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Finding rare plants, removing invasives, and more! CLIP week 5

Published on
08 July 2022

by Breanna Christensen

Monday morning of CLIP’s week 5 was spent with Bruce Kessler, McHenry County restoration expert, at the Tauck Conservation Easement. There we split up into two teams to do Plants of Concern monitoring. The members of each team spread out to do the most thorough sweep of the area possible, trying to identify as many species as we could. As we found them, we determined how many of the species were present by counting each individual stem. We kept these tallies both on paper and on a hand counter clicker. It took a couple hours of hiking through the vegetation until we had hit all the important areas. In the end, our teams met back up and had a grand total of about 370 individuals found!

We spent the rest of the day doing invasive work at Prairie Ridge. Kristi and I used 0.2% Milestone to herbicide patches of crown vetch using the backpack sprayers. The rest of CLIP sprayed teasel with 3% Garlon herbicide and removed parsnip. To remove parsnip we snap off the seed heads, collecting them as we go, and then pull out the plant either by hand or with our handy dandy Parsnip Predator tools. These tools are perfect for the job!

We began Tuesday by prepping the backpack sprayers for the day’s herbiciding. The morning served as an important reminder to make sure all parts of the backpack are screwed on tightly to avoid any herbicide accidents. We spent the day at Apple Creek taking care of invasives. The CLIP interns had previously sprayed the thistle on the neighborhood entrance roadside, and we were able to see the progress. However, there were still several patches of thistle on the far sides of the property that needed attention, so Amelia and I spent the morning and afternoon spraying thistle with 0.2% Milestone herbicide. Meanwhile, the rest of the CLIP interns tended to other invasives by pulling parsnip, spraying teasel and more.

During lunch, TLC’s Executive Director, Lisa Haderlein, came to talk to us about TLC’s history and land preservation strategies. Lisa shared many stories about different easements, starting with how Spring Hollow was the first conservation easement established to preserve private property in Illinois. A favorite of many CLIPterns, this site’s easements were transferred to TLC in 2013. Lisa also discussed how TLC has become more ambitious in attaining easement properties over the years since first beginning and has a special interest in developing easements on working land, typically food farms. Easements on these properties not only protect precious land from being developed, but they also provide a gateway opportunity for farmers as these properties are more affordable.

Speaking of gateway opportunities, we had the opportunity to spend Wednesday working with invasives at Gateway Nature Park in Harvard. After herbicide spraying some teasel, the CLIPterns worked hand in hand with TLC’s David Ducci to take care of the area’s parsnip. Where David was not able to mow the parsnip, we went in to pull the parsnip ourselves. We found ourselves pulling parsnip throughout the park, both along the trail, along the creek, and elsewhere! Working outside in the heat was tiring, but CLIP continued to work hard and make great progress.

Thursday afternoon was spent using similar techniques to remove parsnip at TLC’s Tryon Grove site. While David mowed some areas, CLIP went in to remove the remaining parsnip both on land and right along the creek. We took turns suiting up in our rubber boots to reach the parsnip from the creek, which we found to be much easier to hand pull as the ground was softer. We even traveled across the stream to a tiny island we deemed “Parsnip Island” to remove the parsnip there.

After eating dinner back at Hennen, we were joined by Kathy Garness for an art class curated for our experiences working with nature. Kathy is an experienced ecological artist, primarily creating botanical watercolors with a focus on orchids. She has also been very involved in conservation, working as a volunteer at the Chicago Botanic Gardens and doing Plants of Concern monitoring. 

Kathy provided essential art supplies, including sketch paper, graphite pencils, erasers, Prismacolor pencils, and baggies to hold everything. This set of colored pencils allows us to create any color we’d need, and Kathy had us practice this mixing by filling in our own color wheels. While we got to work, Kathy shared many stories related to her experiences with art and nature, as well as the importance of people in the conservation field making colored drawings of plant species. These drawings help you pay attention to the little details that make up each species, and with the help of color, allow you to differentiate one species from the next. Becoming familiar with the different characteristics of plant species improves your identification abilities and prevents “plant blindness” as you become more aware of the nature around you.

For our last activity with Kathy, we made life-size drawings of nectarines. We each set our nectarine on a blank piece of paper in front of us, used rulers to accurately sketch outlines of the fruit with pencil, then colored in the nectarine with the colored pencils, paying close attention to highlights and the nectarine’s unique features. The art class was a very refreshing experience, as Kathy drew really insightful connections between our everyday at work and the spiritual-artistic sense that can accompany it.

Friday morning and afternoon were spent with invasives at Wonder Lake Sedge Meadow. Throughout the morning we herbicides teasel using 3% Garlon. First we sprayed along the tree line, then lined up to sweep a whole field. Careful to stay spread out, nozzle to nozzle, and keeping an equal pace, we made sure to spray the grown teasel and their rosettes. In the afternoon we split up into teams to spray different sections of teasel throughout the site. At the same time, we pulled any parsnip we could find and even collected some reed canary grass seed heads. Kim also pointed out many species in the meadow such as dogwood, bee balm and cup plant.

When we got back to Hennen we caught up on journaling and finished off the week by adding two new plants to our collection binders. We first added elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), a native shrub identifiable by its warty bark, opposite leaf arrangement, and hydrangea-like flowers. Then we ended with the invasive oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), distinguishable from other daisies by its toothed leaves and singular flower per stem. This week was full of hard work from the dedicated CLIPterns who are definitely looking forward to that extra sleep over the three-day July 4 weekend.