On Saturday, December 18, we held a small work party at Point Isabel. It was our first East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD)–sanctioned event there since the beginning of the pandemic. It was such a pleasure to get our hands back in the soil and to enjoy being alongside egret-filled Hoffman Marsh in Richmond while we worked.
Our plan for the morning was to create a significant patch of California native narrow-leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) to provide food for monarch caterpillars and to plant one of the butterflies’ favorite nectar plants (yarrow—Achillea millefolium) close by to nourish them. Monarch populations appear to be recovering, so we’re hopeful that this burgeoning “milkweed forest” will add to their survival and well-being.
As luck would have it, this small crew included Biologist Ivy and Construction Monitor Team Lead Marisa, both of whom work for WRA Environmental Consultants. Ivy and Marisa are exceptionally talented and knowledgeable about our environment, and it was clear they didn’t need any training before laying out the milkweed patch design and starting to plant.
This part of the Bay Trail is made up of landfill and railroad rock. We never really know what we will encounter when we begin a revegetation project along this section of the trail. While the soil was satisfactory, we uncovered massive rocks (one of which weighed about 100 pounds!) that had to be removed in order to provide room for the milkweed roots. Here too, we had the best fortune in having Jim, an experienced construction worker from San Carlos, arrive to help us with the task. Joining us was our dear friend Rob, who manages to clear all the trash from around and near the park and marsh.
We planted out twelve dormant milkweed plants and three small yarrows and are planning to add several Pacific asters (Symphyotrichum chilense) and California goldenrods (Solidago velutina ssp. californica) to increase the number of nectar plants that are in close proximity to the milkweed. All healthy milkweeds were purchased earlier this year from Native Here Nursery to feed the ravenous monarch caterpillars that appeared in droves in our back garden this summer.
A magical milkweed morning. Our thanks go to the fabulous crew and to EBRPD for supporting this work.
— Jane and Tom Kelly, Greens at Work