Spring wild flowers in Glen Canyon. Photo by Lewison Lem.
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Thank you for posting. Yes, the wild flowers are really, really beautiful at this time of year — and they are everywhere, adding a splash of fabulous yellow to the park. Everyone I know marvels at them. Please let’s do what we can to allow them to grow in the canyon where they have grown for years and have brightened our canyon. These wild flowers are wild mustard and oxalis.
However, everyone should know that NAP has sprayed poisons on the oxalis in order to get rid of it — it is not “native”. We have written letters, made phone calls and tried to get them to stop — but we are not listened to. And the wild mustard is pulled out by the bucket full by the volunteers for the NAP program — it, too, is not “native”. You may have already seen clumps of these flowers, pulled out and lying lifeless in piles. Please ask RPD to stop using poisons and ask the volunteers to leave our flowers alone. The park is for all of us to enjoy, not for a few “nativists” to do what they want. Janet
Given the lack of gardeners due to the City’s budget issues, how else should the city deal with oxalis and other weeds? I pick them by hand in my garden but clearly we don’t have the staff to do that in Glen Canyon. Is the presumption that they should just allow whatever wants to grow there to grow? I’m not necessarily opposed to that but did wonder what your preferred solution to the issue of invasive weeds like oxalis is. I would worry that eventually we’d end up with nothing but oxalis and wild mustard and that wouldn’t be that enticing. But perhaps not. I’m open to understanding how you believe the park’s landscape should be managed.
There are no inherent “weeds”. The word “weed” is a term used to classify unwanted plants by humans, depending on the purpose at hand. A rose bush in a corn field is a weed. A corn plant in a rose garden is a weed. In nature, there are no “weeds”. So, the question is “what do we want to be a weed”. That should be defined. But if people enjoy the colorful flowers in a park — they are causing no harm to anyone — leave them alone.
There is nothing like going to the park to enjoy nature, only to find half a dozen to a dozen arrogant volunteers — like farmers in a field — tearing out the beauty that we came to see. If you want to weed, maybe it should be done in a true garden where only certain plants are wanted. The Little Red Hen Community Garden provides such a venue. The canyon should be a place where nature decides what grows. IF we, as an entire community, agree that something is harmful and not wanted, we can address that issue. But too many people are not included in the process. As it stands, it is NAP and their volunteers who decide for us what is good for us — it’s a “big brother” mentality.
Oxalis is a clover from Africa. Who cares where it is from. It grows well in the canyon, keeps the ground covered and green and produces beautiful yellow flowers in the springtime. Kids love rolling in it because it is soft, they like to search for good luck four leaf clovers, and they eat it as “sour grass”. When it is poisoned and removed what is left is bare hard dirt. Certainly, in a public park with a stream running through it, used by kids, wildlife, and dogs — no toxic chemicals should ever be used, EVER.
There has been more harm done by removing these plants than ever has been caused by leaving them alone. Bare, hard patches of dirt replace poisoned oxalis. The removal of so much wild mustard and wild radish along the paths last year opened up the way for terrible erosion. The erosion was not caused by people or dogs as NAP would have you believe. It was caused by NAP volunteers removing the plants that held the soil in place.
Oxalis in California doesn’t set seed – it makes nectar for the bees and butterflies, but the flowers are for show. It spreads through vegetative reproduction. As such, it tends to be a plant of disturbed areas. Elsewhere, it’s gradually overrun by other plants that have more options for spreading. It’s hard to manage every natural area as a garden, picking and choosing what should grow there and forever having to use pesticides to defeat the ones you don’t want. A lot of people like oxalis; it looks pretty, is fun to pick for the kids (and the flowers last well in a jar of water), and it will soon disappear after its wild spring bloom. If it’s eradicated, what you mostly get are non-native grasses anyway – green and pretty in spring, brown and dead in summer.
There is nothing wrong with volunteers supervised by park personnel guiding activities that serve the public. Unfortunately this isn’t the reality for Glen Canyon – “restoration ecology” dogma takes precedence over practical measures to improve the park. Spraying herbicides where our children and pets play to kill plants that aren’t native isn’t sensible to anyone but the nativists. If people want to volunteer their valuable time as gardeners to tear out flowers by hand, park management should at least have the common sense to replace them with a new sustainable (doesn’t require intense management/pesticides) species capable of preventing erosion. What we see in our park is whole sections denuded of whatever the nativists see as “weeds” and nothing successfully planted in its place (sections of the north ridge look like a lunar landscape much of the year with erosion as a result). In the rare instance that something is planted it is almost always a poorly chosen unsustainable species that quickly dies leaving nothing but a dead spot and one of those obnoxious Natural Areas Program (NAP) plastic flags. Destruction is easy – RPD is good at eliminating non-native “weeds” (also known to non-nativists as trees and flowers) – unfortunately the competence ends there. Every time I see a California Poppy flourishing unattended on the side of a busy highway or visit Golden Gate Park (full of non-native trees) I wonder at NAP’s lack of common sense.
To weed or not to weed? That’s the question right now in Glen Canyon Park, and it depends on the definition of a weed. “Any undesired, uncultivated plant,” says Webster’s New World 4th Edition dictionary, is a weed. I’m a native plant lover and cultivator, but poison oak (though native) fits that description for me, so would I call it a weed? In my garden, yes, though in Glen Canyon, I’m sure it will have its ardent supporters. The reason I keep trying to get rid of poison oak in my garden is that it keeps away other things I prefer — my friends, my beautiful native plants that go untended when the poison oak crawls in, and the hummingbirds and butterflies that enjoy my native plant nectar. Though a weed is certainly in the eye of the beholder, I tend to feel the same way about the bad oxalis — visually addictive as its lovely yellow flowers are — because it snuffs out many of the plants that help canyon animals thrive. So to me, and my bird and butterfly friends, the bad oxalis is a weed is a weed is a weed.
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