California Invasive Species Week is June 3-11. This is the perfect time to raise awareness about the impact of invasive plants on our natural ecosystems and the importance of making informed plant choices. Invasive species can have detrimental effects on local flora and fauna, often outcompeting other plants for resources and disrupting local ecosystems.
By selecting plants that are well-suited to your environment and not invasive, you can make a positive contribution to preserving California's diverse landscapes. Many invasive plants can be aesthetically pleasing and low-maintenance, making them a popular choice for gardeners. However, invasive plants can spread rapidly, taking over natural habitats and causing significant environmental damage. Invasive species often have few natural predators, enabling them to grow uncontrollably and outcompete other plants for resources like water, sunlight, and nutrients. This can lead to the loss of biodiversity, reduced habitat quality for wildlife, and increased risk of erosion and wildfires.
Examples of Invasive Plants in California:
1. Periwinkle (Vinca major)-This evergreen groundcover is a popular species because of its beautiful purple blooms. Periwinkleforms dense mats that can smother native plants and alter soil chemistry. Instead of periwinkle, try planting native groundcovers like California lilac (Ceanothus spp.) or hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea).
2. Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum)-This ornamental grass is highly adaptable and has invaded many natural habitats, including grasslands and coastal sage scrub. Instead, opt for native grasses like purple needlegrass (Stipa pulchra) or deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens) or the smaller version (Muhlenbergia dubia).
3. Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana)-A tall, clumping grass with feathery blooms that can quickly dominate landscapes and outcompete native species. Consider planting native ornamental grasses such as blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis) or switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) as alternatives to pampas grass.
4. Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima)-This fast-growing tree can release chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants and can sprout vigorously from root fragments. Plant California native trees like sycamore (Platanus racemosa) or western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) instead of the invasive tree of heaven.
Celebrate Invasive Species Week!
organization dedicated to protecting California's wildlands from invasive plants through
research, restoration, and education.
•California Native Plant Society (CNPS)-https://www.cnps.org/-CNPS is a non-profit
organization that promotes the understanding and appreciation of California's native plants and
preserves them in their natural habitat.
•PlantRight-https://plantright.org/-PlantRight works with California's nursey industry to keep
invasive plants out of our landscapes and promotes the sale of non-invasive alternatives.
- Author: Mike Hsu
Program with Foothill Indian Education Alliance teaches healthy eating to young people of many tribes
More than a tutoring center, the Foothill Indian Education Alliance facility in Placerville also provides cultural activities for youth in El Dorado and Amador counties affiliated with a broad diversity of Native American tribes.
In addition to traditional crafts like drum- and jewelry-making, the center began offering a food component last summer, through a partnership with CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California – one of the agencies in the state that teaches nutrition to people eligible for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
“A lot of the kids, because they don't live on a reservation or their family might not be connected to a local tribe, don't know a lot of their history or their foods,” said Cailin McLaughlin, nutrition educator for CalFresh Healthy Living, UC, based at the UC Cooperative Extension office in El Dorado County. “Food is a good way to explore any heritage because food is at the central point of a lot of cultures and customs – sharing meals and sharing stories behind it.”
Last spring, McLaughlin worked with Hal Sherry, the head tutor at Foothill Indian Education Alliance, to create a new, five-week “summer camp” during which youth would learn about and prepare Native foods in the center's kitchen, primarily with ingredients from its backyard garden.
Sherry said that the experience provided the participants – 10 elementary school students and seven middle or high school students – an important perspective on the interconnectedness of all living things.
“Part of the objective of the program is for them to understand that each one of us is part of the natural order of things, and that we have to do our part to fit into that cycle,” he explained. “There's kind of an ecological lesson that's also being learned…and we don't want to put poisons in our bodies, and we don't want to put poisons in our environment.”
Program combines cultural lessons, nutrition information
For the summer program, McLaughlin selected a curriculum centered on garden-based nutrition, and infused it with elements of Indigenous food ways.
“We predominantly picked ingredients that had cultural significance to Native American communities, so things like blueberries, blackberries, pine nuts, squash, things of that nature,” she said. “So we could feed into the history of that ingredient, why it's important to the Indigenous communities – and then give (the students) the nutritional information about it.”
After the youth prepared chia seed parfaits – from a recipe that is part of a series developed by CalFresh Healthy Living, the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center, and the Center for Wellness and Nutrition – a Foothill Indian Education Alliance staff member shared that Native hunters would eat chia seeds for strength before a long hunt.
Many of the participants had never had chia seeds before, and the parfaits were an “absolute favorite,” in the words of McLaughlin.
“I wish we could have made them more often!” said Lacey, a fifth grader who participates in the center's programs year-round.
In addition to working outside in the garden, Lacey said she also liked cooking in the kitchen during the summer camp – and the fact that the young people could take the lead.
“It was all the kids doing it, but (McLaughlin) was just supervising and making sure we were doing it right – it was really nice,” said Lacey, who identifies as Miwok.
Sharing within families, across tribes
Active participation by the young people is one of the strengths of the program, according to Sherry. He expressed admiration for McLaughlin's engaging teaching style, which eschews “lectures” and instead draws the participants into lively conversations about the nutritional content of the ingredients.
“Hopefully they're going to retain some of that knowledge and information and then remember: ‘You know what, yes, I think I would like to have some corn and some beans tonight, because that's going to help my bones grow strong and my eyesight get better,'” Sherry said. “That's really a big part of what we want them to come away with.”
