Native Plant Center gets help from community
Oregon, and more specifically the Portland area, has changed drastically in the past couple centuries or so. With the areas beautiful architecture, expansive bridges and ever-growing population, its easy to forget that before the massive buildings and crowded roads there was simply nature.
And while the area has continued to evolve during the years, its often been at the expense of some of Oregon's natural ecosystems, such as Portlands Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area.
Oregon Metros Native Plant Center in Tualatin, worked Saturday, May 21, to help restore some of Oregons original native beauty with one of its bi-monthly volunteer ventures.
Led by Metros Jennifer Wilson, about a dozen volunteers spent the day collecting and tending to seeds of the native Columbia River sedge, which was once the dominant plant at the Smith and Bybee Wetlands. Today, the area has become overgrown with canary reed grass, causing harm to the natural habitat.
The seeds that were working with today are all collected from Smith and Bybee Wetlands area, which is one of the largest urban wetlands in the United States and is managed by Metro, Wilson said. Theres a variety, a lot of different isolated populations of this plant throughout the site, and theyre all in slightly different micro-habitats.
Wilson and her crew of volunteers sorted seeds into seed lots at the Native Plant Center to be planted, grown and tested for research. Eventually the varied seeds will be planted in the appropriate micro-habitats at Smith and Bybee Wetlands to repopulate the area with its intended and once dominant plant.
Were keeping track and are going to grow those various seed lots this year and just kind of see if their growth patterns are different, and basically all the seed is going to benefit the Smith and Bybee Wetlands area, Wilson said.
Wilson said reed canary grass was originally planted all over the state throughout the 20th century for a variety of reasons including soil stabilization as well as for its use as a cover crop. The result over time, however, was the plant overtaking other native plants entirely.
Were trying to bring back these native populations or recreate the natural habitat that used to be there, which was more beneficial, she said.
With Wilsons guidance volunteers sorted seeds and prepped them to be planted in various beds at the Native Plant Center. The volunteer ventures occur twice a month, providing multiple opportunities for community members to help their local environment and learn about Oregons natural history in the process. No experience is necessary and all ages are encouraged to participate, making for a diverse group of volunteers. About half of Saturdays group was returning members, while the other half was first-timers.
This is my first time volunteering and I came through an environmental science management class Im taking at (Portland State University), said Jeremiah Green. I had no idea what I was going to be doing, but its nice to help out.
Other new volunteers said they enjoyed the experience and plan to return in the future, categorizing the hands-on work as both fun and rewarding.
Im retired and was looking for some volunteer work, and I stumbled across this and Im glad I did," said Connie Levesque. I wasnt sure what was involved necessarily, but its a good start. Im interested in doing this on a regular basis so this is an orientation day for me. I have a background in biology, and I have a large yard where Im trying to use native plants more often. I just really enjoy working in dirt.
Veteran volunteers helped newcomers learn the ropes during the five-hour session. While its hard work, long-time volunteer Pat Worsech, who has volunteered at the Tualatin location off and on for the past five years, said helping out at the Metro Native Plant Center is always rewarding and worthwhile.
I love the native plants and I wanted to do something that helps with that, and also I have a granddaughter who is genuinely interested in everything to do with nature, she said. She loves plants, all kinds of plants so I thought it would be really nice if I could come volunteer and help her to get opportunities to be exposed to those things as well.
While the impact of Saturdays efforts wont be seen immediately, Wilson assured that the volunteers efforts wont go unnoticed. She said the Native Plant Center is thankful for the consistent help it receives from the community and that shes confident the Smith and Bybee Wetlands will benefit from all the hard work in the future.
A lot of the really good work we do here is through volunteerism, so the Native Plant Center has benefited from community volunteers since 2006, she said. A lot of what we do here wouldnt be possible without volunteers participating.