On Saturday, February 18, an enthusiastic Greens at Work team of 14 descended upon a section of the beautiful Jenner Headlands Preserve to weed wrench French broom (Genista monspessulana) from the banks of Russian Gulch Creek. The invitation to work there came from Trail Steward Liz Sanders of The Wildlands Conservancy (TWC), the nonprofit organization that owns and operates 23 preserves (nearly 200,000 acres) in California and Oregon. TWC Ranger Jill Adams joined the work party.
Jenner Headlands Preserve is 5,630 acres of oak woodland, forests of redwood and Douglas fir, chaparral, and coastal prairie that overlook the Pacific Ocean. Sonoma Land Trust negotiated for more than four years in the effort to buy the land with a mix of private and public funding. TWC played a key role in guaranteeing financing to secure the property and now owns Jenner Headlands Preserve, which it co-manages with the land trust.
We entered the preserve across from Russian Gulch State Beach and headed toward the first infestation of French broom. The moment we started along the trail, we were aware of the quiet beauty of the preserve and its richness of California native trees, shrubs, grasses, ferns, and wildflowers. Oso berry (Oemleria cerasiformis), red flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum), and milkmaids (Cardamine californica) were in bloom. The various species of willows (Salix spp.) were laden with catkins and the monoecious red alders (Alnus rubra) were showing off their catkins as well as their small seed cones.
We reached the first broom “forest” and weed wrenched it out from within the branches of the native trees, among the native blackberry (Rubus ursinus) and native honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula), and from along the creek bank. We pulled out the small seedlings by hand and piled up everything with the root systems sticking up into the air so they would quickly dry out.
We made our way to the second site where some of the crew donned rubber boots, crossing Russian Gulch Creek at its six- to eight-inch water depth, weed wrenching and/or pulling out every single piece of the second significant broom infestation.
Other crew members continued up the trail to sites three and four. Fortunately, the broom had not completely infested these areas so we were able to remove it fairly quickly. We also spotted a young pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) and calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) and removed them before they could spread throughout the creek’s floodplain.
While approaching the final site, we observed a mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) butterfly, a species we had not seen in the Bay Area. These butterflies prefer to feed on sap from willows, cottonwoods, and other species of trees.
We also spotted a flowering plant growing creekside. Our Conservancy friends identified it as a coltsfoot, and iNaturalist called it arctic butterbur. This western sweet coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus var. palmatus), in the Asteraceae family and native to California, was a new discovery for many of us.
In one small area, we came across several impressively constructed domed dens of Neotoma fuscipes (dusky-footed woodrat, a.k.a. pack rat). These nocturnal rats are said to live in a matriarchal social system where females choose mates.
At the edge of the preserve, Rob spotted a huge dump site where someone had discarded a truckload of trash. Undeterred by the steepness of the slope and the underbrush, Rob made his way down to the trash and managed to haul it all back up to the trail where we then loaded it into the back of the TWC truck.
We are grateful to the organizations that had the foresight and the patience, the courage and the energy to preserve these wonderful lands.
And our thanks to all the wonderful volunteers: Anne, Chris, Eddie, Jim, John, Kelly, Kimberly, Link, Redge, Rick, Rob, Robin, and four-legged friends Chai + Juniper.
For more information on TWC please visit their website, and for information on upcoming volunteer and event opportunities at the Jenner Headlands Preserve please visit the Conservancy’s Interpretive & Volunteer Programs page.
—Jane + Tom Kelly, Greens at Work