Archive for the ‘wetland restoration’ Category

monet iris

From the name of a greek goddess, to its use by Claude Monet within his famous garden and paintings, and further to its popular status as a diverse horticultural variety or cultivar, the Iris has widespread play within our culture and (more importantly) our natural world.

According to Correll and Correll (the authority on the aquatic and wetland plants of Southwestern US), there are “more than 200 species in the Northern Hemisphere.”  We are lucky enough to have several native Iris species within our region, including Iris virginica, Iris brevicaulis, and Iris fulva.  Both Iris virginica and Iris brevicaulis have the typical blue-purple and gold color pattern, whereas Iris fulva is distinctively coppery red in color and equally attractive.  It is worth noting that our one unfortunate invasive Iris (Iris pseudacorus, which is native to Europe, western Asia and northwest Africa)  has a large bright yellow flower, and reproduces rapidly via rhizomes and seeds, and we must be aware of this noxious invader.  Slide1

My first encounter with Irises came as a SCA/Americorps intern at San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge.  Driving around Moccasin pond, I marveled at the pretty Iris blooms along the pond edge, intermingled with the native Canna (Canna glauca).  The pond was teeming with life and flowers.  Later, I took my godmother and my mom on a similar tour around the pond, and they also enjoyed the floral display (as well as the sunbathing gators strewn over the road edges).

As part of my restoration work at Sheldon Lake State Park and other sites around Galveston Bay, I have used only the two “blue” species–Iris virginica and Iris brevicaulis.  Each species is specific to a region and habitat….where I. virginica can handle some salinity (fresh to brackish tidal conditions) and the coastal soils, I. brevicaulis finds its niche within the partial shady edges of forests.   These showy natives bloom late spring to early summer, but their bright green to silvery green foliage can remain year-round.  They are both considered obligate wetland plants making them ideal for wetland restoration in their appropriate place within the natural landscape.

When spring returns to our area early next year, be sure to seek out and admire these classic flowering wetland natives.  panoramic photo iris




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A video about the floating wetlands project at Clear Creek I.S.D’s Education Village in League City arrived today! See it now.

It shows very well what enthusiasm the students, teachers, and volunteers have for developing a natural environment on campus, especially if it means trying something really new–like floating wetlands. The video was created by Kirk Swann, Janice Scott, and the folks in the CCISD Office of Communications. Thanks ya’ll!

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Signs of an invasion were everywhere on a recent visit to the floating wetland islands at the Education Village. Plants had been devoured from the floating wetlands like they were buffet tables at SouperSalad. The students’ plantings along the shores of the stormwater pond were also missing. All around were footprints and scat from the prime suspect: nutria.

nutria composite


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Last week, our normal Friday crew ventured out to the Phase 4 forested wetlands—the farthest east you can travel and still be on the park.  The intent of this scouting trip was to note the sizes and extent of Chinese tallow trees in the wetland basins.  As expected the basins were full of tallow and, fortunately, of a size (e.g. not too big) consumable by the mulching machines.   Our restoration plan for 2014 includes hiring a contractor to remove the Chinese tallow without harming the existing stands of sweet gum, pine, cypress and very old yaupons.   For the majority of the work, access to the areas with heavy tallow stands is easy and will not require much maneuvering (and by extension, minimal damage).  We were pleased with what we saw in the forest for the prospective clearing job.

It was, however, hard to drag park ranger Kelly out of the forest—being the East Texas boy he is.  But as we stomped our way out of the forest we passed some old sweet gum trees, and I made it very clear that I am a city girl. (Yikes!) One of the larger tree trunks was laced with a series of holes.  Pointing to the holes in the truck, I turned to Kelly, who replied with one word, “sapsucker”.   Cullen chimed in, “probably yellow-bellied sapsuckers, based on the region”.  It was a ‘duh’ moment for me, as I have seen sapsuckers on the park, but it has been a while only because my time at Sheldon Lake State Park is mostly spent in the wetlands on the prairie.

Image  sapsucker

Sapsuckers are a small woodpecker, and it makes sense that they would leave evidence of their presence behind them on the tree they “harvest”.  The holes were deep and in consistent rows which made me appreciate the industry and effort of this little bird.  It is one thing to know that the sapsucker will drill 10 holes in wood and another thing to see the holes and the effort it takes to drill through the hardwood to get to the sap.

Well, little sapsucker, we hope to clean up your neighborhood by taking out the trash trees.  Maybe by clearing out the tallow, we will give the standing sweet gum, pine and cypress more of a chance to make sap for your little hungry belly.

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During any or all of our vegetation monitoring cycles, I always look for something new in the ponds.  Mostly, I do this because it is not a given that I will get a complete picture of the plant community in any of the “transect” points.  So, it behooves me to look around at the surrounding areas when we are tallying up each sample plot.  This last cycle reminded me of the blessed nature of natural “recruits”—in this case, Leersia hexandra or commonly called:  southern cutgrass.


All the lovely short green stuff in the foreground is Southern cutgrass.


The seedhead on the Leersia hexandra plant is a good giveaway as to its identity.

Phase 1 was my first introduction to the colonization potential of Leersia.  We never planted a single sprig of Leersia in  these ponds—well, never intentionally planted.  It came in with other wetland plants and proceeded to stake out its zone—the 0-3” range.  At these shallow depths, the single surviving transplants eventually multiplied and established a clear zone of vegetation.  What made this more remarkable was that the establishment of this hardy native meant the aggressive exotics (e.g. Deep rooted sedge) were thwarted.  (Get ‘er done, Leersia!!!)

Needless to say, after observing this community dynamic, I incorporated Leersia actively into Phase 2 and 3 of the wetland restoration at Sheldon Lake SP.  And will continue to use it (and its cousins like Panicum dichotoflorum) in future phases of the project and other similar projects. But for now, I was happy to see it proliferating on the inside edge of pond 11.

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