Green Seattle Day at Carkeek Park

As this was the seventh Green Seattle Day in the city, we were honored to see at least 20 volunteers appear at the McAbee entrance to Carkeek Park this particular Saturday. Volunteers again represented many age groups and backgrounds. We had couples, friends, children, and forestry and plant experts.

The plan was to remove invasives from several severely affected areas around the Park entrance, and plant about a dozen native conifers and shrubs in targeted areas. In the Blackberry areas, first we cut the canes, and piled them on the ground, and then we dug out the Blackberry roots, placing them on top of the pile of canes.

The photos from this day show the group of volunteers, tired and proud, who extended the Blackberry removal on the slope closest to the McAbee entrance. It is a densely invaded hillside, sloping down to the trail, which curves several times before becoming the main Piper’s Creek Trail through the Park. Once the considerable amount of Blackberry was removed from the slope, one could see down to the trail, which before had been blocked from view. One picture shows a freed tree where before blackberry vines had climbed into its branches.

Other groups worked removing blackberry from other areas,  There is more blackberry to be removed from this slope, but with many people working together, a lot of progress was made toward creating a natural, healthy, and appealing entrance.

Bill, Volunteer Interview

Although I had visited Carkeek Park intermittently since I was a child I only got interested in volunteering about 4 years ago when I was walking in the park and was so distressed by the rampant ivy that I was moved to get in touch with the people who were already doing voluntary work there. The first two pictures show typical situations where invasive ivy is growing up trees (where it will soon begin to bear fruits that will spread it further). The third picture shows a plant found in Carkeek, Yellow archangel I think it’s called (Lamiastrum galeobdolon). It is not yet a huge problem but has the potential to become one. As you can tell I have a big grudge against invasives and I have to say that they are the primary motivation for my work in the park. 

I experience a more positive motivation when I see the resilience of the naturally occurring flora that are still present in Carkeek. The next two pictures show examples of the natural regeneration of Western Hemlock: new trees establishing themselves on nurse logs. To me the ability of a large conifer to reproduce in the park is very hopeful. Our group of volunteers has worked hard trying to establish Douglas Fir in areas of the park where they were logged out in the last century and where they have not been able to reestablish themselves. Our goal is to eventually have a park that is able to maintain species diversity with less intervention by people. Picture six is of a mature Doug Fir, a rare tree in the park. I see a lot of character in the bark of a Doug Fir. It speaks to me of strength and resilience.

We leave as many standing dead trees (snags) in the forest as possible. Snags support a variety of fauna from insects to birds and mammals. The seventh picture is of a snag showing an excavated nest hole. Picture eight is of a Pileated Woodpecker, one of the birds that perform these excavations. When I hear the piercing call of a Pileated I imagine I am hearing the lord of the forest. They are frequently seen in family groups working their way from tree to tree in search of the insects that live in snags.

The final picture is of my wife Colene walking one of the Carkeek trails with our dog Luna. On our frequent walks here we see all of the aspects of the park I have selected to illustrate.  We return refreshed and re-motivated to protect and improve the park.

The Community of Work Parties

These photos all contain several people in them, and the people are all volunteers. I will not identify each volunteer because that is not the point of my collection. Each photo captures people doing work, or having just finished working, in Seattle Urban Forests. The volunteers are usually following the guidance of a Forest Steward and always doing good work. I have been so impressed, over my three years of Carkeek and North Beach Park volunteering, with the enthusiasm of forest volunteers, both experienced and novice. Look at their faces; they are all proud of their participation and of their sweat equity!

Seattle Urban Forest volunteers tend to not expect to be singled out for applause or praise. They are either showing their children about volunteering for a good cause, or learning about forest work, or participating altruistically. Some of these people are quite expert, with experience and degrees in specialties like Botany, Wetlands definition, or Forestry. The group usually looks to these individuals for leadership and they usually are adept at fulfilling the role. Others are interested in learning techniques, applying new methods, and sometimes creating new techniques to conquer obstacles. Most volunteers appreciate the forest beauty around them, and sometimes capture the ambience in photos or in memories.

