Help restore the Yuba |

Help restore the Yuba

Scotch Broom and Himalayan Blackberry will have nowhere to hide when an angry mob armed with weed wrenches and loppers comes to finish them off.

The South Yuba River Citizens League’s (SYRCL) second annual Great Yuba Restoration Day is scheduled to take place 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 20. Volunteers are needed to pull non-native plants that deplete soils and crowd native species.

“Come out and get your hands dirty. We’ll buy lunch,” said Kayle Martin, volunteer coordinator for SYRCL.

SYRCL has teamed up with the Forest Service, State Parks, Bureau of Land Management and Sequoya Challenge to identify five sites in need of cleanup.

Blackberries will be tamed at Kentucky Creek (at South Yuba River State Park Bridgeport), and Scotch Broom will be pulled at Hoyt’s Crossing (one mile from Highway 49 Bridge), Independence Trail, and Brubaker Mine/Golden Quartz areas near the town of Washington.

Martin said there are currently 500 volunteers for SYRCL throughout the year on various projects and everyone wants their time spent at the river. “This is a great way for people to give back and see some amazing results in a couple of hours,” said Martin.

As with the rest of California, non-native plants have become a major nuisance in Nevada County.

Some are so common that they may be mistaken for native plants themselves. This time of year the unmistakable bright blooming shrubs of Scotch broom are abundant along roadsides.

The noxious weed is toxic to livestock and is estimated to infest 60,000 acres in California. Despite its bad reputation, it can still be found for sale at local nurseries.

Himalayan Blackberry, while providing food and shelter for birds and tasty jam for humans can create barriers along land animals natural foraging paths and compete with less vigorous native plants for soil and sunlight.

“In most cases with non-natives,” they are plants that take over, there’s no stopping them,” said Martin, who hopes that Restoration Day will serve as an education tool for people to apply in their own gardens.

Last year, 40 volunteers pulled vetch from the Buttermilk Bend Trail and Scotch Broom from Hoyt’s Crossing. Martin said 20 people have already signed up this year and she hopes to at least double last year’s attendance. She encourages families with older children to bring them along.

Removing the Scotch Broom from Hoyt’s Crossing last year was an arduous process of loading hundreds of pounds of the plant onto tarps and hauling it over rocky terrain for 20 grueling minutes back to the trucks. This year the pulled plants will be left at the site and Bureau of Land Management will dispose of them by burning.

“We probably wouldn’t have anyone volunteer because it was such back breaking work,” said Martin of the tarp method of removal.

A special tool called a “weed wrench” makes the job easy – it locks onto the base of the stem and leverage is used to remove the entire broom plant, roots and all. The specialized tools aren’t cheap and vary in sizes starting at $100. SYRCL keeps six of the tools in its basement and plan to borrow more for the event.

Three years ago, a restoration project at Kentucky Creek cleared the area of the exotic Himalayan Blackberries and replaced it with native plants. Funds ran out for maintenance and the blackberries are beginning to make a comeback and if left unchecked could completely infest native plantings within a couple of years. When full-grown, blackberry bushes grow 6 feet tall or more.

Originally, more native plants were going to be planted at Kentucky Creek as part of this year’s restoration efforts but the local California Native Plant Society says this is the wrong time of year to put tender natives in the ground. Young plants still in shock from planting would have a tough time getting established if they had to struggle during the long hot summer with infrequent watering, said the group.

Instead, they have offered to donate plants and guide SYRCL with planting in the fall, when the soil is still warm and winter rains provide needed moisture.

Restoration is a time-consuming and expensive process said Jon Shilling, restoration chair of the California Native Plant Society Redbud Chapter, one that isn’t always done correctly. “Removal of unwanted vegetation is just one step. Basically it’s just the first step.”

Pre-registration is required for the Great Yuba Restoration Day. Call Kayle Martin at 265-5961 ext. 201 or e-mail Bring gloves, sturdy shoes, long pants if working with blackberry, water, hat and sunblock.


Control methods

Cutting Scotch Broom shrubs to ground level at the end of the dry season can help reduce re-sprouting from the crown. Planting native shrubs and trees within and around broom stands can eventually help to minimize infestations by shading. Goats confined to a small area can help control stands of young shrubs or re-growth from cut shrubs. Prescribed burns can eliminate above ground growth, but do not prevent re-sprouting from the crown and may stimulate of flush of seed germination.

Control of blackberry is usually a two-phase process – removing the above ground vegetation and killing the root system.

Mechanical removal by hand or burning is effective for above ground while as many as six options exist for long term root control.

Origin of invasive species

Scotch Broom is native to the British Isles and Central and Southern Europe. It was initially introduced as an ornamental and later to control erosion and stabilize coastal dunes. Established infestations are hard to eliminate because large, long-lived seed banks typically accumulate.

Himalayan Blackberry is native to Western Europe. First introduced as cultivated crop in 1885. It grows into impenetrable thickets in riparian areas. Animals have been known to disperse seeds, which can remain viable for several years in the ground. Once established, blackberries out compete low stature native plants.

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