A Recap of the Inaugural IPRT Workday!

By Ashley Kvitek, ABF Education Coordinator

Good Morning Everybody!

In the past few weeks, we’ve been gearing up for and working our way through a database transition… and what an adventure that has been. Between trying to be prepared for that whole experience and getting ready for the desert season that has somehow once again snuck up on us a bit faster than anticipated, we have certainly had our hands full. But don’t fear- the newest blog is here!

Anza-Borrego Foundation has recently kicked off a brand new type of partnership with Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and it’s a partnership that is truly exciting. We’re calling it the Invasive Plant Response Team, and the idea is to have an action-oriented group of volunteers to be on call and ready to respond when the Park has a need for a crew of volunteers to help the native plant communities surpass the growing threat of invasive plants.

Bassia Hyssopifolia. Recognize that name? How about Brassica tournefortii? No? Chances are, you know at least one of these plants by their common name. Let’s try again. Bassia Hyssopifolia is also known as fivehook bassia, and Brassica tournefortii is more widely known as Sahara mustard. Ringing any bells now?

Sahara mustard has been around Southern California for a while, but it really gained attention in Anza-Borrego when people noticed it was taking over areas previously occupied by our famous wildflowers. Since then, there has been a Sahara Mustard Task Force working diligently to eradicate the invasive species from different areas in the town and Park. The fight has grown to include the AmeriCorps crews we have hosted in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Those groups have worked hard to keep the mustard at bay. However, we still have Sahara mustard throughout the Park, and we still need help pulling plants.

Fivehook bassia is a threat the Park discovered in Sentenac Cienega, an alkali marsh along San Felipe Creek. A successful tamarisk-removal project in this area left disturbed soil that was susceptible to invasion by other invasive plant species. Fivehook bassia has exhibited exceptional colonizing ability in these disturbed areas. In Sentenac Cienega, the plant provides little habitat to native wildlife and increases the risk of wildfire. It already dominates large areas, spreading rapidly with each passing rain event. 

Our first workday was just this past weekend, and we had a wonderful crew of 11 people. I started my trip out to Sentenac Cienega from Borrego Springs, and the drive was refreshing and absolutely breathtaking. As I arrived at the site, I could tell it was going to be a lovely day with a bit of a breeze, moderate temperatures, and the most delightfully unique views to be found in ABDSP. Park Staff were on site to help identify natives vs invasives, tell us about the native ecosystems we passed through and to describe the reasoning behind the work and the method they have chosen to pursue against the fivehook bassia. We had a great day filled with perfect weather, some good work, some good nature moments (we’re talking lots of poop, a hawk call, a sweet spider funnel, and an unnamed bug) and our youngest worker, 7 years young, even professed to have enjoyed himself. Seems like a win!

We even had three people get up very early and drive in all the way from San Diego and Carlsbad, and that kind of dedication to public lands is hard to come by. So, thank you!

Our next workday is scheduled for Saturday, November 1, from 8 a.m.-12 p.m. We would love to see another great corps of volunteers come help out our fragile desert ecosystem. You don’t have to RSVP, but if you want more information or know for sure you plan to attend, please contact me either via email at ashley@theabf.org or phone at 760-767-0446 ext 1003. Hope to see you there!