's Woad and other invasive weeds they just pulled from the Mt. Shasta City corporate yard during the fourth annual Community Let's Pull Together Day on Saturday. The event encourages the community to help the local ecosystem by reducing the infiltration of noxious weeds.

Many loads of invasive weeds were pulled in Mount Shasta Saturday and replaced with native seeds when a group of more than 25 people came together for the fourth annual Community Pull Together Day.

The group came together to learn more about noxious weeds that are replacing native plants, reducing habitat for native animals and threatening the diversity of the wildlands around Siskiyou County.

After meeting at Mount Shasta City Park for a complimentary breakfast provided by the Mount Shasta Rotary Club, people were shown how to best use provided tools to extract the noxious weeds that they were after.

Teams were arranged to attack different locations around Mount Shasta. Pictures and descriptions of Scotch Broom, Teasel Rosette and Dyer’s Woad were on hand for identification.

Prizes were awarded to the people who pulled the largest Scotch Broom and Teasel Rosette and the smallest Dyer’s Woad, as well as the person who came back with the dirtiest clothes.

“It isn’t all about birds. It is the habitat and helping native animals and plants,” said Rebeca Franco, a member of the Mt. Shasta Area Audubon Society’s board of directors. “If we don’t help protect our native plants, the invasive plants will overrun and wipe out not just our native plants, but also natural predators, bugs and wildlife creating a mono-culture. These invasive plants are brought over from other areas through importing hay or seeds for crops or gardening. Rivers, vehicles and animals transfer noxious weeds to other areas. Humans are the number one vector to carrying seeds to other places on their clothes and shoes.”

As Franco explained the various weeds that are sought, she explained the origin behind them.

Dyer’s Woad is a weed from Iran. It was introduced to this area by a rancher named Marlahan Mustard who bought seed to plant in Scott Valley. Thus, it has been nicknamed “Marlahan Mustard.”

Scotch Broom is drought-resistant. It does not have any natural “predators.” According to Franco, the Department of Transportation planted it in the state of Washington because it is good for erosion and drought but is highly flammable and has overpopulated many areas of northern California.

Not just noxious weeds but garden plants that “jump the fence” and invade natural areas threaten California’s biodiversity, Franco said, by displacing native species and changing the structure of plant communities. They also affect the state’s economy by lowering agricultural productivity, increasing fire danger, and adding to the cost of maintaining roads, parks and waterways.

Since 2011 the Mount Shasta Audubon Society’s Board of Directors have worked with Siskiyou County Schools to teach about noxious weeds. They also provide tools for them to pull the weeds in their areas.

After two years the Forest Service and California Fish and Wildlife Department have stepped forward to help continue funding these school projects.

“We are hoping to see this project grow to Dunsmuir and McCloud and other areas that also have this problem. But we still have a lot here in Mount Shasta,” Franco said. “Now it is more a maintenance thing with the young seedlings coming up this time of year. But like in the city’s corporate yard with trucks driving in and out, they are part of the distribution of these weeds.”

Adorned in bright orange vests, gloves, and special tools like a weed bar (crowbar), shovel, rake, weed wrench and extractors for pulling out large bushes or small trees, as well as chains to use with trucks for those really well rooted plants, people headed out to Spring Hill Road, the area behind Cross Petroleum, around the City Park and the city corporate yard to pull weeds.

They were replaced by native seeds, which were distributed in the area and then stomped in its place. Spring Hill Nursery and Garden provided the seed mixes for replanting which included yarrow, buckwheat, coyote mint, wyethia, flax, June grass, thimble berry, western columbine, golden rod and blue wildrye – all of which are native to this area.

“Native plants and ground covers are best to plant to fight off noxious weeds,’ said Tim Belton, a representative of the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center and co-owner of Spring Hill Nursery and Garden (along with his wife Sandi).

Karen Aldous, who also helped with last year’s weed pulling event, said she participates because she wants to help Mount Shasta’s ecosystem.

“I am here helping because I love community participation,” said Patricia McElroy.

As he pulled up a Caltrops plant (commonly called puncture vine), retired US Forest Service soil scientist Peter Van Susteren explained that it’s also often referred to as a Roman weapon because it grows where the ground is disturbed. The three-pronged stickers will always point upward embedding into tires and shoes. Plants like these degrade recreational opportunities, he added.

After a morning of work, the volunteers were treated to Say Cheese Pizza and prizes were awarded.