Thursday, October 21, 2010

Riparian Restoration Redwood Regional Park in Oakland aka Pulling French Broom

So I'm back. Two weddings in the last month.  But weekend before last I spent my Sunday morning up at the Redwood Regional Park here in Oakland volunteering.  The East Bay Regional Parks have ongoing volunteer projects for habitat restoration.   I was interested in doing something in the parks where I frequently hike here in the Oakland Hills.  I missed the one in the Huckleberry Botanic preserve, the second Saturday of every month, but had time for the riparian restoration project in Redwood Park the second Sunday of every month.

I've been wanting to do this for a while, but a week or two before I volunteered, I was hiking in the park and saw lots of colored flags marking native plants that had been planted along the stream that runs through the park.  I thought what better way to spend a Sunday morning than planting natives along a a beautiful creek.

Well I didn't quite get to do that.  Instead I and several other volunteers were up on a sunny slope cutting down French broom and then pulling the stumps out by the roots.  French broom is incredibly invasive here in the East Bay hills and crowds out or shades out natives.  I had no idea it got as tall as it does.  I was cutting down broom 10 feet tall.  I always assumed they were small shrubs, but they in fact get to the size of small trees.

Though not quite what I expected I had a good and rewarding time.  All of the volunteers were friendly and Pamela, who works for the park district and organizes this volunteer group, could not have been more helpful.  They showed me areas they had already cleared and all of the natives that were discovered hiding under there, or other areas they replanted with natives.   I myself uncovered/rescued 3 live oaks.  One might have been able to compete with the French broom at 12 feet high, the other two could not at chest high and 10 inches high.  I also found a tiny bay, 2 ribes and a sword fern.  Very cool.  I'm sure the seedbank of broom is quite high, but I'm sure there are also some other native seeds in their two that might now have a chance.

I didn't take any pictures, but here's a youtube video posted by a volunteer named John, who I was working beside for most of the morning.  In it you see the ingenious weed pullers that easily yank the broom out, rootball and all.


  1. Awesome Brad! As you may have seen in our last two broom-bashing posts, I'm all for rolling up the sleeves, and annihilating it. Hate French broom with a vengeance. It's very invasive down here too. Wouldn't mind one of those 'French Broom Removal Project' signs here that was at the beginning of the video, along with a few handy volunteers :P I'd read about the 'Weed Wrench', as it's supposed to cause minimal disturbance to the soil. Thus far I have no experience using one as we've been carefully hand-pulling, but we do finally seem to be winning our broom battle here, and for the first fall since moving here, our worst broom patch has no broom re-sprouting! You have no idea how happy that makes me!

  2. @curbstone: Congratulations. Just looking at the seedlings coming up in the area they removed earlier in the year was disheartening, but eventually you can win. The weed wrench is ridiculously easy to use and actually comes in several different sizes. I'd say if you can pull it more or less easily by hand it's not worth it, but for the ones you'd have to dig out, the wrench would be a great addition to the tool shed.

  3. I find broom a pretty satisfying one to do, though I don't think I've ever taken on one that was taller than I am. Some of the other weeds like vinca are more frustrating to me.

  4. And just in general -- right on for volunteering. I'm on the other side of the Bay, working with the Parks Conservancy, and it's amazing how much the stewardship crews are essential to the native plant restoration being done. I hate to sound cheesy (do I, really?), but if we all picked one or two "citizen of the planet" type things to freely give our time to, this world would work way better, I think.