Field notes: Garlic mustard
As a Metro scientist, Kate Holleran sees nature's biggest challenges and most glorious surprises – and she has the muddy boots to prove it. Read her latest reflections on restoring the land protected by Metro's voter-approved Natural Areas Program.
Conserving nature, one acre at a time
About eight years ago, when I was a natural resource instructor at Mt. Hood Community College, a botany instructor walked by my office and commented, "Kate, I saw some garlic mustard down by Beaver Creek." I remember thinking to myself that I should read up on garlic mustard, a plant I was unfamiliar with at the time. But a busy schedule of lectures, labs and student advising distracted me. Now his remark is a haunting reminder of the need to pay attention to our natural neighborhood.
Three years ago, I started working with Metro as a natural resources scientist and Metro’s Beaver Creek property was added to my portfolio of stewardship. Walking the site with a colleague and assessing the ecological health of the area, we were both impressed and alarmed. The half-mile stretch of Beaver Creek east of Mt. Hood Community College is rich habitat for mammals, song birds, owls, waterfowl and fish. The riparian area includes large trees, snags (dead standing trees) and fruit-bearing shrubs, and the stream has multiple log jams; one of the building blocks of a vibrant salmon habitat. Unfortunately, we also found several large areas completely dominated by noxious garlic mustard. Garlic mustard is not native and it is poisonous to other plants. It exudes a chemical that harms mycorrhizae, fungi critical to plant growth, resulting in the loss of native plant communities.
Without garlic mustard control, Beaver Creek’s rich riparian environment was degrading, and quickly. Imagine a sea of just one plant – garlic mustard – where dogwood, elderberry, bleeding heart and trillium once grew. Today, we are in year three of a multi-year project to control garlic mustard and restore native plant communities.
This reach of Beaver Creek is worth saving.