At the end of the summer program, participants also came away with a binder of recipes from a cookbook of Native American dishes, “Young, Indigenous and Healthy: Recipes Inspired by Today's Native Youth.” James Marquez, director of the Foothill Indian Education Alliance, said he heard from students that they were bringing many of the lessons from the program back to their homes.
“I've heard the same kind of thing from parents and grandparents, who have said how wonderful that was and that kids come back home and have an interest in cooking and trying to serve nutritious meals to their families,” Marquez said.
That crucial sharing of knowledge also happens between and among staff members and students, as the center comprises members of many tribes, from South Dakota Lakota to Navajo.
“We serve Native people, we don't care what tribe they come from – they're all welcome,” Marquez said. “What we do represents a lot of different tribes, so we share information from one tribe to another, and that way people can appreciate everybody and what we have to bring to the table.”
Talia, a sixth grader who participated in the summer program, said that she enjoys that cultural sharing.
“I like how I can learn new things…and how I learn more about the people around me,” she explained. “It's also fun to learn about other people's cultures, and what Native American they are, too.”
McLaughlin went on to partner with Foothill Indian Education Alliance on a “Cooking Academy” program during this past fall, and is planning another spring/summer program for 2023, as well. The ongoing teaching and sharing of food ways is just one part of a long process to recover and rebuild Native American cultural traditions.
“Unfortunately, there was a very concerted effort to obliterate the Native culture on this continent; it was a very intentional, very deliberate effort to just stamp that culture out like it had somehow never existed,” Sherry said. “Now there's a much greater awareness of what a terrible thing that was, and so it's like trying to regrow a new garden over an area that was severely burned…and it's being done all over the country.”/h3>/h3>/h3>
- Author: Denise Godbout-Avant
If you have the space, plant an oak tree! While it will take several years for the tree to mature, few plants provide more benefits to nature than an oak tree. One Valley oak tree can provide food, water, and shelter to approximately 350 vertebrate species and over 250 species of insects and arachnids.
Choose plants that bloom at different times of the year, to ensure something is always blooming during the different seasons thus providing nectar sources year-round. Include some plants which produce berries to provide food sources attractive to birds and insects.
Lawns lack variety, thus reducing your lawn space and replacing it with native plants will increase the diversity in your garden. Decreasing the frequency of mowing permits grasses to grow taller, allowing flowers to grow and bloom which would attract bees and butterflies. You can also sprinkle some daisy and clover seeds into your lawn to provide forage plants and flowers for many beneficial insects.
Ponds with aquatic-loving plants can encourage amphibians such as salamanders or toads, or wetland insects such as dragonflies, to visit and set up their homes.
Butterflies engage in behavior called “puddling,” where they stop in muddy puddles for water and nutrients. You can recreate this by filling a terra cotta saucer with soil and pebbles, sink it into the ground and keep it moist. Again, change the water regularly.
Plants and rocks around the water source(s) provide shelter, camouflage, and spots for creatures like butterflies, lizards, or turtles who like to sun themselves near water.
Housing for Bees
Leave the Leaves
Leaving leaves as they drop from your trees and bushes provides food and shelter for a variety of living creatures including worms, beetles, millipedes, larvae of some butterflies and moths, toads, frogs and more. These in turn attract birds, mammals, and amphibians that rely on the smaller organisms as a food source.
One Step at a Time
Changing your garden into a wildlife haven will likely be a step-by-step process over a period of time. Building a garden attractive to wildlife will bring you the enjoyment of watching them and the knowledge you are helping wildlife thrive.
Resources listed provide information for ways to you to build a garden attractive to wildlife.
- Butterflies in Your Garden: https://ucanr.edu/sites/CEStanislausCo/files/345791.pdf
- Sustainable Landscaping: https://ucanr.edu/sites/stancountymg/Sustainable_Landscaping/
- Trees in Your Garden: https://ucanr.edu/sites/CEStanislausCo/files/341553.pdf
- Pollinator-Friendly Native Plants Lists: https://xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/pollinator-friendly-plant-lists
- UC IPM Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/
- The Bee Gardener: The Cavities You Want to Have: https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=12785
- How to Make and Use Bee Houses for Cavity Nesting Bees: https://beegarden.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/How-to-build-and-use-bee-blocks.pdf
Denise Godbout-Avant has been a Stanislaus County Master Gardener since 2020./h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>
Native (Bee) Pollinators
Take a quiz on your knowledge of native bee pollinators, learn about the three types of pollinator nesting, and see examples of what types of plants pollinators prefer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOGDSNJJoh8&t=6s
Planting for Pollinators
Learn about the local native bee pollinators and hummingbirds you might see in your backyard, and what kind of plants they prefer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naL3BM5aP-s&t=5s
Butterflies in Your Garden
Find out how to have more butterflies in your garden, by learning which plants are required for butterflies to complete their lifecycle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHXSdtxicII&t=6s
Download the handouts from any of our classes by visiting our Classes and Workshops web page at https://ucanr.edu/sites/stancountymg/Classes/
This post was originally published on June 24, 2021./h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>
Planting for Pollinators will focus on native and compatible non-native plants that thrive in our area, and which pollinators have been documented visiting these plants.
It can sometimes be hard to spot these pollinators, so our speaker will tell us what time of year to look for them, and which plants to use to attract them.
Watch our YouTube Video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naL3BM5aP-s&t=5s
About the speaker:
Ellen is a professional Horticulturist specializing in beautiful, heat tolerant, reduced-irrigation plantings that thrive in landscapes in the Central Valley of California. Most recently she has been exploring her passion for Pollinator Gardening and how it can contribute to biological diversity in urban and suburban California landscapes.