This past Saturday morning, volunteers were asked to show up at 0745 at the San Juan Capistrano entrance to the Richard and Donna O'Neill Conservancy. With work gloves and water in tow (be sure to wear long pants and sturdy shoes as well), we were each given an overview of the morning's assignment (up-rooting artichoke thistles) and our tools for the tasks (explained further below).
Artichoke thistles thrive in Mediterranean climates, like our own, and are cousins to the globe artichoke we eat (it was interesting for me to learn that when I eat an artichoke I'm actually eating a flowerhead). However, here their growth limits the movement of livestock on range land, creates obstacles for the movement of wildfires through an area, and in general competes for native plants for light and nutrients.
How does one go about battling artichoke thistles? We went about it like this:
- Cut off the flowerheads with clippers
- Place the flowerheads in a re-usable IKEA bags to take off-site (each flowerhead has hundreds of seeds!)
- Use a hoe to cut down the stalk and leaves
- Use a hoe to uproot (as much as possible) the aggressive taproot system
- Rake the cut down bits of stalk and leaves back over the hole that has the remaining parts of the root system in order to block light from encouraging the re-growth of the plant
Trail clearing & weeding opportunities are offered periodically on Saturday morning and Monday mornings. And while there will be a hiatus of both for the summer months, if you are interested in such volunteer opportunities, keep an eye on The Reserve's website and/or sign up for their newsletter.