Some of the groups are large and some more intimate, reflecting the different experiences in each kind of work party. Small groups allow friends to join together, talk and laugh, and to get work done. Large groups require using leadership skills, meeting brand new volunteers, directing or being directed to a project, and participating according to the protocol. The large groups accomplish huge amounts of forest work; the small groups also complete surprisingly large, but less so, amounts of work. The smaller groups share a certain kind of camaraderie that grows from the respect we hold for each other and appreciation we feel for our contributions. All groups seem to be aware they are doing important work in the forests.

As many of us have articulated during or after our excursions, we are more than volunteers; we have become friends with a common goal. We know we are making a mark in the urban forests around us, preserving the forests for our descendants.  

Drexie Malone, Forest Steward             

Kathy, Volunteer Interview

Hello fellow forest stewards.

What follows is my contribution to the blog describing what I like about volunteering as a forest steward and why.

As far back as I can remember I have been drawn to the forest. As a child my yard was bracketed by wooded lots on both sides, and  I spent much of my leisure time playing, dreaming, and imagining in this environment. Now that I am retired, I feel fortunate to be able to return to these familiar green spaces through my  volunteer work.

In the following photos I have attempted to  highlight some, certainly not all,  of the activities I enjoy when I volunteer.

The first picture is of a small waterfall on Pipers Creek.
Maintaining and improving water quality is one of the goals of stewardship

The second is the forest canopy, mostly Alders.

The Third  is a nurse stump. I counted a Salmonberry, Huckleberry, Bracken and Ladyfern being nourished by this stump.

The fourth is my gloves and claw tools for Ivy removal.

The fifth is plant identification. In this case a Stink Currant compared to a Thimbleberry.

The sixth is Cutting Stink Currant preparing live stake.

The seventh is Stink Currant live stake planted and marked.

The eighth is Ivy liberation.

The ninth is Surviving Cedar in the Mountain Beaver experimental plot.

Identifying Plants in Carkeek Park

Loren McElvain, Forest Steward

When jogging on the trails in Carkeek Park, I saw a sign asking for volunteers. Shortly after that I joined STARS (Streams, Trails, and Reforestation Stewards). First I worked on the trails projects, but then took the Carkeek Master Forester class and started concentrating on forest reforestation. 

One of my primary interests was learning to identify the plants in the park. It soon became obvious to me that although I had spent years identifying alpine flowers, I had only a cursory knowledge of the trees and shrubs in the park.

Plant identification can be a satisfying skill. When learning to identify native trees and shrubs and invasive species in Carkeek Park, a good place to start is with leaf characteristics. The possible ID for a specimen can be limited to plants which have the same characteristics. The following pictures illustrate some of the characteristics which are helpful.

First consider leaf placement on a stem 

The place where a leaf attaches to the stem is called a node. If one leaf is attached to a node, the placement is alternate. If two leaves are attached to each node, the placement is opposite.

Alternate leaf placement
Picture One: illustrates Alternate leaf placement
Opposite leaf placement
Picture Two: illustrates Opposite leaf placement

Another characteristic is the pattern of the veins

Pinnate, also called penni-nerved, leaves have one main mid vein with lateral veins branching out. Palmate leaves have multiple (usually 5 or more)  veins branching out from the base of the leaf.

Pinnate veination
Picture Three: illustrates Pinnate veination
Palmate veination
Picture Four: illustrates Palmate veination

A third characteristic is the edge (margin) of the leaf

Leaves with an Entire margin have a continuous smooth edge.

Leaves with a Serrate margin have teeth like a saw blade.

Leaves which are Lobed have large indentions in the margin.

Entire margin
Picture Five: illustrates an Entire margin
Serrated margin
Picture Six: illustrates a Serrate margin
Lobed margins
Picture Seven: illustrates a Lobed margin

By recognizing the characteristics of leaves, a person can selectively eliminate species until only a few are left.  Then identification becomes much easier. 

These pictures and descriptions are intended just to illustrate an approach to plant identification.  Much more detail and information are necessary to become skilled at identifying plants.