For Earth Day, we headed out into the Kenwood Wetlands to lend a helping hand to the endangered Kenwood Marsh Checkerbloom.
The Kenwood Marsh Checkerbloom, Sidalcea Oregana, is a federally protected endangered species. It has been officially recognized to grow in only two places in the world, and the Kenwood Wetlands at Deerfield Ranch Winery is one of them. Our property is the only one with any type of conservation efforts underway.
Kate Symonds, of the Fish and Wildlife Service, has been guiding us on how best to protect the Checkerbloom for years. "The best way to protect these endangered plants is for the land owners to get involved," Kate said.
There are three colonies of the Checkerbloom plant in the wetlands. Two of them were native and a third colony was planted as part of the conservation efforts. Each of the colonies is protected by an enclosure to prevent people and animals from treading on them. It is striking how different each of the colonies are. Each of them required very different types of maintenance.
The first enclosure is in the middle of a low area where tall grass naturally grows. The ground is relatively dry compared to other parts of the marsh. For the workday, we needed to cut the tall grass away to allow more light on the Checkerbloom leaves and improve the chances of the seeds being spread. We had to be very careful to make sure that we didn't inadvertently clip the Checkerbloom itself as we gave the grass a haircut. We were working quietly and carefully for about 45 minutes when all of a sudden, with a great burst of feathers and wings, a duck erupted from the brush. A local volunteer correctly guessed that the duck had been silently guarding its eggs. Sure enough, we discovered 11 eggs in a beautiful nest. Not long after, we discovered a finch's nest as well. We continued our work, but left a large area around the nests undisturbed.
The second enclosure is very different, as it abuts the waterway that leads to the wetlands' vernal pond. It is very wet and the Checkerbloom is clustered on the only solid ground. There are the fewest Checkerblooms here but they are the largest. One impressive individual is massive compared to the rest. Here, the main task was to cut back the willow tree that was almost completely shading the Checkerblooms in the area. It was tricky to cut the branches while standing in the swampy marsh and extract them without the branches falling on the Checkerbloom, but we got the job done.
The third enclosure was totally overrun by the enormous nearby blackberry bush. You wouldn't even know there was Checkerbloom growing there at first sight. Very carefully, we snipped away the treacherous vines and disentangled them from the fragile stems of the Checkerbloom. When we were done we couldn't believe how many Checkerblooms were thriving under the brambles.
Happy Earth Day! If we all do our part, great things can be accomplished.
Click here to see photos from the Workday!