Rubus and Carex

Hi folks,

I’m back at it again. When we last left off in the life of Michal, CLM intern extraordinaire, I was doing maintenance here at the Plant Materials Center (PMC). During the last couple of weeks though, I’ve been spending a lot more time working in the office, in part because of the heat but mostly because I’ve been tending to some other matters.

The PMC is going through a year of abundant funding, which I’ve been told happens approximately every 5 years – the other 4 they are underfunded, and that’s just the way it is. Because of this, the administration here is stocking up on everything and making big purchases now, kind of like a pre-hibernation bear making sure it can last the winter. This means good things are happening: we are purchasing new equipment, a brand new tractor, and making infrastructure improvements.

The riparian corridor along our levee is heavily infested with Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus).

Rubus armeniacus along the levee.

Rubus armeniacus along the levee.

But before I get into that, I want to share some experiences with you! Being from the city of Chicago, until now I never really been exposed to Native Americans. But being out west, I feel fortunate to come across natives and to be exposed to their culture. As an ethnic group, they have largely been swept under the rug in this country, especially in California. They have lost access to their lands, their culture, and their identity and I really feel empathy for them. Jeff, I, and a volunteer, Sarah, had the pleasure of helping a Dee, a woman from the Miwok tribe, collect Santa Barbara sedge (Carex barbarae) roots in the riparian corridor between our levee and the Mokelumne river. Historically, indians collected the long rhizomes of the sedge and wove baskets for water with them. We knelt and dug in the soil with our bare hands, following the roots by touch to see where they lead in order to collect the longest segment. Also, a guy by the name of Isidro came to the PMC to collect eucalyptus wood to use for a healing ceremony at a sweat lodge for tribal men dealing with alcoholism and other addictions. I helped him and some friends cut up dry branches and load them into their truck.

Isidro cutting eucalyptus branches.

Isidro cutting eucalyptus branches.

I have always appreciated our natural resources, and have devoted myself to understanding their ecological value, and their roles in our ecosystems. For the first time however, I am appreciating the cultural value that they can provide, the role they play in the identity and spiritual lives of people. Plants are also cultural resources as well, and that human dimension is amazing to me.

So back to the blackberry – these things grow everywhere. I decided to take it upon myself to restore the riparian zone, especially since that’s what most of my work experience has been so far. Jeff had the same idea so we’re working together to make this happen. During the past two weeks, I have been doing a lot of research and in the process have become much more familiar with the plants in the central valley. I have put together a proposal for the project. It covers all the planning, scheduling and logistics, invasive removal and native plantings (what and quantity), instructions for maintenance, and so forth. We will also be propagating our own plugs in the greenhouse. Successful restoration is hard to accomplish, but I feel confident and excited about this!

I don’t want to rant about everything so I’ll stop here for now. Please feel free to comment if you would like to share any ideas. Happy interning everyone.

In the meanwhile, here’s a photo of me visiting Eldorado National Forest

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Michal Tutka

CLM Intern

NRCS – California

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