Pulling Together


Enjoyment and satisfaction.

That’s what I hope to feel tonight as I lead a hike from Jensen Lake trailhead within Lebanon Hills Regional Park.  It’s one of my favorite hikes in the area, rated as moderately good quality habitat for native plants, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Unfortunately, like the rest of the park, the Jensen Lake area has been infiltrated.  Infiltrated by an army of silent alien invasive plants.  Most people hiking along the lakeside paths have no clue of these invaders at their feet; It’s all just pretty green plants to them.

That’s a frustrating problem for those of us who can recognize our amazing native plants.   We see–and wince–at all the alien invasive plants crowding and shading them out.  Native plants our pollinators–birds, bees, beetles, ants, butterflies and moths–have evolved with.  And, during this co-evolution, synchronized some of their growth and feeding habits.

A well known example of this is the Monarch butterfly.  It requires Milkweed species plants only for their larvae to eat.  Less well known is that lots of other pollinators here are just about as choosy in some of their needs.

Volunteer Habitat Restoration Crew
Volunteer Habitat Restoration Crew

The past few years I’ve seen a tremendous rise in the number and total amount of invasive plants inside the park.  Thankfully, this year, Dakota County has allowed volunteers to partner with them to remove invasives in Lebanon Hills Regional Park.

In May we began by pulling Garlic Mustard, originally brought over from Europe to use for salad greens. Quitting by mid-June as the plant went to seed, we’d collected 170 bags worth–a good start.  In July we started pulling a new, potentially devastating invasive: Japanese Hedge Parsley.  I noticed it 2 years ago around Jensen and Holland Lakes.  A biennial like Garlic Mustard, I was amazed at how it now seemed to be Everywhere!  Not sure how much we’ve pulled but there’s a lot left.  And, because both species produce a tremendous amount of seeds, and the seeds are viable for around 7-10 years in the ground (seed banks), we’ll be pulling these and other invasive non-woody plants for many years to come. 

Nodding trillium by Fungus Guy
Nodding trillium by Fungus Guy

Still, it was a strong and satisfying start that we can build on next year.  So, as I hike around Jensen Lake with the intrepid Thursday Night Hikers, I’ll enjoy the green trailside knowing next spring it can harbor more beautiful native species like Nodding trillium, and Jacob’s ladder.


Swan Song to Summer

butterfly and bee on asters

Now that it’s September, it seems proper to look back on a superb summer here in my neck of the woods.

Of course, it seems to have passed in a flash, looking back on it.  Still, I knew it was a special summer right from the start. The rain, like that in the song “Camelot,” always seemed to come just after sundown, and kept the grass and plants green all summer (!).  The high temps and high humidity of our summers–not so much this time. In fact, just a couple 90 degree days and the few really humid days usually came with moderate temps.asters

All this was perfect timing because I spent the summer volunteering outside. And for all the organizations I’d always wanted to work with but, while I was working, never had time to. Fun and rewarding stuff like lead interpretive hikes for kids and adults, weed, plant and guide new gardeners in the same, test out and review a new nature-based audio program, and spend umpteen hours at one of my biggest passions–removing invasive plant species in our parks!

That’s really why I loved this past summer. I hope all of you get (or take) the chance to spend a season doing all the things you never have time for. It’s good for the soul, if not the pocketbook!

Twin Cities Chapter of MN Master Naturalists


Minnesota Master Naturalists are always learning, adding to their knowledge base.

Tonight I’m with about a dozen Master Naturalists at the Ft. Snelling State Park Visitor Center–after hours–learning about forestry sustainability from a guest speaker’s viewpoint. Every 2 month’s these chapter meetings allow local Master Naturalists the chance to meet or catch up with their fellows, as well as learn new info, tips and techniques from 1 to 2 interesting speakers. One take away from tonight’s talk: we have about the same amount to trees in America as we did 150 years ago!

Invasives Away!

flowering garlic mustard plant
flowering garlic mustard plant

Dig up an invasive plant in your yard (and dispose of correctly).

Example: Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)


Appearance: Biennial herbaceous plant with weak single stems 12 – 36″ high in its second and flowering year. Only plant of this height blooming white in wooded environments in May.

Ecological Threat:

Garlic mustard spreads into high quality woodlands upland and floodplain forests, not just into disturbed areas.
Invaded sites undergo a decline on native herbaceous cover within 10 years.
Garlic mustard alters habitat suitability for native insects and thereby birds and mammals.
This European exotic occurs now in 27 midwestern and northeastern states and in Canada.
Garlic mustard is a MDA Restricted noxious weed in Minnesota.

Continue reading Invasives Away!

Spring continues to “Sprung!”

single fiddlehead

Yes, it’s warm–really warm for early March in the Twin Cities–I get it. But, some of the announcers on our Public Radio station are driving me bonkers with their over exuberant weather observations every 15 minutes (I’m talking about you, S.S….). I love spring, I do, but dial it down a notch. It’s not the second coming, after all, just a new year’s season.


Spring Is Time For A New Start

The color of new leaves–spring green–is my favorite color. (At least in springtime!)

There’s something about seeing new life unfold each year that makes us happy, maybe even relieved that life as we know it will continue for another year. Spring is also a season that reminds us of all the ways we can aid the earth. Stay tuned for more on this subject.