Spring Notes 2016

Village Hill Ecological Restoration Project Update

Several months ago, the Woodside Landscape Committee kicked off an important new ecological restoration project in Town with the replanting of a variety of local native grasses and wildflowers on Village Hill.

Working with ecological restoration specialist and consultant Craig Dremann, the purpose of this project was to determine problems and results on a small scale before taking on a larger project in Town. Read the article in the Fall 2015 WCF newsletter.

“I am really thrilled by our test plots at Village Hill this year. Just raking off the weed grass straw allowed all those soap plants and blue eyed grass to sprout up, species that probably had not been seen on the hill for 100-150 years. Now due to the Woodside Landscape Committee's interest and investment, these species have been given a chance to grow again, and they are sprouting up everywhere in the test area,” commented Dremann.

Preliminary results of this exciting restoration experiment are as follows:

  • There is an abundance of native seeds sprouting, both dormant seeds already in the soil, as well as the seeds sown for the project. The native grasses and wildflowers are Purple needle grass, Danthonia grass, blue-eyed grass, and soap plant. So far, the best survivors of the sown seeds are the lupines, which are about a foot tall and will be blooming around the end of March.
  • Maintaining a good horse trail is very important to keep the horses from straying and crushing the rare natives that grow only on either side of the trail along Village Hill, e.g., Danthonia grass. There is an underground stream along the route of the horse trail which allows the native Danthonia, soap plants, and blue-eyed grass to thrive through the summer (when the horses don’t trample it). By repairing the Village Hill trail segment with drain rock topped by a layer of fines and then a layer of 5/16” lava rock, the rare natives will be able to sprout and survive, because horses and people will no longer go outside the trail for better footing when they encounter bogs and eroded areas.
  • Craig Dremann met on site at Village Hill with Dong Nguyen, the Deputy Town Engineer to agree on necessary repairs for the boggy sections and the stream-eroded sections, and emphasized the need to make the repairs before the next rains to prevent further damage to the trail.

Feel like taking a DIY Native Plant Tour?

If you would like to visit other California native plant and wildlflower restoration projects in the area, the Woodside Landscape Committee recommends the following locations. They advise using GPS, Google Maps and/or a AAA road map!

  • Owner: Kim Scott (do not disturb, just view hillside from property edge), 12846 Viscaino, Los Altos.
    Directions: From Page Mill Road take Arastradero Road to Purissima (turn right), turn left on Viscaino, at the intersection (stop signs) park at top of hill and walk along Viscaino to Kim’s driveway which will be the first one to the left. You can see most of the two acres from that spot. You will see the wood chip mulch on all of the weeds, and the poppy and other wildflower seeds sprouting in the divots made into the mulch. There is a natural stand of the native creeping wild rye along the road that sprouted on its own, and that is an indicator of underground water year-round.
  • Owner: Michael Shaw, phone first to make arrangements 831-901-4771. 74 acres south of Santa Cruz at La Selva Beach that’s restored to 95% native cover from 1% in 1992! Wildflowers and native grasses will be best viewed March through April. Several members of the Woodside Landscape Committee did this tour a year ago.
    Directions: 17 to Santa Cruz; then South on 1 for 12 miles; off on San Andreas exit (toward ocean); first left on Byers Lane located 200 yards from the off ramp; up to top (300 Byers Lane) and road dead-ends at Michael’s property. Since Michael is currently in the process of selling the property, this may be the last time the public may be allowed to visit, to view the best example of ecological restoration anywhere in California. It is like visiting California 200 years ago, before any weeds were introduced.
  • Arastradero Preserve Poppy Project (Craig Dremann's): Local ecotypes of the California poppy and the local blue-eyed grass flowers are sprouting up in the two patches on the right. The eventual purpose of the project is to send seeds harvested from those plots to the commercial seed grower, Hedgerow Farms, to be able to have local bulk wildflower ecotypes available to sow on the Peninsula in the future. The cost is about $10,000 per wildflower or native grass variety, and one pound of hand-harvested stock seeds can turn into 100 pounds of commercial seed in one year.

Pro Tips on Cultivating California Natives

An important fact about natives is that each species puts out its own personal herbicide to keep others away, so wildflowers should be sown in mosaic drifts and NEVER mixed. Craig gave the example of the postcard of the wildflower fields from Arvin near Bakersfield, that you can see if you go on Ebay and search “California wildflower postcard Arvin.” The Arvin postcard shows the three wildflower species, lupines, Phacelia, and poppies, growing in a mosaic, not a mix.

Currently there are no sources for purchasing San Francisco Peninsula ecotypes of bulk wildflower seeds. By planting the local ecotypes, you can have a longer-lasting planting. The difference could be between having one month’s bloom vs having the poppy or blue-eyed grass plants bloom for the next 25 years, according to the experiments that UC Davis and Craig have conducted in the past. Click here for more information plus photos of the spring blooming.

Did you know that birds won’t eat new seeds if they are wet?